A Tiny Tot in Mexico
My first time in Mexico, I was 7 or 8 years old on a family vacation. Everywhere I turned my head I observed this new world with wonder: open-air markets, the Spanish language, Mexican artisans and their handicrafts. Even the touristy t-shirts and hoodies generated a sense of excitement within me.
My family stayed in Cancún before it was cool. At that time there was one main mall, a few hotels, a Burger Queen (Queen not King), and the traditional open-air market. I got real-life, raw experience of what was and wasn’t acceptable at an open-air market in a foreign country. My mom was masterful in training my sister and I on how to behave while traveling. From being aware of the people around us in a line at the airport, to haggling appropriately and tipping, she prepared us well.
Spanish under the palapa
In the mist of all these experiences was a new language: Spanish. I have this memory of sitting under a palapa at our hotel and observing the waiters engaging in their banter and laughing. That was a conversation I wanted to be a part of or at least comprehend while eating my nachos for lunch. That precise moment was the catalyst for my desire to learn Spanish.
Un Poco de EspaÑol y taco bell
Fast forward two years and I’m in fourth grade with Mrs. G. We’re doing a Spanish unit, which is amazing because our elementary school didn’t offer foreign language at the time. We learned colors and some other basic vocabulary. At the end of the unit we were going to celebrate with Mexican food. The class voted on what we would eat: Taco Bell. While everyone else was cheering, I was huffing and puffing that it wasn’t traditional! Taco Bell?! Are you guys serious?? You could say I was thoroughly disappointed, but grateful to finally get some Spanish lessons, as basic as they were.
A little Late: Spanish Class in Middle School
My desire to learn Spanish continued because we kept traveling to Mexico one to two times a year throughout my childhood. I didn’t have another Spanish class until 8th grade, when they finally hired a Spanish teacher at my middle school. It was only a semester-long class. I couldn’t wait to get to high school when I could finally take a class for a whole year.
Finally, A real Spanish Class!
Seven years and a dozen trips later, I made it to Spanish I in high school. I’m so grateful I had an amazing Spanish I teacher, Mrs. Stumbris, who introduced our class to culture, language nuances and colloquialisms. Her teaching style fueled my desire to become fluent in Spanish. She told my class about a pen pal program and a foreign exchange program, both of which I participated in.
In the summer of 1997 I stayed with a family in Cualtitlan Izcalli, Mexico for six weeks. I visited one of their cousins for one of those weeks in Mexico City. Everyone spoke English, so it was more of a cultural exchange than a language exchange. When I returned, my Spanish hadn’t improved a whole lot.
That year I started Spanish II and if you know anything about Spanish II, you know it’s one of the most difficult years of Spanish. It’s the hardest year because the grammar is a lot more challenging compared to Spanish I and even Spanish III and IV. It’s the hurdle you have to jump to make it to the other side.
Being that Spanish was something I was so passionate about, when I started to get a low grade on my quizzes, I spoke with my guidance counselor about dropping the class. I was getting a low C in the class and was afraid I’d get a D on my report card. Luckily, my guidance counselor checked in with my mom before changing my schedule. When I got home from school that day, I had one of the most pivotal conversations of my life.
Why would you quit something you’re so interested in learning? Think about your career and where this could take you. Spanish is your thing. It’s a way for you to use your creativity.Mom
Everything she said made sense. I chose to keep going. That was the best life lesson I learned about not giving up. It taught me determination, perseverance, and the importance of having foresight. Not only did I learn Spanish because I was interested in the language, but I also learned it because I knew it would be an integral part of my life and career. First came the interest, then came the benefits.
If you’re learning Spanish or have learned it, comment below and share why you learned or are learning Spanish.