Helen LiAmerica: Choices and VoicesMrs.
BaileyDecember 11, 2017Yolanda’s Relationship with LanguageIn How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, Yolanda leaves Dominican Republic at an early age and struggle to find her true cultural self because of her relationship with language. After moving to the US, the sisters goes through difficult changes to adjust to the new culture. Yolanda, especially, always has had a close relationship with her writing and poetry. Unfortunately, her establishment to a new “self” gives her eagerness to adapt the new culture through language, and it has trapped her between two different cultures. By the connection between language and identity in the story, it shows its severe effects on foreign speakers. Yolanda discovers her romantic relationships tangled by her Dominican background.
In the book, she talks about her past two relationships with American men, and both relationships did not work because of the language disagreement and cultural misunderstandings. Throughout the book, Yolanda depends on language to establish relationships by communicating thought and feelings. Yolanda struggles to connect with her ex-husband John after finding barriers with communicating in poetic language. In the chapter, Yolanda describes special rhyming games she and John would play in their marriage. Yolanda’s fluent understandings in two languages instantly gives her an advantage over John in the game and therefore distances her from him. Yolanda finds herself better than him at language, “And Yo was running, like the mad, into the safety of her first tongue, where the proudly monolingual John could not catch her, even if he tried” (Alvarez, 72). The difficulty of understanding each other and the differences between them through language and communication make Yolanda mistrust him.
After a confession from John about his lack of connection with her on language, Yolanda’s feeling of mistrust and miscommunication becomes a reality. When Yolanda’s mother asks her the reason she left John, she says, “We just didn’t speak the same language” (Alvarez, 81). Yolanda has been shaped by two cultures and two languages; the mix cultures make her more difficult to communicate in a deeper level with others.
This gives an idea of her need to find a partner with multiple cultural and linguistic identities like herself, and someone who can understand all her languages. Yolanda also did not have a successful relationship with her college fling Rudy. Rudy’s crude and tasteless words diminishes her sense of worth and lovability. Not only Rudy speaks another language, but he also uses words to judge her foreign appearance. He made expectations about Yolanda based on her ethnicity and culture, which led to his regret and her broken feeling Besides her relationship with John, Yolanda’s relationship with Rudy also includes many varieties of wordplay. In the chapter, the couple writes sonnets together. Because Yolanda is from another culture, Rudy often has to describe the double meanings he writes in them, and it confuses Yolanda.
Many times, Yolanda’s experience of being bicultural, bilingual and a foreigner, makes her connections with Americans, a hard territory to direct. When their relationship starts to develop in a deeper level, she talks about Rudy, “But the guy had no sense of connotation in bed. His vocabulary turned me off even as I was beginning to acknowledge my body’s pleasure.” (Alvarez, 96). If Rudy used a better language that Yolanda would accept, then she may have reconsidered. However, she found his language intolerable and inappropriate.
She doesn’t want to remember herself feeling uncomfortable especially it is her first time. Not only does Yolanda hate Rudy’s uncomfortable words and phrases, but she also struggles with her knowledge for vocabulary, not knowing words for her own body. At first Rudy explains with patience with Yolanda and tries to describe vocabulary to her. However, after a month he gets annoy with her ignorance about sex. Rudy being fed up proves even that he is even worse than John’s honest opinions about misunderstanding Yolanda.
Rudy’s confession shows his initial intentions for pursuing Yolanda; he sees her as any other woman, but since she is from another culture, she is “easy” in comparison to American women. Yolanda again struggles with her relationships, and she wishes to live in a world of biculturals whom she could share her cultural difficulties with and possibly have a better relationship. Language is important for discovering one’s background and recognize with one’s present for being an insider and outsider in two cultures. Throughout the novel, fear and insecurity find expression in her vast change of languages. Yolanda’s sensitivity with language affected her behavior with others. Yolanda goes through a journey that gives her a more clear understanding of herself and accept herself for who she is. By making language a key part of self awareness, Julia Alvarez explores the differences in speaking and the language of another culture.