I just watched the trailer for the upcoming film The King’s Speech online. According to IMDB, the film is based on a true story and is “a chronicle of King George VI’s (Colin Firth) effort to overcome his nervous stammer with the assistance of speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush).” One reviewer on the site states that King George is “overshadowed on the global stage by powerful orators like Adolph Hitler and Benito Mussolini.” Given the time frame of the film (WWII), it is imperative that the King be able to “find his voice and boldly lead the country into war.”
I immediately thought of the effect one’s grasp on language can have on not only them but on their life. In some instances, as shown in the film, it’s absolutely vital. Having a nervous stutter can make a highly intelligent person appear quite silly. Speech peppered with incorrect grammar can have a similar effect. Even a strong accent can have negative effects. While living abroad many expats are familar of feeling quite infantile when trying to speak in another language (This sensation is beautifully expressed in a quote from this past post).
All this points to the numerous aspects of one’s life that are affected by language. Language is such a large part of our identity and often influences how we are perceived as well as how we perceive others. Often it indicates our social standing, education level and the various groups to which we belong. Language can also be manipulated to suit different needs and situations or make a person appear to be something they are not, whether positive or negative.
Has your ability (or inability) speak a certain way had positive or negative influences in your life? What other aspects of life does language influence? What other connections can be made between language and identity?