My parents were born and raised in Mexico. They immigrated to the United States as adults, where they eventually met and married. Growing up, my family spoke only Spanish in the household. My mother would always tell us that we would learn English at school and maintain our Spanish at home. She kept our Mexican culture alive through frequent visits to Mexico and by exposing us to various Spanish media outlets. During my childhood, we would listen to the news and radio in Spanish. I can recall her love of music and remember listening to popular as well as folkloric Mexican songs she would play for us.
While my parents strived to maintain an appreciation for the Spanish language and culture, they also embraced the American culture and its language. I can recall listening to many Motown hits and other popular music during the 1980s. We also celebrated American holidays such as Halloween and Christmas the American way, which was something our relatives or friends did not do.
In school I never enrolled in Bilingual or ESL classes. Although these services were offered at my school, my teachers did not see a need for them in my academic or language development. From the beginning, I loved school and never struggled academically or socially. I was a shy student who followed the rules and who played school when I got home. I knew from a young age that I wanted to become a teacher when I grew up. Overall, my positive experiences with school quickly shaped my attitudes towards English.
It was during elementary school that I truly learned English and connected with the language. At school, I would speak to my peers in English and eventually started using it with my own brother at home. I had teachers who encouraged us to maintain our heritage as Spanish-speakers but who also pushed us to become better English speakers. My proficiency in English progressed each year. In fact, my English was so fluent by the fifth grade that my parents utilized me as the family’s translator. While I loved the language, I did not particularly enjoy ordering pizza and disputing bills over the phone.