In some ways spanish was my first language. I was a little girl. I wasn’t quite sure what my first language was, spanish or english? When I was a child my grandmother used to babysit me all the time. My abuela. To her, I was her “chocolate candy bar” due to the fact that I was the only child who was half black and half puerto rican. She said I used to speak fluent spanish. Very fluent, till my father started to babysit me. By then I had forget how to speak in my natural tongue. I started to learn lots of english and how to add and subtract. You know, the little things a parent does to entertain their child with. It’s amazing. How I couldn’t really speak, but I could understand every word my grandmother was saying.
Because my mom makes baby voices to my little cats in spanish so I imagine that she did that with me too. I grew up with her speaking spanglish. Not only that, I used to visit my grandmothers house every single day and I watched her yell at my cousins. When ever she asked me to eat, play, she would speak spanish and when I would cry she’d say something like “No te preocupes” to calm me down. I feel like it was a natural thing blended inside of me. Like a family insider. Knowing the language that not many of your friends speak. It’s a feeling of acceptance.
Nowadays, I’m still trying to find myself. Sometimes I don’t know who I am and sometimes I don’t know who I want to be. I don’t know if I should feel ashamed because I don’t speak spanish, or should I even care. Sometimes I sort of feel singled out because I can’t speak it and it is like a huge barrier to me. Sometimes it even hurts. It’s like I’m the odd duckling. It’s so annoying when my cousins try to translate for me and I usually end up snapping saying “I don’t need you to translate for me, I understand!” I partly feel that it is my dad’s fault. Because he babysitted me I forgot all of my spanish and I started to learn a lot of english. One time we were talking he said something like...
“I don’t want to speak spanish. I’m english and spanish is annoying”.
I said “No it’s pretty easy.”
And I felt somewhat offended. Because he’d always try to speak his wife’s language.
He said something like “Well I’m not spanish.”
I should of retorted you’re not asian either so why are you trying to speak the filipino language?
I felt somewhat offended because you’re talking about something that is important to me.
Sometimes people even try to talk crap in spanish right in front of my face and think I don’t understand them. Once when I was young I dragged my cousin across the floor by his pants. We played violently everyday so this was very normal. But this time it wasn’t violent, we were just having fun. Now, my grandparents ALWAYS had visitors over and there was this snooty woman. I could hear her talking in spanish.
“Your daughter was playing rough with this boy and yanking him by the pants” and some other bull. I sat there and I yelled “No I didn’t!” And my mom took me too the kitchen.
“What the hell are you doing over there? Your embarrassing me!”and she popped me in the mouth.
I bet if I knew how to speak spanish I could have protected and stood up for myself from a woman who could not mind her own business. All I could do was stand there and try not to cry. I know that woman dramatically exagerated. She exagerated like crazy. That’s what I hate about my grandmother’s visitors. They exagerate and they always judge and spread things among their church friends. As I got older I started to watch what I do and just quickly pass with a “hola”. I feel as though if I spoke spanish everything would change. I’d have a key that could unlock so many things. Rosetta stone doesn’t help me at all. I get all my spanish from my mom. Even though she lost some of her accent, it’s still tropical like puerto rico itself. “It’s my mother’s tongue” -(Amy tan), so it’s more natural whenever she speaks it goes through me, I interpret it and a part of it stays in me. I could have a better job and more choices because being bilingual is a great attribute to have. Language is a barrier and an advantage. It all depends on how you manipulate it.