Culture Shock In Elenore Smith Bowen's Return To Laughter

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Culture shock through language, in my opinion, is the most difficult to overcome and even more-so without a translator. I believe this to be true because to learn the language of a culture is ultimately learning everything about that culture. Through language, you inevitably learn all aspects of that people’s culture through the words and sounds they use; their beliefs, objects, feelings, experiences, names, labels, rites and roles. Language is an extremely important aspect of a culture, and understanding it is crucial as an anthropologist because the best way to communicate with your subjects is in their native tongue. I chose to respond to the aspect of language because it affects so many aspects of an anthropologists research – literacy,…show more content…
In our home countries, we are all taught ‘cultural norms’ based on ethnicity, race, gender, sexuality, marriage, and so forth and these are not only cultural but lingual as well. These pre-conceived notions affect how Anthropologists study and create relationships during fieldwork and in Elenore Smith Bowen’s book Return to Laughter; we can see just how drastic that ‘culture shock’ can be through something as prominent as language. Culture shock can be defined as “a state of bewilderment and distress experienced by an individual who is suddenly exposed to a new, strange, or foreign social and cultural environment.”( I feel that, although Bowen struggles with the culture shock of the Tiv’s language in the beginning, she moves past her culture-shocked state into a culture-familiarity state. This transition from not being able to communicate with a tribe to a state where you can speak their language enough to survive within their community is a state of transition, commonly gone through by anthropologists, that can be moved through with the right attitude, determination and…show more content…
She begins to hear their noises as words over time and through her determination to learn the language she finally starts to understand; “Now this flow of speech resolved itself into words, known and unknown…” (78) Eventually, she begins to speak words and phrases of the Tiv and is able to interact with them in a way that is comfortable and familiar to her. By forcing herself into learning the language as an infant would – through listening, repeating and speaking, she becomes a part of the Tiv’s social circle and lifts a barrier that could have been permanent if she had used a

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