A Loss of Language in Richard Rodriguez's Gains and Losses

             In Richard Rodriguez's "Gains and Losses,” we are told the story of how he learned English as a young boy, and, in turn, stopped using his family's language, Spanish. The story is the portrayal of a Latino family that does not speak English very well and are pushed, by American society's cultural expectations, to learn the language and essentially drop their native tongue. The family did have a choice in the matter however, but the alternative was to remain outcasts of the society in which they lived. They also stopped using Spanish on their own accord in order to assimilate and become what was considered American. The story tells us how Rodriguez feels about and deals with his family's assimilation. He also explains how he feels about each of the languages and using them, as well as the changes that take place in his family. Using these feeling and actions, the author shows us how American society encourages immigrants to accept its culture and become part of it.

             In "Gains and Losses,” Rodriguez explains how he views the English and Spanish languages as two totally different things. He refers to the two as incongruent and when the teachers come into his home and speak English, it is "a clash of two worlds” (50). In this, he shows us that he doesn't feel that the two can coexist, that there is a choice, one or the other. He also refers to Spanish as a "private” language and English as a "public” language. In doing this he implies that he feels comfortable speaking Spanish and it is more personal for him. It has more meaning. English, for him, is just a language for communicating not an expression of feelings. He doesn't want to use English in his home, he "doesn't believe that [he can] speak a single public language” (49). This tells us that he doesn't think that he can just use English all the time and still have the same feelings in his words but he is forced to do so by the school and his parents.

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