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Rosie Taylor

ENG 302

My Linguistic Journey

December 3, 2019

Linguistic Bridge Building

My racial and linguistic backgrounds allow me to navigate with others more often throughout

the world. As a person who speaks Spanglish, Black English, and Mainstream White English, I

am able to effectively convey meaning. It allows me to be a bridge builder and enable me to

validate multiple languages in contexts that wouldn’t otherwise use or understand them. I think

of all languages as equal, however I am able to understand that in today’s society they are not

seen as so.

Living in Grand Rapids is interesting- it’s a place that is very diverse in some areas, an very

segregated in others (while still being diverse). There are many spots where communities are

formed based off of culture, race, and class within the community itself. An easy example

showing this is the two different school systems I’ve been a part of in Grand Rapids, versus

where my family was from. The first school system I was a part of was very diverse and mixed

in, and because of this at a young age- I didn’t really notice differences for people with skin

colors different from mine. It probably helped that I had two adopted brothers who were Black,

and Black and Vietnamese, along with the rest of my Mexican and White brothers (5 brothers

total). This school was also about 5 minutes from our “downtown strip”, so it was (and is)

considered more inner-city. However, halfway through my K-12 schooling, my parents moved

our family across town to move away from violence and for better jobs, and schooling

opportunities.
At this time my Dad was still working at an inner-city school that was, and still is known for

a lot of gang violence, but has many bright students, and is very diverse. I had friends in this

school system, my old school, and was making new friends at the new district I had switched

into. Once I got to this school, I quickly realized the differences. There were the girls like me:

wavy hair at the time, hoops, Jordan’s, and off brands. I listened to Jennifer Lopez, Selena

Gomez, Shakira, and Rihanna. Kids at this school wore Abercrombie and Fitch, pearls, and had

UGS. They listened to Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, and Lady Gaga. While some differences could

be overlooked, the way I talked couldn’t be. Nor could my mom’s accent that she was made fun

of for.

While the culture shock felt major at the beginning, I quickly realized that there were still

plenty of kids just like me in the school district. However, they weren’t the kids my teachers

would urge me to work with or hangout with. They were the kids who were sent to a special

resources room with me for being behind in reading, or for speaking incorrectly. I had never

been critiqued on the way I spoke, in my old neighborhood and school, I spoke just fine. So did

my mom, in fact she barely even spoke Spanish, and other Hispanics made fun of us for it!

I quickly realized I was always going to be in an “other” category because of this. My

English, Spanish, and Spanglish were equal- just enough for good communication in each but

never extremely proficient. However, Spanglish became more validated as I floated through two

different types of diverse communities- but it wasn’t necessarily accepted in either place. On one

side of town, I was laughed at for my Spanglish for not speaking the Spanish fluently. On the

other side, I was glared at for speaking “improper”, not having a higher vocabulary in English,

and asking “dumb” questions about what words and phrases meant.
Still to me, Spanglish was more validated. However, I didn’t have proof for this until

connecting what I learned about the African American English Language during this class. I

knew both languages were valuable, and could communicate effectively in both languages, but

didn’t realize how much structure was behind both languages.

I wish I knew this more as a student in school, especially at a younger age when I tried to

make myself assimilate to what I thought my teachers wanted me to be. Instead of trading my

hoops for pearls, gold chain for silver, and learning to get rid of my “accent” and “slang”- I

could’ve embraced my culture.

As a future early elementary educator, I hope to focus on multilingual children’s books, and

inclusive readings. Validating all backgrounds, cultures, and languages in my classroom will be a

top priority. The importance of this is discussed in The Bilingual Review article, Nuestros

Cuentos: Fostering a Comunidad de Cuentistas Through Collaborative Storytelling with Latinx

and Indigenous Youth, “we are seeking to increase the existence and representation of Latinx

literature, we aim to reach this objective by facilitating a process through which stories are

shared collaborated, and published for local distribution” (Torrez 93). Allowing students to speak

in their home languages, but also learn others in the classroom will not only benefit them, but it

will help society become better bridge builders as they help people learn how to connect with

one another.

These experiences from my family, the communities I was a part of, and places I’ve lived

have allowed me to learn how to understand many different people. These are people with

different cultures, socioeconomic classes, and home languages. Due to the fact my immediate

family is made up of multiple different races, it has made it easier for me to communicate to

different groups of people.


Validating Spanglish within my own culture can be tricky, however discussing the

importance and validating others showing their history and rules behind the language of AAL,

and the power struggles between it and White Mainstream English can help me further educate

and provide reasoning to others, using readings and research we looked at in class.

My experiences living in different communities have also helped me learn to shift my

perspectives and become understanding of different views, while also staying firm in my own.

This allows me to be openly honest with others instead of perpetuating a marginalizing cycle. It

is important to do this within not only within the context of discussing physical violence

surrounding racial topics, but also linguistic violence. This would include informing others

helping educate them on the histories behind language and help them become aware of

appropriate language usage. Racism in the English Language points out these ideas coming from

an anonymous author, “While we may not be able to change the language, we can definitely

change our usage of the language. We can avoid using words that degrade people. We can make

a conscious effort to use terminology that reflects a progressive perspective…” (Racism in the

English Language 3 ).While I am a minority, as I am a speaker of minority languages, customs,

and mixed race of Native American, and Mexican American- I acknowledge my privilege as a

white person as well.

On the street in most communities I can go unnoticed as long as the way I dress and speak

matches White mainstream culture. This causes me to need to look at my own White privilege

and go through a metaphorical death in order to be reborn to think radically. This idea was is

discussed in I Had to Die to Live Again, “In order to do such critical work and teach for full

humanity and liberation, I had to experience a new birth. New birth leads to the rebirth of a
liberated and transformative self- new thought, new ways of speaking, new way of existing, and

a new way of being,” (Johnson 4). Even when looking at myself as being a part of the Latinx

community this doesn’t mean I don’t have generalizations or stereotypes; therefore, I need to go

through this practicing of rebirth either way. While my language differences were a setback at

times when I was younger, I now look at them as an extra privilege compared to other

monolingual speakers. Having more languages under my belt allows me to communicate

effectively enough to become a linguistic bridge builder, so I can get big points across in

conversations and provides a gateway to opportunities.


Works Cited

Johnson, Lamar. “I Had to Die to Live Again.”

Racism in the English Language, www.pcc.edu/illumination/wp-


content/uploads/sites/54/2018/05/racism-in-the-english-language.pdf.

To, J. Estrella. “Nuestros Cuentos: Fostering a Comunidad De Cuentistas Through


Collaborative Storytelling With Latinx and Indigenous Youth.