Throughout time, people from many different religious and cultural backgrounds have relied on language to communicate effectively with one another. Although there are thousands of various languages, the goal within each is usually the same: to express one's opinion and reveal something that may not have been seen otherwise. Whatever the topic of conversation may be, it is essential for a person to have communication skills. Language, it seems, is something that people take for granted; very rarely does anyone actually pause to consider the very significance of words. Imagine the difficulty that people from vastly different cultures must encounter when attempting to communicate in a completely different language. How does one maneuver? In Julia Alvarez's novel, How the Garcia Girls Lost their Accents, four young girls are forced to grow up caught between different languages and contrasting cultural expectations.
[...] Sofia is always the troublemaker; she gets caught with marijuana, she experiments with hair removal cream, and many other forbidden sins. At age sixteen, her parents send her back to the Dominican Republic to (Alvarez 117) her. Up until this time, “Sofia has been the most ‘American' of the girls . however, to make up for her lack of memories, she adapts to Dominican culture quickly, and with a flourish” (Sirias 97). Indeed, when her sisters visit her, they hardly recognize her: looked like the after person in one of those before and after makeovers” (Alvarez 117). [...]
[...] Finally, there is the second sister, Sandra. Sandra's struggle between cultures is perhaps the most difficult because she looks the most American: girl who could pass as American, with soft blue eyes and fair skin” (Alvarez 181). Despite the fact that Sandra possesses their Swedish grandmother's white skin, she has a very difficult time adjusting to American life because she so desperately wants to be proud of her Spanish heritage. While dining at a Mexican restaurant, she becomes overjoyed when she discovers that “Spanish is something other people paid to be around” (Alvarez 179). [...]
[...] Language, in short, lies on the borderline between the self and others.(Barak 1).Indeed, it seems that each Garcia girl - Yolanda; Sofia, Carla, and Sandra - reveals the value of speaking, language, and communication as a whole. In conclusion, while each of the four Garcia girls' stories are unique, there are several general themes that merge them together: their uncertainty and clashing feelings about their Hispanic past and their American present, their lack of self identity, and their experiences with language. [...]
[...] Hence, Yolanda's first encounter with the tension involved in learning a new language reveals her innocence as well as her “isolation between languages” (Christie 102). Moreover, “Yolanda plays the fool because she fails to understand languages that are otherwise generally accepted and that have the appearance of being universal” (Barak 7). Yolanda immediately realizes her ignorance in the situation and she yearns to correct her poor communication skills. As a result, she begins to study the English language constantly, both reading and writing. [...]
[...] Carla, as the oldest sister, represents the fear that is associated with the girls' need to learn a new language: struggle to master a second language is a constant reminder to these girls of their weakened position as strangers in a new land” (Williams 44). This difficulty is best shown with Carla's childhood encounter with a sexual predator who exposes himself to her. When she tells her mother what has happened, the police are immediately called. However, Carla finds herself unable to explain what she saw: “Carla thought hard for what could be the name of a man's genitals . [...]
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