When you’re bilingual, you have to hold on to your roots

Lesly Vasquez, Staff Writer
March 27, 2015

Yo soy mí lenguaje, pero no abuses.” Speaking two languages, I get asked one question almost daily: ‘How do you say this in Spanish?’ It’s always very comforting to know that I just helped somebody expand their knowledge on something, even if it’s small. I especially enjoy it when the person is asking the question for useful purposes and not for the abuse of the language.

Being Hispanic myself, I had to learn how to blend in but still trying to keep my roots alive from my culture.

Si no aprendes ahora, nunca aprenderás. While I was growing up in a Spanish-speaking family, my parents enforced the tradition of learning Spanish because it was the only way to communicate with them. They would prefer that I speak the language in which I was brought up.

No nací y crecí en México, pero mis raíces son reales. I was born in California, so English came easily. What was difficult was learning Spanish. I heard everyone around me speaking it, so I caught a few words, but there were always those silly words that I would most often forget.

When I was 10 years old, I would always forget how to say “elefante,” so instead I would end up putting my right hand towards my nose and making a trumpet noise. It was entertaining to some people to see me act out an elephant, but to me, it was the most frustrating thing possible.

Yo soy diferente comparado con los demas. I went to school with many Hispanics, so Spanish followed me to school. This was great, until I noticed some high-class Southern preps whispering “Do they not know that we speak English in America?”

It continued to be this way until high school. My freshman year was the last straw, when I heard a boy saying “This is America, we speak English here.”

When I heard that, I also heard my mother’s voice in my head saying “Que nunca se te olvide tu lenguaje.” It was inspiration to help me become better at speaking both languages.

By the end of my freshman year of high school my accent was completely gone, which is something that scared me, but it helped me blend in with the others. It was all that I truly wanted, but made me feel guilty. I would speak perfect English and nobody ever noticed I was Hispanic, until I spoke Spanish, of course.

I might have been born in California but I was raised in a small town in North Carolina called Asheboro. There’s never much going on, but when Christmas season always comes around, they set lights all over the town. A week before Christmas they do a little festival called “Christmas on Sunset,” on Sunset Ave.

Me and my family usually just drive by and see everyone having a great time, and every time I look through the window of the passenger seat, I imagine the future.

Will I keep the traditions that my parents taught me throughout my life? Or will I end up putting stockings all over the house? Will I be able to keep my roots alive inside of me? Or will I want to get my niece to put up a star on top of the Christmas tree?

Being bilingual is not all about the language, it’s about what you’ve been taught throughout your life and always staying true to your roots. It’s a privilege to know two languages, but it’s a necessity to always remember where you come from.

Blending in with a culture that isn’t yours can have its pros and cons. You will either lose yourself, or find that your roots will never leave you no matter what you try to do.

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