My first foreign language study began with Spanish when I was in 4th grade. Two amazing things contributed to my early start with this versatile language: the new girl at school from Peru and my family’s move to a house with El Salvadorian neighbors. Not only did I learn new words, but I also discovered what mazamorra pudding, pupusas, and green mangoes tasted like. My neighbors’ house was an immersion environment that I had never experienced before. Learning Spanish has given me insight beyond my American culture into the colorful world of more than 20 countries where it is spoken. It is the language I am most passionate about studying so that I can become a Spanish teacher.
Another avenue in my language-learning travels involved me studying Danish in order to connect with my maternal grandmother’s cousins. When one of my cousins in Denmark first suggested I learn Danish, I didn‘t think I had time for it. Eventually my curiosity won out: I started labeling things at my grandmother‘s house in Danish, repeatedly playing a vocabulary-building tape, and communicating with my cousins online. Later, I got a chance to go to Denmark for the Christmas holiday, where my limited Danish helped me to feel a growing connection to another side of my family. (Plus, movies like the Julekalender just don’t make sense without a working knowledge of both English and Danish.) Learning the language that my great-grandfather spoke became an opportunity to experience my hidden heritage.
Language learning has allowed me to immerse myself in different cultures, as well as experience my ancestors‘ customs. During the journey, I’ve cultivated a love for all things Hispanic (and found the desire to become a Spanish teacher). Through learning Danish, I became acquainted with relatives in my great-grandfather‘s homeland. My linguistic adventures have given me access to culture, a career, and cousins.