Aria: A Memoir Of A Bilingual Childhood By Richard Rodriguez: Bilingualism In Educational Institutions
Immigration, an ever-present aspect of America, contributes heftily to day-to-day life. Everything from current American gastronomy to language traveled on the straining backs of immigrants since before America began as a nation. This duality of cultures in an individual reflected itself onto a duality of languages in many schools across the country. Like many other topics, bilingualism in educational institutions incites passionate debate and stirring controversies. To answer such a complex dilemma, one must dive deep into ones’ own emotions and draw out the truth, as Richard Rodriguez did in “Aria: A Memoir of a Bilingual Childhood” from Hunger of Memory.
In his essay, Rodriguez establishes his opinion concerning bilingual education. As Rodriguez tells the tale of his childhood, he promotes the cessation of bilingual education. Rodriguez aimed to appeal to bilingual people with an open mind concerning education. In his memoir, Rodriguez presents an emotional case in opposition to bilingual education. Using many methods of appeal such as comparison and contrast, narrative and persuasion, Rodriguez shares his belief that bilingual education removes the intimacy inherent in the private tongue. At a young age, Rodriguez felt intimidated by the English language and people who spoke English fluently; because even his parents disliked speaking the language, he adopted the feeling of discomfort when speaking or hearing English. Thus, Rodriguez effectively ostracized himself from society. He would seek refuge and solace in what the Spanish language meant to him: family union, love, privacy, patience, and much more. When Rodriguez entered school, however, the nuns in charge of instruction in the classroom found that he refused to speak English. To encourage the young boy, the nuns convinced his parents to forsake Spanish in the privacy of their home.
Left no other recourse, Rodriguez finally attempts to develop his English. Once he does, he realizes that he could not consider himself an American citizen until he mastered the English language. Rodriguez, finally a part of society, reflects on the loss of the private connection with his family due to bilingualism. If a person read “Aria” merely for the sake of entertainment, they would feel satisfied with the quantity of food for thought and the relatability of the article. However, if one read for the purpose of finding an argumentative quality in “Aria”, this person would feel sorely disappointed. Rodrigues focuses excessively on the emotional appeals of his argument while providing little factual evidence and showcasing the most extreme case of the effects of bilingual education in schools.
Although very interesting, Rodriguez fixated primarily on emotions and personal experiences, the pathos appeal, in his essay. This removes the efficacy of his argument against bilingualism in school systems. Richard’s use of anecdotes provides reasons as to why bilingualism should not be used for him or people like him, instead of enforcing the point that bilingualism should not be instituted throughout the nation. This personal account simply provides the conviction behind the decision that bilingualism has negative impacts on a person, which serves to imply authority. However, if this essay had more concrete facts based on studies or perhaps a wider range of the effects of bilingualism on other individuals, then it would be more convincing than it is now.
In addition, Rodriguez implements a style much like what is seen in a casual conversation. Although effective in certain cases, going off track to explain a certain aspect of a story muddles the mind of the reader. The reader’s mind may not be able to easily transition from the actual story to the points the author wants to emphasize. Confusing the reader is not the same thing as convincing them. In fact, this method alienates the reader from the very opinion the author wants to impart. As a former student of a bilingual program, I can tell why the author thinks that a bilingual education removes the private connection with the home language. However, this only happens if a person allows that to happen. Dialects and tones exist in all languages, making a particular language familiar when commonly used. Therefore, in an educational setting, academic language should be used. In the private comforts of home, a person may use a more relaxed version of the primary language in order to maintain fluency and distinct separation of two languages: one for public interaction and another for private use. Doing so will maintain the private and public language mindset in clear contrast. In some cases, bilingual education equates successful integration into society. With the boom in technology (in the form of television programs for children and the internet’s vast supply of knowledge) and an increased diversity in our world as well as people’s willingness to learn new things, children have an increased awareness of the importance of learning more than one language. Whether young people want to learn to sing along to Elmo’s theme song or be able to communicate with their neighbors, the importance attributed to bilingualism will be taught by the world at a natural pace rather than forced upon the child. Bilingualism will be taught in the school of life, with real life applications that will be immediately evident to the child and the parent, making the learning process more enjoyable for both groups. Events such as these happen more commonly in society than this essay would lead the reader to believe.
Though well-written, Rodriguez’s essay does not fit the persuasion bill. Too much focus on a rhetorical appeal will send the reader reeling in an unintended direction. Of course, some people may see the benefits of this angle of vision and enjoy it. Others would not concur. Also, this emphasis on anecdotes causes the reader to believe this particular case of bilingualism goes beyond the normal scope of experiences most others have undergone. However, the connections between ideas presented as side-notes ring true when the reader considers them. All in all, Rodriguez has summarized what many people feel when forced to learn a language while experiencing deprivation of the more familiar tongue.
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