Most people wonder what makes someone to be considered American. Is it the skin color or the ability to speak English fluently? Or is it the fact that the ancestors of the subject person migrated to America a hundred years than most? Two great women, who happen to be descendants of immigrants, share their story of growing in America. The first one is Gloria Anzaldua who shared her story in the first chapter of her book, Borderlands. The story is titled “How to tame a Wild Tongue” She describes her life as a young Spanish woman who is too Spanish for Americans and too American for Spanish (Anzaldúa 35). The second personality is Amy Tan who was a daughter of Chinese immigrants who fled China in the 1940s. In her work, “Mother Tongue” She recalls growing up with a mother who could not speak the English language fluently (Tan 261). Regardless of the fact that these two personalities come from two different backgrounds, they both express their experiences in America regarding their language. Both convey the idea that the language we use in all aspects of life shape us as individuals. This paper will discuss the meaning of literacy and why it is essential with regards to the works of Gloria Anzaldua and Amy Tan.
Literacy entails when an individual can read and write. It includes the competence or knowledge in a specified area. When a person is at home, he or she tends to let their guard down and therefore speak carelessly and thus making the language used to sound differently as compared to the language the same person speaks while in an official set up. Tan uses an example of her walking down the street with her mother, and she uses a different language than the one she usually uses when they are at home. She also states that this is the same language she uses with her husband. She argues that the language has become their language of intimacy (Tan 261). The exposure she got to the educational systems helped her better her language, therefore, developing the ability to communicate with other people who are outside the family loop.
Anzaldua has a similar opinion when it comes to the language people tend to use when they are with their families. She writes in her work that “My home tongues are the languages I speak with my brothers and sisters.” (Anzaldúa 35). These two women were able to train themselves the two different sides of language to blend in perfectly with their surroundings. They could put on a mask in the outside world until they were home where they could use the language they grew up with without fear of being judged.
The importance of literacy from the two essays by Tan and Anzaldua is chiefly the ability to blend into the outside world. Every person at one point is supposed to get out into the outside world and be able to coexist with other people from different backgrounds. The ability to speak English fluently and without any accent makes a person be able to communicate in the work environment. Effective literacy skills open doors to more educational and employment opportunities. People are therefore able to pull themselves and their families out of poverty and chronic underemployment. Consequently, it is necessary that every person learns new skills to keep up with the changes in his or her surrounding environment.
Anzaldúa, Gloria. Borderlands: la frontera. Vol. 3. San Francisco: Aunt Lute, (1987) 33-45
Tan, Amy. “Mother Tongue, by Amy Tan.” The World Is a Text: The Writing, Reading, and Thinking about Culture and Its Contexts (2005): 261.