Second language acquisition has often times proven difficult to many. This was no different for me as we relocated to America from France. Growing up, I learnt French as my first language as this was indeed a national language and the basis of my socialization. Everyone in my country spoke French and every type of business including school was conducted in French. However, my experience in America translated into a cultural shock as I learnt that English was dominant. I knew very little English thanks to the Hollywood movies I had watched though this was not enough for sufficient second language development.
The reality on the ground was that I had to learn English at all costs. As I joined a new school, it proved difficult to cope with the new environment and the challenge was magnified by the social stigma that the students formed against me. As I tried settling in class, most students would laugh at me whenever I spoke.
It would be a hard nut to crack especially when new lecturers demanded that I introduce myself. I found myself using direct translating from French to English which was improper.
Consequently, the entire class would burst into laughter and this was quite humiliating. Quite often, I caught the students whispering when I passed along the corridors and some were rude enough to rub it in my face. This made me shy and afraid to speak in public. It was even harder trying to make genuine friends as no one wanted to be associated with me.
Nonetheless, I had to admit that second language acquisition was not easy. I realized that the same people who laughed at me would find it challenging as I tried to teach them a few words in French. This would make me laugh too. Nevertheless, it still did not stop people disregarding and humiliating others experiencing challenges in their second language development.
In such as case, I realized that there was labelling through stereotyping people from particular descents across the globe. I realized that people from different parts of the world would experience challenges in second language acquisition and would make common mistakes such as using direct translation. The dominant lingual population would then be the judge since they were the basis of perfection. This form of labelling was not quite severe than that and it did not lead to any form of deviant behaviour apart from the minimal disapproval that one would get upon speaking. However, the stereotyping was at times harmful as it generated derogatory remarks about an individual. At times people would try to imitate some personal mistakes by second language learners to achieve a comic appeal. This was hurtful, especially when it directly referred to me.
Such labelling and mimicking did hurt me for a while, in fact, I tried listening to recorded speeches of some people to deduce the correct pronunciation and staccato positioning in different words or sentences to learn how to speak properly. I became obsessed with trying to fit in society’s expectation and this consumed much of my time at the expense of my studies. I almost learnt how to speak well but with time, I realized that this was least important and I decided to ignore it. I actually started laughing at myself whenever I caught myself speaking making mistakes, though I had moved on. I realized that life had many challenges and so many things were in store for me than trying to fit in an ethnocentric society. This realization in my life actually made me overcome the stigma and I felt confident once again in my life. The change made people respect me and they even forgot about the laughing and mimicking. Once they realized the true person in me, they wanted to befriend me and actually, some even tried to seek some academic tips from me. It was a great feeling and I felt appreciated.
According to the role theory, which almost falls in both the functionalist and conflict perspective, individuals are conformists who endeavour to achieve the norm accompanying their role. Group members try to check each other’s performance to determ conform to the society assigned norm and tend to impose sanctions to ensure role performance (Schaefer 13). To some extent, this sociological theory applied to my life as I failed to conform to the language, and sanctions of having no friends were imposed on me. As I scaled through these challenges, I realized that people in my position barely talk to defend themselves. They accept the predetermined norms set for them that function as a blueprint of expected behaviour, even when they know it is wrong. This, according to Neumman, was referred to as the spiral of silence, which focuses on public opinion (Melvi, et al 20). The result is a disgruntled individual attempting to conform and a stereotypical society, which shuns diversity creating a negative sociological imagination. In essence, the process of socialization should try to accommodate different cultures and seek to integrate them on their own to form unity. This is because in the diverse world that we live in, one is bound to experience cultural shock when put in a different setting, but this should not form the basis of labelling, harmful stereotyping and mimicking. We should learn to accept others the way they are because at the end of the day, no one is perfect.