Second Languages are Another Set of Eyes, Ears and Mouth

“A, B, C, D, E…” “Uno, Dos, Tres, Cuatro, Cinco…” Is basically how I started speaking Spanish back in kindergarten. When I was 5, I was enrolled in Independence Charter School, where you can start taking many classes at a young age in English or Spanish. See Both my parents were born in Nicaragua, my mother’s parents are from Pennsylvania so when she was a baby they returned to New York State. My father on the other hand, lived in Nicaragua until he was a grown man. My dad since he grew up in a more open cultured place, he learned many languages like English, Spanish and a few other native languages. My mother only knows English. So my parents wanted Luke and I to have a bilingual way of learning. We continued through kindergarten with the baby steps. “A,B,C,D,E...” “Uno, Dos, Tres, Cuatro, Cinco…”

Luke and I started learning a second language at the young age of 5, my older brother was not put in the Spanish classes. My mother learned that it would be very hard for him, as learning a language comes easier as a child. I started really learning my Spanish because every class was taken in Spanish. I had “matemáticas” y “ciencias.” The teachers spoke to us in Spanish. “Aaron; nos vamos a la escuela, va a llover.” I understood them. Even when I never speak or practice Spanish outside of when I “need” to. We were told we could only speak Spanish in class as well. We were given “pases” for one time you can speak English every class. If you exceeded them the teacher would make you stay after to speak Spanish with them. “Me voy a verte durante su almuerzo.” “Si maestro.” Is what I would reply. They would push you early to ensure you learn and sustain skills in English and Spanish.

I learned Spanish but never got one of those “expected” accents. You hear the Spanish accents on TV. They like to make sure to show of their rolling R’s when unnecessary. People might say “Oh yeah, well you don’t sound like you’re Spanish.” Well then how do I know if you speak “English.” Stereotyping is a problem for Spanish speakers and many languages around the world suffer as they are supposed to fit the description of the languages “native speaker.” I am Latino and White but I look and you could say “sound” white. Many like me have had issues with stereotypes, with the American gringo look. I believe it’s because our physical look are viewed as people who can’t speak Spanish the “right” way. I am happy that I have this second language skill no matter what others think of what Spanish really is.

A struggle I have had was transitioning from learning from Spanish to English. Up until middle school every class I had was in Spanish, even music. We ended that in 6th grade. It was hard to learn the terms in math go from “pulgada to inch.” I would get things wrong on tests because of myself not knowing these words. I felt like Richard Rodriguez in math class, he said “ I remember to start with that day in Sacramento- a California now nearly thirty years past- when I entered a classroom able to understand some fifty stray words in English.” That might be a bit of an exaggeration as well as the second half only relating to myself. I felt I had to learn math twice all the time, the way I knew it and the way it was expected to be done. This was a burden on me but I overcame it. I overcame my transition from Spanish learning to English with practice, learning new things in classes in another way. I was happy that I learned my classes in Spanish as well, otherwise I could have lost my Spanish forever.

At SLA, I have gained a different way of learning Spanish, where working together rather than yourself is how we learn. I thought I should’ve started in a higher Spanish, but in Spanish 2 as a freshman with Don Marcos we often worked together to learn and show our projects to improve our Spanish. But at ICS it was more individualized and I’d say competitive. What I learned in Spanish 2, I learned in 5th grade at ICS. At ICS we had books to read constantly, long tests, projects and papers due often. ICS had a much larger commitment to Spanish, where I’d take the class seven times a week. The differences are astronomic between how I’ve been learning Spanish, and how I was originally taught. I can’t imagine not having taken Spanish classes in my life, they have been enriching to my speech in situations and how I look at cultures.

Mom: “Aaron Come help me out, I’m talking to one of my students and I can’t understand him, can you help?

Aaron: “Alright, cool.”

Student: “Que fue la tarea de la noche pasada?

Aaron: “Mom, what was the homework from the other night?

Mom: “The homework was to read the text then write a connection to yourself, and the world with the reading.”

Aaron: “La tarea fue a leer y después escribir conexiones de su mismo y el mundo del libro.”

Student: “Gracias, Ms. Sharer.”

Aaron: “Mom he said thanks.”

Mom: “Aaron yeah I know that one.”

(Mom types in de nada)

Mom: “Thanks.”

Learning Spanish hasn't just helped me but others around me. My mother does not speak much Spanish, she knows what would be called “un poquito.” She currently works at the school district building but previously worked at Furness High School. Furness housed many immigrant students from around the world. A chunk of them from Latin America. She would try to help them out of class by trying to talk in Spanish with them online. She had a hard time so when I was available, she’d ask for my help. I would be a translator for her so her students could learn and improve in class. Helping my mother goes a long way as it helps the student for the long run. My mother thanks me every time  help her out and using a skill of mine for the good of others is a great way a second language helps in the real world.

This essay makes me think about being thankful. Not for upbringing or material possessions but the gift of opportunities I’ve had to gain skills like Spanish. Things like skills are things to be more thankful of than those pair of shoes you bought last week. The language skill lasts longer and has a price tag that can’t be set. You can’t put a price tag on knowledge but you can on just about everything else. That’s why Spanish has relevance to me and it’s influence on myself and people close to me. Your language never goes away, so hold onto it and take advantage of it.

Comments (2)

Aldo Caushaj (Student 2017)
Aldo Caushaj
  1. I think what garbed me was the situation that you were in and how he had to learn Spanish and English as a child and when he was young as well.

  2. Learned that he had to learn Spanish and English and he was Bilingual as a kid that he as happy that he is bilingual and that he cant imagine not taking Spanish classes as a kid which was cool.

  3. I think the essay was good don't really know what to add to it nice job man


Toby Mast (Student 2017)
Toby Mast

I think your situation is interesting growing up learning a language just at school. It is cool that you where happy to have done this, and that you found the importance in being bilingual.