I was put into dual immersion when I was five years old. Dual immersion is a program in school where you learn Spanish and English at the same time. I remember not knowing a word of Spanish but having to take a test to see if I qualified. My parents put me in this program because they felt that it would benefit me more in the future. They always told me that there’s a lot more opportunities when it comes to knowing a second language. In this program, from kindergarten to 5th grade, for the most part we were spoke to in Spanish, the only time we ever spoke English is if we absolutely needed to. Leaning Spanish was really difficult for me because not a single person in my family knew how to speak it. I had literally nobody to help me with my homework whether it was to translate something or even my math because that was also in Spanish.
I was adopted when I was four years old into a family that was all white, but that’s a story for another time. They never really realized how them not knowing how to speak Spanish effected me. My whole life i’ve always been told that school comes first no matter what. Everyday after school my mom would always say, “Vyla you better get your homework done first.” That meant no video games, no playing with friends, not even doing my chores. My parents were very strict and made sure to push me to my limits when it came to academics. I remember countless nights sitting at the table for hours trying to finish my homework. Looking back at those times I realize that doing my homework without any help at such a young age benefitted me because it help me retain everything better.
Elementary school was critical because that’s when you learn literally everything so during this time I always asked my teachers as many questions possible. I struggled a lot with remembering certain words and not knowing how to use the tenses correctly. My favorite teacher was from 1st grade, her name was Ms. Aja. She was so nice to me and made sure to give me all the help I needed. She always had crazy hair that was different colors and she loved to give out candy, she made the learning environment fun. I can honestly say that she probably had the biggest effect on me because she was always there for me and made sure I was understanding everything she was teaching.
I enjoyed dual immersion so much, I created unbreakable bonds with teachers and friendships that will last a lifetime. I have friends that I’ve Known for more than eight years now all because I met them through this program. It’s such a special thing when you share a learning experience with multiple people just like you. I remember having to overcome so many obstacles like presenting in front of the Spanish speaking school board and being scared out of my mind. In all honesty it made things better knowing I had classmates going through the same things, trying to impress the same people. Learning a new language takes a lot of dedication and interest, but over time you develop a passion for it.
Being completely fluent in Spanish by the time I was in middle school was convenient because now instead of learning in Spanish in one classroom all day, I was learning English in multiple classrooms throughout the day. With that being said I began to realize that my family not knowing how to speak Spanish was going to be an issue again. Since all my classes were now in English I wasn’t using my ability to speak Spanish anymore like I was in elementary school. Speaking from experience, the saying, “If you don’t use it, you lose it” is completely true without a doubt. Therefore when I graduated to high school and had to take Spanish again to meet certain requirements, I was beyond rusty.
Being fresh out of high school, going to college and getting a job is something that many people do, to me it was a necessity. I was so excited filling out applications and being able to say i’m bilingual on them. Something that blows my mind is that even though both teachers and my parents told me opportunities would come, I didn’t think much of it until something happened to me recently. Not too long ago I got hired on the spot at subway, and it wasn’t until after the interview that my boss told me he was for sure going to hire me all because I knew how to speak Spanish. When he told me that, my face lit up with the biggest smile on it, i’ve never been more proud and so grateful to have had the opportunity to learn Spanish.
With that being said, my journey with learning Spanish definitely had its ups and downs but at the end of the day had, and will continue to have a great outcome with nothing but possibilities. I feel blessed being able to learn a different language because it made me see things in different perspectives and became a part of me that i’ll be able to take wherever I go.