“Richard Rodriguez: A Bilingual Childhood”
For more than 300 years, immigrants from every corner of the globe have settled in America, creating the most diverse and heterogeneous nation on Earth. Though immigrants have given much to the country, their process of changing from their homeland to the new land has never been easy. To immigrate does not only mean to come and live in a country after leaving your own country, but it also means to deal with many new and unfamiliar situations, social backgrounds, cultures, and mainly with the acquisition and master of a new language. This often causes mixed emotions, frustration, awkward feelings, and other conflicts. In Richard Rodriguez’s essay “Aria: Memoir of a Bilingual Childhood”, the author describes the social, cultural and linguistic difficulties encountered in America as he attempts to assimilate to the American culture. Richard Rodriguez by committing himself to speaking English, he lost his cultural ties, family background and ethnic heritage.
Rodrigue’z change from Spanish to English is one of the leading factors to his strong beliefs in assimilation. He feels that assimilation is necessary for immigrants to be part of society and to be successful in the USA. Undoubtedly, this had a negative and a positive effect on him and his family. To begin with, growing up Hispanic in America was a big struggle for Richard Rodriguez. He began his schooling in Sacramento, California knowing less than fifty English words. Rodriguez not only faced the obstacle of mastering the English language, but also that of fitting socially into a classroom of wealthy white children. As a result of being the son of working-class parents, both Mexican immigrants, Rodriguez felt a socially disadvantaged child.
Additionally, Richard Rodriguez experienced a sense of dual reality. The English language and the Spanish language represented something different for Rodriguez. On the one hand, English was the language used to communicate with outsiders. It was a tool for survival and held no personal meaning. It was crucial for public success. On the other hand, in Richard Rodriguez’s own words: “Spanish was associated with closeness”. By reading the previous passage, we can clearly infer that Spanish was the key to Richard’s confort. Hearing Spanish brought Rodriguez feelings of love, acceptance, family, and security. Spanish was a reminder of home and seemed to him a private language. In other words, he was surrounded by a web built by the family love and security which is conveyed by using the Spanish language, as the following passage shows: “...Spanish seemed to me the language of home...It became the language of joyful return...”. Moreover, if we consider the following passage:”You belong here. We are family members. Related. Special to one another” it is possible to say that Spanish language made Rodriguez felt as part of his family, creating a feeling of belonging and reinforcing family ties and ethnic heritage.