Realization in Life through the Language
Ironically, growing up in a Mexican household I was taught to speak English rather than Spanish. English is known for us to be a universal language that can bring many opportunities; making English prefered over our mother tongue. Some of the opportunities English promises are access to higher education, better jobs, and social status. Although learning English at a young age would be beneficial in the future, I realized it deteriorated my Spanish linguistics. Being identified as a bilingual person forces pressure upon me to know both languages fluently. To others my Spanish is considered “broken” as I am not able to obtain long conversations in Spanish. Instead I have the same limited conversation multiple times with poor grammar. However language is not the only way to be a part of a culture, it also pertains to traditional ceremonies, shared understandings, religion, and/or a specific location. Culture is not innate it is adaptive, I was taught to adapt to my Mexican culture in many ways like foods, music, clothing, dancing, and language.
Being raised in a country other than your parents’ creates a barrier. My parents weren’t able to teach me the fundamental basics of English because, they themselves didn’t understand the language accurately. My first understandings of English came from television, radio stations, and market stores. Cartoons helped me learn to spell and pronounce words; while, radio stations helped expand my vocabulary by hearing the people express themselves as ‘rich’ and ‘wealthy’. Market stores also contributed as whenever my mother asked me to look for a specific item, I would run around each aisle looking up to read the categories and packaging. Although my parents didn’t fully teach me the basics of the English language, they did support my learning of the language.
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As many have identified my Spanish as “broken” it has had a negative impact towards my understanding of the language and its background. Even though I speak “broken” Spanish it doesn’t mean I have any less respect and/or value towards my culture. Simply, I am not able to express myself in many precise words. In the reading “Mother Tongue” by Amy Tan, she expresses the use of her mother’s “broken” English and how that has affected her mother’s “limitations for possibilities in life” (Tan 02). Similar to Tan’s mother, my Spanish language is limited due to how much I comprend. This does not mean that my “broken” language will cause me to have limited opportunities in the future, but make me work harder to achieve those opportunities. For example, when people first hear my “broken” language their perception leads to stereotypes: classifying me as a young, uneducated, and a non-traditional Mexican-American woman. These stereotypes downgrade the value of my Spanish and Mexican heritage in accordance to other languages. It is crucial to address these stereotypes because, they advocate false claims. Speaking “broken” Spanish does not mean I am uneducated, as I consider myself to be a very well informed person in my cultural and academic life as a first generation college student in my family. I also believe to be more traditional than moderate, I was raised in a home with traditional decorations, food, music, and objects. Over my childhood years, I came to embrace my culture.
Many outsiders describe me as not fully Mexican nor American. However, I am a mixture of both cultures associated between the English and Spanish language. One day I may only speak English and show the American side of me, by going the beach with my friends and wearing the American flag on my swimsuit. Another day, I’ll decide to go to the food market pick out some items and cook up a homemade Mexican dish for everyone in the family to eat while listening to Spanish songs. Most days I’ll incorporate both languages together, by speaking Spanish to my relatives early in the day then altering to English to communicate with others at school and work. As I choose to speak both languages in my everyday life, Richard Rodriguez argued to be successful, means only speaking English and setting aside the Spanish language and its cultural background. Setting aside a language does not value the how much success a person has, but shows the determination how much a person is willing to change their cultural background. Rodriguez explains, “ he takes his first step toward academic success, away from his family…he notices that his mother and father have not changed as much as he did” (Rodriguez 536). Rodriguez decided to ignore his Spanish linguistics and any cultural background associated with the language to fulfill his personal success. Even though Rodriguez isolated himself to the English language he became aware of the emptiness in his Spanish language. Unlike Rodriguez I choose to value both languages equally because, cutting off a language does not value my success. It is important to give respect to any characteristics that identify yourself.
Speaking a “broken” language can lead to many perceptions but does not limit ones opportunities. It is important to prove the negative perceptions of others wrong because, everyone is capable of their own goals. Language is one of the many ways where people can identity themselves with a culture. Just like I identify myself as a person who speaks “ broken” Spanish and English with cultures blending of being raised as an American with Mexican roots.