AP English Language and Composition

The Advance Placement of English Language and Composition is an important exam, a part of the Advance Placement Programme, created by the College Board. This examination offers the senior most students of the High school in USA to earn college credits and advance placements which they can use at the end of the college. Among many courses offered during the programme, one of the interesting courses is the one on Language and Communication. Let’s have a look at the outline of the syllabus of this course.

AP English Language and Communication

This course as it seems that is an attempt to show through some examples, how the change of language can be the cause of change in identity. First let’s take a look at what is the role if language in a given culture.

Language is the medium of interaction, varies from community to community. It’s a mode of social interaction among the members of a particular society which is being passed down from one generation to the next one. It provides the sense of identity and a sense of belonging to the particular community which distinguishes that particular community from the other ones. In a multicultural society, the language of the major speaking members becomes the dominant one yet the other languages remain there as those are the tools of communication among their own communities. However we are the social animal so the dominant language of the society gradually tends to cast an effect on us and our using of the language of the community. We begin to think, speak and write in that particular language and the original language of the community gradually perishes.

Now let’s just ask a simple question, what is the most important thing that makes us detached from the language which gives us the identity as the community member? Well, financial security being one of the major important things of our lives, we have to compromise many things for our jobs. It’s illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity and national origin, but it does happen sometimes with English speaking candidates with a foreign accent. Though the title VII of 1964 Civil Rights Act protects against such discrimination, the courts have announced that the use of languages other than English tends to cause harm, morally, to the monolingual English speakers and it’s absolutely necessary to maintain a single workplace language. But often people make discrimination subconsciously on the basis of accent. They focus on the accent and not on the content of what they are saying. This is the reason why some of the employee tries to hide their accent during the job interview. Problematically some people can change their accent easily and some just can’t. Studies show that after a certain age it becomes almost impossible to change the accent and acquire a new one. While trying to mimic the ‘superior’ accent of others, they often become the target of ridicule. This leaves us with the question that why should we change our accent. Instead of acquiring a new one we can turn the existing one into a part of our identity itself.

Sir Henry Irving, an English stage actor during the Victorian era. He gradually became the manager, besides being the actor of the Lyceum Theatre and established his company as the representation of classical theatre. Irving is, especially known because of his exploitation of  the traditional one sex model which restricts the role of the women around the domestic area of the household only. During the 17th and 18th century the one sex model changed due to the Enlightenment and the philosophy of Descartes. The dual category of mind and body had been established which allowed the women to enter the ‘men zone’. The women were no longer seen as the variant of one and only ideal being, i.e. the male ideal. This side had been exploited perfectly by Irving who played the role of Macbeth and Ellen Terry who played the role of Lady Macbeth. Ellen Terry’s lady Macbeth is as feminine as masculine, with her sugar coated words and insults and cunning plot weaving and so on.    

AP English Language and Composition

Pygmalion:

In the context of language and communication we can cast our glance towards one of the memorable plays by George Bernard Shaw, tiled ‘Pygmalion’. According to the plot, professor of Phonetics, Henry Higgins make a bet that he can train an ordinary flower-girl Eliza Doolittle  to be like a high bred duchess by teaching her to assume a gentle, lady-like manner through impeccable quality of speech. This play seems to be a sharp attack towards the British high class people.

The title was derived from the Greek myth of Pygmalion who fell in love with one of his sculptors, which later came to life. This idea was among the most popular ones in the Victorian era. Professor Higgins along with Colonel Pickering starts to train Eliza. During her training she faces complications from her father who doesn’t care much about her except the money, suffers humiliation from Higgins when she speaks accidentally in Cockney dialect. However, gradually she managed to forget about all her Cockney accents and foul speech and assumes the manner of a true high born duchess.

Now why this play is important in this particular context? Well, it’s because of the importance placed upon the use of language. Like the job seekers with a foreign accent, Eliza here is also being humiliated because of her Cockney dialect. Also Shaw nicely portrayed the facts, how language determines one’s idea about the speaker, how people judges others on the basis of accent rather than the content. Shaw also shows how language’s particular use can determine the class-caste nexus, the area of work, when Eliza says:

I sold flowers. I didn’t sell myself. Now you’ve made a lady of me. I’m not fit to sell anything else.”

Shaw also shows a sharp bleak distinction between poor and rich through one liner conversation between Higgins and Eliza’s father:

Higgins: “Have you no morals, man.”

Doolittle: “Cant afford them, Governor. Neither could you if you was as poor as me”

This play also shows that in face or problems and pressure or emotion, we have the tendency to speak in our natural language and accent, the acquired one will always sound like an acquired one only, hence the importance of this course.


AP English Language and Gender

The Advance Placement Programme, created by the College Board offers examinations on different subjects. The one on English language is known as the Advance Placement of English Language and Composition. This examination offers the students of high school in USA to earn placement and college credits. Among many interesting courses, offered there, one is a course on Gender. The impact of gender role in the society is enormous. The stereotypical attitude towards gender role is a highly debated issue and needs to be seen from close.

First let us consider what the society thinks of those men who are not the traditional ‘bread winner’. The article ‘Fatherhood 2.0 Traced from the Time Magazine, written by Lisa Takeuchi Cullen and Lev Grossman gives away a positive outlook towards the fathers who stay at home and take care of their kids. One person with a very liberal kind of mind-set may rightly raise questions regarding its validity. Unfortunately most of the people think the other way around, hence the attempt of the Time Magazine to prove all these people wrong. The article shows that the fathers who spend more time with his family or stay home and look after their kids and run domestic choirs don’t think of themselves as less manly. Being a social animal it seems almost impossible for us to step out of the stereotypical gender roles, set by the society. Since childhood we have been taught to fit into these roles. According to this patriarchal society a guy is supposed to be the bread winner, the rough and tough macho man who can’t be emotional or sensitive and definitely not meant to do household work and take care of his kids. On the contrary a woman is supposed to be sweet, sensitive, emotional, a mother figure and all. Most of us try to fit into these roles and become comfortably numb. But this is the high time that we should move on and accept whatever we feel like accepting rather than the society imposing upon us such rules. Being macho or spending less time with family does not make a person manlier, rather, irresponsible, careless. Therefore, instead of making fun of those women who are the bread winners of family and the men who take care of their kids, we need to break away from our slumber, release ourselves from the burden of patriarchy and the society and do whatever we feel like doing.

Linguist Deborah Tannen in her ‘There is No Unmarked Woman’ discusses a similar problem faced by women in the society. ‘Marked’ is a linguistic term to indicate the way language changes the basic meaning of a word by adding a certain linguistic part which doesn’t have any meaning of its own. As it’s a patriarchal society therefore women here are viewed only as the ‘other’ of the male sex. As par Freud or the readings of Levinus concern, all of these don’t consider female sexuality or identity as an independent one. It’s always dependant, it’s always ‘marked’. Unlike man who’s every gesture can be considered as ‘unmarked’ ‘natural’, from hairstyle to dressing, women can’t do anything that goes unmarked. One most important example given by Tannen is of Alfre Woodard. Woodard was an Oscar nominee for the best supporting actress. When being asked she said she considered herself as an ‘actor’ as “actress worry about eyelashes and cellulite, and women who are actors worry about the characters we are playing.” As we can see how the society imposes upon certain gender roles on people of both sex and instead of growing out of it we become accustomed to all these stereotyping.

Anna Quindlen in ‘The Name Is Mine’ shows the dilemma within the mind of women who choose to do something against the existing social code. She picks up an example from her own life when she expresses how much left out she felt when she decided not to change her maiden name. The name of the husband, even in today’s world gives the whole family an identity of togetherness. This norm consciously or unconsciously seems to make the women members of the family feeling a bit entangled. She often starts to feel like an outsider. However these are definitely the much awaited small steps towards the true emancipation of the women folks of the society.

These are some of the examples to give an idea about the existing attitude towards sex and gender in the society which also may enable us to form the right attitude which is yet to come.


AP English Language and Economy

Offered by the College Board, Advance Placement of English Language and Composition is an examination which provides the high-school students of USA with an opportunity to earn college credits and advance placements. Among many interesting and useful subjects, offered there, one of the useful and interesting one is Economy. Let us have a look at the outline of the subject.

First let’s take a look at how William Hazlitt the renowned essayist in his essay “On The Want Of Money” criticizes the romantic notion of many stories that money is not important for happiness. Hazlitt criticizes the fact stating that money may not be the sole reason to be happy but it’s definitely one of the things that assures us of security. Through his carefully crafted diction and use of words like, ‘rejected’, ‘carped’ he perfectly conveys the feeling of utter helplessness what a penniless person feels. For instance, if we follow these lines from the essay, we will be able to feel how cleverly Hazlitt conveys the feeling gradually

"What a luxury, what a God's-send in such a dilemma, to find a half-crown which has slipped through a hole in the lining of your waistcoat, a crumpled bank-note in your breeches-pocket, or a guinea clinking in the bottom of your trunk, which had been thoughtlessly left there out of a former heap! Vain hope! Unfounded illusion! The experienced in such matters know better, and laugh in their sleeves at so improbable a suggestion. Not a corner, not a cranny, not a pocket, not a drawer has been left unrummaged, or had not been subjected over and over again to more than the strictness of a custom-house scrutiny."

The whole essay is nothing but combination of couple of sentences describing the despair that’s all the poor people without money can afford to have in their life.

Australian philosopher Peter Singer presents a very controversial theory about economic condition of the people around the world in the form of a comparison between the lifestyle of the poverty-stricken Brazilian people and the affluent Americans. Singer is known for his reputation as world’s most controversial ethicist. Picking up the example of Brazilian movie, ‘Central Station’ Singer shows that people condemn easily on the basis of morality without considering the surrounding situation and circumstances. In this movie Dora a penniless girl delivers a small boy without knowing what they are going to do with him and buys a television. Her neighbours accuse her of being insensitive but Singer rightly has pointed out that it’s easier to condemn people from a distance, especially when there is certain difference between the persons who are condemning and who are being condemned. Singer’s theory brings forth a clear and disturbing picture of American lifestyle which enables them to acquire things more than mere necessities, just for luxury while not having a fling about the needy people, residing out of their sight, through-out the world. Of course by Americans, Singer refers to not only the citizens of America, rather all the affluent and careless people through-out the world. New York philosopher Peter Unger in his 1996 book, ‘Living High and Letting Die’ brings forth somewhat similar issue as to which is worse, to live luxuriously without giving substantial money to help the needy people or to perform condemnable deeds in order to get hold of basic necessities.

This can work as the background to describe the condition of the working parents and the problems faced by their children. Parenting is not an easy job. It becomes most difficult for the working parents as they often have to make a choice between their children and their office. For instance, many countries provide the working women with the chance of guaranteed paid maternity leave or they have a system of paid parental leave but unfortunately USA along with Papua, New Guinea etcetera don’t agree with this. Things become more problematic for the mother of the infants. Many countries ensure that mothers can have some time to breast-feed their infants; however USA doesn’t agree to even that. Apart from these, another problem is that getting low wedges, lower than expected and lesser benefits, hence the dissatisfaction among the workers. Therefore the children of the working parents also have to suffer various problems since childhood. They have to grow up pretty much on their own which makes them self-sufficient but also makes them a little bit detached or aloof from their family. There is a very little scope to form a concrete family bond. There are various misconceptions regarding this. The office head may think that they won’t be able to fulfil their goals if they give the workers leave for sometimes. Studies show the exact opposite, satisfactory working condition and satisfied workers are more likely to produce satisfactory results. Therefore it’s high time to take the hint and change certain rules.

While discussing the issue of poverty and wealth the book by Barbara Ehrenreich, ‘Nickel and Dimmed’ is worthy to mention. Ehrenreichstage stages the chance to investigate the condition of poverty against the background of welfare. Ehrenreich’s plan is to take up work in different places among several types of workers. From Florida to Minnesota she moved from one job to another, one place to another place and fids out the major work problems like impatient manager, oppressive and depressing management, extreme work and financial pressure and the fatigue. From being a waitress to housekeeper, a dietary aid and so on. Through-out her journey she has understood that there is something very much wrong. The working condition of the poor and the lower middle class has worsened and Ehrenreich’s sharp and cart tone, use of diction have been able to express the degree of frustration, harassment quite aptly.

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