Gloria Anzaldua's and Amy Tan's Growing Up with Language Barriers

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Individuals tend to evade things they don't comprehend, to abuse the new. This is something that Gloria Anzaldua and Amy Tan know all too well. The author of 'How to Tame a Wild Tongue' Gloria Anzaldua was an American scholar of Chicana cultural and feminist theory. She grew up on the Mexico–Texas border and incorporated her lifelong experiences of social and cultural marginalization into her work. She also developed theories about the marginal, in-between, and mixed cultures that develop along borders. The author of 'Mother Tongue' Amy Tan is a Chinese American writer whose works explore mother-daughter relationships and the Chinese American experience. Both Tan and Anzaldua enables readers to perceive what they experienced and the implications it had on their lives, the two women have had fundamentally the same yet different encounters throughout their journeys with language identity and discrimination.

Tan and Anzaldua may have had different backgrounds but both women's experiences were very similar when it came down to language. Both expressed the idea that language used with family, the educational system and society shape us as individuals. Tan communicates how she understood the distinction by the way she talks with her family and how she talks with individuals in an expert way. Just as she felt that the contrast between the two sorts of English may have held her back in school when it came to test results. The majority of this is perhaps what molded Tan as a person.

Anzaldua states in her exposition her mom needed her to communicate in English appropriately and was humiliated that she communicated in English like a Mexican. She also says that she can still remember being caught speaking Spanish at recess and that was good for being hit because of it. Even in college, it was required of her to take two speech classes to dispose of her intonation. These things possibly molded Anzaldua as a person as well. When living in a family with parents that speak 'broken English', it is common to find hardships and challenges that are faced on a daily basis. “Pa' hallar buen trabajo tienes que saber hablar el inglés bien. Qué vale toda tu educación si todavía hablas inglés con un accent”, Anzaldúa’s mother would say. ”To get a good job you need to speak English well. What good does your education do if you speak English with an accent?'. Her mother was mortified that she spoke English like a Mexican. Anzaldúa’s mother only wanted the best for Gloria, and in her opinion, being able to speak perfect English, without an accent, was the best thing for Gloria.

Tans experience on the other had was actually quite different. From 'Mother Tongue' Tan provides an example of her mother’s 'Fractured English': “Why he don’t send me check, already two weeks late. So mad he lie to me, losing me money”. Tan uses personal stories of her relationship with her mother, and how her mother’s 'limited and broken' English has made an impact on her life. Amy tries to express that even though her mothers English may be described as 'Fractured', it can be understood and does not determine her intelligence. This is evident through her quote, “I wanted to capture what language ability tests can never reveal: her intent, her passion, her imagery, the rhythms of her speech, and the nature of her thoughts”. Although someone’s English may not be perfect, that doesn’t mean they aren’t 'smart' or intelligent.

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Similar to Amy Tans paper Gloria Anzaldua also writes about growing up with language barriers. To continue this topic of similarity Anzaldua states in her essay “They would hold us back with their bag of reglas de academia”, meaning the way they spoke help them back from certain opportunities. Tan states something very similar in her essay “English almost had an effect on limiting my possibilities in life as well”, meaning this almost held her back as well.

Both of these essays speak about the difficulties growing up with language barriers. They both faced hardships because of it but both women made the best of the hand they were dealt. Tan openly accepted the language barrier and even used it to her advantage in her writing. Anzaldua had a more difficult time of acceptance but she also used this to her advantage in her writing and even challenged the difficulties of this language barrier. These women fought the differences and used them to their advantage. Even with all of these similarities there are differences between Anzaldua and Tan. For instance, each of these writers use very distinct and different tones and ways of writing throughout their papers. Tan was almost a bit passive in her writing she was more understanding of the types of readers that would be reading her writing. Whereas Anzaldua was more aggressive and unapologetic in the way she writes. She switched between Spanish and English throughout her writing and that could make readers uncomfortable because they don’t understand and may even discourage people to read her work. That’s the thing about Anzaldua she didn’t really care she just wanted to get her point across in the way she wanted to without keeping every single type of reader in mind.

Going to class where individual picture is a major piece of a student's life can be very harrowing. American qualities are frequently constrained upon students and a specific lifestyle is anticipated from them. The battle of fitting in and tolerating the social foundation is a noteworthy point in both articles. In Anzaldúa paper, she ponders a circumstance that numerous individuals face in a contact zone of a wide range of societies. She clarifies how she felt unaccepted by all gatherings, Americans, Mexicans, and other Spanish speakers. Anzaldúa was blamed by different Latinos for a being a Pocho, a social deceiver. She was additionally dismissed by numerous Latinos and did not blend well with Americans either. Alongside her peers, her educator gave her trouble too. “If you want to be American, speak ‘American’. If you don’t like it, go back to Mexico where you belong”. In addition to the fact that Anzaldúa got ridiculed about her Spanish, but her English as well.

Confronting a comparable circumstance, Amy Tan had a few inconveniences in her language as well. At a youthful age, she was required to talk with people higher up such as stockbrokers and doctors due to her mother’s ability to speak less than perfect English. Because of these encounters from her youth, for example, turning into her mom's interpreter, influenced Tan to understand the significance of having the capacity to explain her musings well so as to have smoother encounters.


The two women originate from altogether different foundations, face a similar kind of issue, however, can understand that in spite of what others think or state, that being uncomfortable with themselves is something that requires them to change.

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Gloria Anzaldua’s and Amy Tan’s Growing Up with Language Barriers. (2022, September 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 13, 2024, from
“Gloria Anzaldua’s and Amy Tan’s Growing Up with Language Barriers.” Edubirdie, 01 Sept. 2022,
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