Woman speaking at conference

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Essays Receiving Awards at the first Heritage Languages Conference in 1999.

I'm proud to be bilingual

by Christopher Ramo
Minnie Gant Elementary School
Long Beach, CA

My name is Christopher and I'm six years old.  I am proud to know how to read, write, and talk in two languages because when I go to Mexico I can speak in Spanish with my family.  Also when I go to museums, archaeological ruins and historical places I can learn and understand anything without problems.  And when I go back to the United States I can tell everyone in Spanish and English all the wonders that I saw of the Mexican culture like "Teotihuacan" and "Chichen-Itza".  When I grow up I am going to help the people of my country to be bilingual, so they can learn more about the countries of the world, and everybody can understand why people have different customs and celebrate the hollydays different ways like the Day of the Dead in Mexico, Christmas and the four seasons of the year, etc.  If I were the president of the nation I would write a law asking for the bilingual education for everybody, so that all the people would love and feel proud of their country and respect the others.  Also it would help their jobs because they could help more people.  If you know two languages you count for two.

Lo mejor de dos mundos (The Best of Both Worlds)

by Anabella Pascucci
West High School
Torrance, CA

What is a language? A language appears to be simply a mode of communication; but it is much more than that. With language we express our feelings and thought. The variety of languages in this world would appear to get in the way of such expression. However, different languages enrich the expression of feelings and thought, making each culture and its people different and unique.

I am one of the privileged bilingual speakers in today's society. I was born in Argentina, but have lived in the United States for along time. At home, I speak Spanish. At school, I speak English. I have not only found it very useful, but also extremely comfortable to be able to speak two languages so freely. It is useful because it allows me to communicate with many people, especially since I live in the diverse atmosphere of Southern California. It is comfortable because I know that no matter where I go, I have to languages to lean on. They are two of the most widely spoken languages in the world and wherever I go, someone is bound to understand me.

One day, I was watching a television show. I don't remember what it was called, but I do remember very clearly what it was about. A woman's husband was hurt a few miles away from a hospital. In order to get him to the hospital in time to save his life, she was not able to travel with him in the ambulance that took him to the hospital. When she finally reached the hospital some time later, nobody understood her because she did not speak English. By the time they found somebody who could communicate with her, he had died. That show inspired me to not only pursue a profession in medicine, but also to learn many languages. That way, if anything like that were to happen in the hospital where I work, I would be able to help.

Besides being bilingual, I am bicultural. Being bicultural allows me to understand other people's customs. This is very helpful because I live in Southern California, and there are always at least ten students in my classes with cultures different from my own (and this is just one classroom, imagine the whole school!). Being able to understand that culture, language, and thought are linked has been very helpful when it comes to making friends.

I have two best friends. One, I have known since the time that I lived in Argentina. The other, I met a few years ago, after my family moved to LA. The latter, Monica, is originally from Hong Kong. Though we are very different and many times get on each other's never, Monica and I have come to understand our differences and surprisingly have found many similarities in our customs.

Vicky is my best friend from Argentina. When I lived there, we used to do everything together and were almost identical. I moved away and we both went down our own separate paths. We wrote to each other all the time. However, letters are no substitute for talking in person. When Vicky came to visit me about three years ago, she was so different that I thought that she was playing a joke on me. Vicky looked exactly the same, but was a completely different person. After she left, I realized that I had changed too. This awareness eventually allowed us to become even better friends. Just yesterday, I wrote a long letter to her in which I was more trusting and open than ever before. And I wrote it, of course, in Spanish!

Unfortunately, many people are not very receptive to new cultures and languages. Most are too stubborn to accept that other people may think differently from them. They are afraid that anybody who is unlike them is weird or strange. I have been fortunate to grow up on an accepting atmosphere and I have my family to thank for that. When I see that someone is different from me, I am curious. Time after time, I have found that, cultural and linguistic differences can strengthen and enrich friendships, when they are properly understood.

Being bilingual has been very good to me. It has allowed me to communicate more successfully and has made me comfortable in situations I would have otherwise been uncomfortable in. Being bicultural has been even more beneficial. It has not only made me more open-minded, but it has also given me very good friends. Most of all, it has given me hope--hope that the world will some day be as close as I am now with my friends.

Return to the 1999 Heritage Languages Conference page.