08 April 2014

Bilingualism ( Hunger of Memory)


         In this text, Richard Rodriguez describes that how language differentiates between public life and private life. In childhood, he was used to speak Spanish, as primary language, and was so comfortable with it in his home life. While English was a public language for him which he only heard by strangers , outside the home. He started attending Catholic School. He was very shy to speak English and participate in class. Therefore, one day, his teachers visited his family and talked about Richard's and his siblings' poor academic achievements. They also asked his parents to speak English in the home. It was a turning point. Everyone at home started to speak in English and his parents had to struggle with their "broken" English. It changed everything, as Richard was so happy with his family earlier while communicating in Spanish, didn't remain the same. The interaction between family was reduced. However, in the beginning he was used to feel frustrated with speaking only English, but it changed the day he participated in class and answered in English without feeling shy/uncomfortable. As he describes his feeling,"The belief, the calming assurance that I belonged in public, had at last taken hold," (Hunger of Memory-21). Which increased his self confidence and he started to assimilate in American culture. Now, he was more comfortable in his "public" life. However, as the time passed he realized that he has lost something when he and his family became Americanized, but he also said that he gained "a public identity". Therefore, he doesn't support the bilingual educators who think that if a child hasn't being taught in his/her native language, he/she can lose his/her individuality. He also mentioned that bilingualists don't understand the need of adopting a culture where you live,"But the bilingualists simplistically scorn the value ans necessity of assimilation." ( Hunger of Memory-26)


           A purpose of this reading is to describe the affects of Bilingualism, and also how Richard's life changed from Speaking Spanish (his native language) at home and not speaking English to Speaking English all the time. That's how he gained a sense of "individuality".
For Example,(from his personal experience) in his childhood, as a student he wasn't confident at all to participate in class because he was used to speak Spanish at home all the time and he wasn't used to interact public. No one in his family was used to speak English which resisted him from speaking in public.Another evidence describing the achievement of "a public identity" is when he said "Only when I was able to think of myself as an American, no longer an alien in gringo society, could I seek the rights and opportunities necessary fro full public individuality" (Hunger of Memory- 26-27)
Richard has written the excerpt in a way that shows the connection between his claim and his personal experiences(evidences) he provided. He described that how it is like to be a bilingual and how it affects your life. As not speaking English and constantly interacting in Spanish caused him separated from public life but closer to home life. However, being quiet outside the home didn't provide him his identity. But when he get focused in learning English, he started to get involved in public life and by interacting with people he gained his personal identity.He also described that how bilingualists insist that a student should stick with his/her native language and heritage,while claiming it as individuality. But in reality its only separating a specific group of people from the rest of crowd which doesn't lead to "a personal identity". While in deviation, he started to assimilate in American culture which provided him a sense of individuality. But this Americanization kind of separated him from his home life in comparison to earlier time.
I enjoyed this reading a lot. I could relate to it because I'm a bilingual too. I speak Urdu at home with my family. But other than that , I like the way he explained everything in detail and make a clear perspective. But the only thing which I find weird that why is it so painful for him to address his parents as "mama" and "papa"? According to me, it has nothing to do with learning English.

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