Vetnamese is a language I was born into. I really don’t remember a time when I didn’t speak it,” Wewel said. “When I was little, my mom was a stay-at-home mom. Since her first language was Vietnamese, she brought it into the household and spoke it with my siblings and I.” Wewel calls her mom “me,” which is the Vietnamese word for mother. Her mom is her only parent who speaks Vietnamese, so at home, she speaks both English and Vietnamese equally.
“At home, when my father was at work, I would speak Vietnamese with my mother. When he came back home, I would speak to him in English (since he had, and still has, no idea what we were saying).” This is something she still does today.
Wewel is taking her third year of French at Marian. “I think knowing another language makes you more open minded to new languages. Since you already have experience in speaking another language, you begin to pick up on rules and words of other languages easily.”
However, speaking two languages isn’t always smooth sailing. “Sometimes I find myself subconsciously mixing up my words in sentences. For example, if I’m speaking in English, I’ll sometimes replace one word in the sentence with a Vietnamese word.” Despite this occasional challenge, she hopes to someday be fluent in French.
“I feel that Vietnamese is possibly a bigger part of my identity than English. It was passed down to me from my mom, who is an inspiration in my life, and it will be passed down to my future children, that is, if I have any.”
Freshman Crystal Gonzalez speaks both Spanish and English. She learned to speak the two languages when she first started talking. While she doesn’t find it confusing to speak two different languages, learning French at Marian, her third language, can be a challenge at times. “Knowing two different languages is not that helpful. I’m still having to learn entirely new words and definitions,” Gonzalez said.
While she mostly speaks English at home, Spanish still manages to find its way into other facets of her life. “Whenever one of my friends sneezes, I usually say ‘salud’ instead of ‘bless you.’”
“My mom and her whole side of the family are Polish, so I learned Polish from them in order to communicate with them. I still have family members who don’t speak any English, so being able to speak Polish is super important to me,” senior Ola Hezel said. “I try to use as much Polish as I can so that I can keep up and not forget it.”
At home she mostly speaks English, but when she talks to her grandparents she only uses Polish. To add on to her plethora of languages, Hezel is in her fourth year of Spanish at Marian. Learning Spanish has been a lot easier for her since she is able to speak Polish. “It has helped with the learning process, as well as my pronunciation.”
However, learning a third language is not always easy for her. “The sentence structure and grammar are all so different,” Hezel said. During the summer, she speaks more Polish than Spanish, so it can be hard to adjust when she comes back to school.
“[Being] Polish is such a big part of my family and who I am as a person, I could never imagine not having it in my life.”
Senior Aby Acevedo’s first language was Spanish. She grew up speaking it and only learned English by hearing the language at school, on T.V. and around her friends. She feels like English is a bigger part of her identity. “I grew up watching movies and listening to songs in English; it has just always been English.”
However, Spanish is important to her and her relationship with her parents. At home, she talks to her parents in Spanish and her siblings in English. “It’s really beneficial to know another language because you can talk to a whole new group of people. And it’s also nice to help others, especially my parents, when they need a translator,” Acevedo said. She took Spanish starting freshman year and finished Spanish V as a junior.
“One time I was at the grocery store, and this lady in front of me wanted to say something in English, but she couldn’t. It was nice to be able to translate for her.”
Being bilingual has many other advantages. “I can watch movies in Spanish and view a different culture, and I can also watch movies in English,” Acevedo said. “I get the best of both worlds.”