Updated: Oct 16, 2019
I have always been very embarrassed by my Spanish as I thought it simply wasn't good enough, and that maybe it would never be good enough. This is my story.
Illustration: Veronica Casce
Growing up in South Florida, I heard Spanish everywhere I went: school, work, the mall, the grocery store, you name it. I’ve always loved the language as well as the culture for a variety of reasons. To me, Spanish is more than just a collection of words and grammar rules. Instead, Spanish is a way for me to connect with my grandparents, a way for me to thank them for the sacrifices they’ve made and continue to make for me every day. Spanish is a way for me to keep our culture alive. Spanish is family. Spanish is home.
Yet, I’ve spent the majority of my life downplaying my Spanish, telling people my Spanish really wasn’t really that good. And the truth is, for years, I really thought so. I was embarrassed by what I thought to be my subpar version of the language, a broken version if you will. With my parents, I almost exclusively speak English, so my knowledge of Spanish comes from living in South Florida and visiting my grandparents a few times a year. I used to think that my exposure to Spanish simply wasn’t enough. That I could never use
Spanish confidently with such a "broken" background in the language.
As I’ve grown up, I’ve come to realize that there really doesn’t exist a “broken” form of language, surely not in the way I used to think about it. Everybody simply feels comfortable at different levels within the language. I’ve also come to the realization that I’d much rather mix up “por” and “para” or “ser” and “estar” in conversation than ditch my culture entirely. I’d much rather embrace my Spanglish in all of its jumbled glory than embrace nothing at all!
Oddly enough, Spanglish has actually become one of my favorite parts of the language and culture. Para mi, the switching entre las dos idiomas represents como los latinos en los United States navegamos por dos culturas diferentes. Por ejemplo, nuestra identidad is actually una mezcla de culturas instead of dos culturas distintas y separadas. Es decir, to me, being argentino americana is different from being Argentinian or American, and I am beyond grateful to have the opportunity to be a part of such a blend of cultures.
While today I still catch myself feeling insecure from time to time in regards to my Spanish, I can truly say I’ve wholeheartedly come to embrace my language and culture. Spanish has and always will signify family for me, both my nuclear family and all of the people who I’ve come to see as a family throughout my life.