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Application Paper Dances with Wolves - Essay Example

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Of Language and Ethnicity: An Application Paper to the Film Dances with Wolves Between two ethnic identities, language is the most essential yet complicated element when it comes to potential communication. In their first meeting, Anglo-Saxon American John Dunbar finds it difficult to convey a message to Kicking Bird, an Indian chief, about a particular land animal…
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Application Paper Dances with Wolves
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"Application Paper Dances with Wolves"

Dunbar speaks an American English while the Native American Indians speak the Lakota language. Upon comprehending Dunbar’s imitation of the buffalo, Kicking Bird states the Lakota word “tatonka.” Dunbar tries to utter such word but fails to pronounce it properly; Dunbar replies to the Indian chief with the English word “buffalo,” which implies that it is the equivalent word for “tatonka.” Moreover, language is deeply embedded in the culture or people who speak that language. When Dunbar notices his hat being worn by a big Indian man, he expresses his ownership of such hat and says, “That’s my hat!” The big Indian man replies in Lakota language that he found the hat on the prairie. Since the hat was laying idly on the open field, he intuitively thought that such hat was no longer useful for its owner. This episode, I believe, reflects a particular cultural trait of the Indian people: when a thing is no longer wanted, that could be kept or owned by another person if found in the open field. Convinced that Dunbar wants his hat back, the big Indian man gives his sheath and knife to the Anglo-Saxon American as an exchange or trade. Again, this is a kind of Indian culture: the culture of exchange. For white Americans, free trade requires volition from the parties involved. Following this American tradition, Dunbar should have first agreed voluntarily that a trade is possible between the two. But Dunbar wants his hat back; thus, in the white-American context, the Anglo-Saxon protagonist has the right to own back his property. Based from the film, nonetheless, the culture of the Indian people was followed probably because of the setting (i.e., Indian territory) of the story. I have also experienced what Dunbar encountered with the Native American Indians. Well, it was not exactly Native Americans whom I spoke to but rather another person of different ethnic background. He was Asian: a Korean background. He spoke to me in English; however, his English was not the kind of English that I know of. Like Dunbar, he tried to express his thoughts the best that he could. Unlike Dunbar, however, he did not show to me, through action or imitation, of what he was talking about. On the other hand, there was movement in his hand in attempting to explain or explicate his idea. Although he used the language of English -- culturally, a language not his own -- his English somehow transformed into his “own.” The English that he uttered merely became an instrument in transmitting his Read More
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