36.IV. Reading Comprehension (each 2%, total 30%)
At school, there were several incidents of name-calling and stone-throwing,
which our teachers claimed would stop if my sisters and I joined in with the other kids
and quit congregating together at recess and jabbering away in Spanish. Those were
the days before bilingual education or multicultural studies, when kids like us were
thrown in the deep end of the public school pool and left to fend for ourselves. Not
everyone came up for air.
Mommy managed to get us scholarships to her old boarding school where Good
Manners and Tolerance and English Skills were required. We were also all required to
study a foreign language, but my teacher talked me into taking French. In fact, they
felt my studying Spanish was equivalent to my taking a “gut course.” Spanish was my
native tongue, after all, a language I already had in the bag and would always be able
to speak whenever I wanted. Meanwhile, with Saturday drills and daily writing
assignments, our English skills soon met school requirements. By the time my sisters
and I came home for vacations, we were rolling our eyes in exasperation at our
old-world Mommy and Papi, using expressions like far out, and what a riot! And outta
sight, and believe you me as if we had been born to them.
As rebellious adolescents, we soon figured out that conducting our filial business
in English gave us an edge over our strict, Spanish-speaking parents. We could spin
circles around my mother’s absolutamente no by pointing out flaws in her arguments,
in English. My father was a pushover for pithy quotes from Shakespeare, and a
recitation of “The quality of mercy is not strained” could usually get me what I wanted.
Usually, there are areas we couldn’t touch with a Shakespearean ten-foot pole: the area
of boys and permission to go places where there might be boys, American boys, with
their mouths full of bubblegum and their minds full of the devil.
Our growing distance from Spanish was a way in which we were setting
ourselves free from that old world where, as girls, we didn’t have much say about what we could do with our lives. In English, we didn’t have to use the formal usted that
immediately put us in our place with our elders. We were responsible for ourselves and
that made us feel grown-up. We couldn’t just skirt culpability by using the reflexive,
the bag of cookies did not finish itself, nor did the money disappear itself from
Mommy’s purse. We had no one to bail us out of American trouble once we went our
own way in English. No family connections, no to whose name might open doors for
us. If the world was suddenly less friendly, it was also more exciting. We found out we
could do things we had never done before. We could go places in English we never
could in Spanish, if we put our minds to it. And we put our combined four minds to it.
【題組】36. The author was persuaded to take French classes by her _____.