“Babciu boje sie troche.”, I said to my grandma.
“Nie boj sie. Wszystko bedzie dobrze. Mama bedzie z wami caly czas. Bede za wami tesknic ale wiedz ze zawsze bede tutaj dla was jak bedziecie mnie potrzebowac. Niezapomnij polskiego, bo twoj jezyk jest twoja osobowoscia.”
These were the last words I heard my grandma saying before we left. She told me my language is my identity and I should not forget it. My language is my identity. If I did not know it, then I would not be the same person as I am now.
I am unique because I am from a different country. I have an accent and I know about a different environment in a different country. I will always speak my language with my family, or friends because if I did not do that, I feel like I would lose something inside me. I would be empty inside. Everything that has to do with my language, which is Polish, reminds me with my memories when I was little. These were my best memories because I spent them with my close family that I really love.
I was thirteen years old when I moved to the U.S. I lived with my grandparents, and my mom was already in the U.S. working. She took us here so that we have a better future. In 7th grade I went to the Catholic school “Our Lady of Port Richmond”. A lot of people said it was a good school. My mom and I thought it would be a great school for me, and they also had an ESOL class, but I did not expect some other things to happen.
“Haha look at her. She does not know any English. She is so dumb.”
“I know hahaha. She is so stupid and ugly.”
That was my first day of school. These are the only words I remember coming out from some guys’ mouths. I was really shy and did not know what is going on around me. I did not know their language. I only knew a few words. Everyone used to laugh at me just because I did not know words in their language, or just because I could not pronounce words correctly yet. It was really hard for me to pronounce words at the beginning. I had to learn how to pronounce “r” because in Polish you roll “r”, just like in Spanish. After I talked with teachers, they apologized. They knew they made a mistake because I could see it on their faces.
“We are really sorry. I know we made a mistake by calling you names when we saw you or even after school. We will not do that anymore. I guess.”
It was still confusing that they said “I guess”. This made me think a lot, but I did not care if they talked about me after school. I only cared if they talked about me at school. After school I always went home to do my homework, and learn English. It was hard for me, but I tried my best.
After this experience with students laughing at me I got really shy. I was really closed and I did not want to talk to anyone from school because I thought the same thing would happen. Almost all students laughed at me because I did not understand, or could not pronounce words. I could not understand why they did that. If they were in my place they would feel like me. Looking back now I was a really scared/shy person. You could say I was even avoiding people just not to talk to them. Right now I feel actually confident with my language and my accent. Before if someone would ask me about my accent I stopped talking because I knew they are paying attention to it. Now, I feel good with talking in English and having my accent. It actually makes people to know more about me. In 8th grade I went to McCall school where I started talking more. I did not feel confident exactly, but I opened up more. When I got to SLA I started talking a lot. When I am with my friends now, I could talk and talk. Even right now, I am mixing Polish and English together when I talk to my mom in Polish. I keep getting confused which words are which ones.
A lot of people changed around me. My old friends left and I got to know new people. I kind of changed too. I am not as shy as I was three years ago. Now, I am confident about myself because of what I went through. I do not care what people think about me. If I worried, then I would just be depressed. People should be themselves and not care about what others think. We are different from each other, and that’s what matters because if we would be the same, our world would be boring.
My first day at SLA was different for me. I was really nervous because I did not know anyone besides one friend from my old school. I knew people will realize that I am not from here. I did not want to go through the same thing again. When I met my friends they realized it.
“ You have an accent? Wow, that’s so cool!”
I did not expect people to think and say they like my accent. I would think they will say I sound weird. They accepted me unlike others at my old school. My friends were surprised that I am from a different country, and thought that was really awesome. They wanted to know everything about me and how Poland looks like. I felt really good because someone accepted me the way I am. They did not make me change myself because I would not belong, or be the same as them. They wanted me to share with them my stories when I was in Poland. I also got to know them better too. I realized there are a lot more people from different countries at SLA. I did not feel left out. This school made me a better person, and I opened up to be a more confident person.
This quote is from a book called “How to Tame a Wid Tongue.” by Glona Anzaldin. “So if you want to hurt me, talk badly about my language. Ethnic identity is twin skin to linguistic identity- I am my language.” This quotes refers to my life too. I really do not like when people talk about my language, or my country in a bad way. It hurts me inside. A person that wrote this essay I could say wrote a little bit about my life. My story is really similar to this quote. Also there is this book called “Girl in Translation”. It is about a girl that is from Hong Kong. She also came to the U.S. without knowing a language. It kind of reminds me of me.
If I could compare school now and three years ago it could be completely different. Three years ago I felt really scared about it. Almost no language, and no friends here. If I had my friends with me it could be different, but I did not have them. All of them stayed and lived in Poland. I only had my sister and my mom. They were my closest friends here. Right now I feel like I am a new person. I know English and I can communicate with people. I have a lot of new friends that I can trust. My family is really helpful and they help me whenever they can. My feeling changed about it because I do not really care what people think about me. I know that even though they think I might be stupid, I am not. I worked really hard to have everything that I have now. New friends, new language, and a new environment. These were really hard three years, but right now I am really happy I live with my closest family.
- Anzaldin, Glona “How to Tame a Wid Tongue.”
- interview with my mom and dad
- Kwok, Jean “Girl in Translation.”