Bilingual Bewilderment


The paper I wrote was mainly focused around a memory I had from Kindergarten, where my polish culture was challenged based on an answer I gave to a Phonics question. The goals for this paper are to get the readers to understand my thesis which is that "a person’s language doesn’t change the message they are trying to get through, 'it doesn’t affect the quality of a person’s idea,'” as well as for them to understand the situation I went through, which affects many immigrants in this country on a daily basis. I am proud of the scene, as well as my conclusion, and I hope to improve my essay introductions in the future.

Advanced Essay:

Literacy can be found everywhere we look. Even though this may be seen as something obvious that anyone would know; why is it that people still have a prejudice against languages, other than the one they speak. I believe that a person’s language doesn’t change the message they are trying to get through, “it doesn’t affect the quality of a person’s idea,” but for many people, their perspective is different. Throughout my life I have experienced this in many forms and instances, whether it be a teacher questioning my knowledge of a subject based off of how well I can annunciate and express my thoughts in English, or my peers judging the level of intelligence I posses based on how well I can communicate my ideas with them. A specific memory that I still vividly remember to this day was an experience in Kindergarten, where I experienced prejudice. It was a time in my life when I was still adapting to the English language and the American culture that varied significantly from my very own.

Kindergarten had gone and passed and I was now stepping into a whole new ballpark... the first grade. My Polish friends and I have been discussing this transition for the whole summer and experiencing it for the past month and a half. First grade wasn’t that bad, we still had fun although we didn’t play with toys anymore, nor did we have nap times like in kindergarten, but the enjoyment of learning was still there for me. I remember one day though when I didn’t feel this same joy, a day when I became very angry that I hadn’t learned English at a younger age like most of my peers. We were working on our phonics notebooks and labeling pictures of things. Everyone in the class was sharing out their answer for one of the pictures when the teacher suddenly called on me.

“Marcin, what is the item in the ninth image?” I looked down at the image and stared blankly. What was it called again? I pondered for a good couple of seconds before my teacher asked,

“Marcin do you not know the answer?” I suddenly turned red in embarrassment and started to think harder. Then it hit me, I opened my mouth and spoke the word,

“Byk.” The entire class stared blankly at me except for my Polish peers who understood what I just said.

“No Marcin, that’s a yak,” my teacher said.

“I said that, that’s what byk means,” I replied.

“Well it’s not correct, let’s try another one,” she said. I didn’t want to start another one though, I got the answer right, it’s just that I didn’t say it in English, but I knew what the meaning was.

Had I really gotten the answer wrong, or just given a different version of the answer? The reason I chose to write about that scene, was because it’s a very vivid memory in my mind. The memory is so fresh in my mind because that’s one of the first times ever in my life that my Polish culture clashed with this new American one. I believe that the idea of a teacher telling me I was unsuccessful in identifying something, just because I didn’t know the word to describe it in this exotically new language, is culturally offensive. I knew what the image was, I could describe it perfectly in my own language but yet the teacher said my description was wrong, which it wasn’t.

Taking a look at the passages we read in class, one stands out to me that really connects with the idea I’m trying to project. "If you want to be American, speak 'American.' If you don't like it, go back to Mexico where you belong," (Anzaldúa, How to Tame a Wild Tongue, 34.) The author brings up this quote after stating that her elementary school teacher would hit her with a ruler on the wrists for speaking Spanish. The teacher would go as far as to do this even when the author was just trying to tell her how to pronounce her name. “If you want to be American, speak American,” really stands out since it shows that people in this country have a close-minded ideology, thinking that for people to belong here, they have to speak the countries language.

What is the message I am trying to deliver with this essay? The message and my overall thesis are that a person’s language doesn’t change the message they are trying to get through, “it doesn’t affect the quality of a person’s ideas.” Across the world we can find many intelligent people with amazing ideas and thoughts, ones that have been, will be, or are, revolutionary to the world we live in today, yet we don’t treat these people’s ideas with the same prejudice just because some of them are thought of or portrayed in a different language. We can’t judge thoughts with the idea in mind that they are worse just because of the way they are conveyed to us, just like we can’t judge someone’s skills or talent based on what they look like.

Works Cited:

Anzaldúa, Gloria. “How to Tame a Wild Tongue.”