Bilingualism and being lost in Mexico — The North Star Reports – by Jennifer Battcher. Sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and The Middle Ground Journal
I have great respect for people who are fluent in more than one language. Six years of Spanish and a minor in the subject have left me able to understand the teachers of the Spanish Immersion program at the local elementary school as they talk to their second and third grade classes yet completely baffled when they talk to each other. This respect for people who are fluent in more than one language comes not only from trying and minimally succeeding to learn another language, but also from my experiences in Mexico.
I travelled to Mexico on a service learning trip, and one of the activities planned for us was to go out into the city in small groups and try to find our way back to the market. As my group and I wondered around stopping people on the street to ask for directions, I felt lucky that my native language is English. Everyone we stopped to talk to was very patient with me as I butchered conjugations, piecing together questions. When they answered, my mumbled pleas of “más despacio, por favor” (slowly, please) was met with a quick switch to English if they knew it. Using the two languages, we were able to find our way.
This experience made me realize how incredibly terrifying it must be to arrive in a country of which you don’t speak the language and no one can understand you. Most people we talked to know some English, and my group knew some Spanish, yet we still managed to find ourselves awkwardly wandering through an adult film store on the suggestion of someone to “take a shortcut through this building.” What a privilege it is to fluently speak a language that is well-known across the world.
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The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, The Middle Ground Journal and The College of St. Scholastica’s collaborative outreach program with K-12 classes around the world. We acknowledge North Star Academy of Duluth, Minnesota as our inaugural partner school, and the flagship of our program. We also welcome Duluth East High School and other schools around the world. The North Star Reports has flourished since 2012. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:
The North Star Reports publishes edited essays from our students, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. Students have reported from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, northeastern China, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, England, Finland, Russia, and Haiti. We also have students developing reviews of books, documentaries, and films, projects on historical memory, the price individuals pay during tragic global conflicts, and analysis of current events from around the world. We will post their dispatches, and report on their interactions with the North Star Reports students and teachers.
Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal, Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN, USA
(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org The NSR is sponsored by The Middle Ground Journal and The College of St. Scholastica. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact chief editor Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu