Nestled up next to my mom on the couch, four-year-old me listened with undivided attention, hanging on her every word. This wasn't the typical Dr. Seuss or Golden Book she and I shared; it was something new to me. This book was all in Spanish. I never would have imagined that a children's book about Frida Kahlo to be the foundation for one of the things I am most passionate about today; the Spanish language.
Growing up in South Texas, it is inevitable that a public outing entails hearing the colloquial interchange of Spanish. The way it was spoken intrigued me and left me with a sense of curiosity to the meaning of the poetic tongue they spoke. I remember being a third grader, having just moved to San Antonio, learning the basics of Spanish and wanting to learn more and more. It sounded so poetic, I was driven by the idea that I could be bilingual. The possibility of doubling the number of people I could talk to blew my mind, as well as the various dialects, accents, and slang encompassed with the language. It wasn't until middle and high school when I finally got the opportunities to studying Spanish that I had been craving for so long.
Learning a language has proven to be anything but easy. For the past five years, I have extensively studied Spanish, memorizing phrases, verb tenses, and vocabulary. Progress in becoming fluent hasn't been easy but has been worth every mistake I have made. Month upon month, I have continued to find tricks to become fluent, whether it be changing the language of my phone, listening to Spanish music, or watching Spanish movies and TV shows, to the point where sometimes I think in both languages. I found that there isn't a specific methodology that works best for me, I just have a love for the language and the culture. The desire I have to learn has proven to be enough for me.
Being bilingual has opened so many doors for me that would have never been opened if I was still monolingual. It has allowed me to gain a cultural and worldly perspective, allowing me to be more open-minded to other cultures, and has instilled a strong sense of wanderlust deep in me. Spanish has added so much vibrancy and color to my world, with such a warming culture and people who never hesitate to proudly teach me all of their customs and traditions.
I dream of traveling far and wide to Spanish-speaking countries, being motivated to learn everything about the locals and how they live, getting lost in a world completely foreign to me. Having visited two Spanish-speaking countries already, I keep replaying the encounters with the friendly people I met, and the enormous smile plastered across their face once they heard me speaking their language. Those smiles are what makes the process all worthwhile. The way speaking Spanish makes me feel is a feeling I cannot shake. A whole other aspect of my personality and interests has surfaced and has pushed me out of my comfort zone overall.
Me, literally and figuratively on top of the world in Mérida, MexicoPhoto by Carly Baysinger
With my foot in the door for other romance languages, I look forward to the possibilities that I have been given by learning another language. I am thankful for the eye-opening experience I am having, getting to know more about my Spanish-speaking neighbors. I feel like my life has changed in so many ways for the better, and I have become much more confident with my communication skills and as a person overall.
I love the way my ears perk up when I hear those poetic words being carefully molded into eloquent sentences, and being able to do the same. I have discovered a passion I have, and I hope to always further it and continue learning. So, muchas gracias, Spanish, for having such a positive impact on my life, and continuously opening up so many doors for me.