Personal Narrative: My Spanish Language Essay

It’s always on the back of my mind, and resurfaces to my thoughts when I’m in any social setting regarding Spanish—my second language. I am 3/4 Puerto Rican and 1/4 European, though my pigment carried from the European side, as I have the typical blonde hair and blue eyes. My father was born in Puerto Rico and my mother, although being born here, her mother was Czechoslovakian and Polish, my mother’s father was born in Puerto Rico much like my own father. It always boggles me why I don’t look more Spanish due to the more Spanish heritage I contain. When people see me, they only see my pigment—white.

They don’t see the Spanish part, supposedly, until I tell them; then they give me a “Right” or “I see it now” as if they’ve known all along. I brush it all off my shoulder until I try to speak Spanish to others, which I rarely do to avoid judgmental stares or judgmental thoughts the other actual Spanish person may have. I cherish the fact that I have the ability to speak Spanish yet rarely speak it because from the other side all the actual Spanish person will see is “another white boy trying to speak their language,” only seeing my pigment and not the real person underneath.

This all started during the Fall of 2011, my freshman year of high school. I had no prior education of Spanish due to the New York City Department of Education who restricted my enrollment into Junior High Spanish. I wasn’t permitted to take Spanish in junior high school because I had an IEP, or an Individualized Education Plan, which was created to accommodate the needs of public school children with learning disabilities like myself. Instead of taking Spanish, I was placed in an enrichment class to acclimate those with IEP’s to high school level work.

When starting my first year of high school in September 2011, I knew very few Spanish words which included: Hola (Hello), Adios (Goodbye), and the interjection, Cono (A word my grandmother often said when she got frustrated, and would “kick the hell out of us” if she ever heard my sisters and I say it. ) As the fall semester went by, I was learning Spanish at a fast rate yet speaking it at a very mediocre rate. Upon announcing to my Spanish family members that I was enrolled in a Spanish course, they would immediately ask me to have a conversation with them only in Spanish, to which I if not immediately, got embarrassed and panicked.

I learned to avoid this by hiding my Spanish class from those family members going forward. This only got worse much to my dismay when we were asked to present a dialogue in front of the class with the teacher which included responses to the teacher’s questions regarding the dialogue’s context, picked at random of course. About 3 minutes into the conversation with the entire class staring at me, I had run out of general responses to dodge my teacher’s questions which with time had only become more complex.

So embarrassed by my mediocre display, I had fainted in front of the class only to regain consciousness a minute later with the whole class staring down at me. I spent the rest of that day in the nurses office until my sister came to bring me home. With my high school reputation diminished, the rest of the semester had gone surprisingly better. I passed my final Spanish exam with a 93% and my aptitude for Spanish had increased with each coming year. Mastering my Spanish regents my junior year of high school with an 87%, and passing the oral examination part with a perfect score much to my surprise.

Though I had finally succeeded in Spanish, and things were looking up, I still have that eerie feeling when I try to speak Spanish to others. It’s the feeling I had the day I fainted, it’s the judgmental stares I received from my classmates—the same judgmental stares I get when trying to speak Spanish openly to a fluent Spanish speaking person while the receiving end sees me as “just another gringo destroying our language with his white accent—it isn’t right. Though I shouldn’t think these things when trying to speak Spanish because it isn’t true, it’s not what the other person is thinking and it is my language too.

I have just as much a right as anyone else to speak it because it is a way of connecting with my culture. Although I have always been encouraged by my own father to speak Spanish, I will ensure that my own children have no fear in speaking Spanish to anyone—it will be our language, we will have just as much a right as anyone to speak it. It is a way to connect with our culture and ultimately the rest of the world.