Gender and Language Essay

Fieldwork

            I am in my normal jeans and shirt attire and decided to do my fieldwork at a coffee shop nearby the place where I reside. This is very convenient for me. I thought it would be relaxing to enjoy a cup of coffee and do the assignment in a pleasant environment. So I grabbed my jacket, head out my apartment at around 4 in the afternoon. The sun is there but the cool and chilly breeze was refreshing at the same time pushing the urge for a cup of coffee. I usually go to this coffee shop about twice or thrice the week and besides of my common goal to unwind, I have my fieldwork to think about. The coffee shop is five to six blocks away from my apartment and I took a stroll just enjoying the weather and the children that are busily playing with their bats and ball.

            I enter the shop and noticed there were not so many customers today. There were a young couple talking at the corner booth, a man in his elegant suit surfing his laptop, there were a group of friends busily chatting and laughing their hearts out and two women- one was talking over the phone, the other gazing at the window. The coffee shop has a full length of the street and one can enjoy the view it has of the city. At night the view becomes more magnificent from the anchored lights and sound of a busy street.

            I ordered a cup of low fat cappuccino and sat behind the man dressed in an elegant suit, he still was busy with his laptop. I have basically a full view of the people around me in the coffee shop. I grabbed a TIME magazine and swiftly went thorough the pages. At the same time, I held constant looks on the other customers of the shop, taking brief mental images of them all.

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            The young couple in my judgment is talking intently and was very sweet I must say. They were facing each other, the girl is a blond American and the man with reddish-brown hair was talking with a Southern American accent. Not to disrespect their conversation but I was pretty close to their table. Often times I am overhearing their conversations. From the plan to renovate their apartment, from the girl’s parents coming over to town, and the guy’s sharing his difficulty in understanding a lesson in environmental science. The couple have clear conversations, often times the guy would ask for the girl to explain further what she just said. The girl would so and the guy then will tell her now he understands. For example, the girl told the guy, “I think we should think of telling our parents about us and our plans for the future”. The guy replied curiously asking what she means by that. The girl remarked, “how come you always seem not to know about how this relationship is? Does it matter to you?” With patience she continued by saying, “we should tell them it’s serious”.

            The man professionally good-looking went to the counter and asked for another cup of coffee. I did not quite get what he ordered but I vary he had drank many already. There were 2 cups in his table with him already. He seems worried, if not bothered by something he is working on with his laptop. He maintains a polite tone while he ordered for another cup, but on returning to his table, his eyebrows was somewhat crossed as if worried about something. One girl form the group of friends table got up and headed towards the man’s way. She is a perfectly curvaceous woman with brown hair with streaks, wearing a simple tee and pants that shows her assets. She is probably from Spanish or Latina descent. She approached the counter and along the way bumped unintentionally the man professionally dressed. The girl exclaimed “Ayay!” as she sees her shirt for any spilled coffee and turns into a sweet and polite way to the man. The man‘s face transformed into an apologetic manner and said sorry immediately. The girl at first saddened by the impact was very welcoming of the man’s apologies. They both headed their own direction.

            Three men entered the shop at around 5:30 in the afternoon. All of them carry small plastic bags probably from the market not far from the coffee shop. They all entered cheerfully speaking in a language I heard once from a college friend of mine who is Filipino. When they made their orders, the manner in which they spoke in English is very fluent with an accent from their native language. I noticed them asking one another for the next thing to say before they chose the table where the professional man sat a couple of minutes ago. They cheerfully exchanged stories, while pulling out goods from their grocery bags. I am quite familiar with several of the items because of my college friends. All of which are products from their country. I saw the famous instant noodle packets they called “pancit canton” and a bottle of fish sauce. One man exclaimed, “Ito ang the best!”, and the others laughed and agreed with him.

            The three men were all speaking their native language and sometimes look around and exclaim gleeful glances with each other. I felt like they were comfortable with the commonness they all shared. I left at 6:30 pm and headed back to my apartment after two cups of coffee and an oatmeal cookie I bought to munch on the way home. I am ready to do the analysis of my assignment.

Analysis:

            Since the assignment mainly deals with the issue of gender and language in a certain community, let me first explain my analysis in terms of gender. The particular incidence in which the man bumped with the Latina girl with a curvaceous body is an example of how society had evolved the views of the women in modern times.  Even I realized that the impact of the physical qualities of a woman to classify her into a specific group she is related with, like in the case of being a Latina. This exemplifies the concept of “race” in the lecture. Race generally assumes biological differences which can be made evident in physical appearances, also mentioned in the lecture, race is a kind of pseudo-subspeciation that can be seen physically, but their significance is often in terms of the social aspect. There is also the realization that men have a sense of being attracted with a woman with physically great qualities. In my observation, after the man and the Latina bumped into each other, the man on the way back to his table looked after a while at the woman again. His face was also brighter than how it was moments before the incident occurred. The society also has the same way into determining each class in the society, and that is through appearance.

            The couple can be analyzed in terms of both gender and language. In terms of gender, the two are aware of their difference in appearance and from which state they are in America, but this barrier of ethnicity or group is broken down in their relationship. One thing I also noticed is how the couple compromise to understand one another. Take note that they both speak English, although with different angles, they speak the same language. But the things that can be noticed in this part are that the couple has a slight problem in communicating. As I observed, the guy would often ask the girl to explain again what she said about her parents and their planned vacation to see her. This we came to realize that language can also interfere with the communication process everyone participates. Even couples who know one another have their own different level of understand. We all know how women often change their mind abruptly, or have their own way of thinking. But what is important to learn in this example is that even the process of communicating is very hard. Language matters in this situation especially when it has to deal with the relationship. As part of their communication process, we learn in lecture that language can be treated as an agent or barrier of communication. An agent when it becomes the bridge of the communication, a barrier when it poses challenges and restrictions. In the couples example, we observe how even the same language can cause not understanding the other because of different meanings or confused meanings. Language, words, their definitions are brought by people, and thus clearly defines how language can connote different meanings for different persons.

            The Filipino group was the most evident of what the concept of ethnicity connotes. There are many minority groups in the country today, and part of being are Asians who can be found in different foreign lands for so many years now. I mentioned the Filipinos being comfortable during the time I observed them is because their commonness are shown through the manner in which they spoke, the way they find joy in being with each other, and goods they have purchased just to experience home while living in a another country. This is typical from my researchers about Filipinos. I read that Filipinos have the sense of unity among them when they are living outside of their own country. Ethnicity as the concept which connotes the common culture and shared meanings of the language used is observable in the Filipino group. They use their native language and are comfortable with it. As part of the ethnic experience, the group shares common feeling, thoughts and perceptions which results from the same historical experience. I have researched about this group and country and it seems that many Filipinos are drawn to migrate abroad because of economic instability of the country. The Filipinos are very driven to work for their family because of the poverty experienced in their country. This can be mentioned as the reason why they were excited of the products they bought from home because this makes them feel like they are living in their own country. The US, true to its description as the melting pot of the world for social minorities and group, is full of ethnicities that gather and share for the benefit of going back to their roots and cultures. People have this mentality of friendliness or welcoming attitude towards people who lives in the same country as them or share the same cultural background. In the area in which I chose to observe, there was no act of discrimination or racial prejudice that was evident. The group of friends in one of the table is an example why there is the absence of racism in the area I have chosen. The group is composed of different people, one the Latina, two African-American guys and the other three girls and a guy were all Americans. In this group we see the possibility of forming a group of individuals differed in race and ethnic backgrounds but bears no signs of any importance or regard to the difference of their cultures.

Reference:

Anonymous. (2004).   Retrieved March 1, 2007, from http://www.glbtq.com/social-sciences/language_gender.html

Barry, H. I. a. A. S., eds. (1980). Cross-cultural samples and codes. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press. (1980, march 1). Cross-cultural samples and codes.

McElhinny, B., Mills, S., and Wong, A. (2007). Gender and Language.   Retrieved March 1, 2007, from http://www.equinoxpub.com/journals/main.asp?jref=60