Native Speaker or Heritage Speaker is often what I am categorized as. Let me clarify, I am not mad about this, but I find it to be a loose term; meaning that I do not think I am a native speaker just because all my life I have struggled with Spanish. Yes I was raised by Spanish speakers and surrounded by Spanish all my life, but as many of you know assimilation in the United States is real and makes an impact. When I was first born my mom had just had my brother Xavier 11 months before and had my sister, a 7 year old girl, to take care of. She could not take care of 2 infants and a child while simultaneously working full time. My brother and I were put into daycare almost immediately after I was born. From then on my primary language was English. My immediate family, my community and my classmates spoke English so of course it became my dominant tongue.
I regret every day that I did not push myself to speak our native tongue. By not continuing Spanish throughout my education I lost not only the language but connection to my ancestors and ultimately my culture (even if Spanish was pushed onto our ancestors by colonizers it still is the language latinos speak the most). Since I did not speak that much Spanish I was considered the “whitest” of my friends in middle school. I decided that high school was going to change that. High school was the beginning of me studying Spanish in an academic setting. Did I get As yes, did speaking and listening come easier to me than other students, of course. I have been listening to Spanish all my life which obviously helped. After high school I wasn’t perfect but I was able to have conversations unlike before.
I decided to continue studying Spanish as I entered college and it has made all the difference. So when people ask me ” why are you studying Spanish if you speak it already?”, trust me you don’t know how far I have come. Spanish is a hard language and until I can speak, read, and write in Spanish with ease than I will continue to study the language that you all think comes so naturally, because in reality it does not. If I wanted to just get by then I could stop but I’m not trying to just get by I want to be able to not second guess myself when I say something. Although, I get really happy when people call me a native speaker I still have a lot to learn.