How Language Causes Drift In Relationship In Elena And Translation For Mama

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The poems, “Elena”, by Pat Mora, and, “Translation for Mama”, by Richard Blanco, are both about having obstacles in communication, disconnection in family, and identifying themselves as individuals.These two poems reflect on issues in communicating and trying to adapt themselves into English as a new language and in a new environment. Mora mostly focuses on how a mother thinks that she is not able to fulfill her obligation as a mother due to her little knowledge of English. While, Blanco connects himself to his mother through language, even though he does not know how to speak her language.There are some more differences. For instance, Elena struggles to connect herself with her children because she sees herself isolated from them. On the other hand, Blanco knows that his mother has difficulty understanding the language, but still he is expressing himself through her language. Mora’s “Elena” and Blanco’s “Transition for Mama” both follow obstacles in learning a new language, yet the first poem emphasis on how lack of language causes drift in relationships and disconnection, especially among immigrants families, the second poem, by contrast focuses and how the speaker is willing to connect himself to his mother.

Now the barrier that Elena was having to communicate with her family or children, reminded her of her past when she had no issues communicating with the people in her native country, this brings to the idea that one faces different hassle until they nicely settle in the new environment; “ I remember how I’d smile/ listening my little ones/ understanding every word they’d say, /their jokes, their songs, their plots/ But that was in Mexico.” (2-6)The mother shall never forget how close she was with her family in Mexico where she was not having any issues with her children regrading in communication and even expressing her love to them. Yet, now she is in a completely different situation that she thinks she might will lose her children because of the lack of communication. Likewise, Translation for Mama, the speaker’s mother feels very isolated and misses her native country. “I’ve transcribed all your old letters into poems/ that reconcile your exile from Cuba, but always/ in English. I’ve given back the guajiro roads/ you left behind, stretched them into sentences.” (Blanco 4-7). This poem is very similar to the other poem in terms of seeing themselves disconnected from their nations and families. One is missing cuba and the other is Mexico. Immigrants tend to forget about their own native country and strive to fit themselves into a new society.

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Coming from a different background and knowing one language are few challenges that immigrants often face. The speaker of the first poem thinks and feels that she is not smart enough because she cannot speak a language that her children speak; “They speak English. At night they sit around/ the kitchen table, laugh with one another/ I stand at the stove and feel dumb, alone” (Mora 8-10). This depicts that the mother wants to relate herself with her children when they are around in the house, but she is unable to communicate with them because she does not know the language and this is what makes her feel that she is not smart. A mother who taught her children how to speak is now struggling communicating with her children. In contrast, in the second poem, the speaker talks about his mother’s transformation from one language to another language, “what I’ve written for you, always written/ in English, my language of silent vowel endings/ never translated into your language pf silent h’s”(Blanco 1-3). The speaker writes anything he wants to his mother in english, the language that was translated to them when they came here from a different nation. The speaker compares his language with a language he is adapting to and the fact that their language will never be translated properly into english.

Immigrants that are not familiar with another language, such as English need to learn in order to fit into the societal norms. In a perspective of a mother who always feels awkward and has a very low self esteem when, “embarrassed at mispronouncing words/ embarrassed at the laughter of my children/ the grocer, the mailman.”(Mora 15-17). The speaker sees herself very disconnected not only from her children but also from the society she lives. She is afraid of speaking because she feels ashamed talking to her children, she has a sense that her children are mocking her as well as the outsiders and that is how she loses her confidence and causes her lifestyle to be the same and brings distance in her relationship with her children. On the contrary, the second poem focuses on how a mother is forced to assimilate herself in a totally different culture where everything was new to her in order to be a part of the society. “I have imagined you surviving by transforming/ Yards of taffeta into dresses you never wear/ keeping papa’s photo hinged in your mirror/ and leaving the porch light on, all night long” (Blanco 16-19). This shows that it is true adjusting yourself into a new environment that the language and lifestyle are different. However, if you want to be a part of the society, you must be like them in terms of speaking the same language because not everyone speaks the language you do.

Learning is an innate need to grow as a person. Learning a new language is challenging for everyone, in particular for those who think they are not able to learn or being stopped to learn by individuals. Elena is eager to learn the language; “I bought a book to learn English… My oldest said, “Mama, he doesn’t want you to/ Be Smarter than he is.” I am forty.”(Mora 11-14) This demonstrates that there is an opportunity that is given to her to learn and she is willing to learn the language so she can have a better understanding of children and will be able to integrate into her home. Yet, her husband is stopping her from doing something that helps her get connected with her children because he does not want her to gain knowledge and be as intelligent as he sees himself. On the other hand, the person forced herself to learn whatever it took, “I have recreated the pueblecito you had to forget,/ forced your green mountains up again, grown/ valleys of sugarcane, stars for you in English.” (Blanco 9-11 ). The speaker referring this to his mother because she needed to see herself among the society, therefore she forgets everything about her country which is not easy for someone who has spent most of her lifetime in there.

It is totally understandable that language helps us communicate, express our thoughts and resolves problems. The more languages you know the easier and better you can communicate and have access to anything because language opens doors for us so we can get to know people even if we are living in a different country. As an immigrant when i first came to the United States I have experienced language barrier because I never had the opportunity to learn the language and I had difficulty communicating with others, therefore I motivated myself and was eager to learn and nothing or no one could stop me from learning. However, Language proficiency should not makes us apart from our love ones because love does not require language but feelings. A mother who desires to connect herself with her children does not need to know any other language that her children speak because expressing her love to her children should not be based on whether knowing the language or not. On the other hand, Blanco expresses how he feels and is aware that his mother is missing her native country by translating into her language. The newcomer immigrants always have a language barrier and do not know how they are being viewed by outsiders based on languages that they speak. Immigrants tend to forget about their own native country and strive to fit themselves into a new society. Despite the fact that it is difficult for immigrants to learn a new language, yet you must force yourself because not knowing the language where you live can have many consequences. For instance, difficulty in being occupied, isolated from the community, and more importantly distance in family relationships.

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How Language Causes Drift In Relationship In Elena And Translation For Mama. (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 23, 2024, from
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