In "Aria" by Richard Rodriguez, how did the expectations of his parents and teachers change his education? What details does he use to show this change? 

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Richard Rodriguez recounts his early experiences in a predominantly white-student-body Catholic school in Sacramento, where he was forbidden to speak Spanish. One of the most poignant moments occurred at the very beginning, when he heard first his name mis-pronounced in English. Separating language into two categories of personhood, public and private, also blocked his ability to move easily between those worlds.

The school’s “English only” policy was supported by home visits, as the teaching nuns went to his home and tried to persuade his parents to give up speaking Spanish at home. As his parents wanted him to succeed but did not speak English, Richard had to adopt the role of teacher at home, placing an additional responsibility on the child. Although his knowledge of English paved the way for his future success, it came at the cost of alienation from his family and, at least temporarily, lowered his estimation of Mexican culture along with the Spanish language.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In his memoir, Rodriguez writes of being sent to a school where the students were mostly white and English speakers, unlike himself, the son of Mexican immigrants.  His parents moved into an area of Sacramento populated mostly by whites and did not try to assimilate or encourage Rodriguez to; they referred to people unlike themselves as "los gringos" or "los americanos" and spoke only Spanish at home.

At school, Rodriguez was expected to learn and speak English, "a public language."  He quickly came to think of Spanish as "private" and English as "public."  When nuns from his school came to ask his parents to speak English at home, too, to help him, his parents readily agreed.  It was difficult for him to accept, but he complied when his parents told him: "Speak to us en ingles." 

Rodriguez became fully bilingual and English became his primary language, but he felt that it resulted in a loss of closeness within his family and a loss of connection to his birth culture.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team