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Mother Tongue

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In the American history, there are certain regions that are referred to as the Latin American regions. These places are referred to as Latin American regions because these are areas where Latin consequential languages are orally used. These countries generally lie within the Southern part of America. The Europeans arrived in the late 15th and early 16th century, where they found some indigenous people who had advanced civilization. However, by the end of the 16th century, the region referred to as the Latin America was colonized by the Europeans and colonizers mainly from the countries of Spain and Portugal. Others were also colonized by the French and the Netherlands (Mignolo 78).

Therefore, from the history of colonization, it is well known that most countries adapted to the ways and culture of their colonialists. This implies that most of the inhabitants of the Latin American region are well acquitted with the cultures of those that colonized them. As the days have passed, the world has turned into a global village. This is mainly due to the change in legislations in various regions which have made migration from one point to another very easy.

Despite the benefits that have come along due to these interactions, there have also been some demerits. This is because of the language barriers that have been experienced. From Amy Tan’s “Mother Tongue” (Tan 81), it is very vivid that language plays a leading role in our lives. It first and foremost gives us identity as well as the type of people we become. This is because it has a huge influence on a people’s life style, and doctrines.

Language is the means by which people communicate with, and in the American context, people often relate the ability to communicate in English with intelligence. In the case of the individuals who are from Latin American countries, when they get to the environments where they have to communicate in English, and they are unable to fluently express themselves, many may be quick to jump into the conclusion that they are not intelligent. However, this may not necessarily be the case. Looking at an argument brought out by Amy Tans “Mother Tongue” (Tan 78), who was brought up in a Chinese family, and her family parents had  what she termed as “broken” or “ fractured” English, prompting her to be the families translator. However, not forgetting the fact that most people associate the ability to speak fluently with ones level of intelligence, I believe it was a tough call for her.

To concur with Tan’s school of thought, I believe that language brings a form of identity to a person. From Amy Tan's “Mother Tongue”, she says that language has the ability “to bring to mind an emotion, a visual reflection, a composite idea, or a straightforward truth” (Tan 76). This can simply be backed up by taking a simple situation where another individual starts pointing fingers towards the language that gives another an identity in a distasteful manner. There is always the tendency by all human beings to retaliate in a manner ready to defend one’s language. Gloria Anzalooa‘s“How to Tame a Wild Tongue”, she speaks very emotionally about her language to anyone who may talk ill of her language. “Therefore, if one desires to actually hurt me, talk deficiently concerning my language. Cultural distinctiveness is identical skin to linguistic distinctiveness - I am my verbal communication. Until I can acquire satisfaction in my verbal communication, I cannot take pleasure in for my part. Until I can be acknowledged as a legitimate Tex-Mex, Chicano Texas Spanish, and all the other verbal communications that I use, I cannot admit the legality of myself. In anticipation of the freedom to write bilingually, and to change codes exclusive of having to at all times to decode, whilst I still have to speak Spanish or English while I would relatively speak Spanglish, and as long as I have to put up with the English speakers instead of having them put up with me, my speech will be unlawful. I will not at all be made to feel humiliated of being in existence. I resolve to voice my opinion; Spanish, Indian or White. I will have my serpent's dialect - my sexual voice, my woman's voice, my poet's voice. I will triumph over the ritual of calm” (Anzalooa 40).

The same manner in which language can bind people together, it can be said to be a double-edged sword because, in that very manner in which it binds people together, it can as well separate them. Taking the example of a Latin American student who can only understand Chicano taking a class with those who understand English fluently and can speak it well, nature simply takes it place by making the other students in the same class seclude her. This seclusion is not because of anything else, but language. Therefore, they can barely identify with her, and she is considered an outsider. This scenario can be related to that of Tan’s mother who went through a similar scenario.  Gloria Anzalooa can also relate to such a situation, when she writes of how she had started teaching high school English to Chicano students and tried to supplement the required texts with works by Chicano, only to be reprimanded by the principle to stick to the prior ones (Anzalooa  40). This decision was simply because the principle could not really relate to it.

The acceptance of one’s language, which identifies one, has a huge role to play in how people perceive themselves. In the case whereby one feels that their language is of a lower status, one may try to avoid being identified with it as much as possible. However, it may be impossible to completely adopt another language or identity, which one perceives to be of better or a higher status. Gloria Anzalooa “How to Tame a Wild Tongue” clearly identifies with this situation where she describes the situation of the Chicanos who get to the point where there is a psychological conflict of who or which identity to take. This is because they do not completely identify with the Anglo-American values, and at the same time they do not completely identify with the Mexican cultural values. Hence, they are left in a state where they are nowhere specific (Anzalooa 43).

Language not only brings out a simple truth, the command that one has of the language being spoken demonstrates a simple truth without language. This simply implies that with an imperfect command, one is perceived to be imperfect. However, with a standard command in the language, one is perceived to be perfect with those who possess the standard command of it. Tan does an analysis of the relationship between the command in a language and acceptance of one in a dominant community in “Mother Tongue”. She continues to give various instances of this truth in action when she gives a chronicle of how her mother was taken care of; “individuals in department stores, at restaurants and at banks did not receive her with the seriousness she deserved, did not give her excellent service, acted as if not to understand her, or even acted as if they did not hear her when she spoke to them” (Tan 78). This leaves us with the questions as to why they decided to act in the manner in which they did. Upon a critical analysis, the simple explanation is arrived at as the power of the command in a language one has. It allows one to fit in, and become an insider.

Language can bind very many hanging pieces together. This can be explained in terms of identity which language brings to an individual. It manages to patch up the unanswered questions about one’s identity. Taking the example of Gloria Anzalooa’s “How to Tame a Wild Tongue”, she talks of the Chicanos who did not know that they were a people until one of their own came and formed a union that made them get to the realization that they are a people. This was in the year 1965. After this event, they became aware of their reality and acquired the name, and a language (Chicano Spanish) (Anzalooa 44)

Therefore, despite other people being multilingual, it is evident that there is still that identity that a language will give one no matter where one relocates to around the globe. A simple illustration is the fact that the kind of language one uses when probably communicating in an office will most defiantly differ from that which one will uses with his or her fellow peers. It will also differ from that which we use with the family. Whether the difference is because of the slang used, the difference in pronunciation or that of tonal variation, the differences in the languages give people the identity that they have in different places, and with different individuals.

Therefore, language can be termed as many things when one looks up the various meanings of it from the various dictionaries that exist. However, language from the insight given by “Mother Tongue” by Amy Tan and “How to Tame a Wild Tongue” by Gloria Anzalooa, language is simply a tool that gives us identity as human beings. This identity is the one that will determine how one perceives oneself, and how one carries out their daily activities.

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