Every Tuesday, I participate in the Slice of Life challenge at Two Writing Teachers. Every March, the Slice of Life Challenge is a month-long experience where Slicers post every single day for the entire month. I'm joining in on the monthly challenge this year! For more information on what a Slice of Life post is about, you can go here.
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On Friday at a meeting at work, I was talking to a co-worker in Spanish when another co-worker came up and was astonished that I speak Spanish. The funny thing was that the woman who didn't know is someone I've known longer and worked more closely with. I had no idea she didn't know I speak Spanish.
I look Hispanic but if you read my post about working at the library, it's easy to look at me and think I might have any kind of different background. It's especially easy to think I'm not Hispanic once I start talking because I don't have an accent - at least, that's what people tell me.
But I grew up speaking Spanish and English. Not officially though. We spoke English at home but my grandma, my mom's mom, my Mamita always spoke to us in Spanish and any time we were at my aunt and uncle's house, they were usually speaking Spanish. (I've blogged about Mamita before here and here. She's amazing.)
My mom says that my first phrase was, "Nena did it." I'll have to ask her the context because I surely don't remember but at some point in my life for a class assignment I had to know what my first phrase was and I was surprised it was a blend of a Spanish word (nena means girl or little girl) in an English sentence.
to have to think about how and when to tell people I speak Spanish.
Sometimes it's easy, I just talk in Spanish and go from there but other times it just never comes up so I don't say anything. Or sometimes I assume people know, too. It's hard to explain. It's almost like filling in a bubble or when people ask "What are you?" except backwards. Instead, I'm supposed to declare to everyone that I speak Spanish, that I am Hispanic. It still feels awkward but I'm getting better at telling people sooner or asking someone if they speak Spanish even.
My Spanish isn't perfect...and there are lots of times when there are words I don't know so I have to work my way around them or just ask. But I love to speak Spanish, especially when it might help others. Whenever I lead professional development and find myself explaining something complicated in English to a small group of people I know speak Spanish, I will sometimes translate for them and try to explain in Spanish. I know that if I had to listen to professional development in Spanish, it would be harder than if it was in English. I also work in a district that has a dual language program so I believe we should use both English and Spanish more but...
It's tricky because I have to think about my audience and how and when I do this. I always mean to honor people and only be supportive. I never mean to offend anyone for assuming they need to hear it in Spanish - and to my knowledge, I never have - but it's still something I'm always conscious of. At the same time, I never want people who don't speak Spanish to take offense either.
to have to balance and juggle and manage how I interact with others.
I use a lot of brainpower thinking through all of this. Maybe too much? I'm not sure how many other people pay attention to seeing differences but trying to bring people together. But I feel like it's worth the energy because I can and believe someone should. Sometimes it's exhausting but maybe someday it will be a non-issue. Someday soon I hope.
But at the same time
to know I can be a bridge to connect people of different cultures.
It's taken me a while to get here but I love that I see different cultures, I speak different languages, I bring different people together. I can clarify differences but more importantly recognize similarities and even though it might be exhausting and that it isn't always easy, I'm glad to try and believe that I can. Nena can do it.
To read my previous Slice of Life posts, click on any link below: