The Role of Culture and Languages Play on Identity

The book A Map of Home highlights the story of Nidali, a girl who comes from a multicultural family made up of Palestinian father and Egyptian mother while she is born in America where she never comes back until the age of 18 years. In light of the complicated family structure, her family migrates from Kuwait to Egypt, and finally to Texas in America. Under the influence of multiple cultures, how is Nidali’s identity shaped during the process? The formation of identity depends on language associating with the culture translation. 


Language is undeniably the primary means of establishing an identity with a person’s culture in any given society. The most interesting thing is that it does not matter the part of the world that someone has to go to, as long as he/she is aware of the language of the people (Kraus 34). It is quite clear that Nidali could not have navigated the different multicultural aspects of her life easily without being able to be a bit different from other girls and learn the respective language. Her humorous approach to the explanation of the events she faces is a clear indication of the view that language plays an instrumental role in the development of cultural identity. 

The essay In Search of a Black Identity in Uganda effectively reinforces the thematic aspect of language and its relevance in the development of identity as seen in Nidali’s life. This essay in particular highlights a black student’s journey to reconnect with African origin. However, it is quite evident that language is the first thing for him to learn the local language before starting to reconnect with people and feel accepted in the country. Therefore, the first step toward the integration into the Ugandan culture was to learn Luganda to facilitate communication. With this aspect, it was easier to communicate easily with other people and greet older women. It was the best way for him to feel integrated into African roots while sharing the cultural experience.  For Nidali, the story is similar because she keenly understands that she comes from a multicultural family. For instance, she experiences problems in her early childhood in both Kuwait and Egypt. The identity crisis is massive for her, and tends to shatter her life. However, she comes to understand later that the best way to overcome all these is through cultural reconnection through language. 

Without relevant understanding of language, it is quite difficult for a person to overcome the challenges that are associated with isolation. In the essay, In Search of a Black Identity it is apparent that the black student has to overcome the many questions associated with him being a ‘Muzungu’, a term commonly used for Whites. He is surprised at how children are able to distinguish him from the rest of the population. Nevertheless, learning the language of the people simplifies the whole process, as he is able to get to them and explain his part of the story. Nidali’s ability to fit into the American culture while living in Texas is an instrumental illustration of the view that cultural survival is dependent upon the language used and the relevance of its context. For instance, when she gets to America she gets so rebellious and decides to go against most of her father’s restrictions such as staying away from boys (Jarrar 89). In fact, she is enthusiastic to overcome the persistent questions about her multicultural origins. Learning the language and finding the best way to express herself plays an instrumental role in helping her overcome most of the questions about herself and her own origin. She is able to talk about herself and her family through effective use of language that automatically gives her an identity despite the major identity crisis she appears to be facing in her life. She also wonders why people keep making fun of other peoples’ religion and forms of origin. Both of these illustrate her strong character and ability of using language to reestablish her cultural identity. The strength of language in influencing cultural identity is massive and it goes above all the questions and negative tags given to a particular group of individuals. 

The story of Nidali is all about her struggles from birth to maturity. She has to struggle from her childhood days in Kuwait where she considers home to Egypt where she has to run away with her family because of the war. In the essay, In Search of a Black Identity the black student gets the opportunity to swallow his feelings because of the belief in language and the crucial role it plays in helping him reconnect with his African roots. By using the newly acquired Luganda, he is able to handle his feelings and respond to people nicely hence finding a way to establish strong bonds with them. This makes it easier for the overall growth and maturity of a person across different societies. Nidali is able to handle the feelings and questions about her multicultural origins in the best ways possible using the appeal of language. It is not easy for her initially because she feels out of place most of the times. For instance, the while in Kuwait she has highly religious members around her, and she feels intimidated by their approach to life. However, language offers a solution and she is able to overcome such struggles in her life. 

Accordingly, language facilitates identity formation by changing the ways in which individuals think about different events that might occur in the society. The essay How Does Our Language Shape the Way We Think? brings out the view that language has a significant influence in the manner in which people think about different happenings. Language appears to be the most progressive way of thinking and imagining about different things that might easily contribute to the formation of a person’s identity. It highlights that people are capable of learning new languages hence changing the way the think about different events. Nidali’s capability to adapt to the multicultural nature of events and language gives her the strength to form her own identity through clear thinking. While in Kuwait, she thinks about the people of Ibrahim that her father asks God to bless every time he prays. More so, when her highly religious cousin destroys her Wonder Woman, she thinks critically about the whole situation and states that the superhero is a shameless prostitute. She does not fear using language to form her own identity as a moderate individual through critical thinking approaches. The winning of the Quran competition highlights the development of the critical thinking capabilities, and her establishment of identity within her own religion through language. 

Continuous learning of different languages and their effective application to relevant contexts is vital in identity formation. People around the world are learning new languages, and are using them in different contexts to say what they think about the world. The learning process has to be continuous because the ideas of time differ across language in different ways. Nidali seems to have understood this aspect in the best ways possible despite her multicultural origin. It would not have been easy for any person to acquire a cultural identity while in her shoes. However, she understands the strategies to learn the different languages to use at her different stages in life hence getting the opportunity to live better life. For instance, she thinks of finding time to run away from home once she gets to the university. She has her own humorous way of expressing this view and ensuring that her plight is understood effectively. The most significant way to move forward in life is to understand the tremendous evolutions in languages and taking the opportunity to acquire new aspects of language for improved adjustments to changing situations. 

In conclusion, the theme of language is central in A Map of Home and it highlights Nidali’s journey to the formation of identity despite coming from a multicultural family. Through the essays In Search of a Black Identity and How Does Our Language Shape the Way We Think? There is the presentation of a clear view that language is the most significant aspect of reconnecting with others and establishing a formal identity. It is never easy to come into a new place and receive the desired accommodation without the understanding of language. Therefore, the first element should be an understanding of the language, and the best ways to use it in respective contexts of the area. More so, enhanced thinking as seen in Nidali’ rebellious character is shaped through language hence leading to the establishment of a particular identity for the individual. One would feel out of place without learning any form of language to be applied in a cultural context. Therefore, continuous learning of new languages is encouraged to facilitate identity for individuals.

Nov 1, 2019 in Communications
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