The Linguist

The Linguist 54,3

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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returned. Suddenly I was beside people who were more confident speakers and had no Spanish heritage. In Spanish, unless I felt 100% confident I was correct, I didn't want to speak – something it took me a while to overcome. I was studying German at the same time and with that language I was more accepting of my mistakes and more willing just to try it. Choosing to learn Spanish at university was one of the best decisions of my life. It has been life changing. Not only has it allowed me to fully embrace my identity, but it has changed family dynamics. Someone once said to me that it is difficult to change the language of a relationship, and I have found this to be true. Even now that I can speak Spanish fluently, my father and I still speak in English. However, I feel I understand him a lot better. All the jokes he used to make that weren't funny in English, I can now understand. As children, our dad would say some sentences in Spanglish, such as 'pass the hoover' (to hoover). We used to mock him – something we would have never done had we been raised bilingually. Over a decade later, when I learnt that 'to hoover' in Spanish uses the verb pasar, I had a sudden pang of guilt. 30 The Linguist Vol/54 No/3 2015 OPINION & COMMENT There are many households in which more than one language could be spoken but isn't and I was raised in such a one. On a recent visit to family in Spain, my father was asked why he had not taught my siblings and me Spanish. 'They're English, they don't need it,' he replied. While that may be true for communication in England, we lost more than language skills; we lost an important part of our identity and culture. As a child, when my peers excitedly asked me to say something in Spanish, I would say 'no', explaining that no is also Spanish, as this was easier than the embarrassment of admitting I couldn't. We had picked up odd words here and there but nothing concrete. When we visited family in Spain all our verbal communication was done via our father. I remember walking down the streets with my nan and women stopping to talk to her and pinching my cheeks, which was a totally alien culture to me. Sadly my grandparents passed away before I learned to speak Spanish, so I missed out on the sort of In my opinion… relationship with them that I had with my English grandparents. I tried a few times to teach myself Spanish and then made the decision to do a language degree with the Open University, having Spanish as my main focus. I could finally gain that part of me that I felt had been missing. Even here I faced some of the same pressures that I had already placed on myself: one tutor told me he would mark my assignments more harshly because of my father, even though I had no real prior knowledge of the language. At university it struck me that I hadn't just missed out on a language but a whole culture. We knew little bits here and there, such as eating grapes at midnight for New Year, but I never knew that Spanish children left their shoes out for the Three Kings to put their Christmas presents in, or that the Spanish tooth fairy is actually a mouse. I felt a bit betrayed that I was not taught this as a child, but the more I learnt about Spanish culture and language, the less 'fake' I felt. I could proudly say 'I am half Spanish' and have something concrete to back it up with. I didn't have to pretend anymore. However, when it came to oral exams those feelings of failing as a Spanish person MICHELLE PEREZ-LOTCHO Monolingualism in the children of migrants can lead to a sense of loss and identity issues that are hard to overcome

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