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My Broken Language


A Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright tells her lyrical coming of age story in a ...
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Spanish words and phonetic spellings are laced throughout. What do you think Quiara achieves by mixing language in this way? What does it say about the ability of language to bridge—or not—cultural gaps?

Created: 01/06/22

Replies: 13

Posted Jan. 06, 2022 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
davinamw

Join Date: 10/15/10

Posts: 2913

Spanish words and phonetic spellings are laced throughout. What do you think Quiara achieves by mixing language in this way? What does it say about the ability of language to bridge—or not—cultural gaps?

Language and dialect play an integral role in the memoir's style. Spanish words and phonetic spellings are laced throughout. What do you think Quiara achieves by mixing language in this way? What does it say about the ability of language to bridge—or not to bridge—cultural gaps?


Posted Jan. 06, 2022 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
bettiet

Join Date: 03/11/20

Posts: 7

RE: Spanish words and phonetic spellings...

I stumbled over many of the Spanish phrases as I first started reading this book, yearning for either an immediate translation or a glossary at the back. At some point I remembered that she had stumbled through Spanish as well, and indeed, the title of the book is My Broken Language. So we were entering into her world in a linguistic, visceral way and I appreciated it as being part of the art of this memoir.


Posted Jan. 06, 2022 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
paulak

Join Date: 04/21/11

Posts: 231

RE: Spanish words and phonetic spellings...

I think it reflected the varied cultures that made up her life and was the musical backdrop of her home. Thinking back on other homes I have visited where parents or others had other-than-English as their main language, this was also the case. This reminded me a great deal of Luis Urrea's writing (a high compliment indeed), especially in his book "The House of Broken Angels" which is also a memoir.


Posted Jan. 07, 2022 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
melanieb

Join Date: 08/30/14

Posts: 265

RE: Spanish words and phonetic spellings...

It shows the fluidity of language and how our minds reach to complete the thought or make sense of the expression even when we’re not communicating perfectly.


Posted Jan. 08, 2022 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Elizabeth

Join Date: 07/10/19

Posts: 20

RE: Spanish words and phonetic spellings...

Quiara used Spanish to share her mother's culture and "proper" English to identify her father's language. It completely worked in allowing me to feel how she struggled to integrate two very different cultures.


Posted Jan. 09, 2022 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
djcminor

Join Date: 03/14/19

Posts: 172

RE: Spanish words and phonetic spellings...

The sprinkling of Spanish throughout the story links the story to Quirara's heritage--mixing English and Spanish.


Posted Jan. 09, 2022 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
dorinned

Join Date: 10/13/14

Posts: 165

RE: Spanish words and phonetic spellings...

Even though I do not speak Spanish and know only a little of the language, other than the similarity with French which I have studied fairly extensively, I found the mixing in of the Spanish words and phrases a charming addition to the story. It definitely enhanced the flavor of the characters for me. An interesting treatment of language in writing. Maybe that had something to do with the title?


Posted Jan. 09, 2022 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
kimk

Join Date: 10/16/10

Posts: 603

RE: Spanish words and phonetic spellings...

I think Quiara was writing the way she speaks, with a mix of English and Spanish. In fact, that's one of the things I really liked about the book - the author's conversational tone. Her voice really came through, and it made her account feel really honest.


Posted Jan. 11, 2022 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Marcia S

Join Date: 02/08/16

Posts: 399

RE: Spanish words and phonetic spellings...

I think it expressed Quiara as she sees herself. She was revealing both sides of her heritage. The Spanish made it seem more real.


Posted Jan. 20, 2022 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
acstrine

Join Date: 02/06/17

Posts: 342

RE: Spanish words and phonetic spellings...

I'm not surprised that Quiara used both English and Spanish in telling her story. In fact, I think she perfectly honored all the different parts of herself. While she may not know as much Spanish as she would have liked, her Puerto Rican ancestry is a very large part of her identity.

Is it also possible that Quiara provided the reader with an opportunity to feel the frustration of not understanding a language different from his/her own? Puerto Ricans ARE American citizens. However, many stores, hospitals, schools, government offices, and college admissions offices don't provided translated information, translators, or information written in Spanish. Gabi was even placed in a "special" class because of assumptions that were made about her language.


Posted Jan. 20, 2022 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
kimk

Join Date: 10/16/10

Posts: 603

RE: Spanish words and phonetic spellings...

I really enjoyed the Spanish that the author included. One reason was that it seemed so natural to her - that's how she talks, especially to her mom's family, slipping in the occasional Spanish word. The other reason it appealed to me is that my pandemic hobby has been learning Spanish, so I enjoyed reading words I recognized.


Posted Jan. 21, 2022 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
susannak

Join Date: 01/06/22

Posts: 5

RE: Spanish words and phonetic spellings...

Whereas at times it broke up the readers' train of thought, I did look up some of the words to understand. In cultures such as she was, in between her native and adopted life, it was easy for her to interchange the two. I felt it added to reality of her world.


Posted Jan. 22, 2022 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
magra

Join Date: 09/18/19

Posts: 4

RE: Spanish words and phonetic spellings...

Besides the idea of her being between two cultures I saw an invitation to learn more about another language and culture. It helped to draw me into another world.


Posted Jan. 23, 2022 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
juliaa

Join Date: 12/03/11

Posts: 249

RE: Spanish words and phonetic spellings...

Because I am bilingual (English-Spanish) I found the mixing of languages an enhancement. As others have noted, the author grew up between two cultures, and as she remarks at one point "My inglés was as good as the next Malvernite's, but my Mom's wasn't, and I sensed trouble ahead" (p.23). The mixing of languages is reflective of Quiara's world, and without this mixing, I think the memoir would have lost some of its power. That said, I do understand how the language mixing can be a bit disconcerting to a monolingual reader, at least until she or he gets accustomed to it.


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