We’ve previously discussed how bilingualism actually changes the human brain, helping to keep it healthy and delaying the onset of certain brain diseases. But what can learning another language do for the heart?
For starters, learning another language makes the foreign, familiar. By immersing yourself in the stream of another culture, aspects of that culture’s beauty, history, traditions, and unique challenges become personalized. This is especially so for students in dual language immersion programs who are learning language, content, and culture simultaneously. What we’ve discovered is that the cultural awareness and interest that the students develop often becomes a passion that expresses itself in inspiring, and heart expanding ways.
add.a.lingua’s Stephanie Irizarry came across the story of one of her former Spanish immersion students, Olivia, who as a high school freshman is an example of this kind of large-heartedness. Olivia will soon travel to Chichicastenango, Guatemala to work as a translator with a church group that will be building houses, and installing stoves and water filtration systems for widows and orphans of Guatemala’s thirty year long civil war. In Olivia’s words, “[I’m] extremely excited to experience new culture and have the opportunity to change people’s lives. What I think I’m most excited about is using my Spanish with native speakers in a way I never thought I would have the chance to do.”
Stephanie recently shared with our team about her classroom experience teaching Olivia:
I had the honor of having Olivia in my class for two years, once as a first grader and again as a third grader. Olivia’s story is nothing short of amazing. She is an incredible young lady. I just can’t say enough about her, and about all that I learned about teaching and learning from and with her. I’m not at all surprised that she’s taking her passion beyond our borders using the language she loves! What a joy it is to see these children pour into the world very much in the same way that our immersion programs pour into them.
As a third grader, she wrote the following poem to present at the LAUP Fiesta in Holland. She wanted to share her love for the Spanish language and its cultures with the community. Her poem (and the translation below it) brought tears to my eyes, partly because of the words, but even more so…because I knew the effort she put into it.
He esperado este momento por toda mi vida.
He esperado este momento
en que yo pueda hacer lo que quiero.
Este es el momento en que puedo cantar
Y todo el mundo me aplaudirá.
Este es el momento en que puedo bailar
Sin aparecer un chiste.
Más importante, este es el momento
En que puedo abrir mis alas y por fin…ser libre.
Soy libre, soy libre
Cada día, cada año en Ada Vista.
Siento el español en mi corazón
Y con él, puedo hacer lo que quiero.
Llevo mi español conmigo
A la escuela, a México, al mundo entero.
Vive en mi corazón y en mi alma
Y eso es lo que todos debemos querer.
I’ve waited for this moment my whole life.
I’ve waited for this moment
In which I can do what I want.
This is the moment in which I can sing
And everyone will applaud.
This is the moment in which I can dance
Without appearing a joke.
More importantly, this is the moment in which
I can spread my wings
And finally…be free.
I’m free, I’m free
Each year, each day at Ada Vista
I feel my Spanish in my heart
And with it, I can do what I please.
I’ll take it with me to
Mexico, to school, to the world
It lives in my heart and soul
And that’s what we all should want.
We wish Olivia and her team safe travels and all the best in Guatemala, and we look forward to hearing about her time there. If you’d like to learn more about Olivia or support her trip, check out her crowdfunding page.