Public and Private Language

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09-26-2011
Public and Private language:
A review of the essay Private Language, Public Language by Richard Rodriquez In Richard Rodriguez’s article Private Language, Public Language Rodriguez uses his introduction to language to show the difference, to him, between his home language, of Spanish, and that of what he considers public, that of English. Language as he says is separated by “Just opening or closing the screen door,” it was the difference between being home in his own language and being in the world of the gringos, or white English speaking person. Rodriquez had a very poetic way to describe what he was hearing. He describes his parents English as “high- whining vowels and guttural consonants” and so he didn’t see English as a beauty but as noise. A woman in the drug store saying something to him he describes this as “exotic polysyllabic sounds would bloom in the midst of their sentences.” He also describes his encounters with the language by the tone of the person, “The man behind the counter…by being so firm and so clear,” and that because he was so firm and clear that marked him as gringo. These Gringos weren’t speaking his home language, and so everything was unclear and so public. He says the “accent of los gringos was never pleasing nor was it hard to hear.” Trips to the grocery store and bus stops would be noisy with sound as he says and he was uncomfortable around such noise. Many instances he heard his parents stuttered slow English and found it so different from how Gringos talked. He reflects that his childhood fears made no difference and that his family had managed to make them understood at important places such as the doctors and the government offices. Gringo seeming to be an almost dirty word, he uses to describe the public. Contrary to how he spoke of his home life.

In his home Rodriquez spoke Spanish, and so associated it with home and belonging. Although he would hear others speaking Spanish on the radio and in the...
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