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A World of Possibility

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It is an amazing process to step outside of yourself for a moment, just even a moment, and look at how far you’ve come. To see how you’ve grown, developed, to see how your perspective has changed, can make you say, “Wow; I’m a different person.” Particularly for me when I consider how my understanding of the world has changed. Things that interested me as a child no longer held significance in the world of a teenager; things I hadn’t deemed important now meant how I would live the rest of my life outside of school. I almost laugh thinking about the subject that holds some of the most meaning to me: foreign language.

I had never thought much of learning another language, in all honesty. I would hear my mother talk of my grandfather’s ambition to learn against all odds, how he started learning English in his teens in a Mexican home and was the first to attend college, how he learned German by using the same five dollars to take repeated classes, how he eventually became trilingual. I couldn’t understand why he wanted to learn so many languages, isn’t one enough?
With some coaxing from my mother I started learning Spanish. Immediately I was intrigued by the language, even more so the culture. I would listen to songs in Spanish and compare them with styles of American music, even compare the music of one Hispanic nation to another. Now in Spanish III, I am constantly amazed with how much I am able to understand, even just walking through Washington, DC and hearing various conversations. I can’t help but say how empowered I feel understanding another language; I truly feel as if a new world is open to me should I choose to explore it.
My mother was so proud, and she would feel sorry she hadn’t made more of an effort to learn her father’s native language. Eventually I started talking with her in Spanish, at first only a little. As I would share my ever-expanding knowledge of the language, her vocabulary would increase. Now, after two years of studying the language, she and I will carry out full conversations with each other, switching between Spanish and English for variety. She smiled one day to me after I gave her a lecture as to why I couldn’t stand skinny jeans -- completely in Spanish -- and told me to call mi abuelo.
I don’t speak with him often. I never really had patience to talk with him, as he always seemed a little too enthusiastic to talk. When he answered the phone I felt immediately self-conscious, what if I messed up? What if he couldn’t understand my cheesy accent? Awkwardly I started talking to him in Spanish, first about the weather, then about school and my involvement with track. He listened quietly, asking an occasional question in Spanish, and I felt all the more embarrassed. When I had finished he told me what a good job I had done, and before hanging up I heard a soft “hasta mañana” -- or literally “until tomorrow.”
I had never thought much of learning another language, and it wasn’t until I started that I truly understood the implications of such a skill. Never before had I understood the appeal my grandfather saw in always pushing to learn more, more everywhere he traveled. As I learned, however, I began to see the world change, my own understanding transform. Now I am myself seduced at the thought of learning a new language, experiencing a new culture. I now dream of travelling, of meeting people from all corners of the globe, of maybe, possibly, understanding their language. I have started learning German, and have found my own ambition. Adíos, mis amigos. Hasta luego.



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