How to Tame a Wild Tongue by Gloria Anzaldua


Numerous literary works around the globe examine various facets of life, and many of those creations rarely focus on one single aspect. In her writing How to Tame a Wild Tongue, Gloria Anzaldua discusses her experience of being a Chicana in the American community but also debates the subjects of feminism, belonging, and culture. Although Anzaldua explores several matters, they are all interconnected under a unified topic. Anzaldua’s short story concerns a theme of individuality against society by illustrating the author’s struggles against Angloness and, sometimes, her own people.


How to Tame a Wild Tongue demonstrates Anzaldua’s endeavors to find and keep her identity through the writer’s relations with language. A person can represent their uniqueness by speaking a certain language, including specific dialects, accents, and inflections (Perkins 46). One’s language is connected to their social identity, which can be threatened through discrimination by undermining a sense of belonging and esteem (Perkins 46). Accordingly, Anzaldua narrates her experiences of being treated differently for not speaking like other people. As a Chicana in the United States, Anzaldua was expected to communicate in American English alongside her mother tongue. However, she was criticized for not having a proper American pronunciation at school and was pushed to change her accent (Anzaldua 34). When talking to Latinos and Latinas, Gloria was perceived as a betrayer sabotaging Spanish by speaking the intimidator’s language, English (Anzaldua 35). The author states that she and other Chicanas used English as a neutral way of conveying among themselves because they considered their tongue shameful (Anzaldua 39). As language can reflect one’s identity, Anzaldua’s story depicts the writer’s inability to belong to a particular group due to vocabulary barriers.

Creation of Unique Language

Anzaldua suggests that because the public did not fully accept her, she formed her individuality by incorporating linguistic elements of every society. During centuries of being oppressed, Chicanos have transformed Spanish, and after years of living in a mixed community, the narrator has developed a distinct manner of talking (Anzaldua 37). Since childhood, Gloria has used English and its variations with Chicanas and most Americans, Spanglish with her siblings and some Tejano peers, and Pachuco with friends of her age (Anzaldua 36). The story’s writing may be difficult to comprehend for a person who does not know Spanish because Anzaldua incorporates many Chicano words and phrases into the text. Nonetheless, one can argue that the author employs a combination of languages to express how she thinks and constructs sentences in her mind rather than to confuse the audience (Anzaldua 37). Gloria had created her own wild tongue, which broke her culture’s traditions of silence, thus giving her confidence to challenge biases, such as questioning patriarchy and homophobia (Aguilar-Hernández 4). As a result of being discriminated against, Anzaldua did not join any particular group but rather learned something special from them.

Search for Identity

Although Anzaldua explores the theme of a person against the public by focusing on her character, she illustrates the obscurity of every Chicano and Chicana’s identity. People whose mother tongue is Chicano Spanish feel uncomfortable because society often diminishes them based on the language (Anzaldua 39). The author states that she sensed that her culture really existed only after reading her first Chicano novel in the 1960s (Anzaldua 40). While spoken words had caused Gloria’s insecurity, written words made her proud of her background (Anzaldua 40). Consequently, the writer realizes the uncertainty of many Chicanos and those whose native language is Spanish. Such individuals use English, refer to themselves as of Spanish culture, have predominant Indian genes, call themselves Mexican-American to relate to Americans, and utilize other names in the Western hemisphere (Anzaldua 43). The author proposes that the struggle for identities continues for Chicanos because they are surrounded by borders inside and outside (Anzaldua 44). The story demonstrates Anzaldua’s experiences with language discrimination and followed self-doubt and reflects Chicano people’s endeavors to understand who they are and can be in biased settings.


To summarize, Anzaldua’s How to Tame a Wild Tongue discloses the theme of individuality against society, concentrating on how the public treats particular persons differently based on the way they communicate. The narration appears to be trustworthy, as it is from the perspective of someone raised in a community of mixed cultures rather than from the standpoint of a mere observer. Anzaldua was expected to use distinct language and accent in each group she entered and learned to speak in variations of Spanish and English. The author exhibits her diverse background by writing primarily in English while incorporating many Spanish words into the text to show her manner of thinking. Anzaldua is the main character of her own story, but she demonstrates the experiences of numerous Chicanas and Chicanos in the United States. The people face discrimination that leads to a lack of confidence, hinders their personalities, and creates obstacles. Accordingly, Anzaldua suggests that learning to appreciate her unique language and culture helped develop her identity and begin to question biases.

Works Cited

Aguilar-Hernández, José. “Queering Critical Race Pedagogy: Reflections of Disrupting Erasure While Centering Intersectionality.” International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, vol. 33, no. 6, 2020, pp. 1-16.

Anzaldua, Gloria. How to Tame a Wild Tongue. 1987.

Perkins, Ariel. “Black Language, Social Identity, and the “Gap”.” Cardinal Compositions, vol. 5, no. 1, 2021, pp. 44-48.

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