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What Our Actions And Speech Reveal About Us

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There are thousands of dialects all around the world, and people take these dialects along with them as they travel from place to place. Along with a person’s speech, their writings will also follow them as they go to different destinations. Wherever you go, you will always encounter people who judge you for the way you interact. I am more likely to judge the way someone speaks than the way someone writes. In my opinion, I believe that while one is speaking and interacting with another person, it usually defines and reveals more about the speaker. For example, the speaker will typically show body language, make eye contact, and express their feelings. Meanwhile, words on a page do not always represent the extent of a person’s true feelings. It is also easier to determine whether the speaker means what he or she is saying. Also, when you speak sarcastically, especially given your intonation and facial expression, people can easily identify that you’re being sarcastic. However, when you’re writing sarcastically, it may be harder for people to realize that you don’t actually mean what you wrote. In addition, when a person speaks, the type of word choice that they use could be described as “raw” because speaking is spontaneous. On the other hand, when a person writes, they will have time to think about what they are going to put down on the paper.

In the documentary film, “Do you speak American?”, journalist Robert MacNeil traveled across the country, conducting interviews with ordinary people and experts. He visited the Martin Luther King School, located in Ann Arbor, and interviewed three African American men, who were judged by how they spoke in elementary school. The Martin Luther King School consisted of mostly white kids and very few black kids. When these three students spoke in their African American English, which they would speak at home, their teachers assumed that they could not do their schoolwork. As a matter of fact, their teachers did not communicate much with them and gave more assistance to other students who were able to speak American English.

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To continue, I think that it is more of a serious offense to use non-mainstream English in writing rather than speaking. I believe that there should be a standard way of writing. Since everyone is from different places around the world, everyone will have different dialects, as well as different ways of speaking. For instance, the people from the South have disparate accents compared to the people in the North. It would be wrong to criticize someone for speaking in a way they were raised to speak. Nevertheless, by having a standard way of writing, it would be easier to understand what people all over the country are trying to convey. In the documentary, MacNeil talks to Ulle Lewes, who works in a grammar hotline, and he learns that since there are about sixty dialects on our planet, speaking and communicating to others by talking will be difficult. However, if everyone keeps to the same grapholect, or standard written rules, it would be much easier and more viable for people to communicate with each other.

Numerous people have been judged by the way they speak. For instance, during the George Zimmerman trial that took place on February 26, 2012, in Florida, judgments about her dialect negatively impacted the primary witness for the prosecution. Rachel Jeantel, a young African American woman, was the witness for the George Zimmerman trial. In this trial, George Zimmerman was determined to be guilty of murdering Trayvon Martin, Jeantel’s friend. It was also found that Martin was on the phone with Jeantel on the day he got shot. During Jeantel’s testimony, critics “went nuts”. The general public, as well as the media, denounced her for the way she spoke. In fact, a juror told a reporter than Jeantel was not a plausible and reliable witness because of the way she enunciated her words. This demonstrates how the way someone speaks can impact real-world situations, whether good or bad. Jeantel’s English was attacked because it was dissimilar from the “correct way of speaking”. Instead of mainstream English, she spoke “Black English”, which has different rules than mainstream English. For example, it includes the use of double negatives, and the use of the word “ain’t” instead of “isn’t”. Also, I have noticed that, in the video of Jeantel’s testimony, Jeantel frequently rolled her eyes, did not keep still, and kept muttering. These actions reflect on Jeantel’s personality, her feelings, and her opinion on this situation.

In this specific trial, the general public clearly judged Jeantel by the way she spoke and disregarded what she had to say. I think that it is wrong for the public to ignore what Jeantel had to say just because of her actions and way of speaking. Her words, in fact, might have been very important to this case. Although this could be considered the wrong approach (judging someone by how they speak), I feel that hearing and seeing someone speak can show a lot about that person. During the prosecution, in particular, Jeantel’s actions demonstrate her stance and perspective on the case being tried. Overall, I think someone’s actions and speech reveals a lot about one, including one’s motive, thinking, and personality.


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