I am My Language
For every language that becomes extinct, an image of a man disappears” – Octavio Paz. Language is tied to many cultural backgrounds, heritage, and can form one’s identity. When a language is extinct or becoming extinct the culture, the history, and the people behind it
disappear. People come from “different countries that speak different languages, these different ways of communicating is a way to express themselves their thoughts and emotion freely. Losing a language can be detrimental because language expresses one’s identity and that is the essence of language.
In both readings, “How to Tame a Wild Tongue” by Gloria Anzaldua and “If Black English Isn’t a Language, Then Tell Me What Is” by James Baldwin explain the deeper meaning behind language and extreme efforts to assimilate that would cause one to reject and or lose one’s identity. Language can play a small role in how individuals’ identities are formed. Language is a part of identity it has an impact on our personality which originates from different type languages in every nation such as dialects, accents, and terminology.
In the first reading, “How to Tame A Wild Tongue” by Gloria Anzaldua she expresses the different languages she speaks or is compelled to speak. For example, Gloria states the language she uses are Standard English, working class and slang English, Standard Mexican Spanish, Chicano Spanish, and others. Gloria discusses being caught in the middle using her native tongue that is Chicano Spanish.
English including the clash between the two cultures. “Until I am free to write bilingually and to switch codes without having always to translate, while I still have to speak English or Spanish when I would rather speak Spanglish…” (Anzaldua 39). In this quote Anzaldua does not want to be limited on how many languages she speaks, she also believes a person language will forever be a part of their identity. In addition, she believed that people shouldn’t have to change their identity, but they should embrace their culture because it’s part of what makes an individual unique.
“Chicano Spanish sprang out of the Chicano’s need to identify we as a distinct people” this reveals that the Chicano Spanish is their legitimate identity that differentiates the people itself from both English and Spanish. This means that language forms identity for Chicano people to have a distinct language for themselves that relates to their cultural identity with Chicano Spanish.
Identically, Language can play a huge role in people live it can either unites them or separates them. “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world” by Ludwig Wittgenstein. In other words, this quote means that language is a form of expression that demonstrates cultural diversities of people from different countries. For example, limiting languages of the world can create barriers and can make it difficult for people to experience other traditions.
For instance, In the second reading “If Black English Isn’t a Language, Then Tell Me What Is” by James Baldwin he explains how drastic lifestyles can shape one’s language depending on the situation. In Baldwin article, he also explains how Black English was created. In this time, the whites did not want to give the slaves the opportunity learn how to read or write.
Nor did they allow them to communicate with each other in their languages because they believed that education will lead the slaves to power. To demonstrate, Slavery dates to the 15th entury where many Africans were kidnapped from different tribes and was enslaved.
Africans was from different tribes it was difficult from them to communicate or express concern with one other. This led to the creation of Black English. Furthermore, how important is language to one’s sense of identity? A sense of identity is perceived through language, ethnicity, race, and religion.
Language creates one’s identity and can be altered by various circumstance whether it’s a hostile or friendly environment. Demonstrate this concept “It is the most vivid and crucial key to identify: It reveals the private identity, and connects one with, or divorces one from, the larger, public, or communal identity” (Baldwin). This quote reveals that language can either create bonds with other different types of people or can set them apart. Baldwin also states, “A language comes into existence by means of brutal necessity, and the rules of the language are dictated by what the language must convey” (Baldwin).
In other words, this means that when the slaves from the different tribes over the years they created Black English to communicate with one another in a form they can only understand each other. Black English was formed in a violent circumstance it benefited by creating a new form of language.
In conclusion, both Anzaldua and Baldwin, explain the struggle of dealing with a hybrid identity formed by language. Both writers expressed how the different type of languages can create one’ identity willingly or with “brutal necessity”. Baldwin explains how the violent creation of Black English brought the different sets of the tribe together as one. Anzaldua talks about adjusting with two identities and finding pride speaking different types English and Spanish while keeping her native tongue intact. Both writers showed the different perspectives on the role of language by discussing the ways the African – Americans assimilate an identity with Black English and Chicano people with Spanish.
Anzaldua, Gloria. “How to tame a wild tongue” Everett’s. PDF. Page: 36-39
Baldwin, James. “If Black English Isn’t a Language, Then Tell Me, What is?” The New York Times. 29, July, 1979.