Forgotten Spanish.

Essay by yesenia21College, Undergraduate October 2005

download word file, 3 pages 5.0

In Simon Ortiz's essay, "The Language We Know" Ortiz wrote about his

childhood as an Acoma Pueblo Indian during the 1950's. Ortiz wrote that through the

teachings from his parents and grandparents he did not forget his traditions and

language. During that period in time Native American children were sent off to school to

learn the English language and become "Americanized." Ortiz wrote, "it has occurred to

me that I learned English simply because I was forced to, as so many other Indian

children were," (30). In my own experience, I too felt pressured in learning the English

language; not so much by the government, but by my mother. I was a first-generation

American child born to a Salvadorian immigrant, whom Spanish is her native language.

Unlike Ortiz, my mother's culture was not instilled in me. My mother thought, if I was to

make it in America, I must be "Americanized."

She had no hopes for herself to become

"Americanized," to this day, twenty-six years later, she still cannot speak or understand

the English language.

While growing up in Los Angeles, California, Spanish was my first language until

I started elementary school. I learned English quickly and by the time I was about seven

or eight years old, and was able to read, I became my mother's translator. I read the

mail, and some times had to translate financial and legal terms. When we were at

doctor appointments, I had to translate the medical advice given to us. In the grocery

store, I had to translate ingredients, and cooking directions on the labels of food

packages. My experience as a young child helped me better understand the English

language, however, it brought on another problem. As I entered my teenage years, I

was forgetting my first language.

"Spanglish" is the mixing of Spanish using English terms instead of using the

term properly in Spanish. To many Hispanics this is considered a language in itself, like

"Black English." Today "Spanglish" is very common in Hispanic communities. In James

Baldwin's essay, "If Black English Isn't a Language, Then Tell Me, What Is?" he wrote,

"people evolve a language in order to describe and thus control their circumstances or

in order not to be submerged by a reality that they cannot articulate" (21).

"Spanglish" was developed by Hispanics for the convenience of understanding an

English term. I feel I picked up "Spanglish" because I was not taught the proper

language of Spanish. My mother understood when I spoke "Spanglish" so therefore she

never corrected me when I threw in an English word in place of the Spanish one. As a

teenager, I had no interest in my mother's culture and spoke Spanish only when I had

to. I had become "Americanized," although my community was made up of eighty-five

percent Hispanics, many were also first-generation American and felt the same way I


Nevertheless, it was not until I left Los Angeles to join the military that I felt the

need to know my culture. It was the first time that I was away from home, and the first

time that I interacted with people from different backgrounds. I met many other

Hispanics and was fascinated by the diversity of the people and their culture. Little by

little, I learned about my culture and heritage. I took Spanish classes and read Spanish

literature in order to learn the proper form of the Spanish language. I also watch

Spanish news shows to keep up with current events in Latin America.

In conclusion, I feel I can relate to Simon Ortiz in his yearning to keep his

heritage alive, only, I learned later in life. Many Hispanics are losing their first language

by chopping it up through "Spanglish," which is not taught, but picked up like slang. As

more time passes on, more English words will be substituted for Spanish words, and

eventually the Spanish language will be lost to Americans of Hispanic descent.

However, it is not too late for my daughter, whom I hope to instill the language and

heritage of her grandmother. I will also teach her to be proud of her heritage, and

especially not to forget it.

Works Cited:

Baldwin, James. "If Black English Isn't a Language, Then Tell Me What Is?" Reading

and Writing: The Keys to Knowledge. Ed. Laura Morales-Johnson and LeAnn