From September 15 to October 15, students and campuses across the United States observed Hispanic Heritage Month (HHM), recognizing and celebrating the many achievements and contributions of Hispanic Americans. Among the events offered by Global UGRAD partner universities, the University of Missouri St. Louis (UMSL) hosted a panel on October 6th entitled: “En Nuestras Palabras: Commonalities and Differences in Languages, Experiences, and Identities.”
The panel, which focused on the ways in which language shapes community and impacts the lives and experiences of those who speak it, featured Hispanic members of the UMSL community, including Global UGRAD’s own Jeimy Fonseca. Jeimy, who is from Tegucigalpa, Honduras, is studying to become an English teacher and was asked by one of her professors to share her own unique perspectives during the HHM panel. When asked about using different languages in different spaces, Jeimy used a great analogy comparing her native language (Spanish) as pajamas, versus a fancy dress (English).
“…I see my L1 (mother language) as pajamas because I feel comfortable wearing it – so I use my L1 with my family, friends and when I am alone. Whereas my L2 (second language) I see it as a fancy dress. I do not know if others would like it or if they will judge me as sometimes I am afraid of making mistakes, but I have learned that if you want to speak another language, you must practice it as if you are wearing pajamas – feel comfortable with it, do not be afraid to show it.”
In the end, Jeimy shared that she feels even more confident in herself after participating in this panel, and that her pride for her language and culture are still growing! To summarize her feelings about the event, she said: “sharing my experiences was outstanding because others could learn from them.”
Jeimy Fonseca, Honduras, Global UGRAD 2020-2021, University of Missouri St. Louis