Language is defined as the words, their pronunciation, and the methods of combining them used and understood by a community. It is all around us everyday, being used by each individual to communicate with one another. Without it, the world would be at loss. Although language can act in a uniting fashion, it can also be a divisor between poeople and society. Just like for the two people, Tanya Barrientos and Amy Tan, language was used to unite each of them with their family yet caused problems to arise, which would divide them from their own people or society.
Each author uses their own life examples relating the stories to each other yet one author is ostracized from her native people, the other, by an English speaking society. In this we are going to look at two stories side by side and how they relate to one another and how they differentiate. In Tanya Barrientos’ “Se Habla Espanol” she explains how she was born into a Spanish speaking family but when they moved to American when she was three, her and her family stopped speaking English.
They way she looked at it was back then, speaking Spanish meant all you could do was wait tables and clean hotel rooms and were constantly being looked down on and criticized. Because of this Barrientos enjoyed her Americanized self and that she often acted as to not know any Spanish to feel superior. She believed that by staying away from Spanish, that stereotypes would stay away from her. Once America changed its views on ethnic identity and people were celebrating the ethnic diversity, the Latino community was held together by the Spanish language, yet it was that which kept her apart.
She finally decided to swallow her pride and set out to learn the language people assumed she already knew. Although she can follow a large part of Spanish dialogue, she still gets caught up over difficult construction. She believes there are others out there just like her though. In Amy Tans story “Mother Young” Amy takes a look on the various types of English she uses in her life. She talks about who and what had influenced this type of language. She also focuses on her mother who speaks what we know as “broken English” because of her mother being a Chinese immigrant.
All of this starts with Tan realizing the different types of English she spoke and especially in front of her mother, in a way she has never heard her talk before. This brings in question who influenced her language and her mothers’ effect. Because of Tans mothers’ dialect she was often treated differently in a number of circumstances where as a normal English speaking person wouldn’t have been. Amy feared that because her mothers’ language was limited that people would think what she had to say was limited and that were the perception people got from her.
This also caused the question of Amy’s mothers’ language possibly having an effect on limiting her abilities as well. When looking at these stories side by side, the two have many similarities. To start off, they both involve their native language and the barriers that they put up. Both Tan and Barrientos stories involve a foreign language with effects their English language here in the US. This is seen in Tanya’s un-assured self as a Latino and Amy’s mothers broken English. In both a barrier seems to arise when it comes to language.
When it came to Tanya Barrientos, people suspected she wasn’t really Spanish due to her trouble with the language. In Amy Tan’s story, her mother came to a barrier when people didn’t take her seriously because of her spoken English. Also, in each story the characters are faced with a sense of inequality. In Se Habla Espanol, Barrientos admits that she enjoyed that people told her she didn’t “look” Mexican and even denied knowing how to speak Spanish at times which made her feel superior, showing the race boundaries.
Also, there is a section in which they arrive to school late and are hackled for doing so. You can understand it is due to their race because they were generalized as “you people”. It’s also seen a great amount in Mother Tongue such as how Amy’s mother was treated because of her broken English causing Amy to many times have to speak for her mother. People assumed her mother was inadequate just because her language was limited. In both stories, each person feels a type of judgment from others.
For Tanya, is was when the Spanish would notice her stumbling over her words in a difficult situation and for Amy is was how people assumed her mother was inadequate due to her broken English. One final comparison would be both of them challenging themselves to achieve an attainable goal in school that involved their language. Tanya Barrientos did rigorous course study work, taking numerous Spanish classes and even studying in abroad in Mexico to further help her develop her Spanish speaking tongue.
In Mother Tongue, we learn that although her natural skill lied in math and science, she challenged herself and declared herself an English major in college. Although there are a great amount of similarities between the two stories, they also differ in many ways. When it comes to immigration, Tanya Barrientos moved here when she was three years old with her parents hope of her and her siblings to speak nothing but English, but Amy Tan was born here, although her parents are Chinese immigrants. This caused a difference in which way they faced their language barriers.
Tanya, although wanting to deny it in her earlier years, was trying so hard to reconnect with her cultural origin and learn their language to authenticate her Spanish heritage. Also so that she could communicate in the language both of her parents spoke to one another. Amy Tan was born here but that didn’t cause her mother to speak perfect English. Her mothers’ English was broken so she grew up speaking English but listening to her mothers’ incorrect grammar, which influenced her grammatical growth.
She wished her mother hadn’t had this impediment, which caused her to be viewed differently but wanted to use her mothers tongue as a guide for who would read the books she was writing. Another difference between the two would just be the point of view each story was written from. In Tanya Barrientos’ story, the main character was herself so it was a direct interpretation of her own experiences. In Amy Tans’ story, her mother was used as a main subject so it was written from how she herself viewed her mother and the events that occurred involving her.
Another difference would be the associations made difficult due to the language barrier. For Tanya Barrientos, she struggled to communicate with natives or people fluent in speaking Spanish. Although she was born there and grew up with it through her family, she struggled to communicate effectively. In Amy Tans story, her mother had difficulty speaking with people whose first language was English and were effective in communicating so. Another difference would be how in Amy Tans “Mother Tongue” we learn that in many cases, her mother was given horrible service, acted as if they idn’t hear her or simply ignored due to her broken English. In Tanya Barrientos’ there were examples of her blatantly not using her Spanish speaking tongue to feel better about herself and to be viewed as “white”. All in all, both stories vary in many ways but are also similar. Their languages, their barriers and the situations that occur do present themselves in different ways for many but the underlying cause is there in universal orient. Although languages are vastly different, they all cause similar altercations.