A Tale of Two Languages

By Lucy Rodriguez  |   From : San Fernando, California  |   School : Social Justice Humanitas Academy

Growing up, the main languages spoken in my household were English and Spanish due to my mom being from San Diego, and my dad being from Guadalajara Mexico. At first, they weren’t very fluent in each others languages, but as they’re relationship continued, they learned how to communicate in both ways. Because of that, they taught all their children how to speak both English and Spanish at a very young age. However, I was the only one who refused to learn both.

When I was younger, I didn’t mind learning English, but when it came to Spanish, everyone failed at trying to teach me. I was stubborn and believed that learning Spanish wasn’t gonna be important to know then, and in the long run. But today, where I stand with my knowledge on the language, I see how wrong I was. Because I live in a community that is predominantly Latino and because of where part of my family comes from, Spanish is all around me. Understanding and speaking the language is so important to have some familiarity on. But because of the little education I have on it now, I have to face the same type of obstacles every day.

One particular story that comes to mind about me and and the challenges that I face was when I took a family trip to my dad’s hometown. It was the summer of 2016. School just got out and my parents have been planning this trip to Mexico since the year started. My siblings and I were also really excited to go back and see our family, but the remaining question that never left that back of my head was: How would I speak to them? Anytime I had any contact with my family members from Mexico, it felt like I was put in a battle with constant barriers in my way. Most of the time, I couldn’t even ask a question without needing one of my family member to translate for me. I couldn’t speak Spanish, and because of this, I felt ashamed and embarrassed. I began to think that’s how my parents felt about me too.

As the trip continued, everyday I had to face the same challenges over and over again. Throughout my time in Mexico, it got me to realize what I did to myself. That the decision I chose to make had affected me. I thought about my relationship with my family. How I never had a proper conversation with them. Or how I couldn’t even make small talk with them. Then I began to think about my grandparents, and about how I know nothing about them. I don’t know when I’ll get to see my family again, but when I do, I don’t want to take my time with them for granted. I want to make my time with them valuable. I want to know who my grandparents were before it’s too late.

Coming back home and having this big realization of mine, I wanted to do something about it. I began to learn some Spanish little by little, but because of how old I am now, it has been difficult. I can’t remember as much, it’s harder for me to take in the words, and their meanings, and their translations. All of it. I definitely struggled, but I never wanted to give up being fluent in that language. When high school came around, I became aware of the Spanish speaking classes I would take, and that brought me some hope. I believed that if I was being taught Spanish a beginners level and given extra time and attention with it, I could become even better than before. With my first year of high school coming to its end, so is my first year in Spanish speaking classes, and I really do believe they have helped. I know that I still need a lot more practice and skills to be learned before I become fluent and able to have conversations, but I also know that is only the beginning of what I will be taught along the way. Soon, I’m hoping to be have learned so much Spanish that the next time I see my family, they will be blown away from how much I’ve progressed.

What I learned from this experience and what I hope to teach others, is to never take life skills for granted. Because of making that one decision in my life when I was younger, really cost me a lot. I’ve struggled and am still struggling to get where I want to be today. I want others to understand that some decisions you make, will really hold you back. But you can still grow and learn from those experiences. They can’t hold you back forever. But if it comes to learning a language, like me, just take in the skill you are being given, and learn something new from it.



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