Hunger of Memory by Richard Rodriguez

In Richard Rodriguez’s book, “Hunger of Memory,” he contemplates on why language is the key to understanding the tribulation of immigration. The language pace that he goes upon while describing his childhood in the first chapter of the book (titled: Aria) tells that this portion of the book will be his immediate disproval of how much the sanctity of language has been abused. He begins by saying that there is no child that can be taught their mother tongue in school.

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Can they understand it perfectly? It is difficult to say since there are children who can understand the English language rather quickly, but not their own language, if they cannot build a child’s identity. The identity of a child is based not on the home, but in school. According to Rodriguez, the public identity should be separate from the identity that the child has produced at home.

For me, the beginning of this essay reminded myself of my past. Even though I was born here, I understood a lot more English than Spanish. When I was young, my mom would usually speak to me in Spanish. I did not understand her at all, so the language aspect of the learning curve was difficult for me. What was the identity that I was transformed into? I understood the first portion of the first page of his essay. I do believe that Rodriguez does not want to be separated from his family. From the fact that the struggle to learn the language was a difficult persona for me to accomplish, which was Spanish, I felt a bit isolated from the rest of the Spanish speaking students. As a result, I was placed in a Spanish class. Rodriguez tells that his childhood had to deal with the frustration concept of mixed emotions and conflicts that were presented while learning the language. The unfamiliar situation that he had to deal with was the same shyness I had to deal with. I was shy and afraid to speak Spanish so much to the students that there would have been a possibility I was going to get laughed at. Rodriguez’s conflicts make him want to embrace the Spanish language. It took me a while to appreciate the Spanish language that is presented in my life and moreso of its benefits.

The continuation of his early childhood battle with the dissertation of language moves into his house. As presented before, Rodriguez wants to contribute towards his own way of learning, rather than being forced to learn the language. For that reason, he blames his parents on his transition towards the public life that he has yet to fully embrace upon his youth. When the nun introduces him towards the class, she says in part: “boys and girls, this is Richard Rodriguez.” He then comments in saying: “it is the first time I heard anyone name me in English” (page 9). Hearing his name for the first time makes him signify himself as being lower class to the exceptional standards of his white classmates. He is an exception, and would probably not make himself to be one, had Rodriguez learned the values and stability of the English language.

It seems that, from his description of the way the nun introduces his name, Rodriguez has already concluded that the language learning experience will not be used out of intimacy, but to create intimacy. Even though it seems as his ideas can be misguided in a sense, Rodriguez, in his youth and childhood, wants to assert himself into the public life. Unfortunately, getting into the public life has made Rodriguez define the private and public sounds of language and from his family. In a way, Rodriguez points out that: “like others who know the pain of public alienation, we transformed the knowledge of our public separateness and made it consoling—the reminder of intimacy” (p.15). He knows that the English language has opened the possibilities that were not brought before him years before and values public education in order to participate in public life. In a sensible way, Rodriguez diminishes the power of language and the teaching power that it produces when he proclaims himself a student of language and not just a basic English major in college, in his later years.

For me, as I am reading this page from the telling of his home, I am reminded of the times when my family was speaking at home. Each day we are teaching ourselves the concept of language with our words, actions, thoughts, and feelings. As Rodriguez contemplates his thoughts upon calling himself a “student of language,” from me being an English major here in school, I would consider myself a student of language as well. English for me, is much more complex than Spanish and it allows me to become intimate myself, in the sense of learning or “marrying” both languages. Rodriguez defines this as the stepping stone into perfecting and dealing with public life. I, in turn, think that both English and Spanish are public languages and that both of them should be interconnected with each other. Since Rodriguez disapproves of bilingual education, I approve of it, by saying that it can make the lines of stability more fluent in understanding what each person would want to gather from each other’s language.

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