Anzaldua's Struggle with Language

Categories: Language

Gloria Anzaldua, the author of “How to Tame a Wild Tongue,” expresses a very strong tie that she has to her native language. Anzaldua grew up in the United States, but spoke mostly Spanish. She did not speak the normal form of Spanish though; she spoke Chicano Spanish, a language very close to her heart. The text focuses on the idea of her losing her home accent, or tongue, to conform to the environment she is growing up in. From a very young age, Anzaldua knows that she is not treated the same as everyone else is treated.

She knows that she is second to others, and her language is far from second to others as well. Anzaldua stays true to her language by identifying herself with her language and keeping it alive, when everyone else wants it gone. She strategically expresses herself in the text through her personal experiences with the language, the use of narration and structure, and her gender role within her language.

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Anzaldua uses appeals such as ethos, pathos, and logos to show the audience the use of these three strategies.

Anzaldua’s text begins with her visit to the dentist. This is where she introduces the main, reoccurring, theme of “taming a wild tongue.” This theme, depending which way it is looked at, can be seen as a rhetorical question in the sense that her “tongue” cannot be tamed. In this case it metaphorically represents her native language she speaks. The dentist is getting frustrated with her tongue getting in the way of his work, and he mentions how her tongue is so strong and stubborn.

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He states that something must be done about her untamed tongue. Ironically, everything the dentist says about to tongue is true for her native tongue as well. Anzaldua knows that she cannot stand up for herself and her tongue, because her language is frowned upon in America.

There is no way to tame her tongue; she must completely get rid of it. In these first opening paragraphs, Anzaldua is using the rhetorical strategy of her personal experience at the dentist. When reading this, one may think that the author is trying to portray a young girl at the dentist and that her tongue is being stubborn. The author is using a metaphor, and is not only talking about her actual tongue, but her accent as well. Anzaldua is showing an appeal such as pathos. The author shows this emotional appeal to demonstrate the love that she has for her language. Anzaldua identifies herself with her language, and is very emotional about it. The author has many personal experiences with the language that she is punished for.

At school if she was caught speaking Spanish, she would be punished for it. For instance, she was once punished and accused of “talking back” to the teacher when all she was trying to do was tell her how to pronounce her name. The teachers were very disrespectful to her and her companions who spoke Spanish. One of the teachers stated, “If you want to be American, speak American. [i]f you don’t like it, go back to Mexico where you belong” (59). The Spanish speaking students were frowned upon and were not only taught to speak English, but to speak English without slang or a Mexican accent.

Anzaldua identifies herself with her language, and is offended if someone talks poorly about it. The author uses her emotional tie to her language to connect with the audience and give the reader a sense of how she feels. She uses ethos to show her strong connection with her background. She speaks her “home” tongues only with her sister and brothers, and her friends. There are five different languages but the two that she feels closest to are Chicano Spanish and Tex-Mex. She also speaks Pachuco, the language of rebellion, which she speaks in secret with kids and people her own age. According to Americans, her language is considered a bastard language and that it is illegitimate. This is something that she takes to heart because her language is so important to her and it is so close to her and her family. Anzaldua shows this in the narration and structure of her writing.

Her reading is bilingual instead of just in English. She will write a whole sentence in English but change one or two words in the sentence to Spanish. An example is when she says, “Often with mexicanas y latinos we’ll speak English as a neutral language” (64). Here is just a small example of how she includes her Spanish language in her English text. There are many different times when Anzaldua does this in her reading. This is something that may confuse an English reader with no Spanish experience.

Often times when I came across words in Spanish I got confused and almost embarrassed because I had no clue what she was trying to say. I think this is a great way to show readers how she felt as a Chicano trying to learn a whole new language. Anzaldua’s strategy of narration and structure of the text really catches a reader’s eye. She also italicizes any Spanish words that she includes in her text. This is just another way of showing the audience how important her language is to her. Another strategy she uses in her writing is how she splits up her story. She has many different titles throughout her text including: Overcoming the tradition of silence, Oye´ como ladra: el lenguaje de la frontera, Chicano Spanish, and Linguistic terrorism.

These titles all represent a new important part of her life and her life growing up in America. This is a strategy that works well with an audience because it attracts a reader to want to know more about the next topic of her life. Anzaldua uses these strategies to build appeals with the audience. She demonstrates ethos to the audience because of the emotional tie she has with her background. A reader can connect with her when she reveals her emotion to the audience. The use of her two languages in the text also exhibits her use of logos. Anzaldua struggles to keep her language alive because it is something that is so dear to her heart, but in turn she is not treated as well as she should be treated.

In her text, Anzaldua explains how women are treated differently within the language. From a young age, girls are taught not to talk much, and to not talk back. In Spanish when speaking about a group of girls, including yourself in the group, you would say nosotras, and when speaking about a group of guys you would say nosostros. Anzaldua did not know that the word nosotras, the feminine reference, even existed until an older age. A group of women was always referred to as the masculine meaning. She states, “We are robbed of our female being by the masculine plural. [l]anguage is a male discourse” (60). Although women are treated differently than men, she does not take this to heart because she has grown up this way, and she still loves her heritage and language. She stands up for her language because it is part of who she is as a woman. She is proud of whom she is, and the language she speaks.

Anzaldua values her language because it is a part of her identity. She says, “Ethnic identity is twin skin to linguistic identity-I am my language” (65). If you really want to make her mad or hurt her feelings, say bad things about her language. She takes pride in her language and respects it. This is the closest thing to her and is part of who she is. Anzaldua’s gender role within the language shows a reader how she is viewed as a woman. This established ethos to the reader because of how she feels about the illegitimacy of the language. She cannot accept legitimacy of herself until she is free to be like a typical American and do all the same things as them. Anzaldua says after this is done, “I will overcome the tradition of silence” (65).

Throughout the text, “How to Tame a Wild Tongue,” by Gloria Anzaldua, she consistently refers to the pride she takes in the language. Her Chicana Spanish is something that is very important to her, and very dear to her heart. A reader realizes this by the author’s use of personal experiences with the language, the use of narration and structure, and her gender role within her language. Anzaldua also uses these strategies to aid in the use of her appeals such as ethos, pathos, and logos. She uses ethos frequently throughout her text because Chicano Spanish is something that is so important to her. Anzaldua takes pride in who she is and where she is from, and she will never let anyone take that away from her.

Updated: Jul 06, 2022
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Anzaldua's Struggle with Language. (2016, Apr 11). Retrieved from

Anzaldua's Struggle with Language essay
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