This paper gives a critical rhetorical analysis of Conversational Ballgames and Private Language, Public Language. It does this by contrasting the two great works which are believed to have immensely impacted on the lives of their readers. Conversational Ballgames was written by Nancy Sakamoto while Private Language, Public Language was authored by Richard Rodriquez. These are reputable scholars who are indisputably respected authorities. For instance, she has taught Japan for many years. Currently, she is a professor of American Studies at Shitennoji Gakuen University, Hawaii Institute. These essays are quite educative because they offer the reader an opportunity to understand different subjects aimed at addressing certain issues affecting the society today. The paper offers a deeper analysis on the major themes of these essays and links them to the literary styles adopted by these authors. The coverage unveils the relationship among the writer, reader and the article itself.
To begin with, Nancy gives an account of how conversation can be used to define the interaction of people and mastery of language. Having been born and raised in America, it was obvious that she would be familiar with the American culture. This, as she would later learn, affected her interactions when she relocated to Japan. First and foremost, she was to struggle to know the Japanese language which she had never spoken before. Although it was so challenging, she did not give up. Instead, she decided to come up and participate in conversations. However, this could not work out since she had been inclined to the western culture. In order for her to improve her communication with these people, she had to adopt the Japanese conversation styles. However, as she says, this is so different from the American style which she says is more westernized. This is the situation Nancy found in which Nancy found herself after getting married in Japan.
In order to explain her points, Nancy adopts the use of symbolism and metaphor. She uses a ball game to represent conversation. She says that conversation is like a ball game which involves more than one person each with a distinct role to play. She eludes the American conversation style to a tennis and volleyball which is either played by two or sets of players. She says, ‘A western-style conversation between two people is like a game of tennis.’ Just the same way a tennis player should be acquainted with all the rules and regulations governing this game, individuals intending to use an American conversation style should know all the rules involved. She says that the ball should be hit in turn without any interruption. Each of the players is expected to hit the ball to the opponent and waits for him to hit back before he takes another step to hit back. This is synonymous to American style of conversation which requires the involved parties to chat in turns. While one person is still talking, it is the responsibility of the other one to listen and give him time to finish. After finishing, he is allowed to hit back by answering. However, the answer can be in agreement or disagreement of what was said.
On the other hand, Japanese conversation takes a different approach. Unlike the western style, it requires active participation by both parties. However, just like volleyball, when one person hits the ball, the other should hit back, not by replying, but by saying something different. ‘Whoever is nearest and quickest hits the ball, and if you step back, someone else will hit it.’ This implies that a conversation should move smoothly with each person knowing his role and when to make a contribution without offending others.
This is aimed at ensuring the continuity of a conversation without reminding the other of his role. This is the problem which Nancy faced while she was engaged in conversations with the Japanese. Despite all the efforts made, she later realized that it was not a matter of language, but culture.
In Private Language, Public Language, the author gives a story of Richard, Spanish boy who beat all the odds to perfect his English language. Having been born in a Spanish family, Richard grew up in an environment in which Spanish was the only language. However, after being taken to a private boarding school, it became so challenging for him to use English language. First, he believed that he was not qualified to speak in English. Secondly, he was scared by the level of eloquence of his colleagues. This made him develop a phobia in the language to the extent that he often declined to speak because he believed that everyone would laugh at him. This continued even after his family decided to adopt the use of English in their daily communications. By saying that David, ‘felt misplaced and alone when it appeared that all had almost mastered the language’ means that he had become a lone pair in his classroom. I think this is why his fear intensified with time. However, he eventually changed his mind and decided to use English. As a result, he perfected his speaking skills and became more fluent than he could ever imagine.
In this excerpt, Richard uses a very simple language. He is so precise in the way he presents he presents his ideas. This makes his work very clear and easy to understand by all the readers. Unlike Nancy who uses a lot of figurative language, Richard’s work is so simplified. Whereas Nancy uses a ball game to symbolize the game of conversation, Richard does no use any form of symbolism. Instead, he uses simple words in a direct manner. His message becomes easier to understand by all the readers. Hence, it narrows the gap between him and the audience. It helps him to establish a good rapport with his readers who are expected to enjoy the story right from the beginning up to the end. Contrarily, Nancy’s work calls for keenness and thorough evaluation of the story. For it to make sense the reader, it must be thoughtfully interpreted to give a more relevant allegorical meaning. However, her numerous metaphors create an image in the minds of the readers. This makes the story interesting and lively.
In Private Language, Public Language, the major issue of concern is language. Richard is confronted with a new language which he had not been using before. However, as a Spanish child, he believes that he is not meant to speak English. He declines to make any effort to speak the language. He is doing this because of the negative attitude he has developed over the years. In fact, he is English-phobic. I would like to say that he is doing all these because he is not aware of the basic concepts of language. As a child, he does not understand that the best way to master a language is through speaking. It is very clear that he does not know that he can speak any language so long as he practices it. He is ignorantly convinced that he is only entitled to speak Spanish. Had he known, he would have changed his attitude to start practicing the language and forget about his peers.
As a linguist, Nancy had to approach this problem differently. Unlike the young Richard, she had fully grown up and was in a position of understanding her personal weaknesses. Unlike the young Richard, Nancy knew that she as not good at Japanese. She asserts, ‘when I joined in, the others would look startled, and the conversational topic would come to a halt.’ This illustrates her pathetic mastery of Japanese. However, she did not want to relax and lose hope that she could not fit into the new environment. She understood that the only secrete to linguistic competence is practice.
Therefore, she took all the initiatives to practice Japanese by participating in various conversations however challenging it was. Her consciousness enabled her to discover that she as not conforming to the conversation culture in Japan. As a result, she worked so hard to learn this new culture. Eventually, she managed to succeed and later fit into this society. His story sensitizes readers on the role cultural flexibility in communication. Although we are living in a dynamic society, it is incumbent upon us to appreciate one’s cultural practices because it is a recipe for unity and harmonious interactions. If Nancy was not tolerant, she would not have survived in Japan.
I would like to conclude by saying that Conversational Ballgames and Private Language, Public Language are quite insightful essays. They give a lot of information on the role of personal struggle in the mastery of language skills. Despite being written by different authors, they serve the same purpose for informing the readers that language has got no limitation. Anyone can use any language so long as they practice it. One only needs to identify one’s mistakes and take deliberate steps to improve. Just like Richard and Nancy, everyone must develop a positive attitude towards a language and take initiatives to master and practice its rules.
Conversational Ballgames is in deed a ball game of conversations. The concept put forth by Nancy in this article is the role of culture in determining the successful use of language in different places. Having realized the fatal mistake she had been making during her conversations, it became apparent that she had to adapt. Meaning, she had to abandon her western lifestyle for the Japanese style which was totally unique to her. This is relevant in the contemporary society because it can assist people in managing their day to day interactions. Communication is a very important tool of interaction. However, Nancy’s experiences teach us that we should be dynamic. We must acknowledge the fact that we live in a plural society composed of people from different cultural, religious and geographical backgrounds. Therefore, it is incumbent upon everyone to be tolerant ad be ready to accept one another’s culture as essential to them.