While reading “Aria” by Richard Rodriguez, I couldn’t help but think of the articles that we have read in class by Lisa Delpit and Allan Johnson. In Rodriguez’s article, he tells how he felt as though he lost part of himself by giving up his first language of Spanish to learn the English language. “The old Spanish words (those tender accents of sound) I had used earlier-mama and papa--I couldn't use anymore. They would have been too painful reminders of how much had changed in my life.” (37) Rodriguez described learning English as “…having to learn the language of public society.” (34) This quote particularly made me think of Delpit’s article (“The Silenced Dialogue”) and the existence of power, specifically the five aspects of power that she talked about. “The rules of the culture of power are a reflection of the rules of the culture of those who have power.” (24). Richard Rodriguez had to learn to “language of the public society” in order to fit in. He had to study English because it is seen as the language of power. Even though Spanish was the language spoken at his home and by his family, Rodriguez had to learn the language of those who made the rules and codes of power.
In Rodriguez’s article, he also says that “it would have pleased me to hear my teachers address me in Spanish when I entered the classroom. I would have felt much less afraid. I would have trusted them and responded with ease.” (34) Rodriguez expresses the initial fear he had of learning a new language. His fears related to Johnson’s article titled Privilege, Power, and Differences. In his article, Johnson states that “People can’t help fearing the unfamiliar.” (3) Rodriguez was afraid of learning the new language not only because it was something he had not known before, but because he feared the changes that were occurring in his home life. He lost a part of himself that he never completely got back.
Talking Point: I think that everyone can relate to being scared or nervous of something that they have never experienced. While reading these articles, I immediately thought about starting our service learning projects. I know I was very nervous on the first day over the little things, such as getting in the door and finding the main office. I can only imagine how scared I would be if I was told to forget my primary language all together to learn something completely new to me.