English Is The Worst Class Ever

703 words - 3 pages

Ted Chiang’s “Story of Your Life” is a short science fiction story that explores the principals of linguistic relativity through in interesting relationship between aliens and humans that develops when aliens, known as Heptapods, appear on Earth. In the story Dr. Louise Banks, a linguist hired by the government to learn the Heptapods language, tells her unborn daughter what she has learned from the Heptapods as a result of learning their language. M. NourbeSe Philip’s poem “Discourse on the Logic of Language” also explores the topic of language and translations, as she refers to different languages as her “mother tongue” or “father tongue.” Although these two pieces of literature may not seem to have much in common both explore the topics of language and translation and connect those ideas to power and control.
In “Story of Your Life” Chiang connects language and power through his character Colonel Weber. Chiang creates Weber’s character to symbolize the suspicious and untrusting views of the government has towards the heptapods arrival on Earth. This suspicion is seen by the government’s refusal to comment on the alien’s ships that arrived on Earth. While meeting with Banks to discuss the job Chiang highlights the importance the government’s places on language through Colonel Webb’s refusal to allow Banks access to the heptapods out of fear that contact with the heptapods will allow them to learn the English language. He shows his fear through his reaction to Dr. Bank’s insistence to speak with the heptapods to learn their language she says, “ if you want to learn the aliens' language, someone with training in field linguistics—whether it's me or someone else—will have to talk with an alien.” (Chiang pg. 3). Banks notes Colonel Webb’s reaction to her explanation “The colonel clearly found this interesting; evidently his philosophy was, the less the aliens knew, the better” (Chiang, pg.3). By having Banks comment on Colonel Webb’s reaction, Chiang clearly shows the power that governments associate with language. Chiang further explores this power through Colonel Webb’s question to...

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