Soy Mariana: A Story of Bilingualism from Venezuela
In English and Spanish
Hi, I’m Mariana.
Learning English has always been an important part of my life. Even though my parents don't speak any English at all, and I was a little girl living in a small town in Venezuela, they put themselves to the task of teaching me that there are many different ways to communicate in the world. They gave me the opportunity to learn and prepare to face the world in the future.
Venezuela is a small country in Latin America, full of color, beaches, mountains, and wonderful people. In Venezuela we speak in Spanish with a strong accent using made-up words and at a high speed of 10 words per second. It's a beautiful language, but I always knew there was more to learn.
Since I was very little, my parents gave great importance to learning English and, together with my older sister, they opened the doors for us to a completely different world of music, games, and movies in English. I noticed that not everyone was the same as me, and so my desire to learn grew more and more.
I entered an English school when I was 15 years old and I became increasingly interested in the language. Fifteen is a very important age in Latin America since we become "Señoritas." I knew that I had a great gift coming and with a lot of effort my parents sent me to California for a month to spend the holidays with some relatives from the United States.
Surrounded by people speaking in the language that I wanted to understand so much, people with different customs, different traditions, but still as human as I am, I felt inspired to continue learning. During those vacations, I practiced and practiced my English and returned with more enthusiasm. That's why I was was able to finish my full English course in two years.
But not everything is always perfect, my Latin roots shine through when I talk, and for a while I was bullied for having a Latin accent when speaking English. People told me that I should quit, that my accent was "too obvious" and that I spoke like a Latina. This affected me and despite not understanding what was wrong with “sounding Latina” I decided not to speak any more in English and just dedicate myself to listening and understanding.
Then I learned that my accent is part of who I am, that continuing to practice and learn was very important, and that I should never feel ashamed of it again. So I kept practicing every day and found the confidence I had when I was younger. I finally realized that even if I have an accent, if I speak with confidence, no one can make me feel bad.