One Way: Why I Chose to Learn Spanish

Look, I get it. I know why the subjunctive tense is…complicated…at least until you learn it. It’s easy to feel we only need English in our lives. I was there. I hated, and I mean HATED Spanish class growing up. And now I’m studying the language in Spain. So what happened? Read on.

I was driving home one night when a family crashed their car into an electrical pole. The pole was sticking out of the ground. How bad?

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Caption: Ok, that’s a bit much.

The family was understandably shaken, and of course, spoke Spanish. I tried to calm them down the best I could, but you know…English. The cop who arrived didn’t know Spanish…fantastic. There was only one way these people were talking: through Español.

As you can imagine, I was not fluent. The cop asked for the keys, and I was able to spurt out a “Tienes las llaves?” We got the keys. One point for Brian! Everyone was fine to my knowledge and they all got out safely. I felt useful. I felt important. It was at this moment when I realized I wanted needed to learn the Spanish language.

Too Cool for School

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I’d like to blame my fluent Mom for not teaching me Spanish, but that wouldn’t be fair. ALTHOUGH, the only times she used it were if she was yelling at me, or professing her love to the dog. (Note: Neither she nor my family are Latino.)

Spanish sucked in high school. I got A’s and passed fine, but I didn’t agree with…the teaching system. (That’s a very generous way of putting it.) Fast-forward to Hofstra University and my mindset changed. I didn’t take Spanish class my senior year of high school, but somehow placed into Spanish 4. This meant I only needed one more semester of the language that tortured me. I was confused, but not complaining:

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I was so close to leaving the subjunctive tense, but why did I change my mind? To make a boring story short, I was required to take a minor, nothing interested me, and my Spanish professor was a gift from the heavens. How great? This is me in class with a piñata.

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Spanish it was.

It took a lot of soul searching to reach this conclusion; and when I say it still shocks me, it’s because it does. I’ll never forget the day I told my friends I declared my minor as Spanish. They just looked at me like:

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Language with Benefits
First, it helps a Comm major like me get a j-o-b.

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Second, experiencing my passions in another language/culture is truly rewarding. I’ve performed poetry at numerous Spanish events, and explored a whole new literary mindset in the process. I’ve played drums to the sweetest Latin rhythms a chart could offer. Bringing Spanish customs to the stage is something I love to do…because I certainly can’t bring them to the dance floor.

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Finally, I get to connect with people. We live in a time where events in Ferguson seem to create racial divides, and immigration laws cause controversy.

I was lucky to grow up in a diverse town, where some of my best friends represented Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Italy, Nigeria/England, and India.

If you’re wondering, yes we won.

If you’re wondering, yes we won.

We can’t understand everything about another group without immersing ourselves in their culture. We should accept people for who they are. Learning a language will help me establish that connection with someone else on a more intimate level.

Do It for the Story
My support group has been astounding both home and abroad as I try to make my life that much more interesting. Deciding to learn a language is one thing, but actually committing is a very rigorous process. Having a mother who speaks Spanish helps. The majority of us didn’t learn English the way we learn another language. We’ve just known it. A second language is not for everyone no matter how great I make it seem.

Life is an adventure. We only live it one time, one chance, one way. I’d like to think I can extend my adventure one extra valley, cross one more sea, and add one more friend. No matter how many jokes I make or gifs I add, I will always thank myself for coming to my senses and pursuing Spanish. I’ve come a long way since high school:

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And the next time a family needs a Spanish speaker, I’ll be there to help them in full…but I probably won’t use the subjunctive tense, because it really is…complicated.

Hasta la vista!


Brian Cudina is a student at Hofstra University and an official API Student Blogger. Brian is studying abroad with API in Madrid, Spain.

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