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The Antelope

The Antelope

How my language learning journey gave lifelong connections

Photo by Eve Healey / Antelope Staff

From the ripe age of 14, I’ve developed an interest in studying the Spanish language. I started studying Spanish in eighth grade, and since then I’ve had it planted in my mind that I want to acquire it as a second language. 

The art of studying Spanish in junior high started out very fun and easy. We memorized songs about Spanish-speaking countries, got to know some of the Spanish holidays, and learned about the months of the year, colors, common words and phrases. Once high school hit, I began to realize that the language journey I was embarking on would be a difficult one. I knew there were great benefits to fulfilling this dream, so I was able to persevere. I ended up leaving high school with 5 years of Spanish under my belt, but my journey had just begun. 

When I ponder on where this passion came from, the first thing I think of is my grandma Jane, my mother’s mother. She only spoke Spanglish, but hearing my mom talk about it made a spark light up inside of me, or “hizo una chispa.” I never truly got to talk to my grandma about her background; It is through the Spanish language that I feel like I can get to know a hidden gem about her. My mom said she always used to talk in Spanglish with relatives on the phone. My mom then went on to study Spanish in college, and a lot of times at home we have small conversations in Spanish for fun. I feel like a big influence came from her mom and her family line. I want to feel more connected to this side of my family through this language, as I have in it my own genetics. This deeper connection to my grandma is what has made learning the Spanish language so personal. 

I continued my journey in college, previously studying Spanish 200 and now currently being in 201. Last year I gained a sufficient amount of speaking skills from the conversation tables at UNK. I was also able to build new connections with other Spanish majors and minors, as I have a minor in it of my own. Everybody that I have met through the language program here at UNK has been unconditionally kind to me. They embrace making mistakes. It is not only the students I have loved getting to know but also the language professors. They create a space that fosters togetherness, support and proficiency in language. Before the year had started, the main element of college that I was most looking forward to was being back in a Spanish course and getting a chance to be involved in all of this semester’s language activities.

Learning a language is not an easy feat. Every day is a challenge, and right when you feel like you’ve figured it out, something new is thrown your way. I’m determined to be proficient in Spanish and eventually gain full fluency. Through this, I can use my language skills in my future career as an English/Spanish educator. 

I always try to remind myself that making mistakes in language is human. Even after speaking English my entire life, I still find obstacles in it. I know that it is important to know, especially in our world today with all of the diversity present in the United States. If we can find a way to meet non-English speakers in the middle and fight daunting language barriers, it will make communication and connection that much more possible. When one can make an effort to learn someone else’s language, it can display genuine care and respect for that individual. 

“Si puedes soñarlo, puedes hacerlo.” If you can dream it, you can do it. 

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Eve Healey, Reporter
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