Richard Rodriguez Public And Private Language Essay

Essay on Public and Private Language

880 WordsNov 29th, 20114 Pages

09-26-2011
Public and Private language:
A review of the essay Private Language, Public Language by Richard Rodriquez
In Richard Rodriguez’s article Private Language, Public Language Rodriguez uses his introduction to language to show the difference, to him, between his home language, of Spanish, and that of what he considers public, that of English. Language as he says is separated by “Just opening or closing the screen door,” it was the difference between being home in his own language and being in the world of the gringos, or white English speaking person.
Rodriquez had a very poetic way to describe what he was hearing. He describes his parents English as “high- whining vowels and guttural consonants” and so he didn’t see English…show more content…

He refers to his father arriving home some nights sounding relieved and calling for his wife and then his children. At his joy hearing his father’s “light and free notes” when speaking Spanish, and that “he can never manage in English” Rodriquez was run and laugh with such pleasure because of the unity of their alienation in the outside society. Being spoken to in Spanish he feels “specially recognized.” Feeling as if he belongs, because the words that he is hearing and the words that are used to address him are spoken with ease and is not heard by the gringos. Rodriquez also feels a distance from the barrio children. Although they also spoke Spanish they were not part of what he considered home. He did not live in the Barrio but rather in a very white neighborhood, “only a block from the biggest, whitest houses,” of Sacramento in the fifties. Due to the location of his home he explains as “an accident of geography” that sent Rodriquez to a school of white children. It was there at school that he first heard his name pronounced in English, and this occurrence made the young child cry. The name Richard was as foreign to him as many other English words, it was the first time he truly understood the difference between home and public. Richard Rodriguez talks about bilingual education and says how it is impossible for a child to speak his family’s language in school. His reasoning later

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In chapter one, "Aria", of Richard Rodriguez's autobiographical book Hunger of Memory: The education of Richard Rodriguez, the author makes a series of interesting observations that explain how he, the son of two immigrant Mexican workers, began to differentiate the language he spoke at home (Spanish) with the English language.

In his own words, he explains the affect that is produced when he listens to the Mexican-accentuated Spanish spoken at home. He states how this is his...

In chapter one, "Aria", of Richard Rodriguez's autobiographical book Hunger of Memory: The education of Richard Rodriguez, the author makes a series of interesting observations that explain how he, the son of two immigrant Mexican workers, began to differentiate the language he spoke at home (Spanish) with the English language.

In his own words, he explains the affect that is produced when he listens to the Mexican-accentuated Spanish spoken at home. He states how this is his own private language, to be spoken with the family only.

In contrast, he explains:

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. At home they spoke Spanish. The language of their Mexican past sounded in counterpoint to the English of public society. The words would come quickly, with ease. Conveyed through those sounds was the pleasing, soothing, consoling reminder of being at home.

Clearly dividing Spanish as a private language and English as a public language, Richard views English as a "tool to run his mother's errands". Everything spoken in English belongs to his public life. He was to be Spanish at home only.


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. By contrast, English (ingles), rarely heard in the house, was the language I came to associate with gringos. I learned my first words of English overhearing my parents speak to strangers. At five years of age, I knew just enough English for my mother to trust me on errands to stores one block away. No more.

Therefore, a child who is becoming exposed to English more so than his parents, will end up assimilating the target language as much as their own native tongue. The unique way in which the Rodriguez family spoke gave them their their family identity. Speaking English, will no longer be a public language for Richard and will become also a part of his social and private lives. The two worlds will merge, and Richard will no longer be a Mexican kid, but full fledged American.

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