The Road to Learning English: a Study of Comparisons and Contrasts

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Gloria Anzaldua (“How To Tame a Wild Tongue”) and Richard Rodriguez (“Aria”) have written powerful, painful, and very personal stories about their attempts to fit into American society while being taught a language that is not of their ancestors. There are significant differences in the tone of the each reading and the feelings evoked. The methods used by each writer to describe specific points (Anzaldua, with force and anger; Rodriguez, with a resigned acceptance that only thinly veils his sadness throughout the transition), and their ability to describe situations in a way that leaves little room for doubt as to their feelings during each experience, make it both easy and difficult for the reader to identify with them. Although both authors wrote about their experiences while learning English as their second and eventually primary language, their journeys had little in common.

Rodriguez and Anzaldua are both of Spanish descent. However, while Anzaldua refers to herself as Chicano (Mexican American), describing in great detail the challenges of learning yet another acceptable way to communicate, (“for people who live in a country in which English is the reining tongue but who are not Anglo,”)(56) the Rodriguez’ family were immigrants. Rodriguez does not specify when the family moved to the United States, although he does mention that as a first grade student his initial difficulties in learning English were shared by his two older siblings as well. His recollection of a visit to his parents by three nuns from their school, “Do your children speak only Spanish at home, Mrs. Rodriguez?” “That Richard especially seems so timid and shy,” (10-11) would indicate that the move was fairly recent. Both author’s parents used some form of Spanish to communicate in the home but were anxious that their children learn English. While Rodriguez’ parents were especially concerned with wanting their children to fit in with their American peers at school, Anzaldua’s mother...
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