Patterns and Forms of Language: Englishes

Language is a function that has been used by living beings and, more precisely, “social-animals,” for thousands of years. All social animals communicate with each other, from birds and insects to dolphins and apes, but only humans have managed to create a language that involves more than just essential signals. Throughout the years, humans have contributed to the development of thousands of languages. Today, there are more than one thousand languages that are being spoken all over the world, and most languages are often broken down to sub-categories, ranging from dialects to creoles and other modifications.

English, for example, is a world-wide language that doesn’t have one fundamental form; instead, there are numerous forms of English that people adapt and regulate according to their needs. People constantly manipulate words to make them sound more “natural” in certain situations and in front of particular people. One might use different patterns of speech when talking to his professor than when talking to his friends or parents. English is very complex, yet fascinating because it can be stretched, manipulated, and infused to other languages and still make sense. Often, as I have personally noticed during my daily social interactions, language is not used with respect to grammatical accuracy, but with an emphasis to clarity. For that reason, one might say that there is not a “standard form of English.” There are many different Englishes, and most people are exposed to them without even noticing the differences. In this post, I talk about my language practices and the different types of language that I use during my daily, social interactions. I also make mention of the patterns that I use when I speak and provide explanations of why I favor some patterns of language over others in certain situations.

One Friday afternoon, I received a text from my friend saying, “Niko, what’s up wanna go hit the gym?” Later I replied, “Yea bro word.” As one might notice, the written conversation that my friend and I had is not properly formatted. The grammar is wrong, and I use words that don’t even exist in the dictionary. To the common reader, these texts have absolutely no meaning. They just seem like a pile of words thrown together hoping it makes sense. To me, however, it makes absolute sense, and it is the only form of English that I use to communicate with some of my friends. There are times when people criticize me, saying that I disrespect the English language and I should not be using “slang.” My response to that is always the same — I tell them I do not disrespect English; instead, I celebrate this wonderful language that, through its incredible flexibility, one like me can rearrange, change, and make up new words that bring new meaning to an informal conversation. It gives a color to the conversation. A color that is not defined by the complexity of the words, but from the clarity that they convey. The words that I exchange with my friends through texts have a voice in them. For instance, when my friend texted me, “wanna go hit the gym?” I could hear his voice through the words that he used because these are the words that we use when we talk to each other face to face. If my friends and I were about to switch to a formal exchange of texts, everything would sound unnatural and strange. However, there is no need to because we perfectly understand each other the way we talk and write.

There are also instances in my daily life where I use a more formal form of English to communicate and write, and it mostly occurs when I’m at school. Because school is a place devoted to learning, an appropriate form of language should be used. When I ask questions, write essays, and communicate with my professors, I always try to use vocabulary which best articulates my academic aspirations. But having all these different forms of English leads me to question — which form is the true one? Which form of English best reflects my personality and my actual thoughts? After some considerate amount of thinking, I concluded that all of these forms are my true ones, and all of these Englishes equally reflect my thoughts and my true self. I would not prioritize one form of English over another because they are not used interchangeably; each one has its own specific usage in certain situations. And, as I said before, the adaptation of these forms of English allows me to better connect with and understand certain individuals by merely switching to their way of speaking and writing. It is one of the many benefits that any language, and English in particular, has to offer.