Public and Private Language

Public and Private Language - words,” my day in public...

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Natalie Cook Personal Essay, 24 June 2008 Short Personal Response on “Public and Private Language” by Richard Rodriguez I find it fascinating that Rodriguez, as a child, could have made the distinction between what he refers to as “private languages” and “public languages.” I appreciate the point he makes about it being easier for the upper class children to learn a foreign language so that it could be more socially accepted and therefore a “public language.” I also understand his comment about how he would have been able to have a certain trust for a teacher had he or she addressed him in Spanish. He has really prompted me to explore the true sense of nationalism that comes with a language. There is a certain connection between people who speak the same language—a certain bond, an alliance of sorts. A line that particularly strikes me in Rodriguez’s essay is “At the end of a day, I was often bemused, always relieved, to realize how “silent,” though crowded with
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Unformatted text preview: words,” my day in public had been.” I find this statement striking and poignant on many different levels, beginning with the paradox of silence in a day “crowded with words.” I do understand the sentiments behind Rodriguez’s statement, that his words were empty. I also really appreciate the idea that Rodriguez explains about his friend who, “with firm Spanish sounds, conveyed confidence and authority English would never allow him.” Not only does this make me think about the value of people’s true identities, with culture, language, etc., but it also makes me think about how some of the greatest treasures in pieces of poetry and literature are often compromised, or lost, in translation. In Rodriguez’s case, it is as though his own identity, as does his friend’s, gets ‘lost in translation’ when he is forced to convert his true Spanish ideas from his “private language” to a “public one.”...
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