"The whole movement of life is learning" (Krishnamurti). "To be an act of knowing, then, the adult literacy process must engage the learners in the constant problematizing of their existential situations" (Freire). "Once you learn to read, you will be forever free" (Douglass). "I can learn anything I have the desire to learn" (White, S.G.).

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Chucho, Jacinto....and Carol?

The impact of being bilingual and bicultural

I could write an entire book on this, but for blog purposes, I'll just expose some point of what I mean.
The readings this week truly resonated with me; both in how I was raised as well as in the lifestyle I've chosen to lead.  I've always been aware of how much language has impacted my life and how I have viewed my circumstances in different ways due to the ability of being able to consider them in Spanish and in English.  You might ask, is there a difference? Yes, yes there is!
The key point for reflection is 'how' I became aware of this impact of language on my life.  It was literally, a series of impacts!
Timeline of impacts:
  1. Being raised in a Spanish speaking home in a part of New York City where (as also detailed in the Puerto Rican article) store signs were in Spanish and people around the neighborhood spoke Spanish despite living in an English speaking city.
  2. Speaking Spanish at home and English in school.  This point has been crucial because I consider Spanish the nurturing, loving, familial language and English as the task-oriented, outcome-driven, work-related language.
  3. Moving to Chesterfield in the 90's and attending a middle school where I was the only hispanic, Spanish-speaking student. 
  4. Moving back to New York City after a year in Virginia and realizing that 'this' is where I belonged.
  5. Moving to Medellin, Colombia and being the only one in my high-school that was bilingual; nobody else spoke English.
  6. Attending college in Colombia in such a time of violence and turmoil that speaking English could target me to be kidnapped. Therefore, the other part of me, the English speaking part, was banned.
  7. Returning to the United States and begin again my use of both languages, but always separated: Spanish at home and English at school/work.
  8. Marrying a Brazilian who uses English to communicate with me.  This was a bit of a struggle in the beginning of our marriage. For me English is for work, tasks and professional development, not for love.  We have found a way to work around and have resorted to a lot of code-switching in our home: Spanish, Portuguese, and last...English!
In my travels and having been immersed in either Spanish-only or English-only environments, I was able to identify how much impact literacy has had on my life.  I can relate to both Chucho and Jacinto in so many aspects.


  1. Carol,
    Thanks for sharing your first person account with being 'bilingual' - but it seems you are at least trilingual now! I am so monolingual despite 7 years of French; it's shameful. :-(
    I think your experience knowing English in Colombia is a nice foil to the articles for this week. In a globalized world, speaking English can be an asset, but (like in your case) it can also be a liability. Language is inextricably linked to questions of politics and power as well as identity. See you tonight! -Seth

  2. Carol, thank you for this astonishing chronology. So many questions bubbling up: How did these linguistic turns "impact" your relationships with parents, grandparents, etc? Are you "at home" in Spanish? Does English feel "foreign" or "borrowed?" If "language is culture is identity", how did these various phases of your life relate to your sense of belonging and your temporal access to your past? In Columbia, what was it like to hide your English identities? Did you feel nostalgic for their loss? Was the Chesterfield experience, in some ways, the flip side of the Columbian experience? Did you have to hide your Spanish selves? :)


Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on this post. Diverse opinions are welcomed.