Home > Bilingualism > “How to Tame a Wild Tongue”

“How to Tame a Wild Tongue”

“We’re going to have to control your tongue”, the dentist says, pulling out all the medal from my mouth. Silver bits plop and tinkle into the basin. My mouth is a motherlode.

The dentist is cleaning out my roots. I get a whiff of the stench when I gasp. “I can’t cap that tooth yet, you’re still draining,” he says.

“We’re going to have to do something with  your tongue,” I hear the anger rising in his voice. My tongue keeps pushing out the wads of cotton, pushing back the drills, the long thin needles. “I’ve never seen anything as strong or as stubborn“, he says. And I think, how do you tame a wild tongue, train it to be quiet, how do you bridle and saddle it? How do you make it lie down?

“Who is to say that robbing a people of its language is less violent than war?”-Ray Gwyn Smith

In recent posts I have written about issues of language and identity. Lately I have been thinking a lot about the personal stories of people as to how language has influenced their identity development. I’d have to say that one of my all time favorites essays on language and identity is Gloria Anzaldua’s “How to Tame a Wild Tongue”.

Another one of  my favorite quotes from the essay is:

Deslenguadas. Somos los del español deficiente. We are your linguistic nightmare, your linguistic aberration, your linguistic mestizaje, the subject of your burla. Because we speak with tongues of fire we are culturally crucified. Racially, culturally and linguistically somos huérfanos-we speak an orphan tongue.

Another quote that really resonates with me is:

So, if you want to really hurt me, talk bad about my language. Ethnic identity is twin skin to linguistic identity-I am my language. Until I can take pride in my language, I cannot take pride in myself.

Purchase the entire book on Amazon by clicking here.

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Categories: Bilingualism
  1. September 11, 2009 at 10:38 pm

    For me I have undergone a Samoan malu. The tattooing of thighs as a symbol of my dedication to the maintenance of my language.

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