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Kianna Glenn

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Beneath the surface of bilingual students there lies a different culture, a different dialect, a different language, and different struggles. Students who come from families that speak a different language, or have different ethnic backgrounds, may find challenges going to a predominantly white English speaking school.

“It’s different because at school, there’s different races- mainly white- but at home I can speak my own language and be myself with my family,” Mexican-American sophomore, Sofia Garcia said.

This double-life affect really comes into play when the culture at school, or restaurants, or the grocery store is completely different than the culture at your home. Students have described it as putting on a mask before they come to class everyday, a mask that looks and talks like everyone else.

“Switching from 501 to here was intimidating, with here being predominantly white.” Mexican-American senior, Emily Lopez said. “There’s not as many of us. I felt like I had to be Emily Version 2: the Emily that didn’t speak Spanish, the Emily that was just like everybody else,”

“Sometimes you do gotta act different, if you’re trying to fit in, or make friends. But usually I just think to myself, I don’t gotta change for nobody,” senior, Jeff Joseph said.

Joseph was born in Florida, but lived in Haiti, his family’s native country for three years. He speaks English as his first language along with French and Creole. He pointed out that Haitian schooling differed greatly from American schooling.

“The education back there is not really good, at all… seeing how kids act out in schools here, it’s not the same in Haiti because- I’m not saying they beat them- but they definitely keep them in check,” Joseph said.

It’s rare for bilingual Americans to speak their native tongue without facing some sort of inconspicuous judgement or reaction of any sort. Some get ridiculed, mocked, or taunted. Some are acknowledged with fascination and curiosity. Many Americans live with tunnel vision, and are oblivious to other cultures that exist in our country.

“They react weird. They think that you’re from another planet or something. Kinda shocked.” Junior German exchange student Laura Seline said.

When it comes to being marginalized, or treated differently because of their culture, students have a lot to say about misinterpretations or misjudgements made about them because of their language.

“I can’t even count how many times kids have said stuff about me being illegal, or me possibility of being deported… like they just take the fact that I speak Spanish and turn it into something that it’s not,” Mexican-American sophomore, Erick Martinez- Valdivieso said. “Just because I speak Spanish doesn’t mean I don’t have right to be here just like them.”

President Donald Trump has deeply impacted the way Mexican-Americans are viewed in American society. From strange looks, to ignorant comments, to even threats and hate crimes, they don’t seem to ever catch a break. And unfortunately, students aren’t immune to the hate.

“People are using Trump as an excuse to be blatantly racist. They hide behind the president when they’re being ignorant. Because it’s being publicly displayed every day by the Trump, it suddenly makes it okay to say racist things,” Lopez said.

Despite this backlash, it’s important to be open to everyone’s background. Speaking with bilingual students can be looked at as an opportunity to expand your knowledge of new languages and culture. Students should feel comfortable to freely speak their native tongue in ay settings, especially at school.

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The School Newspaper of Shawnee Heights High School
Bilingual