Soy Bilingüe

 These Latina women tell their story and the experiences they’ve had growing up in a world where they have to balance two different cultures and two different languages. Some have more experience speaking English and Spanish, but being Mexican-Americans and coming from Latino families, they all agree that living between both worlds and both languages just became part of their normal lives.

Bianca Castrejon grew up in El Paso Texas. Her grandparents and father grew up in Mexico; being second generation in the United States, English is her first language. She shares that in school, speaking English was a requirement while speaking Spanish was punished, yet because her family spoke to her in Spanish she is familiar with both.

Because my family speaks a lot of Spanish, there’s some words that I know in Spanish better than I know in English. Sometimes I’ll be mixing the two even though Spanish is not my first language,” Bianca shares.

Bianca is not the only one to mix these two languages; many agree that living in an area with such a strong Latino culture, it becomes a normal thing. Evelyn, who lives in a bilingual home, feels more comfortable speaking English. She comments on her views of those who speak this new language, Spanglish.

“Most people that do speak Spanglish are learning English, they went to school in Mexico and then came over here. They can’t just pick up English so they mix it. I don’t see a problem with it, Spanish is their language and they are trying to catch English,” she adds.

Sharlenne Zubia, who feels that she is fluent in both languages, grew up in the border region of the United States and mixes both frequently.

“I’ll say something like quiero esos red shoes, I’ll mix English and Spanish,” she says.

When asked if she thought this was okay she responded that “as long as you can communicate, I think it’s fine.” She explains everyone in her community find this normal.

With 41 million native speakers in the United States plus an additional 11.6 bilingual speakers, all women feel that knowing both languages and being bilingual has now become a great advantage.

Vanessa Ramirez, who speaks Spanish at home and English at school shares that “when you apply for a job, they prefer the ones who are bilingual.”

These women are not only used to hearing and using both languages, but looking back at history and how the world has become highly globalized, it should then come as no surprise that surely knowing both languages is a positive thing. Yet, some of the girls share some of their negative experiences when accidentally mixing both when speaking.

Ariadne Venegas was born in El Paso Texas yet continues to live in the border town of Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua. She spends a lot of time in the United States and actually started learning English when she was in kindergarten. Even though Spanish is her first language, spending so much time in the United States has resulted in some English words occasionally slipping out.

Porque ya paso la mayoria del tiempo aquí. But it’s not because I want to. Like, I can’t remember the word in Spanish,” she shares.

She says that at times, doing this, brings negative remarks from Spanish speakers.

[My dad] he would tell me don’t use both languages because you will be called chicana…that’s why I refer it as a bad thing because my dad put me into that culture, mixing both languages I would be called chicana, but I mean I kind of don’t like the word because nobody should be called that way, I mean, it’s a culture, it’s just a culture,” she adds.

When it comes to culture, sometimes mixing both languages creates challenges.

I’m always being called white cause I’m mixing both languages,” Sharlenne says.

Bianca believes that because of this reason “being multicultural is a challenge.”

Not everyone is going to understand, because you’re coming from a different culture and you’re managing two cultures and not everyone is going to be understanding and tolerant of the language…it comes with its ups and downs….that’s probably where the issue kind of lies because people think black or white, either or, so pick one,” adds Bianca.

It’s like a double work for us because we have to learn Spanish and then we have to learn English,” says Ariadne.

Still, after experiencing some of these negative reactions, all agreed that they were proud of being Latinos in the United States and having the opportunity of sharing both cultures and both languages. Additionally, they comment on how they are proud and would even teach their children and the future generations to be bilingual.

The Latino culture is now expanding so more people are speaking the Spanish language,” adds Ariadne.

That’s just the result of somebody balancing two cultures, living here in America but having your roots and family in Mexico. And that’s just the result, speaking Spanglish,” comments Bianca.

Being bilingual is something valued greatly in this globalized world, and having multiple cultures should be something to be proud of. While before, Latinos in the United States were forced to forget their roots and language, now they can hold on to their origins and still belong to the American culture and society.

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