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En Español, Por Favor

Fátima speaks on missing her native language and finding ways to remain connected with her roots.

Fátima speaks on missing her native language and finding ways to remain connected with her roots.

As any bilingual will tell you, there is a certain magic that comes with speaking more than one language. I will forever be grateful for the opportunity I have had to expand my cultural and cognitive horizons by acquiring a second language. As much as I love English and the doors that it has opened for me, though, I am also deeply attached to Spanish. This is a dichotomy I have wrestled with over the past few months.

Unsurprisingly, the primary language used for both academic and casual interaction at Carleton is English. Even if every student has to fulfill the language requirement to graduate (and many do so even before matriculating), it is still rare to hear conversations in other languages outside of the classroom. As a result, I have struggled unsuccessfully to maintain a balance between my use of English and my use of Spanish.

The quest is not a hopeless one, though! With time I have found ways to keep using my Spanish to remain connected with my roots.

Casual Conversation

With so few of us out there, finding another Spanish speaker is always a delight. I can rarely help but engage in short, casual conversations with other Spanish speakers when I get the chance.

My Cross-Cultural Studies professor, Éva Pósfay, is often the victim of such talks. On the rare occasions in which I get to class early, I will exchange pleasantries in Spanish with her. Sometimes I will stop her after class to ask a thing or two in Spanish. Whenever I visit her during office hours I will pose my questions in a weird Spanglish that only she can understand. I am very thankful to her for indulging me in this.

My professors are not the only ones subjected to my little whim. The Spanish Language Associate and my fellow Latinos can hardly escape my brief interactions in-between classes or at the Libe.

My friends and I on a videocall.
My friends and I video-calling from our respective campuses!

Family and Friends

Though never my sole nor primary reason to call them, I must admit that the prospect of speaking Spanish is partially what makes calling my family and friends from back home so exciting. I use these opportunities not only to catch up with the people I care about, but also to remain in touch with the slang I refrain from using with other Spanish speakers.

Sharing and Teaching

They say that if you want to truly learn something, you must be able to teach it. Well, I guess this could apply to remembering and retaining too. I have found a couple of ways in which I can share my language with the people around me. Doing so always brings a smile to my face.

My roommate, who is already proficient in Latin, has been the subject of a little experiment I like to call teaching Spanish at LDC. When we have dinner together, I introduce her to a Spanish word (like for cookie, plate, apple), and quiz her randomly in the following days. Though I do not hope to make a fluent Spanish speaker out of her with this method, it has certainly been entertaining to watch her progress!

Julio Cortázar's Rayuela Special Edition
I have also been using this conundrum as an excuse to engage with Hispanic literature! (Photo courtesy of Real Academia Española).

Even more fun, however, has been watching my Project Friendship mentee develop her Spanish skills and confidence! Also from Latin American roots, she speaks Spanglish at home. I have worked to extend her language acquisition into our weekly hangouts. While it has taken time for her to gain the confidence to speak to me in Spanish, she has slowly opened up to me. Now, she will occasionally tell me to go “¡rápido, rápido!” when I am packing up our coloring stuff before her mom picks her up.

Finally, I have decided to apply to be a Spanish Teacher Assistant next year! I still do not know whether I will get the job or not, but I sure hope so. It would be an incredible opportunity not only to practice and share my Spanish but to meet other Carls interested in the language and its culture.


If culture has two major channels, those are certainly food and language. What better excuse to practice your Spanish than eating some delicious tacos or the finest lomo saltado you can find?

My favorite of my food-language experiences was during winter break when a Chilean friend and I visited the Twin Cities. We dined at a fantastic Peruvian restaurant while in there. The music, the colors, and the scent made it all feel like home. Yet, the cherry on top was definitely being able to order our plátanos con queso in Spanish!

Me showing off our menu in Spanish!
Me showing off our menu in Spanish!

Classes, maybe?

After I tested out of the language requirement with Spanish, I thought that was the end of my foreign language journey at Carleton. While filling out my Spanish TA application, however, I realized that I might be getting rusty with my academic Spanish. So, I am contemplating taking a 300-level Spanish class next Spring Term. Namely, SPAN 376: Mexico City: The City as Protagonist with professor Silvia Lopez.

Whether or not I end up taking this class, I know I will continue using my Spanish as much as I can. After all, there is nothing quite like speaking in one’s own language.

Fátima strives to learn everything about everything, but is especially interested in Sociology/AnthropologyPsychology, and Disney! As a freshman, she can’t wait to introduce her peers to her native Guatemalan culture, put in practice her newly acquired ASL skills, and play in the snow for the first time. In her free time, Fátima can be found watching cartoons, poorly playing the ukulele, or desperately missing her dog, Cosmo. Meet the other bloggers!