I am an avid story teller. I find the story that I am going to tell so life-affirming and amazing that it must be told brazenly through autoethnography. It is the story of my study abroad, struggles with a foreign language and the challenges of life that I went through as I was growing. It is also a story of my unbelievable success in the world of academics. In this story, I will be true to my values, beliefs, lived experiences and dreams. As a learner of English as a second language, I have always been very passionate to understand what new language learners experience when they are overseas and are trying to learn that language as part of their academic programs. I also wanted to know how learners perceptions of their identities change as a result of learning new languages.
Cultural identity is an important aspect of an individuals self-perception and self-conception. It refers to the sense or feeling of belonging to a distinct social group. Among other considerations, cultural identity manifests in the form of ethnicity, religion, nationality and language. This autoethnography is based on the assumption that language is one of the most important facets of cultural identity and that learning a new language can fundamentally change a persons cultural identity. Language helps people to develop a strong sense of their cultural history and build a positive cultural identity, which is critical in fostering stable personal development.
In my life, family, religion and personal beliefs have been essential towards my personal development. I was born and raised in Tunisia, a predominantly Islamic culture. Arabic was my first language and the only one I knew until I relocated to the United States when I began learning the English language. Working in the learning environment has translated into distinctive attributes and performance facets that are influential towards the execution of roles and responsibilities. Hence, the various experiences from day to day interactions with individuals to the development of relationships have led to self-growth and progress. Therefore, this paper will examine self-identity through an analysis of both family and external aspects that translated to the current predicament.
Family has been integral towards my personal development. It is through the family that I have developed a personal appreciation of various aspects such as learning and education. A number of events happening in my family have influenced my identity as an individual. One of the events was the death of my father. He passed on in 2001 due to a heart attack. My fathers sudden demise plunged my family into disarray. But thanks to my mothers hard work, caring attitude and determination, we were able to persevere. My mother was very influential in my life that after the death of my father, my siblings and I took it upon ourselves to show her more love.
Growing up in a family of eight brothers and sisters under the care of one parent was not easy. The need to take up the responsibility of handling the family affairs was an initiative towards taking up my hobbies. Further, due to the focus on the family, it was clear that interacting with my sisters and brothers had a direct implication on the choice of the research field. One of my sisters has a Ph.D. in Islamic culture while the other in archaeology. The rest took up careers in teaching, which was a motivating factor towards the preference of the evident field. Interacting with a family with learned individuals translated into a motivating factor towards taking up the evident field. Most importantly, the relationship that I cultivated with my siblings where I laid a foundation towards taking personal motivation. As such, the family was a motivational factor that translated into encouragement to pursue personal ambitions.
Besides family, religion was also impactful towards a preference for my career. Accordingly, through the Islamic culture, it became clear that positive influence on the people is integral towards the fulfillment of the diverse teachings. Growing up in Tunis with the beautiful beaches and culture entailed heightened influence on personal attributes and values. By viewing the environmental and social issues resulted in a change in perspective regarding ways towards positive influence in the community.
Regarding life outside my home country, coming to America was very much influential towards my personal development. Through my husband, encouragement to pursue my aspirations was evident. Accordingly, prevalent emphasis on personal empowerment was an aspect of concern that led to personal development and appreciation. On the other hand, learning in the university has become an influence towards personal development through interacting with both students and instructors. As such, interacting with one of the students has had a lasting effect on personal identity and appreciation of English. As opposed to using the mother language, Arabic, gradual learning of English has been evident. Writing poetry contributed immensely towards my learning of English. As a positive influence, Maryam who is both a teacher and a friend has been motivational towards learning English. Accordingly, Maryam understands the challenges evident in learning English as a second language has led to personal appreciation and learning of the language.
The emphasis on simplistic analysis of English through my teacher has led to a steadfast appreciation of the language. Apart from my teacher, it is evident that my son has been essential towards learning English. Living in America entails the comprehension and communicating in English. Therefore, like my son, it is important to develop a communicative environment that comprises of both English and the mother language Arabica. Accordingly, learning in America, coupled with the education system denotes that I take up the role of teaching him English. Nonetheless, the preference of adopting the two languages still prevails as a personal preference towards the growth and development of my son.
In conclusion, achieving proficiency in English as a second language has not been easy. As such, it has comprised of significant influence on both personal and external issues. Of utmost concern has been my family. The death of my father and the motivation from my sisters and nephews has led to personal growth and appreciation of the language. Taking up a personal responsibility in a family of many children was a great feat and a highly rewarding one. It motivated me to work towards taking up a career and appreciation of the influence that English has across the globe. Further, living in America and the birth of my son has denoted the need to develop and learn English extensively. As well, my son ought to appreciate the language and interact with the fellow students in the classroom which entails taking up the responsibility to learn English.
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