Compare and Contrast: Amy Tan and Richard Rodriguez
The United States is a melting pot, made up of people from many different cultures and backgrounds. With no national official language, it allows immigrants to stick to their roots and embrace their heritage. For Richard Rodriguez, he grew up with Spanish strictly spoken in his household. This made him feel safe in his private life, which discouraged him from learning English. Richard felt most comfortable speaking Spanish at school and refused to speak English. What motivated him to learn English was his realization that he’s an American. For Amy Tan, she grew up with exposure to both English and Mandarin in her household. She embraced English and felt at ease with translating for her mother. This encouraged her to learn English to the best of her ability at school. What motivated her to learn English was the challenge and opportunity to go against the stereotypes. Although they both grew up with different influences and cultures, they both agree that leaning English is crucial and that non-standard english shouldn’t be considered broken.
Family life and the way it functions strongly impacts the development of a child’s behavior. Richard Rodriguez, a first generation Mexican-American, had little exposure to English because Spanish was exclusively spoken amongst his family. He considered it to be his private language since he felt most comfortable and safe using it. Due to his lack of practice with English, Richard felt uneasy with branching out and speaking with others outside his household. His parents took notice of this and encouraged him to speak in English at home. Richard Rodriguez declared that, “The family’s quiet was partly due to the fact that, as we children learned more and more English, we shared fewer and fewer words with our parents” (Rodriguez
515). He felt that his family was losing the strength in their bond because Spanish drew his family together and they were no longer speaking it as often. On the other hand, Amy Tan, a first generation Chinese-American, had a different experience with English in her household. In her case, it created a more powerful bond between her and her mother. Amy was always willing to support her mother, a native Mandarin speaker, whenever she needed assistance in making phone calls and translating to others. Her mother encouraged her to speak English and Mandarin in the household so that she could understand both languages. Amy recounts that, “It has become our language of intimacy, a different sort of English that relates to family talk, the language I grew up with” (Tan 507). With no language pressure between them, she and her mother were able to have a very open relationship.
For bilinguals, schooling usually starts off as a challenging time when limited English is spoken in their home. For Richard Rodriguez, he refused to speak in English at school. He felt uncomfortable speaking an unpracticed public language and felt secure speaking in Spanish amongst his peers. He described his experiences as, “Three months. Five. Half a year passed. Unsmiling, ever watchful, my teachers noted my silence” (Rodriguez 513). His teachers began to use force to make him speak in class. They were persistent in their efforts to motivate him to stand up and participate. Richard would anger his teachers when he resisted their demands, making him more petrified to engage in class. Clearly, his influences from home impacted his response to English during school. Amy Tan had a much different approach to English. Although she had a challenging experience with English, she encouraged herself to learn it to the best of her ability. Amy mentioned that, “I am someone who has always loved language. I am fascinated by language in daily life. I spend a great deal of my time thinking about the power of
language” (Tan 506). She was eager to participate in school and prove to her classmates that she has the capability of being fluent. It’s...
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