ESL

Your English.

WOW. Your English is very good.

If I had a dollar for every time I heard that sentence. I would probably be out of debt by now.

I try my best to bite my tongue. Because no one wants to hear what I have to say, let alone care to hear where I come from. If they only knew how many times that happens. How people often talk to you in Spanish because they hear the thick accents of your parents. How people assume you don’t know a lick of English. How people assume that you were born in Mexico and ask you questions about where you are from.

My Mom would tell me how ladies would look at her and ask what part of Mexico my brother and I were from. When she would reply, “They were born here”, they more then often would repeat the question. They would ignore her. Because her accent gave her away. You’re not from here and neither are your kids.

Growing up people always asked how I spoke English so fluently. Because the minute they saw my name on paper, they went straight to my last name. Didn’t matter that my paperwork was in front of them.  All they saw was my last name before they saw me. I remember how my childhood friends parents would talk. Talk as if I wasn’t in front of them. I was always “that little Mexican girl”. How it was amazing how the little Mexican girl can enunciate her English words. Just as fluently as the Spanish words come out.

How do you speak without an accent?
Is your first language English or Spanish?
Why is your English so good?

I wish people would stop talking. Or when they try to be funny and talk in Spanish to me. As if my language is a party trick for their amusement.  After they had second guessed my English.

It doesn’t matter what I say. It’s not what they want to hear. They want to hear my accent. They want to hear me mess up my words and be there to correct me. They want to prove a point that no matter how many times I say I was born in the States, they want to tell me I am from Mexico. They want to hear me get angry in Spanish. They want the Mexican to come out of me.

One day, people are not going to like what I have to say.
One day the taste of blood in my mouth will not hold back my tongue.
One day  I am going to say “Funny, how English is my Second Language and I speak it better than you do.”

But I won’t dare. That’s what people want from me. Instead, I bite my tongue. Allow my mouth to overflow with the blood of my tongue. The blood that keeps me together. The blood that keeps me sane. I have learned that at this point, it’s not worth a fight. It’s just best to let this all go.

My English is good because I was born in the states.
My English is good because I was born in the states.
My english is good because I was born in the states..

Am I making myself clear yet?

 

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Se Habla Espanol.

I speak Spanish.

It’s not a sign I wear often. I don’t scream it from the rooftops. It’s not perfect, but when I need the language to communicate, it amazes me how it rolls off the tongue. I don’t advertise it on my skin, but I do wear it like a badge of honor. In an English dominated country, I find myself torn between the two languages. I am very proud of my languages, my cultures, and my roots. I am very proud to be of two different and very diverse cultures. Even prouder to be able to have my heart in one country and my roots in another. The past couple of months have been a wake up call to my heritage. I am watching people whom I have considered friends and family, turn around and speak against the very foundations of my language. It’s only cool to know the Spanish language when people see fit to their needs. When a holiday comes up, or after a few drinks, and everyone thinks it’s funny to say a word or two. I have watched people make a mockery of my language in a series of comedic jokes and racist rants. I have sat and watched my peers ask me the correct pronunciations of words, to later mock someone speaking in their native tongue.  These are my languages that I speak to communicate with everyone. English or Spanish, Espanol o Ingles. I may not always get the words right, I may fumble and mispronounce sentiments, but these are my words.

My language is not here to intimidate you.

When I speak in a tongue that is not natural to you, I am not here to intimidate you. There are many misconceptions about knowing two languages, but I use my language to communicate with my gente (my people)–my familia (my family), my friends, my colleagues. I am not observing you, I am not judging you. I have nothing to hide from you. I speak passionately, poetically and profusely about my life, in a tongue that is natural to me. Using my hands, speaking an octave higher than most, because that is how my language expresses itself. My first language, my second language; voices that come from me in the moment that I need to communicate to a variety of different people. How can a person who doesn’t know me at all, ask me to speak in a tongue that is natural to me? Both languages come naturally to me, and I use them how I see fit.

My language is not a party trick.

When I speak the words you do not understand, it is not an open invitation to entertain you with. Yes, I know another language other than English. No, I will not sit here and prove to you that I know how to speak said language. I am not a magician. I am not pulling words out of a hat, while wearing a sparkly costume. My language is not a party trick, my language is my lifeline; it’s my alma/soul and my corazon/heart. My secret power that allows me to be close to my roots –to my ancestors, to my family, to people who understand me. I did not come here to impress you with my words that you will use against me. Telling lies of how my language holds me back from my peers; the same language you want me to repeat.

My language is not here for you to state “Say something in Spanish… It’s so much prettier in Spanish“.

Spanish, as well as English, is a beautiful language.  Both languages with written words have a poetry about them. Spoken in terms of endearment or passionately in a rage, but my words are not here to turn you on. I will not roll my “r’s” at you. I will not come at you in a rage of anger and speak obscenities for no reason. I am not here to fulfill your fantasies or desires of a certain cultural stereotype. I am not spicy, I will not call you papi, carino, amor, or any other stereotypical terms of endearment. I have a Papi, and he didn’t raise me to belittle myself to become a caricature of your fantasies. So, No. I will not say something in Spanish. I will speak to you in English, because it’s just as pretty as Spanish.

Spanish or English, Espanol o Ingles, I will be protective of my language. Speak passionately and not allow anyone to make me feel less of a person by speaking it. My language gives me the strength to be brave and to feel a sense of pride of where I have come from. A pride in my heritage and the people that have spoke the language before me. Something that has taken a long time to realize.  Proud of who I am. Proud of the very roots that have allowed me to grow into the person I am today. One language isn’t stronger than the other. As the years go by, I realize it is a blessing more than a curse to know both English and Spanish. No matter what anyone says. I may not always get the words right, but eventually I will make things right.