The School Newspaper of Texas High School

Broken English can be a barrier to school, job

April 27, 2017

Sitting in my first grade class, I struggle to decipher what the teacher is saying, and I am filled with millions of questions. Questions that will go unanswered. No one was there to help me. Not even my parents.

When it came to school, I remember I grew so frustrated when I would ask my parents, “Mom, Dad can you help me write a sentence?” and they would both respond, “I’m sorry, mi hijo, but I don’t know how to do that.”

After a while, my mom noticed that I struggled in school. I remember a distinct time period when my mom would pick me up from school and take me from restaurant to restaurant trying to get someone to help me with my homework.

Growing up, my parents’ main priority was always to work in order to survive, and, because of that, they had no time to dedicate to learning English.

My parents discussed continuously at night, thinking that my brother and I were asleep, about how they were having troubles at work because they did not know English. I sat and listened to them through the walls.

At one time, my mom got to the point where she started crying because she lost her job, and we didn’t have enough money to eat actual meals for a week. I would always see her just sitting in the living room with a blank face. After a while, my mom started cleaning houses; that became her full time job.

Time passed, and I learned to cope with the limitations my parents had. Toward the beginning of second grade, I was put in an ESL class and began to learn English. Aside from that, I had to go to two years of summer school. By fourth grade I had “mastered” the language.

As soon as I had a grip on English and could semi-translate in between the two languages, I began to translate for my parents.

I was the one who did the talking in situations; in a sense, I felt like I was forced to.

However, I didn’t do it because I was obligated, but rather because they sacrificed so much for me. I was just repaying them for everything they have done for me.

Going into middle school, my parents noticed that my Spanish was fading away. I struggled reading and spelling Spanish, and my speaking grammar was terrible. They feared that after a while, I would lose the ability to speak Spanish like many Mexican-Americans do or speak “Spanglish,” and so they enforced a rule upon my brother and me–speak Spanish inside the house, and only speak English when necessary.

All the obstacles I faced during my childhood ultimately lead to me being literate in both languages and able to easily translate in between them.

I know my childhood wasn’t the best, but it’s something I will always treasure, because being a translator is one of the most frustrating but most fascinating things to do.

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