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In Every Mirror She's Black


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The three protagonists have different levels of proficiency in Swedish. How is the Swedish language portrayed -- as a means of assimilation, or of reinforcing outsider status?

Created: 09/02/21

Replies: 6

Posted Sep. 02, 2021 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
davinamw

Join Date: 10/15/10

Posts: 2710

The three protagonists have different levels of proficiency in Swedish. How is the Swedish language portrayed -- as a means of assimilation, or of reinforcing outsider status?

The three protagonists have different levels of proficiency in Swedish. How is the Swedish language portrayed -- as a means of assimilation, or of reinforcing outsider status?


Posted Sep. 04, 2021 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
RebeccaF

Join Date: 08/24/14

Posts: 45

RE: The three protagonists have ...

For Muna, learning Swedish is like a survival skill: she has to know enough to find work and get around the city. The other two characters were in a more privileged bubble of a workplace or a home where English could be spoken. That was comforting for them, but also meant that they didn't push themselves to learn more. (I have found this as a tourist overseas - in certain countries like the Netherlands you can assume that people speak English and so you don't have to try to speak Dutch, whereas if you go to France or Italy you should try to learn some phrases ahead of time. I have heard that in Scandinavia pretty much everyone speaks English.)


Posted Sep. 04, 2021 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
linz

Join Date: 08/12/15

Posts: 89

RE: The three protagonists have ...

I agree to a point with RebeccaF But I think the characters in Kemi's life used their native language against her. She took lessons, but even when she asked them to speak English, they didn't That would make me think they were talking about me! And often they were! I could not live in a country where I did not speak the language!


Posted Sep. 05, 2021 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
janines

Join Date: 11/21/16

Posts: 46

RE: The three protagonists have ...

If you're going to make it in anew country where you don't speak the language, then you have to learn it which I think would be hard. I think Muna and Kemi tried to learn the language to fit in I think in Kemi'sccase, her coworkers, the good racists that they were, used it against her. I don't think it mattered to Brittany.


Posted Sep. 05, 2021 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
melanieb

Join Date: 08/30/14

Posts: 220

RE: The three protagonists have ..

Language is always about assimilating. Their difficulties with it add to the idea of their being different and not part of their environment.


Posted Sep. 05, 2021 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
beckyd

Join Date: 07/31/19

Posts: 56

RE: The three protagonists have ...

I too see it as a means of assimilation. While I was still working (healthcare field)and would frequently meet an immigrant who planned on staying in the U.S., I would give them info on where to get free English lessons.To me, it's just intuitive that you should want to be able to communicate with the people where you live. Maybe Kami and Brittany felt more insulated in their environment and didn't feel the same amount of pressure to learn the language that Muna did.


Posted Sep. 05, 2021 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
beverlyj

Join Date: 12/22/11

Posts: 118

RE: The three protagonists have ...

Muna's situation is that she needs to speak Swedish to survive because of her identity and that her intentions was to become a Swedish citizen wanting to be a productive person in Sweden.

Brittany learned that as a Black woman for those who did not know who she was married to be seen as an American due to prejudice and discrimination. And Jonny made sure that anyone who interacted with her spoke English. I wondered once she found out the truth about Jonny if she would continue to learn the language to understand what others were saying around her, but would pretend to not understand.

Kemi was initially excited about learning Swedish and she saw the opportunity in Sweden to be a "fresh" start for her. As Kemi became more and more disillusioned about being accepted/fitting in Sweden, her interest in learning Swedish because less interesting to her. At work, I thought that Kemi used not speaking Swedish to remind the team members who she was and that Jonny recruited her and while this did not really work out her way, Kemi knew that she would not be staying in Sweden too long, she just needed to figure out a way to save face so she could return to the U.S..


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