Growing up Bilingual

By Roxanna Gutierrez, President’s Office Intern

Today I was remembering some of my childhood memories from elementary school; specifically, I remembered how embarrassed I used to get when I would mispronounce a word in English. First, I would blush and then I would repeat the scenario multiple times in my head until my brain would ache. This was somewhat common and frustrating for me. I had the support during school from my teachers but not the adequate help at home.

Growing up bilingual can be both a privilege and a challenge— not everyone has the advantage of having an English-speaking parent nor the privilege of having parents who can help you expand your vocabulary by reading you soothing bedtime stories. My experience as a first-generation student was difficult, but I love the perseverance it gave me because now I have the patience and ability to acquire new languages at a rapid paceI am currently learning my fourth language. Although my experience growing up bilingual helped shaped me, my feelings are not  unique, and I encourage first-generation students to embrace their frustration when learning a new language because it pays off when interacting with people who are not native English speaking.

It was not until I recently traveled abroad  and  began interacting with people of other nationalities and cultures that I realized how strange the English-only attitude that thrives in the U.S. is. By English-only attitude, I am referring to the perspective that all immigrants in the U.S.  have historically been forced to acquire, such as prioritizing English over other languages and assimilating to the  dominant culture. This attitude suppresses the desire to be bilingual, especially in Spanish. Additionally, this attitude traces back to imperialist, white supremacist history and non-inclusive immigration policies. However, the future is not only female, but it is also linguistically diverse. Because of rapid migration patterns enabled through globalization, more and more people speak multiple languages. The more we embrace other cultures and languages, the more efficient our nation becomes economically, socially, and politically. Many nations encourage the ability and  integration of bilingualism and multilingualism, and they promote a multicultural environment by respecting people from other cultures. This is what the United States needs.

The U.S., now more than ever, needs to become more accepting by respecting other languages, and by stopping the bigotry the current administration promotes.  People living in the United States need to stop constantly judging others who speak broken English or who have a foreign accent.  We take for granted what our minds can achieve when we limit ourselves to only speaking English. The focus should be on learning as many languages as possible because languages are beautiful, and it is vital that we  develop an inclusive and rich linguistic society that tolerates people from and of other cultures

People, like me, who have learned English as their second language have the gift of being able to communicate effectively in multiple ways and to smoothly adapt to other cultures. Bilingual and multilingual people can embrace cross-cultural challenges and narratives, and we are a fundamental part of the United States, its culture, and its future.

One response to “Growing up Bilingual

  1. Latin is the root language of English, something our one language friends seem to choose to forget, therefore in their penchant of speaking only one official colonial language, they are in fact pledging allegiance still to the crown of long gone monarchy. The whims of abuse and tyranny continue however, in the crown-corporation takeover of our government and educational systems, leaving the promise of freedom everyday more in peril.

    I say, learn to speak 2, 3 and even 4 languages as it is a gift to use as seen fit, and in doing so learn and teach how other cultures are not as prejudicial or ignorant as one language people intend them to be; especially prior to conquering or colonizing them into loosing their lands, culture, and freedom. For Native American tribes, their insistence on retaining their language and culture has not died. They have reserved their rights despite the genocidal horde inflicting human rights abuses on a level so disgusting the crown-corporation governments would rather gloss over and whitewash out of history. Nonetheless, sentient beings with an ounce of conscience realize that there is no excuse for what has happened and is still trying to be perpetuated by an insistence on one language. Multi-language speakers are able to see through the smoke-screens of deception precisely because the linguistic tactics of obfuscation present in one language does not exist in others.

    Remember this if anything: Latin is the language of the learned, but they would have you believe otherwise, that you are slower or less capable when in reality this is quite the opposite, and your skills and native knowing are in much demand – and that is what scares them, that you might realize this, and stand up for what is right in your full human worth, pointing out their deceptions at every turn.

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