Be respectful

Learn a language for fun, not to appropriate a culture


There are many forms of cultural appropriation, which by definition from the Oxford English Dictionary, is the “unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the practices, customs, or aesthetics of one social or ethnic group by members of another (typically dominant) community or society.”

I remember when I used to ask my friends why they chose to learn a language, and some of their responses surprised me. I thought they would choose a language to communicate and expand their skills, but in reality, they learned a language to curse at people.

This is one form of disrespect towards a language and their culture. I do not think it is a sign of respect if someone makes fun of a language on purpose, even if they are joking around. I have seen examples of this on live television, which disappoints me, because they are just embarrassing themselves and ruining their own reputation. 

Even on social media, I’ve seen people take an indigenous language and ‘curse’ President Donald Trump. Sure, everyone has their own opinions about him, but I don’t think it’s a good idea to use a language and culture that one does not know much about, and bend it to their will.

 There are people who use the Asian language for the aesthetic, which is especially common for tattoos. I’ve seen people being made fun of because they decided to use an Asian language on their body without knowing the actual meaning. 

If someone knows a few words in another language but are not fluent, that’s fine. Saying words like “baka,” which is most commonly used as “idiot” in Japanese, or “annyeonghaseyo,” which is the formal version of “hello” in Korean, is okay. But saying “Ching chong ching, I’m speaking Chinese,” is not.

Another form of cultural appropriation is wearing someone’s cultural outfit as a costume. If someone wears a Chinese outfit with respect, and does not sexualize it, that is fine. But unfortunately, I have seen people wear it, sexualizing the outfit and calling it “oriental.”

Wearing cultural outfits as a halloween costume, or for a music video, which is commonly found in artists, and wearing it without appropriate reason, is culture appropriation. There is a thin line between being respectful and disrespectful when learning or admiring a new language or culture.

It’s unfortunate that insensitivity to any language and culture has almost become normalized, which is especially true for the Asian culture and language. Even Asians can be racist to other Asians.

I believe it may be because, since someone is Asian themselves, they may think it is okay to make fun of other cultures too since they should understand.

I advise people to carefully think out their actions and decisions. And if someone wishes to appreciate a culture, they should learn about it and do research first. There are people from different ethnicities who will most likely be willing to teach someone about their own culture, through cultural fairs, dances or meetings.

Please learn the differences between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation.