Reflection on Gloria Anzaldua’s “How to Tame a Wild Tongue”

When analyzing Gloria Anzaldua’s writing “How to Tame a Wild Tongue” from her book Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, it is important to note her background. She comes from a very diverse background; her parents were immigrants, she was born in south Texas, and she identifies herself as a lesbian Chicana feminist. The purpose of her writings was to “redefine minority identities” (77). That being said I found “How to Tame a Wild Tongue” is helpful in expressing not only how diversity affects the shaping of one’s personal identity but also the importance of one’s language.

The excerpt opens up with her in the dentist office, and she is frustrated because the dentist is complaining that her tongue is “strong [and] stubborn”. She thinks to herself, “How do you tame a wild tongue, train it to be quiet…” (77). Despite the fact that the dentist wasn’t referring to her accent, her reaction makes it obvious that the problems she has had with the way she speaks causes her to be constantly conscious of how other people view her. She believes her accent is something that defines her. She explains “Chicano Spanish is a border tongue which developed naturally” (79). Because of this she isn’t accepted as a native speaker by those who speak Spanish or those who speak English. However, she doesn’t identify socially with either of those groups anyways so her language itself is appropriate for people who speak it – people who come from a complex, elaborate, complicated background. She states “Chicano Spanish sprang out of the Chicano’s need to identify ourselves as a distinct people” (79). As a child she had many obstacles and stereotypes to overcome because of her accent. Her language was a source of turmoil which caused her anger and frustration as well as problems concerning her self-esteem and how she valued herself.

The problems she had identifying with her environment because of her language could have permanently affected her personal identity. Ultimately, Anzaldua recognizes she cannot be happy with herself until she accepts the “illegitimacy” of her tongue (82). For many, ethnic identity is synonymous with the language they speak. Gloria Anzaldua is a perfect example of how a person is capable of being self-validated despite negative reactions to diversity. A person’s language is part of their identity, and it is up to that individual to value their language – you can’t allow others dictate what is and isn’t the right way to speak.

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