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Essay on Bilingual Journey

April 16th, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Imagine walking into a classroom on the first day of school. Imagine not knowing anyone. Imagine being filled with fear, nervousness, anxiety, frustration, and excited all at the same time. You take a seat and look at the person sitting next to you, he or she starts talking and you cannot understand anything they are saying. You try to talk back and everyone looks at you as if you were an alien. Rodriguez and Villanueva have experienced situations similar to this, due to the fact they were children of immigrants, living for the first time in America, not able to speak fluent English, if any at all.

Growing up Rodriguez only spoke Spanish, while his parents spoke fluent Spanish and broken English. His parents never spoke English to anyone other than “los gringos.” When Richard first attended school, he could hardly understand English let alone speak it and this gave him the name of the problem student in his classroom. Richard feared the sounds of the English language. Speaking Spanish in the house gave the family a sense of security, a sense of closeness. It was Spanish which calmed his nerves and made him feel secure. “I live in a magical world, surrounded by sounds both pleasing and fearful”. Richard attended a Catholic school taught by nuns. One day the nuns took it upon themselves to encourage the Rodriguez’s to practice the English language at home by asking, “Is it possible for you and your husband to encourage your children to practice their English when they are at home”. As the children are being taught English in school and it is their primary language, incorporating the English language into the daily routine of the Rodriguez household would be beneficial to all the children.

Taking the nun’s advice, the Rodriguez’s started using English around the house. It first started as a game for the whole family then turned detrimental to the security of the family. Richard felt the ties which bound his family so close were unraveling due to the new language the family was forced to use, for the children’s sake. Realizing he was tired of being the “disadvantaged child” Richard volunteered himself for answers in class and soon after felt he belonged in public and was confident in himself as a public speaker. The Rodriguez’s past and descent became just that, the past. Richard found his whole family to have become “Americanized.” His parents were finding themselves more confident in their public role. Richard felt a distance between his siblings and his parents, finding it difficult to hold a conversation with them because they could not understand fully what the children were speaking. The Rodriguez house fell very silent.

Richard first felt he and his family were losing their roots when they stop speaking Spanish, but later found what he has gained from his loss. He feels he has gained a public identity and also feels he belongs in America. Richard proved not only to himself and family, but to the American public he does indeed belong in America. He graduated from two honored and well-known schools, Stanford and Berkeley, he was an English teacher and a successful author.

The story of Villanueva begins when he attends a seminar of the NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English). The guest speaker at the seminar is Richard Rodriguez. Villanueva’s childhood was somewhat different of Rodriguez’s in the aspect Villanueva was taught English and Spanish at home, where Rodriguez first learned English in school. They both had teachers (nuns) come to their home to talk to their parents about their children’s speaking abilities. Enforcing the English language into the Rodriguez’s household severed their closeness and intimacy with one another. In contrast, in the Villanueva household it “reinforced the intimacy while continuing to learn the public language”.

Villanueva feels although he lives in “the heart of America” he still finds himself distant. His ethnicity and culture are questioned by others, “In one weekend I was asked if I was Iranian one day and East Indian the next”. Although he is an American citizen, his appearance and his non-regional accent lead others to believe he is not native to the country. The seminar Villanueva attended, Rodriguez emphasized the importance of giving the children their “voices.” Villanueva argues the point in assigning a child a voice and feels the child, through experience, will find their own voice. Villanueva also feels Richard is dishonoring his ancestry and background by changing his name to Richard instead of Ricardo.

In acquiring his language skills Rodriguez and his siblings had to have daily tutor sessions to enhance their speaking skills. Learning the English language was more of a chore to the Rodriguez’s than it was to Villanueva. Villanueva enhanced his speaking skills by participating in the spelling bee, which he won. He enjoyed reading the credits at the movies for rewards and analyzing parts of a sentence. Learning this new language seems to have come easier to Villanueva than it did to Rodriguez. Reason for this is partially because Villanueva was brought up speaking bilingually as to where Rodriguez was brought up primarily with Spanish.

I feel a national language in America would be beneficial. English should be the primary language, which it already is for the most part, and for different parts of the country a second language may be initiated. Many different ethnic groups and minorities live in America today, making it very hard to communicate with one another. Immigrants from other countries would benefit from a national language as well. Immigrants would not be turned away from jobs, out of schools, and away from the public if they knew the national language before they came to America. I would not go to another country, which has a different national language, and expect them to cater to my linguistic skills and needs. I would go there knowing their national language for I am entering their country as an immigrant and alien. Immigrants coming to America should expect the same treatment.

In conclusion, both Rodriguez and Villanueva were raised in a bilingual setting. One of the only things they have in common is they are both bilingual. Each has a very different outlook on how they were brought up. Villanueva acquired his English skills very easily as to where Rodriguez, his brother, and sisters had to take a year of tutoring. Although they have one thing in common, many differences still separate the two.

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