Throughout our lives we communicate to a vast array of people on a daily basis from teachers to friends to family. Each time we speak to these individuals there tends to be a different “slang” that is used with each yet at the same time still portraying the same message. In groups of different cultures they have a similar voice through language. Even though the languages they speak are different the meanings can be the same. Through this everyone has the ability to show love, anger, sadness, and the ability to teach right from wrong.
Two authors from different ethnic backgrounds show how language affects them personally and the ones around them. Kingston, a Chinese author, writes about stories based on the things she heard from her mother and the power that comes from being able to communicate to someone else In her novel “The Woman Warrior”. Rodriguez is a Spanish author who writes about his first hand account of being a bilingual child in America and how it affects him and his family in “Aria”. In both Rodriguez’s essay and in Kingston’s novel the use of language and the meaning behind it is prevalent.
Through the power of language in both of these pieces we see how it affects a family and the community that surrounds them. For Kingston it shapes her into becoming an adult and how it shapes her views while also affecting how she people should use language. At the same time both of these authors face challenges that all arise from the power of language. From the beginning of Kingston’s novel she makes notice of her mother’s talk stories. Based upon their language her mother tells her kids of these stories to teach value and to learn how to respect their culture.
To Kingston these talk stories serve to be a guide to the way Chinese women should live “Woman in the old China did not choose” (6). Being that her mother was very old fashion she had a reason to do everything that she was told to do. It made it hard for her to really discover who she could be. Because of the way language has been portrayed to her it has given her the idea that she can only do one thing to stay out of trouble in her mother’s eyes thus setting the stage for how she should act as an adult what is expected for women in this upbringing.
The power of how language can make someone perceive something is portrayed from the story of what happened to her father’s sister. Kingston’s father had a sister who committed suicide after apparently having a baby out of wedlock. Kingston questioned her mother about this event and was sworn to never ask her father about her. As a result of this Kingston learned that sex was a forbidden act in her family “I have believed that sex was unspeakable and words so strong and fathers so frail that “aunt” would do my father mysterious harm” (15).
Again the mother with the use language teaches how sex is forbidden and the consequences that arise from it. Even though Kingston speculates that this story is not true it haunts and makes her wonder what happened to her aunt. She never dares to ask her father showing how she was taught about her culture through her mothers talk stories. From these talk stories and the story of her aunt there is a noticeable account of the ways the native of people of the community act after learning of these events.
The death of her aunt has made the community weary of certain aspects, “The Chinese are always very frightened of the drowned one, whose weeping ghost, wet hair hanging and skin bloated, waits silently by the water to pull down a substitute” (Kingston 16). Knowing from what has happened through language the villagers have learned a lesson. The cause of this can only come from being apart of the Chinese culture. This was taught through their language and can only come from theirs, as it would not affect a person that was not about of this culture.
Being apart of the culture has led for them to have these talk stories and develop a language specific to them. Similar to how most of us have a different dialect with our family compared to the one we use with our friends. Likewise, through Rodriguez’s work we see how a group of people admires their language and how they believe it can only be for them. Being a native Spanish speaker, Rodriguez’s knows how there are multiple ways of speaking a language. Similar to how the Chinese have their language and talk stories.
Rodriguez’s shares love through the power of language with his family. Since Rodriguez shares a certain language with his family at home he feels that, “It is not possible for a child-any-child-ever to use his family’s language in school. Not to understand this is to misunderstand the public uses of schooling and to trivialize the nature of intimate life-a family’s language”. To him he believed that at home he a specific language that he shared with his family and no one else would be able to understand it.
At home he was able to share ove with his family through their language. He was against using this type of language at school because you cannot teach this to other people as it is something that comes naturally. Also if this type of language was used it would take away from the intimate aspect it contained as it would no longer be secluded to just his family. Moreover the family rarely spoke any language that was not theirs. “By, contrast, English, rarely heard in the house, was the language I came to associate with gringos”. To him there is only one language that he knows.
Because of this it also makes it hard to learn in school since he does not want to have is family language taught in the classroom. To them and even Kingston not having their own language and values another language seems like an outsider that they do not want to accept. Having a unique language is not just for Kingston and her community to help promote good values but also to Rodriguez and his family so that can share affection with one another. They each use a different language but the language is solely unique to them.
Growing up as a child Kingston was always influenced by what the Chinese language provided and it also created an obstacle. The language was almost like a teacher as it provided a structure for their adulthood. Kingston relates to time when she was in America and how the Chinese language stuck with her “I push the deformed into my dreams, which are in Chinese, the language of impossible stories” (87). Despite living in a different country the Chinese culture had stayed with Kingston. The culture has been so embedded into her mind that her dreams become her mother’s talk stories.
They’ve stuck with her whole life and they cannot leave her. It is her language it is what she has become accustomed to and it is the power of language. The Chinese language has become an influence in her life and when something happens it is translated by it. Also this has created a challenge for Kingston knowing that she cannot escape this if she tried. It is with her for life and it has it hard times. Similarly Rodriguez was raised on one language like Kingston for most of his life and with it also came his own set of challenges.
Rodriguez’s was thought by his father to speak Spanish “During those years when I was first conscious of hearing, my mother and father addressed me only in Spanish; in Spanish I learned to reply”. He was taught just one language his life and rarely learned English until school just like Kingston. Because he was thought just Spanish the language and it’s values will stick to him for the most of his life. Since they both knew little about another language or culture the values from them stayed and made it hard to adapt to other surroundings at times.
As Kingston learns to interact with others she sees how powerful language is and wants people to be able to utilize it’s girt. It was not just a tool for her mother to teach her values but instead a part of human nature that allows humans to communicate with one another. In China Kingston would have most likely been a knot maker, as she did not speak much. To compensate this from happening her mother cut her tongue, “maybe that’s why my mother cut my tongue. She pushed my tongue up and sliced the frenum” (164). Because her mother had snipped her tongue she was believe to now have the great gift of language.
She would now no longer be tongue-tied and be able to speak to others like her family. Kingston was fascinated by language and wanted to hear other people speak their language. While in elementary in school in America there was classmate who was similar to her but this girl was even shyer. The girl would follow her older sister around and would only speak to the class if she were reading aloud. Kingston did not like this girl, “I hated the younger sister, the quiet one” (173). I firmly believe Kingston hated her because she was not used to seeing people being quite.
Especially coming from her background and culture were people loved to talk and tell stories. She also felt that this little girl was given the ability to speak that she should use it and not hold it in to herself. Kingston was determined to make her speak, “You’re going to talk, I said my voice steady and normal… I looked into her face so I could hate it close up” (175). Kingston has now confronted the girl and is adamant of making the girl talk. I feel that the anger she has for the little is because she should be respectful about language and the ways it can be used.
Many people cannot talk and if they do talk it can be hard to understand them. We see in Rodriguez’s essay that his parents had a difficult time speaking English in the United States, “In public, my father and mother spoke a hesitant, accented, not always grammatical English and they would have to strain-their bodies tense to catch the sense of what was rapidly said by los gringos”. From this we see that though they are native Spanish speakers it is hard for them to pick up on the English language. Compared to the girl in Kingston’s class at least
Rodriguez’s parents make an attempt to speak and understand the language while the little girl refuses to do any thing. Language is a powerful device that many of us take for granted. We underestimate the power it holds. From language we get the ability to communicate to other people and also gain the knowledge of its origin. From this we see how it can be used to teach people values, which we saw throughout Kingston’s novel. Kingston was able to show us how her mother thought her and her siblings about the Chinese culture through her talk stories.
The mother was able to come up with fictional actions that had a lasting impact on her children. Meanwhile in Rodriguez’s essay we see how speaking Spanish affected the way he perceived the language outside of his home. Through language however both of the authors were thought values and how to grow up as adults respectfully. Kingston and Rodriguez were both acknowledgeable of keeping the idea that everything they learn have come from their language and were able to overcome the challenges they faced because of it. They have attributed the roots of their knowledge to the