Discuss how the poets use language to express a sense of culture and identity in Half Caste

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Paul Mather 10WS                1st April 2007

Discuss how the poets use language to express a sense of culture and identity in Search for my Tongue and Half-Caste

  In this essay, I am going to discuss how the poets, Sujata Bhatt and John Agard use language to express a sense of culture and identity in their poems, Search for my Tongue and Half-Caste. The first poem I am going to write about is Search for my Tongue.

  Sujata Bhatt was born in 1956 in a country called Ahmedabad.  In 1968, she emigrated to the United States of America.

  Search for my Tongue’s mood begins with confusion and progresses to acceptance of their cultural identity.

  In the poem ‘Search for my Tongue’ Sujata Bhatt shows how her identity is important to her in quite a lot of ways. Bhatt describes that when she loses her mother tongue over her other language, she is losing part of herself, her home language and her culture. She tells us this by saying “If you had two tongues inside your mouth and you lost the first one, the mother tongue…” This can be found from line 4. The quote tells us she is forgetting her other language (or her other tongue) and so her importance of identity comes from her language.

 In English speaking, we sometimes use the word 'tongue' to mean 'language' as well as your actual 'tongue'. The poet compares the ability to speak two languages to having two tongues in your mouth, which she calls 'the mother tongue' (which is the original language) and 'the foreign tongue' (which is the new language she has learnt). Sujata Bhatt is afraid that the mother tongue might 'rot and die'.  Bhatt uses several terms which could relate to a plant, such as ‘blossoms’, ‘rot and die’ and ‘bud’.  All these phrases could be used as a metaphor to suggest that you can lose (rot and die) your “first” language but it can grow back (blossoms).

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  Sujata Bhatt’s original language appears to ‘blossom’ in the middle section of the poem (lines 17-29) when she begins to use her Gujarati language.  Also, if you just glanced at the poem, you would notice that the Gujarati stands out on the page.  Bhatt uses this because she feels she stands out because she speaks that language.

  The final section of the poem is actually a translation of the Gujarati text in the middle of the poem.  It is about a dream which she has where her mother tongue grows back.

  When Sujata ...

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The Quality of Written Communication (QWC) is fair. The main issue with this response is that the method of quoting is not the standard format required for essay writing. When quoting from any source text, quotation marks (" ") must be used. When writing the title of a text, inverted commas (' ') are used instead e.g. "explain yuself" from 'Half-Caste'. Other than that, whilst very basic in punctuation, vocabulary and grammar, this answer is soundly presented in terms of QWC.

The Level of Analysis here is stunted somewhat by the lack of comparison, but as stated earlier, this candidate shows the ability to achieve middle C if they work on their comparison skills. Where this candidate does well is their attention to how the poets shape language and choose specific phrases like "mother tongue" in order to inform their analysis. However, this is one of frequent moments where their is simply not enough detail to gain higher than a C grade. The candidate chooses to comment extensively on the use of the word "tongue" in the aforementioned phrase but it is in fact the word "mother" that merits the analysis - "mother" having resonance of care-giving, nurture, unconditional love, and safety - it's no wonder Bhatt is worried she's forgetting it. This is the kind of language analysis that is required for GCSE candidates to achieve the highest grades. Where the candidate could save time is directly informing the readers what they're going to do next, before they do it: "The first poem I am going to write about is Search for my Tongue.". This kind of phrasing is unnecessary as the examiners will see and understand which poems you are writing about so long as you provide both the title and the poet in the opening few sentences to the analysis. Also, candidates win no marks for poet auto-biographies, so the author's birth dates and birth places gather no marks and simply waste precious exam time. This candidate also lost marks due to a lack of cohesive conclusion. Conclusions, regardless of how little new information they bring, must be included in every candidates answer. There are no excuses and it is in the conclusion that the examiner will be able to tell if the candidate can draw together all the ideas from their above answer, so there is no excuse for omitting one.

This is a question to compare, and as such, there needs to be a clear comparison between the two poems. This candidate has retained focus on the question in terms of identifying how the poets Sujatta Bhatt and John Agard use language to convey the importance of cultural identity, but there is little obvious comparison between the poems. Because of this, the essay suffers, as it does not answer the question. The analysis given from the candidate is entirely representative of a middle C grade candidate, but because there is no comparison between the two poems the highest achievable grade is only a middle D. To help with this, it is advisable that instead of addressing each poem in the comparison individually, and thus running the risk of saying all you know about one and then the other, with no comparative links in between (as this candidate has done) it would be more successful if candidates were to address a certain point pertaining to the question proposed and then analyse it's use in the two poems chosen. For example, the candidate, in this question, could comment on the use of phonetics in 'Half-Caste' and Gujarati in 'Search For My Tongue' - two ways in which the poets connect with the reader and force them into their position by making them speak like they do (to wear their shoes, effectively) - the candidates would then identify how this effect is used and it's effect on the reader (as I briefly mentioned above, it is to place the concept of two different cultures in one person). And, after making the successful comparison, the candidate would then move on to the next point and do the same. This actively encourages the comparative element of analysis.