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Language and Identity - Essay Example

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This paper "Language and Identity" focuses on Amy Tan, Gloria Anzaldua, and Richard Rodriguez who share how the very foundations of their lives evolved around the languages spoken among their families and the English they were expected to know to adapt to American society.  …
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Language and Identity
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Download file to see previous pages Though all three writers express initial disgust for having to give up part of their heritage, Rodriguez makes it clear throughout his essay that there should be no shame in embracing one’s native tongue, nor should it be thought of as a sin to accept another. Richard Rodriguez’s “Aria: Memoir of a Bilingual Childhood” follows the writer’s journey from his discovery of the English language when he was a young boy, to being encouraged to learn it while attending Catholic school, and then to completely appreciating its uniqueness from his native Spanish. When he first heard English, Rodriguez remembers being intrigued by the sounds of the words, noting how different and less impersonal the seemed compared to Spanish. These profound differences prompted Rodriguez to regard English as a public and sociable language and Spanish as more intimate and familial based. As a result, Rodriguez felt that his inability to speak English separated him from those who could, and until he was forced to learn English, he was at ease with this distinction. Learning English had been tedious for Rodriguez, who claimed that the Spanish kept his family together and that a new language, one from the outside world, might cause a rift to form between them. As such, Rodriguez was reluctant to accept English as his choice language. He went through school in silence, not keen to open his mouth and speak the words of outsiders. He watched on in interest as his parents used minimal, disjointed English in the public, but pure Spanish within the home. The presence of the familiar Spanish kept Rodriguez from learning English until nuns from his school encouraged his parents to speak English at all times around their children. His parents obliged, and it was not long before Rodriguez fully grasped the English language and began speaking aloud in class. Rodriguez’s perspective of his native Spanish varied throughout his life, and the changes before and after he learned English were the most prominent. Spanish was a language that Rodriguez valued, especially since, according to him, the language kept his family close. He believed that Spanish was not only a secret code that English-speakers could not understand but felt that it was a cornerstone to him belonging to his family, a feeling that was reinforced primarily because his family spoke and shared with one another in Spanish. Everyone outside of the home spoke English, which meant that everyone understood each other; Rodriguez and his family, though, were in their own special circle of Spanish-speakers. Spanish was part of his heritage and a vital component to Rodriguez’s very being. When Rodriguez learned English, he did not necessarily lose his appreciation of Spanish and all that it offered his family but learned to accept the advantages that came with also knowing English. Harder than Rodriguez actually learning to speak English, though, was him speaking a language that did not involve his parents. As previously mentioned, Spanish was a huge part of Rodriguez’s identity among his family members. When his parents began speaking English for the sake of their children, Rodriguez noticed that the intimacy between his family members had evaporated. They were still a close and loving family, but English caused them to have fewer words to say. When Rodriguez fully accepted English as his primary language, his parents were approving of the change, but other family members were not as open to him embracing a culture other than their own. Aunts and uncles, and even Spanish-speaking strangers on the street and in grocery stores would tease Rodriguez for abandoning his heritage (Rodriguez 321).     ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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