Ain't What You Say But Whose Interpreting

It was the night of my SLA interview. My mom dropped me off in the morning, around 9 am and we all traveled up to the fifth floor and settled in the 10th and 11th grade english classroom.  The huge windows showcased the picturesque Philadelphia skyline. The suns rays reflected off of the buildings and made room warm and cozy.  It was beautiful.  As the hours passed, the kids left one by one, until, I was the only person in the medium sized classroom. It was pitch black outside and the room was dead silent.

“It’s your turn.”

I slowly stood up, made my way to the door, and we walked around the corner in the vacant hallways. My hands were clammy and shaking from my uncontrollable nerves. We approached the classroom door and the girl turned over slightly to look at me. ”It’s ok to be nervous. Just be yourself and you’ll do great.”

“Thanks.” I tried my hardest to create a smile that didn’t look overly forced. I failed. I pushed open the door. The man and the student next to him both smiled and welcomed me in. I kept making mental notes to remind myself to enunciate my words and pronounce all of my vowels. The last thing I needed was for them to think I was unprofessional. The man and the student began to ask me questions about my project. The whole time I was zoned out trying to suck back all of um’s, like’s, and so’s that were forcefully trying to creep their way back into my sentences.

“What do you think you can bring to the SLA community?”

“I ...ah ...wahhh...I...umm… could you repeat the question please?”My face was bright red and my hands were soaking wet. But most importantly I knew exactly what the man had just asked me, i was trying to think of something that sounded interesting. I was also trying to redeem myself for saying umm so many times I just needed to breathe and put on a different persona.

“Yes of course sweet heart. What do you think you can bring to the SLA community?”

“I believe that I can end cliques and also I could just be a person that anyone can talk to.”  

Nervous was an understatement. I felt as if I had to erase all of the “Tianna” out of my system and try to become someone else. In The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingstan, the protagonist’s mother cuts the tongue of her daughter to help her speak, and in his quote she is explaining why. ”I cut [your tongue] so that you would not be tongue-tied. Your tongue would be able to move in any language. You’ll be able to speak languages that are completely different from one another. You’ll be able to pronounce anything.”

The way you talk is sort of like a sponge. It is made up of your environment, your city, your age, in some cases your race or sex. Most of those things are things that people use to make assumptions about your character. It is easy for them to judge you based off of the way you speak because everything that makes up the way you speak can also be used to discriminate against you. So in order to avoid that, people feel the need to code switch so that people can not make false assumptions about who you are and where you come from.

When the author says “cut your tongue ... your tongue will be able to move in any language“, it reminds me of when you code switch. You cut all the ties that connect you to where you come and many more things that make you, you.

Code switching is when you switch the way you talk when you enter a different setting. There are many different reasons why people code switch. One example would be, when you switch from speaking slang with your friends to speaking standard english when you have a conference with a teacher. Another example would be when you speak spanish at home and you switch to speak english outside of the home.

In the passage “Hunger of Memory” by Richard Rodriguez , Richard describes growing up in Sacramento with his Mexican immigrant parents. In the quote on page 13, Richard explains how his parents have two different personas, one in the comfort of their home and one for when they have to speak to people in a more formal setting outside of the home.“In public, my father and mother spoke a hesitant, accented, not always grammatical English. And they would have to strain-their bodies tense-to catch the sense of what was rapidly said by los gringos. At home they spoke Spanish. The language of their Mexican past sounded in counterpoint to the English of public society. The words would come quickly, with ease. Conveyed through those sounds was the pleasing, soothing, consoling reminder of being at home.” Richard explains how his parents had to acquiesce in order to get what they need so that they could get ahead. Similar to Richards parents  I also had to acquiesce to a different vernacular that was deemed socially acceptable which was different to the way I’m used to speaking.

After the interview I learned how important it is to develope a different persona for when you enter more formal settings like an interview. This is  because the way you speak is a label for many things, negative and positive. People seem to take you more seriously when you speak standard  english. Although that isn’t right you don’t want to sabotage yourself from getting an opportunity. But you should always be proud of the way you talk speak because it is what makes you uniquely you.

Comments (8)

Lucia Santaniello (Student 2017)
Lucia Santaniello

1) What grabbed my attention in this essay was they way you described your interview. It made me want to keep reading.

2) Something new I learned about the author is that it was very nerve wracking for her to interview at SLA, it surprised me because I never see her get that nervous.

3) I can't think of anything you could add.

Nyla Moore (Student 2017)
Nyla Moore

Great essay! Something that grabbed me in this essay was how you talked about your SLA interview. Something new that I learned was how nervous you were. I wouldn't think you would be nervous. Something that could be added to this essay is maybe another example from someone you know like your mom or a family member.

Benjamin Fink (Student 2017)
Benjamin Fink
  1. I was grabbed by how the author began the essay with an event in her life.

  2. I learned that she was very nervous during her SLA interview.

  3. Honestly, I cannot see anything that can be added except for a few hyphens when necessary.

Corinthia Bell (Student 2017)
Corinthia Bell

Omg this is so good and what had grabbed me for this essay is the fact that it was about your SLA interview and that I could soo relate to it. Something that I'd learned about you is that you like to make mental notes while your around people, thinking of what to say and it helps you feel better about what words come. I think what could be added to this essay is more dialogue too cause its like, you had some in the beginning then when it came to the end it like wasn't any and you needs that balance.

Otter Jung-Allen (Student 2017)
Otter Jung-Allen
  1. Something that grabbed me about your essay was your great introduction. The ancedote in the beginning didn't sound forced at all, and actually made me a bit nervous! It was the perfect length, and hooked me into the story very nicely.

  2. Something new that I learned about you from this essay was that it was very nervewracking for you to go to your SLA interview because of your natural vocal additions.

  3. Perhaps another anecdote, short and to the point, but something that helped support your thesis. Otherwise very very well done! Your conclusion was incredible, and your structure was thought out and made sense. Great job!

Aaron Watson-Sharer (Student 2017)
Aaron Watson-Sharer
  1. The detail of the days were on POINT. I really liked it.That is what got my attention.
  2. That you code switch, I never noticed that.
  3. I'm not sure this was good. Have no idea but you could have double spaced your last paragraph.
Stephen Buchanico (Student 2017)
Stephen Buchanico

One thing that grabbed me in this essay is the all the ways she described how nervous she was. It really made me want to keep reading and find out what happened. One thing that I learned about the author is probably how nervous she gets. I've never really noticed her get nervous before, she always just flows with things. Lastly one thing I think could be added would maybe be describe the interview a little more, like the room and the people, but that's all I can think of.

Arsenio Gomez (Student 2017)
Arsenio Gomez

What really hooked me into reading your essay was your title. The essay was really good I enjoyed reading it. Something that I would change is probably give a little bit more of the story before heading on towards the conclusion. Other than that good job.