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Public and private languages are usually associated with the controversial terms of bilingual experience within minorities living within the United States. Richard Rodriguez, author of ‘Public and Private Language,’ writes about his personal experience growing up as a child of Mexican immigrants. Throughout the piece, Rodriguez accounts his difficulty with the acquisition and utilization of the English language as a native Spanish speaker within his community and educational institute. When struggling to incorporate English while in school, he discovers that he must be able to come to terms whether or not he is his own “private” identity (Spanish) or “public” identity (English). Rodriguez battles his way through school learning to accept that he must learn the public language, English, in order to succeed and feel acceptance in the public crowd. Unfortunately, the very nature of the classroom requires using language publicly; meaning in order to be able to produce and learn you must be able to communicate with one another coherently therefore society must have one unified language. As Rodriguez explains his own experience of growing up and learning a new language he runs into a problematic entity of determining his own individuality. Therefore creating issues of forming expression and communication with society. With assimilation to a public society, one may lose his or her personal identity in resilience to immediate conformation of a dominant language but the ability to speak it provides gives a greater outcome of acceptance.
Language is a vivid and crucial key to identity and social acceptance.
The first language one learns which is the most used in the family household is known as the private language. This language is an important factor in many different cultural influences and impressions for one’s identity. While growing up within a strong oriental background my grandmother would say I may live in America but I have the morals and traditions of a Filipino. This led me to realize I may be an American Citizen but I have the blood and tradition of another identity. It’s possible to say that strictly teaching one dominant language may strip one’s original cultural identity. Rodriguez was the child of Mexican Immigrants therefore his first language was Spanish. As a child, Rodriguez grew up in an English speaking community where it was difficult for him to interact with “los americanos” or the English-speaking majority. Rodriguez mentions, “Spanish speakers…seemed related to me, for I sensed a thought that we shared through our language.” Rodriguez can immediately feel the acceptance when speaking with another Spanish speaker because they share a common identity. An identity that is different from the “los gringos.” Los gringos translated means, foreigner who does not speak Spanish, usually used instinctively in a derogatory manner towards Caucasians. This term creates a sense of separateness from one society to the other. Rodriguez, growing up within a Spanish influence, naturally became more comfortable with speaking Spanish therefore felt a sense of acceptance in his family and other Mexicans but quivered at the idea of speaking with other English speakers. Richard felt the humiliation when asked, “What can I do for you?” in a grocery store because the man sounded so confident by being firm and clearly belonging in public society whereas Richard can barely speak up in fear of misunderstanding. Little incidents such as that of the grocery store associated with the use of the English language eventually started to pile up into a self-realization for Rodriguez. This led Rodriguez to accept “ingles” and become more confident with his linguistics. I too felt a sense of belonging within my own cultural community, reason being they were able to understand me and I felt the value of acceptance because I was seen with the same perspective. Perspective being those who grew up with the same morals and traditions knows whom I am, a person with a place in the community that holds a value because I know the language. This led me to incorporate the English language; I felt the need of acceptance within my peers, which I believe is basic human “wants.”
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