My experience in learning a new language

My experience in learning a new language

Maia Garcia , Reporter

For my last article I wanted to do something personal that would leave a message for the Tigers and so I decided to tell my experience learning another language.

I will summarize a little. I was born in Wyoming, but months after I was born, I was taken to Tijuana because my mom had almost no one in her family in Wyoming and she felt lonely. My mom knew English but never spoke to me in English only in Spanish and my dad didn’t know any English so for those reasons as a little girl, I was never familiar with English. I entered kindergarten when I was five years old and I left when I was six years old. Then I entered elementary school and if I am honest, I was a slow learner in elementary school since I was six years old because my father passed away and that affected my learning. I entered high school when I was 13 years old and in high school, they taught English but the level of English was very low; I never learned anything.

When I was 13 years old my mom decided that we would move to San Diego so we could learn English. I suffered a lot when she gave me that news. I wanted to move and learn another language, but I was very scared and I was sad to leave my friends even though I knew I could see them every weekend since San Diego to Tijuana is about 30 minutes.  But not seeing them every day hurt me. January 24, 2020 was my first day of school in San Diego. I entered my Middle School in the 8th grade called “STEAM Academy la Presa.” That day I remember I cried in the morning because I had no English friends and I would have to start a new “life.” I knew it would be hard, but I would make it; I will always remember that my first period was Math and when I entered the school, they all saw me very ugly as if I was a weird person. Maybe for them I was, but I knew I wasn’t. I had ELD class since that class is for new students that don’t know English. In that class I met a girl named Ximena in the 7th grade and she was a salvation for me in that school. We are still in contact, and I still tell her what happens in my life. She was my first friend in San Diego, and I used to meet her at lunch and so on. I still couldn’t get used to school and cried every night because I wanted to go back to Tijuana with my friends.

A few months later they announced Covid and I started the online school. It was very difficult because my English was never practiced with anyone and if I am realistic, I never learned anything in Middle School. In June I graduated from Middle School and in August I entered the High School “Monte Vista” and everything was online because I was following the Covid rules. I still went to school once a week, but I still didn’t learn any English because I fell asleep in my classes and so on, once the zoom camera turned on and the teacher saw me sleeping the whole class, I was very embarrassed but now I remember that and it makes me laugh a lot and more because the teacher never said anything to me.

At the end of my freshman year, I met a little person who was an angel for me; her name was Monica and she helped me a lot in school. In my sophomore year, we were going to start the school in person, but obviously, we needed masks because the Covid was still going on. as I had no friends, I asked my friend Monica if I could join her and she agreed.  She was Junior and I was Sophomore and for that reason, we never had any classes together, but she helped me in everything and she really was a great support in those difficult moments. My ELD class really helped me a lot. The teacher that first day of class gave us a motivational message. She told us that she started like us from scratch with English, and that it was difficult but she did it. She really knew what she was doing because she taught us a lot in a very short time. My friend Monica spoke English and Spanish and thanks to her, I also learned a lot because when I was with her, she had other friends and with them she spoke English and I only listened but listening helped me a lot because I “educated my ear” to understand a little bit.

My mom in October decided to make a change in our lives which was to move from San Diego to Los Banos. The day she told me that I felt a horrible feeling, I suffered a lot. I was just getting used to my life in San Diego and from one day to the next my life changes. I was going to miss my friends, family and more. All my life I imagined myself in San Diego or Tijuana but never farther away. The idea of moving to another place did not feel real; I still did not assimilate it. I did not assimilate the idea of leaving my life, because for me that was leaving, my whole life. It felt real to move until I was packing my bags and saying goodbye to my family, what hurt me the most was saying goodbye to my best friend, I felt that with time she was going to forget me or stop talking to me.

I arrived here in Los Banos on November 2nd and I really refused the idea of living in a town since all my life I had lived in a city.  On November 8, I went to school. I looked at the school and I really liked it, but I had no friends. That’s when the depression started. I stopped eating for months and my mom begged me to eat at least a little. Every day I called my best friend telling her that I wanted to return since I had no friends, etc.

I already understood a little more English, but I didn’t like to speak. I started to talk to girls who spoke Spanish but they didn’t like me, and this is where I will explain why. The people who come to live here are mostly from Michoacan, and I came from Tijuana. Tijuana and Michoacan are completely different places and different people. Americans think that all Mexico is the same, but it is not so. I am from Tijuana and I do not get along well with those from Michoacan because they are very different from me and I do not say that there is something wrong with me but we are very different and that’s fine, but they did not like me because my way of being is more “Picky” they say. That’s when I realized that if I wanted friends, I had to learn English to make friends with the American girls because the Mexican girls didn’t like me. Even so there were months full of me wanting to go back to Tijuana or San Diego because I missed my family.

My ELD teacher Laura Borrego and my English teacher Jennifer Lampreda were helpful many times and thanks to them I was able to learn more English. It was months of sitting alone in recess because I had no friends. I remember that every day I asked God to please send me back to where I was from. I took antidepressants and even that didn’t help. I cried at night because I felt that my English wasn’t enough yet. In P.E. was when for the first time I was encouraged to talk to a boy who only spoke English. He was patient with me and he knew that my English was not the best but he still tried to understand me, and if I said something wrong, he corrected me and that’s good because I knew that there was no better way to learn English than correcting me.

If I had to summarize my sophomore year, it would be depression and more depression because of the move, because of my English, because of my lack of friends and because of teasing, because yes, many people made fun of me, my English, etc. The only thing I thought when they made fun of me was “Someday I will learn to speak English perfectly and also I will know Spanish, but that will not make me better than them, it will make me better to be a better person and not to make fun of other people.”  Even though I tried not to let the criticism affect me, it did affect me a lot. Not even the antidepressants helped me feel better. I would come home from school and the only thing I did was sleep because I was really depressed. Little by little I got used to the idea, but if I’m honest, I didn’t get used to it until my junior year.

My first friend I had was in April of 2022.  That girl named Kaitlin was new in school and I had been in P.E. with her. I have always had something that with the new people in school I have tried to be gentle since I know what it is like not to have friends or that no one likes you. I approached her and asked her what grade she was in and she told me that she was a freshman and I told her that if she needed a friend that I was here and that my English was not the best but that I was trying to improve, which she understood. As time went by we became closer and she became a good friend; she always tried to correct me because I told her to do it, just as she taught me English, I taught her Spanish and we got along very well. Thanks to her, my sadness went away a little because I felt good because I finally had a friend and besides my English was improving because I was practicing it.

On May 22nd 2022 I decided to stop taking my antidepressants because I felt it was an “artificial” happiness and for more reasons, summer started and I went on vacation to Tijuana for two weeks.  Those two weeks helped me a lot to see my family and friends. I felt great and it helped me a lot. I came back to Los Banos a little happier and I decided to do productive things before school started.  Junior year started very well and I went back to therapy. All the classes went well except English. I remember that the teacher that I had was Miss Snively and when the class started she told us many things but one of the things I will never forget was, “I expect a lot from you guys because if you are in this English; it is because you know English since you were born.” I remember that I felt like crying because it wasn’t like that with me. I still didn’t know English completely. I talked to my psychologist about that it was my only class that worried me since I wasn’t a native English speaker. She told me to tell my counselor and that if I wanted to change it was okay. I said no. I didn’t want to change from that class because I knew I could. I just needed the teacher to have a little patience. My psychologist told me to send an email to my teacher and explain the situation and I did it, but I was afraid because for some reason, I thought she wouldn’t want me in her class because of the English issue.  But I did; I sent her the email and she answered me in the sweetest way and told me that she understood that she had had a similar situation and that she knew what it was like to learn a new language. That’s when I said, “I want to stay in this class, will it be a challenge? Yes, but I will make it through this class.”

That class was the one that encouraged me to reinforce more my English and to encourage me to speak it more. About a month after my junior year, I had more friends because I was encouraged to speak more English, even so I felt that it was not enough but I understood that for everything there is a process and that it must be respected and I should not demand too much because that could not be good for me and my mental health. My depression went away and happiness came back to me, although I still felt nervous every time I speak in front of classes, but I was not so deprived to speak it, as time went by I got used to the idea that I was no longer living in Tijuana or San Diego, I was already living in Los Banos and here was my life, I already had friends, I had peace of mind and very good grades, I still had problems with English but they were less.

Little by little I was encouraged to speak more English and I met magical people that made my junior year magical. Nowadays, maybe I am not fluent but my English is much better, I understand it perfectly and I can also speak it. I can proudly say that I passed all my classes and I am in my best moment.

All moments pass, only you decide if you stop or continue and reach your goal, to all those people that maybe are going through the same thing with their English I want to tell them that someday their effort will count a lot, do not stop to speak English just because it is not “good” enough if you do not speak it you will never learn it. I have always admired people that speak two languages because I know how much it cost them to learn it.

I realize that those nights when I cried because I didn’t know English or they made fun of me were worth it; it only helped give me the strength to get to where I am today.

My junior year is about to end and I want to thank all my teachers who helped me so much like Maestra Borrego, Lampreda, Snively and McCullough who even though they don’t know Spanish, always looked for a way to understand me or for me to understand them. That was my experience in learning a new language and although I still have more to learn, I am no longer afraid to speak it.

I can only tell Tigers to be aware and when they look at a person who doesn’t know all the English, they should try to help them instead of laughing or making jokes about it. Instead, a person should try to help them.