The Importance Of Language in The Language And Identity Dilemma

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Language is an important part of everyday lives. It is a unique human gift which lets us communicate and differentiates us from primates. But language is much more than just a means of communication. It is also an inseparable part of cultures around the world. Language impacts the daily lives of many people of any race, creed, and religion of the world; it helps us express our feelings, desires, and queries to the world around us. However, when it comes to expressing your root language, there is always some part of hatred coming your way. When looking more into other languages, this led me to question myself, why do people insist others to ‘speak English’ in America?

In the article written by Aja Martinez, ‘A Personal Reflection on Chicana Language and Identity in the US-Mexico Borderlands: The English Language Hydra as Past and Present Imperialism,’ she explains her dilemma on why speaking spanish was tough for her growing up, not only for herself but as well as her parents enduring punishment and physical pain when speaking their root language. Martinez uses ethos, pathos, logos, and kairos to make the argument that we should not feel self-conscious of our root language but to instead express them. In this project, I analyze the use of rhetoric in this work. I also detail my own experiences with language to make the claim that we are not alone and that every person should be proud of our root language.

In Martinez’s article, she uses a lot of examples that a large number of people can relate to, which adds to her credibility–or ethos. She has been judged by the language that she speaks. She also has self thoughts of having insecurities of not knowing what language she identifies as. My parents, for example, can relate. My mom and dad came to America to not just get away from the violence but to make sure my sisters and I grow up to live a better life and to make sure that in the future we do not struggle. Since Spanish being their first language, they had a lot of trouble doing everyday errands, such as looking for jobs, paying for their groceries, and as well as having trouble communicating with others whenever they needed the help with important necessities. The idea that individuals would yell out, “Speak English!” can be very affecting towards the people trying to learn. Along with that, It is heartbreaking to know that there is hate and discrimination still going on to this day, especially to loved ones experiencing the hatred.

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In today’s society, people get judged on what they do, they get judged on their intelligence, beliefs, and the decisions they make. When reading her article, audiences might have an emotional reaction to the author’s description of judgement in any way–this rhetorical appeal is pathos. Martinez, – recalls her past when she got judged trying to pronounce certain words in spanish in the second grade: – “I remember being scolded in the city bus by an elderly mexican woman who wanted me to speak to her in Spanish” (212). She mentions, the feeling she felt when the elderly women reacted to her when hearing her broken Spanish. This made her want to change herself by trying to watch telenovelas on a Spanish-tv in the hopes that she can learn to fix her broken Spanish. Since English being her first language, she felt that her English was not good enough to others either. Two broken languages was tough for her growing up. With the troubles going around today’s society with language, readers can compare her story to their own life stories.

In the article she mentions a quote that stood out to her the most, by Gloria Anzaldua. To focus on herself and what language affirms to her identity. Anzaldua is an American scholar of Chicana, cultural theory, feminist theory, and as well as a queer theory. She developed theories about the marginal, in-between, and mixed cultures that develop along borders. Anzaldua states; – “If you want to hurt me, talk badly about my language. Ethinc identity is twin skin to linguistic identity- I am my language.”(213). She mentions this quote to stay positive in herself. Instead of forcing herself to choose one identity over another, and one language over the other, she instead should seek and be proud of both languages she has learned growing up. This rhetorical appeal can be described as logos. She uses logos to argue on behalf of the people that has defined her as names such as ‘gringa’ or to the people that wanted to convince her that English might have been her second language. I too have felt that this message by Gloria Anzaldua has several meanings. Though words may hurt, you can’t change who you are and by this she wants to make it be known that language is part of our culture. Our language connects to the social world, its very valuable to us and language is not only a connection into the present but it connects us to the future and the past.

“My mother recalls the ‘standard rule’ of not being allowed to speak Spanish at school and being punished if she was caught speaking the language. My father will not discuss this period of his life.” (213) In this quote, Martinez uses the rhetorical appeal; kairos to talk about the struggles her parents had in their past and uses this to compare it to her own life. When Martinez’s mother reflected her past, she mentioned to being punished. As of today, she felt like her life compared to her mother’s past were very different. The professors wanted Martinez’s mother to speak a certain language. But with Martinez, she was just getting mixed feelings from English speakers as well as with Spanish speakers. This made her feel confused and at the same time embarrassed for others confusing her as English being her first language. At the end of the day, she wants her readers to know that Chicana English is a real language and no matter what language you speak; should be acknowledged and honoured.

The language/identity dilemma Martinez detailed in her article can be resolved and channeling the ambivalence into great strategies. Though, she has gotten many mixed messages in her life growing up, she wants her readers to know that everyone should be able to express their root language. To be proud and feel comfortable with the language they speak. Aja Martinez wrote her personal reflections on the Chincana language to identity and express her opinions on this topic, language. I do greatly understand and agree with her that even if we get judged, discriminated or made fun of our root languages we should not feel like our language is inadequate or embarrassing but to instead express them with pride.  

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