College Writing 1
Prof Therese Jones
"Language and its impact"
How does language connect us to the real world? Despite the multiple ways language forms connections, one way language creates those connections is allowing individuals to communicate with one another. For instance, there are a variety of languages that form multiple language barriers. Imagine a small woman at Walgreens and her 2-year-old is screaming in pain. The woman is trying to ask for help in Spanish. She’s asking, “Which medicine treats a child’s ear infection?!”, but the worker doesn’t understand Spanish. No one in the store is able to communicate or translate for her. What’s the resolution? What happens, frustration? Ultimately, knowing three different languages has helped me connect to the real world by giving me the opportunity to enhance my literacy, assist individuals to communicate their needs, and break language barriers.
As a child, I grew up learning Spanish even though both my parents spoke English. When my sister was born, my parents then taught her Spanish as well. When she was about 2 or 3 years old, my parents noticed a delay in her speech. She would often mispronounce words, for example, she would say “pesgetti” rather than “spaghetti.” Every parent wants the best for their children so they took it upon themselves to put her in speech therapy. Her therapist was the kindest person ever. She had a blonde pixie cut, smelled like vanilla (I just know it from Bath and Body Works), and always offered me watermelon gum, the Extra brand. The one that has a rich flavor of watermelon for roughly one minute, then it tastes bland so it must be tossed. Miss Faith was her name, and she worked with my sister for a couple of months and brought us unfortunate news. She informed my parents, “Her speech is not improving, and it could be a result of two languages at home. This means I need you to pick a language so she isn’t confused.” Trying to be good parents they choose to stick with English.
Although my sister didn’t realize it would impact her, it was an impact on me at the time since I now was required to pause my Spanish learning. As my sister got older and finished her therapy, my parents then started incorporating Spanish around her, but she wasn’t able to pick it up. My grandmother would often take care of us and she always tried talking to us, yet my sister couldn’t communicate with her. Their way of communicating was usually my grandmother pointing to objects and my sister nodding “yes” or “no.” Usually, I was left to translate for the two, which ultimately helped me enhance my literacy in Spanish. Despite pausing my Spanish learning, once I continued learning it, I was able to break the communication barrier between my grandmother and sister. Breaking this language barrier led me to be their connection and resource to communicate their needs to each other.
Many individuals say that it’s hard to learn a new language getting older, and in some cases it’s true. After my sister finished her speech therapy, it was hard for her to learn Spanish, but despite the difficulty, it might have brought, I decided that I wanted to learn a new language. I was around 13 years old and I attended a birthday party and saw my deaf cousin sitting at a table, not enjoying himself because he couldn’t communicate with anyone. Growing up, I did not see that side of my family often and when I did, I would see him as weird. Why was that? Well, he was the one that would have a lot of piercings on his ears and wear eyeliner. As a child, that was not typically part of the social norm, so I thought it was different. It’s sad to say but it’s the truth. Not only that, but I also saw him communicate with his parents using his hands and the younger me did not understand why. When utilizing his hands, he often would try talking, but it sounded like he was shouting sounds, not words. The day I saw him sitting miserably alone, looking at everyone having a good time, I felt awful because here I was playing duck-duck-goose with my three little cousins, falling, laughing, running, and enjoying ourselves. So, as a result of seeing him unable to communicate with anyone, besides his parents, I took it upon myself to learn American Sign Language, ASL, so he wouldn’t feel outcasted.
For several months, I tried online games in an effort to teach myself American Sign Language. I eventually got frustrated because my 12-year-old brain could not retain what I was learning in these games. I pretty much was only able to get as far as mastering the alphabet and numbers. Fortunately, when going into high school, ASL was an option for a foreign language, and I took that opportunity to correctly learn ASL. The first semester, I learned so much, one crucial thing I learned was that the ASL grammatical structure is completely different from English. First of all, when writing a sentence, it’s in all caps. It also follows a structure of time, subject, verb, and object. For example, if I translate the English sentence “My dog lost his toy yesterday” in ASL, it would be “YESTERDAY- MY-DOG-LOST-BALL.” It amazed me, the differences, the culture, the structure.
As the first couple months in the course passed, a student in my class came one day and shared, “I was at Culver’s last night and I saw a deaf person trying to order, but they were having trouble. So, I introduced myself and asked if they needed help and they said, “YES-PLEASE.” I had them finger-spell their order, and I told the cashier what they wanted. Afterward, they were so grateful I was able to help them!” Hearing that story inspired me to take ASL throughout all four years of high school and hope one day that I can help a deaf individual. As time went on, I was able to learn a lot more in my high school class, but I also had to get involved if I wanted to enhance my literacy in ASL. I did this by attending events called “silent dinners” where the only way we could communicate was through ASL, and this ultimately gave me good experiences on how to structure my sentences as well as understand others signing to me. Eventually, when I thought I learned enough ASL, I took the initiative to communicate with my deaf cousin, Roger. The first time I communicated with him I said, “HI-ASL-I-LEARN-HIGH SCHOOL.” Now, this is probably the first time someone in his family besides his mom, dad, and sister ever communicated with him. At first, his furrowed eyebrows gave the impression of confusion, but after signing for a bit he was so grateful he had someone else to communicate with and that idea overwhelmed me with joy. Being able to break the language barrier with my cousin was what inspired me to take ASL, and I was able to fulfill that. Now at family parties, I can be another resource to communicate his needs and another person he can connect and converse with.
Waiting for my moment to help a deaf person was something I had longed for ever since my classmate’s Culver’s story in ASL. Eventually, I started working in retail, TJ Maxx. Helping guests was part of my daily work routine, but it didn’t happen as often as one would think. I simply was just supposed to organize shelves and put new or more products on the shelves. It was repetitive and one day, the overall day was going by slowly and I couldn’t wait for my shift to end. I was heading to the stock room, to get more products to display when someone waved me down for help. It was an older woman. She was a short woman with gray roots and black wire glasses. When she waved me down she signed to me, “HI-IM-DEAF” so as I was taught in class, I introduced myself and replied, “HI-MY-NAME-DANIELLA-I-LEARN-ASL-YOU- NEED-HELP.” She was stunned, she was excited, and she was grateful. The woman needed help looking for a gold kitchen pot, and I was able to find that for her. Afterward, I was overwhelmed with happiness because I got my moment to help a deaf person. I got the moment I was looking forward to by helping a deaf individual communicate their needs. I got the moment to make someone feel grateful, and I got the moment to break a language barrier, but that’s not the only time I was able to break the language barrier.
After graduating high school and working at TJ Maxx for a year, I got a new job at Biolife. I spent four days in computer training and on the first day, I was able to train on the floor. There was a Spanish-speaking individual whom I was called to translate for. Now, I did not know what I was doing fully; I had just started. Ultimately, I just had to explain our vital-taking process and just translate what my trainer was telling me to say. Afterward, my trainer told me, “It’s a good thing you were here because no one else can translate and when that happens we have to tell the donors to leave.” The idea of turning someone away due to a language barrier threw me off because I didn’t think it was a big deal. I guess when working with vitals and blood communication is crucial. So although I was nervous about starting a new job and translating for a stranger, my co-workers and the Spanish-speaking individual were both appreciative of my ability to break the language barrier.
While working, language is key to connecting with guests, and it’s hard when a language barrier is present. For myself, breaking barriers between my grandma and sister, my deaf cousin, and individuals at work has taught me to continue assisting people because they will appreciate it. As an individual having the opportunity to learn three languages, I received the privilege to enhance my literacy, helping individuals communicate and break language barriers. Yes, language is a big factor that connects us to the real world because we depend on communication with others on a daily basis. When people can’t communicate with one another, language barriers take place and everyone handles those differently. But the key is to not get frustrated and have patience because what good will it do if everyone gets frustrated?