Bilinguals Hurt Too

Recently I was trying to remember when and how I decided I wanted to learn how to speak English. After thinking long and hard about it, I realized it was something that sparked my interest when I was in Kindergarten. I remember my English teacher using puppets to reel us in, and in my case, it worked. 

Throughout my formative years, I somehow understood some words in the language and went with it. Although in Puerto Rico we take English as a mandatory class throughout our entire school life, that wasn’t what helped me, because to be honest with you my English teachers always sucked (except two angels sent from the heavens above, one in kindergarten and one in ninth grade). I didn’t really start teaching myself the language until I was about ten or eleven years old and I started watching Disney Channel. After that, I would listen to music in English (Jessie McCartney was my bae), and even read in the language, barely understanding but slowly making sense of the words depending on the context.

I remember not being confident enough to speak it with anyone, and to this day I overthink it when I’m talking with my friends whose first language is English.

What is the point of that nonsense? 

When you decide to learn another language it can be for a million reasons, but you try your hardest to express yourself and write the way the people whose language you’re trying to learn, do. Which is why it’s very disheartening when those people make fun of your accent or the way you phrase things.

For the longest time whenever I told people that I was Puerto Rican, that my first language was Spanish and that I had taught myself how to speak English, and they responded with “but your English is so good” I would take it as the biggest compliment. Mainly because of the insecurity I always felt, but then I realized that it was a backhanded compliment. The way I see it, it’s like people don’t think it possible for someone whose first language isn’t English to be completely fluent.

Something that always drives me insane is when people who can barely speak one language make fun of those trying to learn a second one because apparently, it's funny when you use the wrong tense, but God forbid they learn something else aside from “pantalones” and “biblioteca”. Seriously, why are those the only words people know?

I knew this girl who would make fun of people’s accents when speaking English, and it honestly made me so mad. I don’t think people realize how much that can discourage someone. I’m all for constructive criticism, they’re saying something wrong? Help them, correct them, but don’t laugh at them and then imitate their accent or what they said in a mocking way. You have no idea how harmful that can be and what a blow to their confidence it is. 

As I said, I tend to be very harsh with myself when it comes to speaking English, and whenever that girl would make fun of something I said, I would beat myself up for hours because how could I be so stupid to mess that word up?

Encourage people to learn and grow, don’t make them feel like shit about something they felt proud about.

Forever second-guessing my word choices,

                        - Michelle 

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