Wordplay is a blog project featuring posts from students enrolled in ENG 320 Grammar and Linguistics (Fall 2019)
Spanish 101: The “Dora the Explorer” Version
by Madilyn Barraza
Growing up, I did not live in a traditional Hispanic home. I did not eat traditional Hispanic meals. I did not listen to traditional Hispanic music. I did not celebrate my 15th birthday in a Quinceanera fashion. I grew up on hot dogs and macaroni, Britney Spears, and ice cream cake from Dairy Queen. My parents spoke only English when speaking to my brother and I, as did my grandparents, who were capable of understanding and speaking more Spanish than anyone else in the family. It is not that my family did not appreciate our native culture, rather we fell into an Americanized culture.
Once I got to middle school, a language was required as one of our Exploratory classes. Instead of taking Chinese, due to the fact that I felt like it would be less enjoyable than Spanish, I decided on Spanish. Although it was a very basic class and the content was not all that difficult, I had no desire to learn the language because I had never felt that it was necessary for my everyday life, nor did my family ever make it a point to teach me. This point in my life can be named as the first time I really remember experiencing a bit of prejudice.
My teacher can be looked at as the first culprit. On the first day of class, followed by my name during roll call, my teacher would so enthusiastically comment “Barraza? This class should be a piece of cake for you!”. Not knowing how to respond, I simply giggled and looked down at my desk without making any noises or comments for the remainder of class. I felt uncomfortable because I knew was not fluent or even really familiar with very much Spanish and will admit to being offended, but little ‘middle school Madilyn’ was not going to show any anger towards the ignorance behind my teacher’s prejudice and instead would just get red cheeks.
During high school, my teachers would not be the only guilty ones to assume I had any natural ability to speak Spanish. Along with assumptions from my peers, I would receive plenty of insulting descriptors as well–one of my favorites being, “white-washed.” Although I never asked for the exact definition of this term, I was able to assume that it was based off of my friend choice, and of course lack of ability to speak Spanish being that I am full Hispanic. Being the stubborn person I am, when I had the choice of Chinese, German or Spanish, I chose German. I enjoyed the class very much and can still understand/speak some German to this day. I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy hearing my peers complaints about the difficulty of their Spanish classes; more specifically, those who liked to throw my nickname mentioned above around. The prejudice would not stop just nicknames though, and in my opinion, only became more personal.
Throughout my educational career, I have always prided myself on being towards the upper end of my class in academics and have always pushed myself to be the best I can. So to my dismay, I had a classmate (who just so happened to be of Hispanic descent) that needed help with an assignment we had due for a class we were taking together. As I easily helped her finish the assignment, she made the comment, without any hesitation, “Gah Madi, I did not expect you to be smart!” Of course, being very offended, I asked why she would assume that of me. She replied with, “Well because you’re Mexican. We aren’t smart haha!”
Disappointed, but not surprised.
I am well aware of the fact that there are many factors that affect people coming up in a traditional Hispanic/Latino home and as a result, there are very low high school and college degree achievement stats, but I truly believe that anyone can help themselves out of a bad or unfair situation by taking the right steps and taking full advantage of every opportunity they are given. I have come very far in my nineteen years and would advise anyone experiencing language prejudice to simply push through and ignore any judgment that does not speak to their true selves!
“Dora The Explorer” Animatedimages.org https://www.animatedimages.org/cat-dora-the-explorer-1148.htm
“Learn Spanish Banner.” Shutterstock.Com https://www.shutterstock.com/image-vector/learn-spanish-banner-language-school-touristic-373047733
Schneider, Barbara, et al. “Barriers to Educational Opportunities for Hispanics in the Unites States.” Hispanics and the Future of America, by National Research Council. E-Book, National Academies Press, 2006, pp. 179-227
Madilyn Barraza graduated from Scottsbluff High School and decided to continue her education at Chadron State because it was not too far from home but also was far enough for her to start experiencing some independence. She is majoring in Elementary Education K-8 and is looking into an endorsement in PE. She is a Sophomore at CSC this year and is currently working at the CDC on campus along with tutoring at the middle school a few days a week.