What’s makes someone an American? Am I more American because my skin is white and I speak perfect English? Or am I more American because my family immigrated here 100 years earlier than most? Our country is a melting pot of different races, backgrounds, and beliefs. Two women, who are the children of immigrants, share their stories of growing up in America. The first is Gloria Anzaldua, a Chicana who grew up in South Texas. The first chapter of her book, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza is titled “How to Tame a Wild Tongue”.
She describes life as a young woman who is too Spanish for Americans and too American for Spanish. The second is Amy Tan, a daughter of immigrants who fled China in the 1940s. In her essay “Mother Tongue” she recalls growing up with a mother who could not speak perfect English. While these women are from two different backgrounds, their experiences with languages are the same. Both women have expressed the idea that language used with family, the educational system, and society shapes us as individuals. When a person is at home, surrounded by those who are nearest and dearest to them, they let their guard down. The languages we speak around our families are often different from the ones we use in the professional world. Tan states this opinion in her essay; she remembers a time when she was conscious of the English she was using around her mother.
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She was walking down the street with her mother and using the English that she did not use around her mother. She also states that this is the same type of English she uses with her husband. She writes that this type of language “has become our language of intimacy, a different sort of English that relates to family talk, the language I grew up with.” (Tan, page 143) Anzaldua has a similar opinion when it comes to the language of our family; she writes “My “home” tongues are the languages I speak with my sister and brothers, with my friends.”(Anzaldua, page 134) Her type of language is considered a subcategory of Spanish, called Chicano Spanish. Anzaldua also explains that in her culture she had to learn different dialects of Spanish, according to the region that person was from. These two women played chameleon with their languages, blending in perfectly with their surroundings, wearing a mask to the world until they were home. At home, they were safe to use the language they grew up using without fear of judgment.
“To get a good job, you need to speak English well. What’s the use of all your education if you speak English with an accent?” (Anzaldua, page 132) Anzaldua grew up with the idea that her imperfect English would limit her opportunities, even with an education. When she became a high school teacher, she was reprimanded for giving her students literature by Chicanos. Tan’s educational experiences were somewhat different than Anzaldua. Her limitations were set by test scores in English and Maths. Tan writes that her English scores “were not good enough to override the opinion that my true abilities lay in math and science because in those areas I achieved A’s and scored in the ninetieth percentile or higher.” (Tan, page 145)
While both women felt limited in their educational world, they both found a love for writing. They both became a voice for their people. One thing that shapes a person’s perspective of themselves is how their society views them. Tan, at a young age, would often have to speak for her mother. Her mother’s English was the view as “broken” or “limited” by society. This had a profound effect on how Tan viewed her mother’s English; she writes “because she expressed them imperfectly her thoughts were imperfect.” (Tan, page 144) Anzaldua’s Chicano Spanish was viewed as “poor Spanish” by society. “If a person, Chicana or Latina, has a low estimation of my native tongue, she also has a low estimation of me.” (Anzaldua, page 136)
Society, the community in which these women lived, has looked down on the English that they speak. Both women feel that their language is “poor”, “broken”, or “limited” by society’s standards. Gloria Anzaldua and Amy Tan were raised in two different cultures, with two different types of English. They grew up in families that spoke with accents and different dialects. Both women navigated their way through the educational system, which was not designed with them in mind. They were also viewed by their communities as being limited because their home language was not the standard. These two women also fought the system that wished to limit their voices. They became writers, they wrote their stories of how their language, for better or worse shaped who they were.
How to Tame a Wild Tongue is a chapter from the book titled Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza written by the author, Gloria E. Anzaldua. In this chapter, the writer talks about her Chicana life in a time full of immigration controversies where Latinos living in the United States struggled to find their national identity and a language to speak freely without shame and fear. Hispanic immigrants or Hispanics born in the United States are mentally tortured by the dominant English language and culture into changing into something that is neither English nor Spanish but a mixture of both. Anzaldúa targets Chicano readers who share her experience in finding a clear identity and American readers as well in order to better understand Chicano life.
The title Gloria Anzaldúa chose for this chapter in her book, is a title that does not make much sense at first sight but as the reader beings to read the first few paragraphs, he realizes that the meaning of the title is how to change a person’s language and way of speaking, such as accent, on an immigrant population. In this case, it would be the author’s own experiences and her maternal language Spanish, or to be more precise, Chicano Spanish. As the reader continues reading, he discovers that forcing someone to only speak another language is near to impossible. Anzaldúa showed strong opposition by talking in Spanish with her friends: “My ‘home’ tongues are the languages I speak with my sister and brothers, with my friends. They are the last five listed, with 6 and 7 being closest to my heart.” (56)
She loved speaking Spanish and wanted at least her name to be spoken and heard in Spanish but instead she “remembers being sent to the corner of the classroom “for talking back” to the Anglo teacher when all I was trying to do was tell her how to pronounce my name. “If you want to be American, speak American.’ If you don’t like it, go back to Mexico where you belong.”(53). Anzaldúa is showing defiance by not wanting to let go of her maternal language. She is proving the futility of changing one’s language and speaking patterns by switching back and forth between Spanish and English. When a teacher would catch her speak Spanish at school she would be punished by that teacher. “I remember being caught speaking Spanish at recess – that was good for three licks on the knuckles with a sharp ruler.” (53). She was accused of talking back to a teacher when all she did was giving an explanation. “I remember being sent to the corner of the classroom for ‘talking back’ to the Anglo teacher when all I was trying to do was tell her how to pronounce my name.” (53).
A society such as the one described in Gloria Anzaldúa’s “How to Tame a Wild Tongue” cannot be easily influenced or changed if that society is still living in their territory or close to it. It is in this type of settings that futility manifests the most. On the other hand, once a society or group of individuals are taken away from their territory they will, unknowingly, become heavily influenced if not entirely changed when it comes to their language, culture, and history no matter how proud they are. In her book, the author discusses the cultural and gendered impacts of the language itself. From an early age, girls are taught not to talk too much, not to talk back, and not to ask questions. In the Northern parts of Mexico and Southern most parts of the United States, the female plural in Spanish is excluded from the language, leaving women to fall under the masculine plural.
Many Latinos and Latinas think people living in these parts of the world are ruining the Spanish language by letting yourself influenced by the English language. You are being criticized for learning or speaking English, the language of the oppressors, thus being treated as a traitor by your own people. “‘Pocho, cultural traitor, you’re speaking the oppressor’s language by speaking English, you’re ruining the Spanish language,’ I have been accused by various Latinos and Latinas. Chicano Spanish is considered by the purist and by most Latinos deficient, mutilation of Spanish.” (55).In her book, the author discusses the cultural and gendered impacts of the language itself. From an early age, girls are taught not to talk too much, not to talk back, and not to ask questions. In the Northern parts of Mexico and Southernmost parts of the United States, the female plural in Spanish is excluded from the language, leaving women to fall under the masculine plural.
Many Latinos and Latinas think people living in these parts of the world are ruining the Spanish language by letting yourself influenced by the English language. You are being criticized for learning or speaking English, the language of the oppressors, thus being treated as a traitor by your own people. “‘Pocho, cultural traitor, you’re speaking the oppressor’s language by speaking English, you’re ruining the Spanish language,’ I have been accused by various Latinos and Latinas. Chicano Spanish is considered by the purist and by most Latinos deficient, mutilation of Spanish.” (55). In this chapter, Anzaldúa discusses some examples of how the Spanish language changed and evolved in this part of the world since the first Spanish colonisations began in the region. A combination of different languages, Spanish, English, and Native American sounds and words were combined to develop into the present day Chicano Spanish.
But because of these combinations, the language was viewed as a “bastard” form which is neither Standard Spanish nor Standard English. It was considered by other Hispanics that the language was of poorer quality and thus caused “Chicanas” and Chicanos to feel uncomfortable in expressing themselves. Anzaldúa sees this as something that needs to be changed. The attack on the Chicano’s native language needs to be stopped because “If a person, Chicana or Latina has a low estimation of my native tongue, she also has a low estimation of me.” (58). The author states that language is part of ethnic identity and should be something you can find pride in if women hope to improve their self-estimation. “Ethnic identity is twin skin to linguistic identity – I am my language. Until I can take pride in my language, I cannot take pride in myself.” (59).
Closing to the end of the chapter, the author discusses the language in terms of learning what it is incorporated within oneself. Through Chicano literature, such as books and poetry, Mexican movies, such as “Nosotros los pobres, the first ‘real’ Mexican movie” (60), and music, Chicanos felt a sense of belonging. It is an expression of their language and thus an expression of them. With these works, the Mexican people get an external reinforcement of their heritage and culture. Anzaldúa discusses that on the border, the language is getting forgotten. Living in the lands between America and Mexico seems to be a place of confusion, of separation of not knowing to which side you belong. “Nosotros Los Chicanos straddle the borderlands. On one side of us, we are constantly exposed to the Spanish of the Mexicans, on the other side we hear the Anglos’ incessant clamoring so that we forget our language.” (62).
However, Anzaldúa states that deep down in their hearts, being Mexican is not about where you live or where were you born. It is not in your mind but in your soul. Around the border, conflict, and confusion is strong but as Anzaldúa states, her people have been patient and hope that one day the conflict and confusion will end. In the meantime, the Mexican people will survive as they always had. In conclusion, Gloria E. Anzaldúa’s story of How to Tame a Wild Tongue proved to be a convincing argument because she is the voice of the Chicano people living on both sides of the border. She narrates from her own experience of being a “Chicana” living in the United States where all the pressure of forgetting her language was put on her shoulders for many years. Anzaldúa’s writing style is very poetic and moving and chose to use a lot of imagery to impress her readers and also to let Non-Latin American people learn more about the life of Chicanos which is known so little about to an outsider.
The writer dialogue within relation to a dilemma she faced about her own language and how she represents herself through her language. Gloria Anzaldua who is a Chicano talk about how Chicanas have problems expressing their feelings. Since they lack a native language, instead it is a product of several languages. And their language Chicano Spanish has incorporated bits and pieces of several versions of Spanish. The author speaks about people who are neither Spanish nor live in a country in which Spanish is the first language; for a people who live in a country in which English is the reigning tongue but who are not Anglo; for a people who cannot entirely identify with either standard Spanish no standard English. So she emphasizes the importance to have their own language. A language which they can connect their identity to, one capable of communicating the realities and values true to themselves- a language that comprises a variation of two languages. I knew after reading the first few paragraphs of Anzaldua’s “How to Tame a Wild Tongue” (1987) that she was going to have a lot to say.
In this passage, Anzaldua expresses the challenges she faced growing up in America as a Chicano. She gives a brief breakdown of who she is, where she comes from, and which languages she prefers to speak. Her argument starts off by explaining how she was made to be ashamed of existing. She then walks us through how she overcame the tradition of silence. Inspired by Mexican movies since her childhood, it was the shock of reading a published Chicano novel that gave her the strength to bite back. She wrote” When I saw poetry written in Tex-Mex for the first time, a feeling of pure joy flashed through me. I felt like we really existed as people” (pg40). As a child, she was told by the dentist that he had never seen anything as strong and stubborn as her tongue.
In “How to Tame a Wild Tongue,” Gloria Anzaldua’s thesis explores the formation of her dual Mexican identity through the usage and abuse of her native language as the main guiding force; her structure leans towards a creative and prose style where the thesis or main idea is not directly given in the introduction but appears in the conclusion. Though she highly emphasized evidence of language silencing, it is just an analogy/factor of dual Mexican identity; language is our identity. Although Anzaldua’s chosen structure does not follow the rules of academic essays devoutly, it is highly effective in presenting her argument and is a good example for further speculations on writing styles and the academic arena.
Anzaldua hints near the start that language gives people their identity, specifically Mexican, Anglo, and Spanish languages and heritage. Anzaldua begins with her memories at the dentist and the metaphor of cutting her tongue–taming it, which iterate the concept of destroying language while assimilating a cultural group. This alludes to the Anglo-American perception of taming barbaric or uncivilized cultures which severs many cultures and their identity, creating mixed ethnic backgrounds or poly-cultural identities. A unifying, mixed language, becomes the mirror of one’s identity.
“For a people who are neither Spanish nor live in a country in which Spanish is the first language; for a people who live in a country in which English is the reigning tongue but who are not Anglo; for a people who cannot entirely identify with either standard (formal, Castillian) Spanish nor standard English, what recourse is left to them but to create their own language?”. Anzaldua attempts to present this idea by giving factors of one’s (dual) identity through layers upon layers and leading into her true statement. This defies the academic approach of clear-and-concise writing.
Gloria Anzaldua, the author of the article ” How to Tame a Wild Tongue”, expresses very strong views on how she feels her native Chicano Spanish language needs to be preserved in order to maintain cultural unity when used as a private form of communication. Her statement, ” for a people who cannot identify with either standard (formal, Castilian) Spanish, nor standard English, what recourse is left to them but to create their own language?” suggests that despite the societal pressures of needing to learn more formal and properly’ accepted English and Spanish, the very nature of the Chicano language is a unique creation of acceptance, through language within the Mexican culture.
The English language is universal. It has very set rules, forms, and functions. The Chicano language at best represents a personal story, private communication that is not understandable or even acceptable by non-Chicanos. By contrast, Richard Rodriquez, in his article entitled “Aria”, strongly believes in surrendering to learning the proper English language, despite how strongly he feels his native tongue is a private language that once functioned to unite his family. Rodriguez creates a division of a public and a private discourse. He feels that he has a right to learn the public language of Los gringos’.
He creates a visual clash of two worlds: a public world as represented by the school and the need to learn English; and a private world as represented by his family and the use of Spanish within the home. He feels that in order to adapt and create assimilation that he needs to abandon the comfort of using Spanish to communicate and force himself to learn English even if it meant alienating his family members. He does not believe as Anzaluda does that you have to create your own language if you cannot identify with more formal forms of acceptance. Although he admits it is heartbreaking to have shared fewer words with his parents because of the language barrier, he thinks his choice in learning and practicing English was necessary.
First of all, I would like to point out that the basic idea of the novel written by Gloria Anzaldua is the author’s immigrant experience. Generally, the borders the author defines are of particular importance. Thus, she speaks about geographical and cultural differences. Anzaldua determines the border “as a place for misfits, a place, literal and metaphorical for those who are rejected from the dominant society. She considers this to be a very violent and traumatic psychic and physical space” (Allegheny.edu, 2012, p. 1). The author wanted to overcome the difficulties of language contact.
Orquidea Morales (2007) is of the opinion that Anzaldua “creates her own language to capture her identity. Her writing is highly politicized, intensely personal, and eloquently honest” (p. 17). In her book How to Tame A Wild Tongue, she points out the importance of pride. She specifies that the person is to be proud of the language he or she speaks. Thus, Anzaldua speaks about her own experience. She remembers her teacher’s words: “If you want to be American, speak American. If you don’t like it, go back to Mexico where you belong” (Unr.edu, p. 2947).
The thesis statement. The author discloses the notion of language identity and the “theory of borderland and mestiza identity as a fuller and richer theory of difference, self, and culture” (Lockhart, 2007, p. 1). Anzaldua discovers the importance of multiple aspects and complexities of people’s identity. The body: Anzaldua’s fight for national identity The most important point I want to highlight is that people didn’t recognize bilingual education, and there were a lot of reasons to reject the second language. Morales (2007) states that “Language has always been a tool used to oppress Chicanas” (p. 28). Anzaldua uses all forms of writing.
Tara Lockhart (2007) says that “her particular experience of mestiza identity, her work also shows that the act of writing itself assists individuals in coming to know and express the complexities of identity” (p. 1). For Anzaldua, Chicano Spanish is considered to be “a border tongue which developed naturally” (Unr.edu, p. 2948). In other words, she states that “Un lenguaje que corresponde a un modo de vivir. Chicano Spanish is not incorrect, it is a living language” (p. 2948). In my opinion, it is obvious that the author uses Spanish to express the different emotions she feels. Anzaldua uses Spanish, Nahuatl, English to disclose the myth of a monocultural country. “By being Chicana, she accepts her entire heritage not just what is deemed acceptable by white America” (Morales, 2007, p. 13).
In other words, Anzaldua wanted to disclose the reality of the American nation. The author highlights the fact that Chicanos try to find “a place in American society” (Morales, 2007, p. 19). For this reason, when using Spanish, the author wants the Americans to feel uneasiness and inconvenience. She wants them to understand and accept mestizaje. Spanish words the author uses in her book appeal to the emotions of the readers. She can’t use regular English to express her emotions, as English is not her native language. In other words, the emotions are described so vividly, because the author feels the language, she speaks. It is the inherent feeling that this word or sentence is right.
The point that Chicanas use of the language is rather restricted can be explained by the following: “This process of linguistic colonization results in the fact that for many U.S. Latinas, English is the language of education and writing, while Spanish proficiency is limited to the private sphere and to spoken language” (Morales, 2007, p. 23). The author hates the school system. However, in spite of the horrible experience, Anzaldua didn’t give up; of course, her language was changed, but she still speaks both languages. “Anzaldua majored in the oppressor’s tongue to prove her intelligence, but at the same time, she lost a part of herself” (Morales, 2007, p. 31). The author said that it was difficult to express the thoughts and ideas as the language she spoke was disdained. The most important, the primary language was English. Anzaldua points out that it was used for repression. The girl’s identity was worthless.
Morale (2007) says that “Chicanas are ingrained with the idea that their language is unnecessary and inferior” (p. 37). Thus, the girl’s self-esteem meant nothing for those who spoke English. Another important point is related to “language colonization in feminist groups” (Morales, 2007, p. 37). So, Anzaldua fights for her right to express herself freely. The conclusion: a soldier in the war Anzaldua uses poetry in her book to disclose the issue of national identity. She relies on various quotations to show her own feelings, thoughts, and emotions: “Identity is the essential core of who we are as individuals, the conscious experience of the self inside. Kaufman” (Unr.edu, p. 2953). Morale (2007) states that “She feels she is not good enough as a result of years of racism and humiliation against her, her language and her culture” (p. 38). Anzaldua wants to get freedom; she wants to write about various positive feelings, she wants to feel that she is free; however, now “she is a soldier in this war and cannot escape it until it is over” (Morales, 2007, p. 39).
Example #7 – Rhetorical Analysis Of “How To Tame A Wild Tongue”
Being proud of one’s culture and language is oftentimes lost when immigrating to a new country. Although criticized and attacked for her culture, Gloria Anzaldua describes in “How to Tame a Wild Tongue” that she refuses to let others force her to reject her culture for the sake of belonging and informs Americans and Latinos attempting to suppress Chicano culture specifically that she will persevere through the hardship to keep her identity alive and thriving. Anzaldua calls her readers to understand that the Chicano language and heritage should be recognized and that they are identified as a distinct people; that they are more than nothing. Anzaldua begins with engaging the reader by providing a personal experience of when she was sent to the corner of the classroom for “talking back” to her teacher when her intention was just to tell the teacher how to pronounce her name (374).
In her second section “Overcoming the Tradition of Silence” (374), Anzaldua adds internal incite on the culture of the Chicano and the barriers of her language, supporting her credibility and supporting ethos with another personal account. She displays these different scenarios from her point of view, showing her audience what it feels like to live through these situations as a Chicano. Switching back and forth from English to Spanish, Anzaldua cleverly uses this form of diction to establish ethos with the reader. She puts the reader somewhat in her shoes when growing up in America, not knowing every English word she was read or heard. It makes the reader feel rather awkward or embarrassed for not knowing what the Spanish words mean. Another form of ethos is present when she states, “If you really want to hurt me, talk badly about my language” (378).
Anzaldua uses ethos again to demonstrate that what people value highly, their language, is what she values sincerely, claiming “I am my language” (378). Anzaldua establishes logos by enlightening us as to why Chicano Spanish is different from Standard Spanish, explaining that the significant differences in the Spanish Chicanos speak developed after 250 years of Spanish/Anglo colonization (376). She again uses logic in determining that even though by the end of this century Spanish speakers will embody the largest minority group in the U.S, English will be the mother tongue of Chicanos and Latinos due to the fierce influence of the degradation of the use of Spanish (378).
Example #8 – interesting ideas
Chapter Five of Gloria Anzaldua’s Borderlands, titled Taming the Wild Tongue, focuses on the language of “Mexican” people in different aspects. The chapter discusses education, different dialects, gendered biases of the languages, music, and other communication topics. First is a brief discussion of the usage of the Spanish language in American schools. The author discussed being punished for speaking Spanish at school and being accused of talking back when trying to give an explanation. Students were told that if they were to live in America, they should speak American. The focus was put on students to not only speak English but speak it without the dialect or accents of a Mexican. Here is pointed out a form of censorship of expression, which seems to be an accepted form of Amendment violations.
Next Anzaldua discusses the cultural and gendered impacts of the language itself. From an early age, girls are taught not to talk too much, not to talk back, and not to ask questions. In Mexico the female plural is excluded from the language, leaving women to fall under the masculine plural. Here are examples of women’s exclusion from the language. Also is the criticism of learning English, thus being treated as a traitor to your people. Out of this confusion of language, new dialects evolved to compensate for the variant ideas of what the language should be.
Different dialects are used in different areas, appropriate for certain groups and individuals. These new languages were neither proper Spanish nor standard English. The Chicano’s developed the languages and dialects to distinguish and separate themselves from their oppressors. The chapter then discusses some of the examples of how the language changed and evolved. An infusion of different Spanish, Native American and English sounds and words were combined to develop into this Chicano Spanish. Because the language was viewed as a “bastard” form, neither standard Spanish nor standard anything else, it became internalized that the language was of poorer quality to others.
This caused Chicanas to be uncomfortable with their expression, thus uncomfortable with themselves. Anzaldua views this as something that needs to be changed. The attacks on the Chicana’s native tongues need to cease because “if a person has a low estimation of my native tongue, she also has a low estimation of me.” She states that language is part of ethnic identity and should be a prideful part of self if the women hope to improve their self-estimation. Through the end of the chapter, the language is discussed in terms of internalization. Here comes to view the music, books, and movies of the Chicano/a people. It is an expression of their language and is thus an expression of them. With these works, the Mexican people get an external reinforcement of their heritage and culture. On the border, the language is getting forgotten.
Living in the lost lands between America and Mexico seems to be a place of confusion, of separation of “Mexicans of this land” and “Mexicans of the other land.” However, the author states that deep down being Mexican is a frame of mind, not a current home or a birthplace. It is in your soul. The dual identities of many of the people are part of the borderland conflicts. She states that thus far the people have been patient, and someday the conflict and confusion will be over in the borderlands when the inner struggles cease. In the meantime, the Mexican people will, as they always have, survive. Anzaldua’s writing is very poetic and moving. She chooses to use imagery to impact her readers. I felt this was a very effective method and allowed a reader to get more in-depth with the writings. It also helps better visualize the struggles and strifes of the Chicano people.
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