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Language and Culture - Essay Example

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This essay is maily about the importance of the family language through the example of two essays: “Aria: A Memoir of a Bilingual Childhood.” of Richard Rodriguez and "Mother tongue." of Amy Tan. Both the writers fight for identity and the language that their family and ancestors used to speak…
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Language and Culture
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"Language and Culture"

Download file to see previous pages Both Tan and Rodriguez had to fight with their internal struggles; their desire for speaking their native language and the need to speak the language of the society they lived in. The major difference between them was in their perceptions of the significance of preserving their family language. The titles chosen by both writers for their stories also define their feelings. Tan names her story “Mother Tongue” which has a more emotional feel to it, whereas Rodriguez opts for a more straightforward title of “Aria: Memoir of a Bilingual Childhood” in which you can’t really feel emotion but the story does explain all his feelings and the emotion is built as the story progresses. It is a recollection of various memories that convey Rodriguez’s point of view.
Tan and Rodriguez realize the intimacy of their native language at different times of their lives. During her talk on her book “Joy Luck Club”, her mother was sitting in the audience. At that time she realized that the way she used English language was different depending on who she was talking to. At home she used a broken form of the language whereas for the society she preferred more formal English. She concluded that it had become a language of intimacy, different English for the family which was a language she had grown up with. Tan understands that she never lost the importance of the family language and the role it had played in her life, as she says “it can evoke an emotion, a visual image, a complex idea, or a simple truth” (Tan, 431). On the other hand Rodriguez realized the role of his family language when he was much younger. Like Tan his identity also altered as he stepped inside his home. When his mother used to call out to him in Spanish he felt at home and his mother’s words would comfort him. He felt sure of his family identity and feared the language of the society. Rodriguez unlike Tan lost this feeling of intimacy early in life. Both the writers felt guilt when they averred a discriminating identity towards their family. The reason they did that was both their parents could not speak English properly. Tan describes her mother’s English as very ‘limited’. It was this broken language that limited Tan’s perception of her mother. She uses words such as “broken” and “fractured” to explain her mother’s English which shows that she is very ashamed by it. Tan believed that the quality of her mother’s English was directly related to the quality of what she said and this must reflect badly on her. She could not express her thoughts perfectly thus making her thoughts imperfect as well. Her beliefs were reinforced by the way people used to treat her mother. Tan states plenty of empirical evidence in her story. She wrote that people in stores, restaurants, banks did not give importance to her; sometimes they would even ignore her, pretending that they did not hear her. Rodriguez writes about similar situations; he too was embarrassed of his parents when they spoke the language of the society. It would make him feel that his parents were not powerful and could not protect him. He also supports his feelings with the society’s behavior towards his parents. Rodriguez uses a strong language and some Spanish words as well including “gringo” and “pocho”. Both Tan and Rodriguez understood later in life how very wrong they were about their parents, at one point Tan said “my mother's English is perfectly clear. ... It's my mother ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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