I might find yourself a bit taken back by reading reader from your future. I assure you are not being watch by a hidden camera and the "but" of a joke. I think you will agree with me, or rather yourself that education is very important to your, our future. For that reason you are preparing yourself for college. I could tell you who you are going to meet and what classes you shouldn't take, but that wouldn't fair. What I will tell you is that your field of vision will widen. Your brain will hurt and you will have many all righters. To truth of the matter is that you have the tools to be successful already. These tools will need to be sharped and taken care of a like any other tool in your garage. Of these tools writing is very important, maybe the most important of them all. To understand how to write is a key that will propel in on the road you will begin on. Through its process and constant evolution, one must embrace writing as an art form and not a chore.
Language is a multifaceted tool which we use to communicate to one another. It's defined as a systematic means of communicating ideas or feelings by the use of conventionalized signs, sounds, gestures, or marks having understood meaning. As the definition suggests it's more than just spoken words. It's a head nod, a thumbs up, a smile, braille, hand movements, etc. Pediatricians describe children as sponges to indicate their ability to learn from their environment. Those of us lucky enough to be raised in a household with multiple cultures can have an advantage or disadvantage depending on what we are taught. Institutions such as schools, churches, and the military have their own set of governing rules and behaviors which shape our minds and therefore also shape our usage of language. The experiences I've had in life shaped my relationship with language, through empowering and undermining my search for self-actualization.
Growing up in a bilingual family affected my speech development as a child, which lead me to mix the two languages instead of mastering them one at a time. The United States is a melting pot of difficult cultures, peoples, religions; I believe it's what makes this country so great. Even though the United States does not have an official language, English is predominately used. Of course some might argue that in Florida or Texas, Spanish is more widely used, but that's another topic for another day. Being of Spanish decent can be hard and confusing at times. I am of Puerto Rican decedent and was born here in America. My mother being Puerto Rican and my step-father being Guatemalan had issues with what language I was supposed to be taught first toddler. My step-father said I should learn English first because we lived in America and everyone speaks English. My mother on the other hand wanted me to learn Spanish so that I wouldn't forget my roots. As a child hearing my mother speaking Spanish and my father speaking English hindered my communicational development. Thus the language of "Spanglish" was born. I'm sure that "Spanglish" was being used before I was born, but the fact that I was combining both languages to communicate held me back in some areas. I would start a sentence in English and finish my thought in Spanish. It wasn't that I was doing it on purpose, but my mind took the easy route to finish my thought. If I couldn't find a word in English for something I wanted to say, I would just find one in Spanish and vice versus. That may have worked at home, but it didn't work so well when my Jewish pre-kindergarten teacher couldn't understand me completely. It wasn't that I was not smart enough to be in her class, or develop enough to be in pre-kindergarten. I knew my ABC's, could count to ten and knew the colors of the rainbow. The Hindering factor was that I knew them in Spanish. My inability to use the English language at that age was going to hold me back in school. I was possibly looking at a disadvantage from the start. My mother was so afraid of the school not accepting me in to kindergarten that a summer of hell awaited me. She stopped talking to me in Spanish and English became the predominate language in my home. Being that I was young and a "sponge", t didn't take me long to "learn" the English language for my age. I was able to understand and be understood by my English speaking only teachers. That decision that my mom made resulted in another dilemma in my life which I now still deal with.
Growing up in a multicultural environment confused me at times and let me to think and believe I was rootless. Am I an American or am I Puerto Rican? Do I feel comfortable speaking Spanish or English? Everyone at school spoke English, my mother once schooled started talking to talk to me in only English and no one really talked to me in Spanish besides my cheek grabbing aunts no came to visit everyone once in a while. I believed that my "roots" as my mother put it were slipping away from me. I felt ashamed for a long time because I think I wasn't "Hispanic enough" or "Puerto Rican enough". Having to switch on language the way I did when I was younger put bump in my road for success. To this day I hate spelling and I rather do math. You could say a some people don't like to spell. That is a true statement, but my inability to "master" one language at time was very confusing. One question that my grandfather asked me repeatedly when I was younger was, "How do you say that in Spanish". One instant that I remember, he was referring to my uncle's Nintendo. I had asked him if it was alright if I could use the Nintendo in English. Even though he understood what I asking, he was playing a mean trick on me and proofing a point to my parents. He told me that if I could tell him how to say Nintendo in Spanish, then I was allowed to play. I had to ran to my father ask him and he told me Nintendo in English is "Nintendo" (with a Spanish accent) in Spanish. I felt a bit dumb, but I didn't care at the time because all I wanted to do was play Nintendo. Thinking about that time it was hard for me to have a full conversation with my grandparents without being frustrated. To a degree with was like Malcolm X writing is letters in jail, I know what I wanted say, but I had a hard time saying it in the right language. I eventually took Spanish classes to improve my Spanish speaking skills and talked more with my parents in Spanish to not lose touch with that side of myself.
My enlistment in the military was not only culturally shocking, but linguistically shocking as well. I've recently closed a chapter in life, titled "The Marine Corps". It was a life altering experience which I befitted from tremendously. It was a culture shock to say the least. I mention this because there were expectations of me which I had no clue of. I was supposed to know these things, about those things, and all that overnight. One of the craziest issues I had was the language. All of my life the floor had been the floor and all of a sudden floor was now the "deck". The walls were bulkheads, the windows were "portholes" and my shirt became my "blouse". Now back on my neighborhood if you were a guy and you wore a blouse that you played for the other team, by that I mean homosexual. I slowly realized that the Marine Corps was rooted in Naval traditional and the terminology date back to ship life. After a while verything started to make sense, but that doesn't mean it became easier. I was still being yelled at for referring to the deck as the floor while I cleaned it. Another issue in the Marine Corps I had was speaking in the third person. Now that only last for the three months of boot camp if you ever met a Marine and asked him about the longest time of his life, he or she will problem say Marine boot camp seemed to never end. I just couldn't understand why I needed to say "This recruit or recruit Perez needs to use the head" instead of saying "Hey I need to use the bathroom". Again those were just traditions that fitted a purpose. Whenever you spoke incorrectly the Drill Instructors made it a point to correct you with physical fitness, with that being said I was one tough and lean recruit by the end. Besides being expected to perform in boot camp and being held to a standard. The rest of my Marine Corps life was one learning experience after another. I learned that you don't address a Colonial the way you would you "home boy" back at home in an e-mail. Professionalism is something you need a lot of if you going to survived the arm forces. You are a cut about the rest; cream of the crop so that meant if you "half ass" work wasn't tolerated. Incomplete work, or work poorly accomplish is the same as not doing it at all. Writing professionally wasn't something I was taught, but I learned under fire. I would write an e-mail or a respond to question 3 to 5 times and had my peers look it over so I wouldn't get in trouble. That would hinder my workload output, but I wasn't being yelled at anymore for not being professional, not it was about not working fast enough. It used to scare me to know that I would have to write an e-mail and 1000 people would read it. I dreaded replies on incorrect grammar or my use of Spanglish. Yes I did use Spanish on a couple of occasion and that they go over so well. With time everything can be accomplished, and my writing skills became better, I do still try to review my work/email/face-book status updates before hitting enter, it just a habit now.
My experience with my own culture and cultural language (Spanish), allowed me the understanding needed to embrace the Japanese culture and language. My Marine Corps life has let me different place around the world and Okinawa, Japan is included in that list. I still remember being picked up from the airport by my superiors and the long drive to base. It's a humbling experience driving around in a different country and seeing a different set of people you aren't used to seeing. I was trying to read billboards, street signs, and even the menu off of the McDonald's drive through, but everything was Latin to me. Well it wasn't Latin most likely the signs were in Hiragana, Katakana, or Kanji. Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji are 3 forms of writing that the Japanese use. My friends and I would go and interact with the people of Okinawa; we didn't like staying on base so we explored the island and what it had to offer. It wasn't easy at first, but the Okinawan people were very accepting of us because we at least tried to learn the language. I carried a Romanized dictionary, to be able to say what we were trying to convey. Even though I know that I was order chicken in English, but the Japanese waitress only knew Japanese. My friend, Wesley would come to the rescue on occasion such as those if I took too long in my dictionary. He had a pocket picture book, which travelers used in different countries to express what that want. He pointed to a picture of chicken and the waitress new exactly what I wanted to order. It amazed me that images can be used to communicate the basic of thoughts. My patience in knowing that I was guest in Okinawa and that I was the one that couldn't be understood helped me better understand the people and culture of Okinawa, Japan.
Language has been my double edge sword and that if I used correctly and I acknowledged and understood, but if I am careless and foolish with it and it cut you deep than anything known to man. Of course language isn't something you can pick up and slick through the air, but you can master this invisible tool. I practice when I speak, read, write, sign, and even nodding my head. It is what I do with my experiences; it is what I do with I practices that shape my mastery of it. To quote smarter man than I "He who controls the language, controls the word". I believe the word "word" in his quote means my inner being, my inner self. To become my best self, I must be fully aware of who I am and realize I can be more. I will not be a prisoner of my own mind, for it is I that hold myself back or lets myself fly.