Pamphlet en Español | Teen Ink

Pamphlet en Español

December 8, 2018
By Kaz SILVER, Chagrin Falls, Ohio
Kaz SILVER, Chagrin Falls, Ohio
9 articles 0 photos 1 comment

Favorite Quote:
The thing about a story is that you dream it as you tell it, hoping that others might dream along with you, and in this way memory, imagination, and language combine to make spirits in the head.
--Tim O'Brien

Amongst the undulating mountains and green undergrowth of Los Higos, Dominican Republic, I sat alone on a block of cement in the afternoon heat.  Behind me, team members worked on the construction of a home the size of a typical American bathroom. Although we were making steady progress, my mood was plummeting alongside the sun as it dipped beneath the horizon.  I felt out of place; I was unskilled with tools but still wanted to serve the neighborhood. Even as I sat, a young Dominican girl approached me, a pamphlet in her hands.

¿Como te llamas?”  I smiled and beckoned her toward me.


“Do you want me to read this?” I asked Noelia in English.  I knew only basic Spanish, and she did not speak English, but she nodded and climbed into my lap regardless.  I was tentative without a translator, but this was a risk I needed to take.

For the next hour, Noelia and I read the entire pamphlet of poems together, back and forth, a conversation in Spanish I did not know the meaning of but understood nevertheless.  Noelia taught me words I mispronounced, and other kids from the barrio gathered to listen. The language barrier should have torn us apart, but miraculously, it became the platform upon which we united, the avenue through which I got to know her.  Noelia became a fast friend, and I—having found a capacity to communicate in the simple act of reading—gained something equally as valuable: a new direction to fuel my hunger for language. It was time to broaden my conception of language as I knew it.

Like all babies, my brain was hardwired to master language—perhaps even, as linguists are investigating, because of genetic “software” which ensures that I learn it.  Everyone has an instinct for language; it is biology. I found my instinct a little quicker than most, nurtured it a little more than most, until eventually, I fell deeply in love with words.  And while language is familiar to us all, the foundation of ancient and modern societies alike, to me it means something more. Language is where I lose myself daily.

Books were my first refuge, and as soon as I was old enough, writing became my second.  I was, and still am, enthralled by stories, characters, and the mere notion that a person could use words to construct and cultivate a world which once existed exclusively in imagination.  But language is far more than what is written on paper, as I discovered memorably that June afternoon in Los Higos. Language is an impregnable force capable of shaping fictitious worlds, yes, but also of shaping the real world—for example, linking two people from opposite cultures, lifestyles, and parts of the globe.

Noelia taught me that communication is more than which language is used.  The encounter deepened my awareness of why language matters in the real world and inspired me to pursue a greater understanding of how.  With encouragement and guidance from my Russian teacher and the catalyst of my Dominican Republic trip, I began to explore a new “branch” of English: linguistics.  I often straddle the arts and sciences, being equally creative and logical. Right brain and left brain are correlative to me. Linguistics serves as a bridge between the sciences and humanities, a synthesis of English, psychology, history, biology, anatomy, and physics.  It is this unity which is most attractive to me—the idea that all my interests are ultimately connected at their cores.

Regardless of whether I travel internationally, the way that I speak and write will remain a conduit through which I can reach and serve others.  No matter where, I will continue to wholeheartedly seek greater understanding of the incredible healing, destroying, creating, persuading power of words.

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