For Yolanda the poet, words are really super-duper important. Language isn't just a way of describing reality—language is a part of reality. Words are so important to Yolanda that she sees them as an essential part of her identity. Having twenty-seven nicknames (more or less) in two different languages makes Yolanda feel fragmented, like she's being chopped up into little pieces. Sometimes being bilingual makes her feel this way, too. Having to remember two languages sometimes makes her forget words in both of them; instead of feeling fluent in both languages, she feels like she hasn't mastered either one.
And this theme reverberates throughout the entire novel—you didn't think you'd be reading a book called How The García Girls Lost Their Accents and have it not be about language, did you?
Questions About Language and Communication
How many nicknames does Yolanda have? How do all these different names make her feel?
In the chapter "Joe," why do Yolanda's parents check her into a mental hospital? What signs does Yolanda give them that she is sick? What signs show that she is getting better?
Which words does Yolanda develop an allergy to? What's so special about those words?
Does Yolanda see her bilingualism as a strength or a weakness? Does her opinion on this always stay the same?
Chew on This
Yolanda's inability to communicate with her husband makes her completely lose faith in her own ability to use language. We know she's getting better when she can start writing again, with renewed faith that "there is no end to what can be said about the world" (1.4.173).
Being bilingual isn't just a superpower that the characters in this book can call upon whenever they want to. Being bilingual is hard. In fact, bilingualism is portrayed in this novel as being more trouble than it's worth.