Why Spanish Has Changed My Life
Without a doubt, knowing how to speak Spanish has proven to be one of the most valuable assets I have. It has helped me to be a kinder person and be more aware of others around me, which is pretty good as a teen, I am told. Knowing how to speak Spanish has also presented opportunities that I otherwise would not have, such as:
- helping locals in Peru and making friends in other countries;
- tutoring elementary kids at home Spanish;
- volunteering to help Spanish-speaking elementary and middle children school with their homework;
- being excited (and not intimated) about learning more foreign languages; and
- making new friends where I live.
Starting at a young age, I was able to use my ability to speak Spanish to help a a fellow student who had just arrived from Colombia. He had little to zero English-speaking ability and had a difficult time navigating the ocean of American culture he had been inundated in. I met him by the jungle gym one day at recess and stopped to talk with him because he was crying. He stopped crying and even smiled when he realized that I could speak Spanish with him. He told me how hard it was for him to make friends since he knew only a little English. We quickly became best friends and I was able to provide a welcoming atmosphere for him to adjust to his new climate. To this day, every time his mother sees my mom or me, she rushes over to hug us and thanks me again.
In middle school, I was able to help build an all women-run store in a very rural village in Peru. During my time there, I was able to converse with some of the local children who were working with me and even invited to spend an afternoon at one of their homes. In his tiny backyard, I saw a bunch of chickens running around as well as orange, lemon, and avocado trees everywhere. Definitely not something I see where I live. Through these interactions, I was able to develop a much deeper understanding of the views of the locals and their day-to-day experiences. For example, I was told that the volunteer project we were working on was only for the women in the community. When I asked why, I was told it was because women were more likely to spend money on their families than men would be. I don’t know if this was really true but it was still interesting that some of the locals thought that. Culture is more than just being aware of the physical differences in the structure of life and tradition. It is more about the almost-invisible interactions and connections that take place between locals. Knowing Spanish is like having the key to unlocking a treasure; you are embraced and welcomed by people you wouldn’t be otherwise and able to see and hear everything for yourself,