The Struggle to Learn Spanish

By Jasmine Nieves

My two languages that I speak are English and Spanish. My first language that I really didn’t get to know as I grew up was Spanish. Since I don’t know Spanish as much even though it is my “official” language I should be speaking, everybody talks to me in English and it has always been like that. I should be speaking this language because my family and parents were born Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans speak Spanish. I should have known how to speak the whole language already.  My Everyone trys to speak to me in Spanish.It can be hard for me to keep up.“

¿Como es tu día para hoy?”says my aunt and

“Mi día estan bien”.

“No estan muy bueno, porque no muy bueno.”

After this point, I try to answer and then I start to freeze up, I still try to explain myself but it gets too hard. There are times when my original Spanish language gets caught up with my mind.

“¿Qual es tu tarea por a hoy?”, asks my aunt.  I start to think to say to myself, “Oooo, this sounds easy. I could answer her question”, then I answer it.

“Yo tengo Geometria, Ciencia, Ingles, Español y Historia”.

I didn’t learn it because people probably thought me speaking in English would probably be easier for me to speak Spanish. I want to change that because Spanish is my native language and I should be speaking it more.

When people other than my aunt talk to me in Spanish, I feel more confident, but still a tad bit shy about speaking because I might mess up. I guess I have to understand that it’s okay to make mistakes when I try to speak my Spanish language because I’m just learning the language.

My mom and dad are both Puerto Ricans. Both my mom and dad’s side of the family both speak Spanish. I grew up learning Spanish and then I forgot about it. But it felt more as if I learned more English growing up.When my mom and my dad had me as their child, I could tell as I grew up as a kid to what I am today, that I am born a Puerto Rican. So its a mixture of both languages.

         Even at school, I struggle doing things in Spanish. I have a struggle when it comes to tests or quizzes, I forget everything or some things from when I studied the night before. This is not on purpose, I just don’t know why that happens but it happens all the time.

Don Marcos is my teacher is Spanish Class. “Take out a pen or pen. You’re going to have your test/quiz”. I take out a pencil from my pencil case and try to start the quiz or test he gives the class. When I see some of the questions I think I know them but sometimes I can’t remember some of the words. I usually leave two or three questions blank because I didn’t remember. When its time to hand it in, I sort of look scared and my hand shakes a little because I think I didn’t do so good on it.

“Reflexive verbs have two verb phrases” he says. “A boot verb keeps nosotros the same but the others different” he continued. As he continued to explain what Reflexive Verbs are or just explaining things to make it our notes. I write it down because that is what we study from. I thought I knew it as he was telling us. But when he started to ask questions, benchmarks, quizzes or tests, I feel as if I’m going to fail his class. I seriously need Spanish help.

I don’t know why I don’t understand Spanish more but still know a lot of English. It’s ok for me to speak two different languages and speak the other more. I want to try to speak and learn about Spanish in order to stay in tact with my Puerto Rican background and my family. Also, my family also wants me to try to speak the language too but its hard for me. I wish I had some Spanish tutor to help me better understand how this whole Spanish thing works because I want to learn. Learning Spanish is what I really want to know what it comes to languages and others too, but first I would like to learn Spanish. My national language is very important to me.

         My internal and sort of external struggle, is me speaking Spanish vs me speaking English. The Spanish language came from my mom and my dad. They both had Puerto Rican parents and they had a Puerto Rican family which made me Puerto Rican. The relationship between language and power is that every voice and everybody has a right to say anything they want. This is a basic rule the Constitution gave to the people. When they start to speak about something with a lot of feeling and emotion, it’s called power. What my language says about me is just that. We all have a voice and we should use it whenever possible because it could come in handy one day. I understand that language and identity intersect.

As I got older my aunt kept asking me “Do you want to take at least 15 minutes a day and speak Spanish”? I would say “Yes” but when the day comes we speak it only a little bit. I was made to be a Puerto Rican and I will always be one and that idea will continue to live on. I’m learning about it in high school. I’m improving but not that much on the subject or just at home talking about it with my aunt. Language is not that big of a conflict at my house. I’m just not that confident or I’m just worried of what words to use if I can’t remember them on time when the person, I’m speaking to, is in front of me. It’s the same way at school but a little bit worse. It’s a little bit worse because I have tests, quizzes and benchmarks, I’m afraid I might fail.

         How I feel about it now is the same way I’ve felt about it before, which was confident and felt like I didn’t remember. I should have remembered all these times because I’m Hispanic but I would always forget. When I try to remember, I have a lot to remember from the class and other things on my mind, that I can’t seem to remember what to say. I feel my Spanish will not improve now but as I get older and practicing more and more everyday with my Spanish, I know I will get there like I know my English growing up. I’m trying to say Spanish, in general is my hardest language than my English. I’m fluent when I speak in English but not as much when I speak in Spanish or do anything that has to deal with Spanish.

A quote by Richard Rodriguez could relate to what I saying 50% of the time. “An accident of geography sent me to a school where all my classmates were white, many of the children of doctors and lawyers and business executive.” This relates to what I’m trying to say is because this person spoke a different language and they didn’t feel right at the school because there were different races and he wasn’t comfortable just the same way I am uncomfortable with speaking Spanish.  

Jesus makes Cow Tongue.

Cow Tongue

Bay Leaf (Approx. 3 leaves)
Cow Tongue (1 tongue cut up into 3-4 pieces)
Whole Pepper (1 or 2 balls)
1/2 an Onion
1 Garic clove
Salt (3 spoonfuls*)
Dried Cloves (3-4 cloves)


1 Saucepan or Pot

*A spoon you eat cereal with.

Step 1.
 Put water in a large sauce pan or pot, filling it half way. Add Salt, Dried Cloves, Bay leaves, and Whole Pepper.

Step 2.
 Cut and peel an onion in half and peel the garlic. Add half of an onion and a whole garlic into the water.

Step 3.
Add the pieces of the tongue into the saucepan or pot with the rest of the ingredients.

Step 4.
Let the water boil, occasionally add water in case if some evaporates. Stir occasionally. Wait 3 hours.

Step 5.
Remove tongue and carefully remove the surface skin on the tongue. Slice and serve as liked.


Cow tongue is not only a Mexican dish, but is also prepared in different parts of the world like Asia and some countries in Europe and South America. While the tongue is probably processed in with the rest of a cow in a slaughterhouse, the kind my family buys from a Mexican grocery store doesn't have a label. We would have to ask the delivery man that brings them their meat. The rest of the ingredients are seasonings and condiments. Most of them are MCcormick brand condiments, while other things like the onion, garlic, and bay leaves are probably grown in a farm with chemical pesticides. We don't buy local.

Other than that, the tongue itself has a high in saturated fats and cholesterol, but low in sodium, sugars, and high in vitamin B12. This is the tongue itself, prepared. It might be served plain like this, but you can definitely change it up by adding your own ingredients. Depending on how much tongue you buy, this can be a rather cheap meal. You're looking at maybe less than $15 if you plan to make some for yourself (there might even be leftovers).

This money goes towards the farmers of the various ingredients like pepper, onions, garlic, and bay leaf. Salt is either mined or dug up from various places in the world, so some of the money goes to salt distributors, and of course, you just gave money to the beef industry. Congratulations on contributing to one of the, if not, the biggest meat industry in the country.

While the dish was probably made from my grandmother, it's very likely that she got her ingredients from local farmers. While previously visiting my grandparents a few years ago, I got to experience a market that is a hybrid of both commercial and farmer developed products. Back in her day, it's likely that there were more farmers and as food became more of a business practice, more commercial stores began to show up.

​Personal Reflection

Just like the classic carnival games, the food industry is rigged in one way or another. Lately, corporations and investors have been practicing different methods of creating "cash cows" (ha ha, pun!) from different aspects of human life. Food is one of the biggest industry, and if you ask your Grandma or Grandpa, things were different then! Food used to be traditional and farmers were farmers, not scientists. Now it's a business.

The way the rest of the consumers and I can change this, is by investing more in locally grown food. Sure not everyone is going to go out of their way to do this, but at least research what you eat. Information is key here. Knowing what you eat, and not just accepting it for what it is makes you a healthy eater. That is how this whole system can change.

​Food Slide noburger4u.001

Language Autobiography 2013: Shielded

In this unit, we had learned how language is one of your main identities besides race. Our class had read several essays relating to language identity in people's lives. This benchmark was to write about a time in your life where your language affected a big part of your identity. I have learned a deeper understanding of how I reacted to words that I was shielded from.


Communication can be very complicated. Especially when you are shielded from the harmful parts of languages during your early years and then having that shield break, which causes those harmful words to be able to reach your ears. This causes many curious kids to be exposed to a world of offensive language that they have no clue that it is actually offensive.  

I remember when I was in third grade sitting with other third graders while my teacher was teaching us how to do addition when I noticed how my middle finger felt uncomfortable from all the writing we did, so I moved my middle finger upwards and the other fingers back into a fist-state and pressed my middle finger onto the table. I did a few “push-ups” with the finger before one of the girls turned around and saw it. I looked at her with a slightly laughing “what” expression, her expression was different. She looked surprised. That’s when she said to me “Ooooo! I am telling the teacher!”. I didn’t understand, what was wrong about having only my middle finger up? She got up and ran to the teacher, telling about what I did. I got up and walked to the teacher, still thinking about how is it wrong, when I then proceeded to ask why it is wrong to have your middle finger up. "Well, the middle finger is like saying a bad word to someone, so never have it up or you can hurt someone's feelings." She said it nicely, knowing that I never knew that I could offend someone with my middle finger.

Looking back on this event, I believe that my parents shielded me heavily from offensive words. That girl who told on me probably used her middle finger often until someone told her that it could hurt other's feelings. I always think that her parents didn't shield her from  offensive language as much as I parents did as she knew about it when I didn't. She must had begun to use these offensive words when she heard of it, not thinking about what it actually means to others. I can understand how parents don't want their children to learn any offensive words, so they try to hide them from this type of world. But I think that’s a bad idea, because sooner or later, they will learn these words and use them unaware of the meaning behind it. Rather than shielding children entirely from these words, we should teach them about the words before they learn of it from other sources, because if we teach them about it, then they will be prepared and know what to do when they hear it because they will know what it means.

There was a time in fifth grade where I learned how bad the consequences of saying an offensive word could be. I was outside waiting in line for our teachers to take us in one day, and I turned around to talk to another student in my class. He was a white Russian kid,  slightly taller than me, he cursed every now and then. Before I got a chance to talk to him, another student began to yell at him about something. I didn’t want to get involved as they look liked that were about to fight. A few second later, the russian student pointed at the other student aggressively and said “Fuck you!” I thought that he could have done that better, so I thought showing him a better way would be a great idea. I went to him and said “Let me show you how you could have done that better.” I then proceeded to put on an aggressive expression, pointed my finger out with a fast aggressive force, turned to my right and said "Fuck you!". It sounded pretty brutal to me, I even felt proud about it.

I realized who I manage to point to out of everyone, my mom. My mom had a very mad look and was coming towards me . "I'm dead" I said quietly. When she was a few inches away from me, she said "When you get home, dad is going to beat your ass like no tomorrow." She didn't yell it, but said it with anger.

This is the first moment in my life where I realized that the offensive word I had said came with great consequences. A quote that I had found while reading a story, called “Aria” by Richard Rodriguez, made me think deeper into this event of my life. The quote was “ I was a listening child...” (13). This quote made me feel that I was also “a listening child”, because I would always try to hear what people said around me. I heard words like “fuck” being used often in these conversations, so I thought words like “fuck” were ok to say. The environment that I was in exposed me to such words, but my parents never told me that the offensive words I heard were  actually offensive.


Rodriguez, Richard. Hunger of Memory. Boston: David R. Godine, 1982. Print.

You gucci?

Let me start of by saying, I do not consider myself the best speaker or writer. I am a big person and I been told that I do not have a deep voice for my size. There were times where I would call a company about my phone issues and they would call me, “Mrs.“  What happened was I once had a track phone. I had to call to put my minutes on there. So I called the company as I was supposed to. I did all the things they asked me to do. Then the customer service person got on the phone.

I said, “Hello, I am trying to put minutes on my phone.”

Her response was. “Hello Miss, allow me to help you with this.”

When she said that, I was like dang, my voice is really light.

I started to actually play sports when I was in the 8th grade. Unfortunately, I would get hurt a lot. I would tell my mom about my problems. I would point at the pain and she would say speak.

"Mom, I got a fast break steal in my basketball game. I had the defender beat. I went up for the lay-up and I came down on my ankle wrong and it hurtted…"

"Hurtted? What the hell is hurtted? It is not a word babe,” as she interrupted me.

Oh well, I did not know that. I was in pain, not anymore. So I thought I would put the "ed" at the end?

" No babe," she said as she started to laugh.

            My mom is big on speaking. She believes my siblings and I should speak properly. She really does not like us using slang unless we joking. I am the child that uses a lot of slang because of my generation. Not saying it’s a bad thing, it’s the way we communicate with each other. But when I use slang with my mom she looks confused, like a freshman in Spanish 4, and they never learned Spanish.

“ Hey son how was your day?” My mother asked me as we ride in the car.

“ It was Gucci…,” I responded, as she interrupts me.

“ What in the hell is Gucci?”

“ It means good mom,” as I laughed.

“ Why didn’t you just say good?”

“ Who uses good anymore?” I asked with a smile on my face.

“ Okay Allen,” as she answered her phone.

It’s not that my mom is left in the past, it’s that she don’t pay me no mind when it comes to that type of stuff. But she does catch on to stuff quickly. She proved that after  my game with my team called Rise-up.

I asked “How did I do?”

“ You did Gucci son.”

“ What? When did you start saying that?”

“ But those refs was drawling!”

“Where did all this come from mom? You never used to say this.”

I assume it was a joking moment so it was cool. But in a serious conversation, she would not use slang with me. I see that she was catching on. I did not imagine parents would use slang with their kids, especially not mine because she does not believe in playing with her children. She does not agree with us using with adults. She wants us to have manners. She does not want us to be referred to as a stereotype. For example, she is totally against the stereotype of being a black kid who cannot speak properly. She told me one time that I cannot get a job using slang; like “ Yo homie” or “where my niggas at”. She always says “ Talk like you have some sense.” I never fully understand what she means when she says that. When I talk to her I know what I am talking about. So how am not talking with any sense? She mainly says that to me when I am in trouble, and I start to stutter because I know I was wrong.

My mother always helps me pronounce words. When I am speaking to her, she stops me and tells me the right way to pronounce the word. I correct the word, but at first it is hard. I repeat it until I get it right. I do catch on fast. I still have problems saying words like “spaghetti”. But hey, nobody speaks perfect. To be honest I do not plan on being a broadcaster, so pronouncing things is one of the last things on my list. I am not saying I have a problem with speaking; it’s just that I am not that strong, so I will continue to work on it.

When I do not know how to pronounce a word, I will spell it out to my mom so she can help me with the correct way to say the word. . That helps me a lot. Because I hear the word, then I am able to pronounce it correctly.