Language is the system of words or signs that people use to express thoughts and feelings to each other. Language has an impulse on a person that allows them to make ties with a certain society, thus giving them a cultural identification. When residents of another country come to America and speak a contrasting language to English, immigrants most likely feel uneasy having to adapt to a completely new culture and learn the English language. During this journey, the individuals’ cultural identities might fade away as well as losing their efficient fluency on their native language. In Amy Tan’s, “Mother Tongue” and Richard Rodriguez “Aria: A Memoir of A Bilingual Childhood”, both authors experience the difficulties of language barrier and adjusting to a different lifestyle in order to develop as an individual in the United States.
Having a cultural identity can cause the public to view you as “different.” Due to this matter, the “normal” individuals will try to avoid any interaction with you. This is one of the obstacles immigrants have to face when adapting to the American culture. In the essay, “Aria: Memoir of a bilingual Childhood” written by Richard Rodriguez, Rodriguez experienced the struggles of being a bilingual Hispanic being raised in the American society. Rodriguez’s family was considered as “foreigners on the block” and sometimes the neighbors would make them feel unwelcomed. For this reason, Rodriguez felt intimidated and felt the need to leave behind his Hispanic culture. He allows the reader to see his change from standing out to fitting in, from speaking his “intimate” language – Spanish to speaking English and transitioning into the American culture.
Rodriguez accentuates you must be fluent in a public language in order to “belong” and be able to take in “social or political advantages” in able to amass a “public language.” Rodriguez continues to affirm that, “The social and political advantages I enjoy as a man result from the day that I came to believe that my name is indeed “Rich-head Road-ree-guess.” Rodriguez pleas that the public language, which for this situation is English, will provide better opportunities for those who are able speak the “public language.” For Rodriguez the “public language” exposed him to greater opportunities that he would not be have been able to have access to if he did learn the English language.
In an admirable essay that describes language deeper than just words, accent marks, punctuation, and letters, but to show us depth of a persons worth. Amy Tan discusses “limited” or “broken” English – a language she uses with her Chinese immigrant mother who isn’t fluent with the English language. The language that Tan describes as “limited” is very personal to her. In the essay, Tan says, “It's my mother tongue. Her language, as I hear it, is vivid, direct, full of observation and imagery. That was the language that helped shape the way I saw things, expressed things, made sense of the world.” Tan tries to show us that her mothers “limited” or “broken” English is equivalent to the “right” English, but it shaped her into the person that she is today.
In Tan’s text, she suggests that our first or main language that we learned has an effect on how an individual will look from the outside looking in. The spoken communication we use plays a major role on the person we develop into and how different our perspective can be for certain situations – our personal individuality is linked to our language. Tan shows the readers that immigrants like her mothers who are not fluent in English tend to be discriminated for the lack of “intelligence” they have due to them being from a different country. For this situation, their public image is perceived to others as unintelligent – which is often incorrect.
Tan shares personal experiences about how her mother was treated. “People in department stores, at banks, and at restaurants did not take her seriously, did not give her good service, pretended to not to understand her, or even acted as if they did not hear her.” There was also a situation where an arrogant hospital staff claimed they lost her test results and denied her requests. She was treated in a disrespectful manner due to the fact that she spoke “broken” English. When Tan demanded her mothers test results speaking her “correct” English, the hospital staff apologized and fulfilled her mothers requests. This shows the power of language, one can be identified as an odd one out, and often unreasonably treated as an inferior.
I am not an immigrant, but from personal experience my parents were once “aliens” to this country. After 20 years, they still sometimes struggle trying to understand the American culture. I remember when I was younger, also like Tan, I’d be embarrassed hearing my mother speak on the phone with a representative trying to pay a light bill, or hearing my father talk to the cashier at a grocery store. But as I grew older, I am finally realizing to embrace my culture. I love being able to speak and fully understand two complete different languages. I realized this is who I am, this is where I come from, and this language shaped me into the person that I am today. Both Rodriguez and Tan express that they and their families over came a battle with being immigrants and entering into the United States. Language is the system of communication used by a particular community or country. It is also crucial aspect to our public identities. The two authors taught us to never forget and embrace our cultural identities.
Tan, Amy. "Mother Tongue"" English 1301 Course Site, n.d. Web. 09 Oct. 2014. Rodriguez, Richard. "Aria: A Memoir of a Bilingual Childhood." English 1301 Course Site, n.d. Web. 09 Oct. 2014.