All of my life different languages have swirled luxuriously around me, blessing with me the lovely tenors of their varying cadences and leaving a small trace of the culture they represent in my soul. My father is from Malta, and a physicist, and my mother a Middle East Politics major, which meant that our house was always filled to overflowing with people from all over the world, exchanging ideas, their different languages and cultures flowing as freely as any river through the confines of our modest home, all of them leaving impressions on my young mind.
When I entered high school it became time for me to actually study a language, not just pick up pieces here and there from the enchanting guests that had made our house a second home. I chose Spanish, a language I knew would be useful, but more importantly, I thought was beautiful and fluid, its Latin base giving it a rolling elegance that appealed to my always romantic soul.
After four years of what seemed constant struggle, I could conjugate verbs, identify words, fill out all the worksheets in the world, and stumble through a conversation haltingly at best. I graduated never receiving less than an A in the subject but feeling like I never really had a handle on the language, or any of the cultures it represented. Yes, I could write and read in Spanish, but anyone who spoke it with a native tongue would have laughed out loud trying to converse with me. I have to admit to being more than a bit disappointed. I went onto college and Spanish slipped to the back of my mind.
A couple of years later, however, I moved to Phoenix where there are a great deal of people who speak Spanish as their first language. Everywhere I went, people talked to me in Spanish, gesturing wildly with hand motions when I didn't comprehend, and correcting my pronunciation-when they were done laughing. At the end of six months I had learned more and could speak more Spanish than in all of the years I studied it in school. The language came alive for me, I began using it every day and it became as much a part of my life as my morning coffee or the bright Arizona sunshine. I loved it! Finally, not only did I appreciate another language, I could feel it, live it, and enable myself to better appreciate the lush and beautiful cultures it represents. It was the actual usage, in every day life, that taught me Spanish in a sink or swim manner, and I wouldn't have wanted it any other way.