I really felt for Gloria Anzaldua while reading “How to Tame a Wild Tongue.” This woman was basically an outcast because she speaks Spanish and had an accent. People would look at her differently and not take her as seriously if she did not learn English and get rid of her accent.
In a way, I can relate to this. I was born in Fort Smith, Arkansas and lived there until I was five. That was where I learned to walk and talk, and I still consider it my hometown. Then my family moved to a small town in Iowa, where the other children considered me an outcast because I had a thick Southern accent. I specifically remember the first time I met the girl living up the street. The first thing she said to me was, “You talk funny. What’s wrong with you?” As a five year old, those words were absolutely devastating! All I wanted was to make friends, but no one liked me because I spoke differently than them. I quickly learned to hide my accent, and I basically lost it within a couple of months. We moved to Omaha the next year, and I finally had a Midwest accent with a slight Southern twang. Over the years, I have completely lost my accent, but Arkansas will always be close to my heart. The accent still comes naturally to me, and sometimes my twang or an occasional “y’all” slips out. My mom and I went back for a visit last summer, and I picked up the accent again for the week we were there. It felt so natural and right.
It was hard enough being an outcast in my own country for having an accent, so I can’t imagine being from another country and told you have to lose your language and accent, such as Anzaldua had to do. A line that really struck me from our reading is, “So, if you want to really hurt me, talk badly about my language. Ethnic identity is twin skin to linguistic identity–I am my language.” It hurt me so badly that the neighbor girl made fun of my accent because she was making fun of my identity. Although I haven’t lived in Arkansas for 16 years, I still consider myself a true and proud Arkansas girl.