Sister Tongues

By Natalie Agosto-Garcia

As a bilingual human, finding my identity has always been a struggle. However, this became more difficult when I realized I wanted to be a writer. Though I consider myself to be fluent in both Spanish and English, I continue to feel as though words fail me in both languages. There are times when I feel things neither language would be able to adequately describe. Sometimes, I feel as though neither language is my true language, making it difficult to identify myself as a writer.

I can’t seem to find the answer to the most important question: what language do I write in? I came across a poem awhile back that didn’t give me answers, but it did give me the reassurance that I wasn’t alone in these feelings. Cuban-American Gustavo Firmat feels the same way I do when it comes to bilingual writing. His poem “Bilingual Blues” captures these feelings of struggling to belong.

Bilingual Blues
by Gustavo Firmat
Soy un ajiaco de contradicciones.
I have mixed feelings about everything.
Name your tema, I’ll hedge;
name your cerca, I’ll straddle it
like a cubano.
I have mixed feelings about everything.
Soy un ajiaco de contradicciones.
Vexed, hexed, complexed,
hyphenated, oxygenated, illegally alienated,
psycho soy, cantando voy:
You say tomato,
I say tu madre;
You say potato,
I say Pototo.
Let’s call the hole
un hueco, the thing
a cosa, and if the cosa goes into the hueco,
consider yourself en casa,
consider yourself part of the family.
Soy un ajiaco de contradicciones,
un puré de impurezas:
a little square from Rubik’s Cuba
que nadie nunca acoplará.
(Cha-cha-chá.)

Only somebody that speaks both English and Spanish could possibly make sense of a poem like this. Firmat teaches me it is okay to write in both languages because I do speak in both languages. At times, I speak both languages simultaneously porque I can’t seem to get my brain to focus en una cosa. Soy una escritora Latina and this is who I am. Because I am a Latin-American, it is my job to introduce the flavor that comes with being Latina and the garnish that comes with English as my second language.

For the longest time, I felt as though I was between two languages and also two identities. As time went on, I embraced both languages; little did I know that by doing so I embraced the two best versions of myself. I do not have a mother tongue. I have sister tongues. Something that I once thought harmed my writing career turned out to be the difference that makes me una mejor escritora. I now have a larger variety of words to choose from than just the 171,476 words the English language has to offer.

 

4 thoughts on “Sister Tongues

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