6 April 2014
Essay 4 In essays “Living in Spanish” by Marjorie Agosín and “Mothers Tongue” by Amy Tan, the narrators both experience the struggle of language and its barriers in America. In their essays, they explain that having the capability to speak proper English and assimilate themselves to American customs were ways of surviving in the US. Although there were many obstacles and challenges faced when adapting to America, they did not dismiss their true heritage and culture. This defines a thriving immigrant, which is one that is able to fuse their own culture background with American culture, allowing two worlds to mesh into one. Agosín explains her life growing up in Chile and moving to America as a difficult path, but she never thought to let go of her Chilean background. Growing up in Chile she was surrounded by “a multiplicity of tongues,” meaning those who were born there or emigrated there spoke other languages like Yiddish or German, but Spanish was the main language spoken by everyone. She had experienced this same thing when her family migrated to the US, except the common language was English. Although she struggled with learning English, especially since she spoke “poor English and [had an] accent.” Her inability to properly speak English made her feel isolated and alone because through this language barrier she felt uncomfortable, knew she did not belong, and understood that she was a foreigner. Writing poems in native tongue at home allowed Agosín to feel as if she were home, to still hold the comfort of a home through her language. She had lost everything when she left the country, but the only thing she was able to hold onto was the language from the homeland. Her native tongue spoke “rhythms, and the passion of [her] own identity…and it soothe[d her] own sorrows over what [she] had left behind.” It’s a scary for someone to move so instantaneously from home to a strange where you know absolutely nothing about its language and culture, especially when you have grown up in such a different environment. Agosín used her language in order to continue to keep ties with her background, but also she wasn’t resilient in learning the American culture. Although she felt as if the English language was not able to fully express or show what she as feeling or explain why she came to America, she understood this was the language that had to be learned in order to adapt to a new place.
I really appreciate Agosín’s final statement in her essay: “Translators are not traitors, as the proverbs says, but rather splendid friends this great human community of language. In this statement she acknowledges and understands that everyone speaks a different language, and that is inevitable. But ability to translate to one another different languages, is the way we come together as a world being able to communicate our feelings and emotions and our stories. Translation was her best friend,as is allowed the American culture to fully understand how she felt about leaving Chile and growing up in such a strange place, which is what we call home, America. Translating was her way of fusing her tow worlds together, which allowed Agosín to gain success as an immigrant and flourish in America.
Similarly in Amy Tan’s essay, “ Mother’s Tongue,” Amy experiences the language barrier being a bilingual American, and growing up around a family who is foreign to America. Although she may not be an immigrant, the language barrier is still pronouncedly influential and impactful. Her mother is a Chinese immigrant, who carries a heavy accent and speaks limited English. Tan explains that her mother relied on her to translate her message into proper English, for instance Amy once called the stockbroker, while her mother stood net to her, only t relay the message into proper English so