Bilingual Education: “Aria” by Richard Rodriguez

Richard Rodriguez addressed the issue of bilingual education in the United States. His memoir suggests that he could not fully integrate into American society because in his private life where he mostly communicates in Spanish. For Rodriguez, public and private languages cannot coexist together as they hinder the cultural adaptation of a person. His work shows how bilingualism can result in the identity crisis of a young individual. Therefore, this essay argues that rhetorical devices used in Aria a Memoir of a Bilingual Childhood are effective in reaching the goal of presenting issues of integration of a bilingual child.

Before analyzing the text, it is crucial to understand the story and context. The events in this book take place in the early 1900s when the author was a little child entering his first American school. Rodriguez describes being called a “problem student” as a Hispanic American kid in an all-white school, which is one of the key themes of his biography. Another topic addressed in this memoir is his struggle to learn English when he felt more at ease speaking Spanish. Discrimination and the inability to adjust to two distinct languages is a difficulty that affects more than half of the world’s population. The purpose of Rodriguez’s book is to raise awareness and reflect on the problems of bilingual children growing up in a world where English has become the predominant language of communication. Rodriguez describes what he lost and acquired when migrating from Spanish to English education and cultural situations in first-person stories of his life and family culture.

Rodriguez was successful in establishing a better connection with his audience by developing his goal through first-person stories. The author’s writing style swings between professional and casual tones as he connects his prior experiences to the pedagogical and societal difficulties that bilingual youngsters confront today. Consequently, the audience can be attentive to the real issues on a more intimate level. Rodriguez’s expertise allows him to demonstrate different points of view on dual language learning. At the end of his memoir, he describes how radio and television advertising offers two perspectives on bilingual schooling.

The author’s tone is caustic and insecure about growing up in a multilingual family as he did not know what side of his identity is prevailing. Rodriguez points out to the difficulties of being socially isolated both within and outside of his household due to the language barriers. Along with the unpleasant tone and shame of his family and learning disabilities, the readers may clearly recognize his true feelings and emotions. As the story begins to develop, the author acknowledges his sorrow at moving away from his Spanish heritage and integrating into the American society with its values and beliefs. The two-part tone reflects the multilingual effect on youth and their future in the country.

Symbolism and pathos are two literary conventions and rhetorical methods utilized by Richard Rodriguez in Aria: A Memoir of a Bilingual Childhood. Rodriguez’s residence and the public at large serve as symbols in the composition. Young Rodriguez associated his time at home with comfort and safety. Furthermore, Rodriguez’s Home served as a “pleasant, relaxing, and reassuring reminder” that he was in a safe haven away from “los gringos” (Rodriguez, 28) In contrast, the general public, which included Rodriguez’s neighborhood, school, and the store, represented a time when he was terrified of the English language sounds, the experience of feeling isolated from other English-speaking children, and the belief that his parents were helpless to protect him.

He was a Mexican immigrant who only speak Spanish with his family. Rodriguez struggled during school as he knew less than a hundred words in English, having difficulties communicating with his classmates and teachers. The neighbors of Rodriguez’s family were not glad of his family, as such the neighbors could tell Rodriguez’s parents “Keep your brats away from my sidewalk!” (Rodriguez 571). When Rodriguez’s studies have begun, he started to lose the “special feeling of closeness at home” when he actively learned the state language, English (Rodriguez 577). Personal experiences helped Rodriguez to rely on ethos and pathos more than on logos.

The distinction between Spanish and English was more evident when he started to compare the use of each language at home and school. “Spanish seemed to me the language of home. (Most days it was only at home that I’d hear it.) It became the language of joyful return” (Rodriguez, 306). Rodriguez stresses the terms ‘home’ and ‘language’ in this line. By doing so, he can back up his claim by demonstrating that his native tongue (Spanish) was solely spoken at home and not at school. With the use of amplification, Richard Rodriguez could completely employ rhetoric to support his assertion that a youngster is unable to use his native language in school, resulting in an overall increase in the strength of his words.

Rodriguez mentions that he has experienced discrimination every time when his teachers greeted him in English. He writes that, “without question, it would have pleased me to have heard my teachers address me in Spanish when I entered the classroom. I would have felt much less afraid… But I would have delayed…having to learn the language of public society. I would have evaded…learning the great lesson of school: that I had a public identity” (Rodriguez, 20). As for a child, public shame is harmful to their development and the condemnation of Rodriguez for not knowing some English words was a critical aspect that changed his perspective on his native and state languages. Yet, after some investigations, Rodriguez came to the conclusion that “It was not because [he] spoke English instead of Spanish. It was because [he] spoke public language” (Rodriguez 461). Here, he means that the language itself does not matter, whether it’s Spanish or English but what is important is the distinction between public and private language. This distinction determines whether or not a person can create and grow their social connections and be a part of the society in which they live in.

Almost every country promotes and funds multilingual education because knowing many languages is critical in the globalized world. There are detrimental ramifications in every remark and argument provided by Rodriguez that make readers to rethink what they know about language and identity. The author believes that a person’s native language and the public language cannot coexist, based not on science or statistics, but on his own experience of being unable to integrate into a community. His view on bilingualism leads to the conclusion that there should be just one accepted language in the country and that it should be used in both the private and public life of children.

Work Cited

Rodriguez, R. (1983). Hunger of Memory : The Education of Richard Rodriguez (Reprint ed.). Bantam.

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ChalkyPapers. (2023, May 10). Bilingual Education: "Aria" by Richard Rodriguez. Retrieved from


ChalkyPapers. (2023, May 10). Bilingual Education: "Aria" by Richard Rodriguez.

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"Bilingual Education: "Aria" by Richard Rodriguez." ChalkyPapers, 10 May 2023,


ChalkyPapers. (2023) 'Bilingual Education: "Aria" by Richard Rodriguez'. 10 May.


ChalkyPapers. 2023. "Bilingual Education: "Aria" by Richard Rodriguez." May 10, 2023.

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ChalkyPapers. "Bilingual Education: "Aria" by Richard Rodriguez." May 10, 2023.