Losing my Spanish feels like losing part of myself
Spanish was my first language. It was the only language I knew until I was 5 and began school in the U.S.
At first, going to school felt scary because I didn’t speak English. I would cry, and explain as best I could that I had a stomachache and needed to go to the nurse. Then I’d tell the nurse I needed to go home.
Now, it’s hard to imagine struggling with English because English feels much more natural to me than the language in which I spoke my first words back in the Dominican Republic. At 17, I write, think, and even dream in English.
But my mom never really learned English. For most of my life, I’ve translated government documents into Spanish for her. I’ve translated school forms, parent-teacher conferences, text messages, emails, and songs on the radio.
About a year ago, my mom, a home health aide, called me from work. She works mostly with Spanish speakers, but her new patient spoke only English. The woman wanted a certain kind of bread from the supermarket and had lost patience trying to communicate that to my mom.
People have so little patience for those who speak minimal English. They ask, judgment in their voice, “How could you live in the United States for so long and still not know English?” They assume that after 12 years here, she’s lazy or just doesn’t want to learn the language.
Be sure to read the full article here: https://ny.chalkbeat.org/2023/1/27/23563439/spanish-english-bilingual-language-attrition
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