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Growing up in Northern California, I was surrounded by different ethnicities, cultures and languages. My journey of learning languages started at home with the influence of my parents and grandparents. The concoction of my ancestral heritage language Punjabi and my first language English allowed me to have a dual identity. At a very young age, my immersion in both cultures allowed me to use both languages efficiently. Punjabi was a language that was primarily spoken at home while in other social settings I spoke English. In addition, I also learned intermediate level Hindi and Spanish during my teenage years. Despite being exposed to these four languages, I can’t claim to be quadrilingual. Although, I can speak conversational Hindi, I can’t read or write because I had no form of schooling in it. My level of proficiency in all of the four languages increased based on my motivation to learn them.
B, English was my native language in which I communicated regularly. Due to this fact, English came naturally to me and didn’t require any special instruction. In 6th grade, I was part of the Roosevelt Honor club for English because I got high score on the district’s writing comprehension test. Following that, I took honors English courses throughout middle school and earned desirable grades. My positive experience contributed to my decision to take every possible honors and Advanced Placement English Course offered by my high school. I soon realized that no matter which discipline one chooses, writing efficiently is imperative. Along with that, public speaking is critical part of our daily lives. In efforts to improve them, I joined a mock trail team at my high school. In mock trial, I learned how to articulate and communicate clearly in my native language. The goal of mastering on one’s native language might seem unnecessary. However, one should always seek to improve their verbal and writing skills in their native language. The process of improving my native language became vital in my personal experience as I learned two languages simultaneously.
The influence of my parents and grandparents’ Punjabi heritage encouraged me to learn Punjabi along with English. Punjabi is an Indo-Aryan language spoken in the Northern region of India. As a child, it was the primary language of communication at home. I spoke Punjabi fluently but wasn’t able to read or write it at an early age. However, this gradually began to change as my grandfather started to introduce Punjabi culture. In 1st grade, my parents enrolled me in a newly opened sunday school at church which taught Punjabi. I attended Sunday school for six years and was part of the first graduating class. In school, I actively participated in class and engaged in impromptu speeches. Through such learning techniques, I not only improved verbally but also learned how to compose essays. Due to intensive schooling for sic years, I became fluent in Punjabi. As I reflect back, I can recollect several sunday mornings when my grandfather would sit in the living room to read the Punjabi newspaper. On some occasions when my grandfather wasn’t able to find his reading classes, I read the newspaper to him. To help foster my passion for learning Punjabi, I got treated with occasional ice-cream sundaes and my grandmother’s signature lemonade. My motivation increased even more during my 8th grade trip to Punjab where I realized my level of fluency in Punjabi.
In 2008 , the locals at my father’s native village were surprised to see that I spoke Punjabi fluently despite being born in the Untied States. The positive appraisal by extended family members and locals motivated me to learn even more. As I traveled through historical monuments in Punjab, I realized ancient scriptures were written in a script called Gurumukhi. Gurumukhi was the formal writing system in Punjab much like Hieroglyphics in ancient Egypt. My inability to read these scriptures motivated me to learn Gurumukhi. Through the help of elder aunt, I started to explore a Gurumukhi. In exchange for teaching me Gurumukhi, I taught English to my aunt. The trade off worked well since much of Gurumukhi was identical to Punjabi. Initially, the process of learning Gurumukhi was stringent because of its emphasis on alhphasyllabary. And since Gurumukhi was used more extensively in literature, I wasn’t able to verbally communicate with anyone. Regardless of the lack of communication, I learned how to read Gurumukhi at a moderate level. As for my aunt, she learned a couple introductory phrases which she continually practiced. During my visit in my Punjab, I attempted to practice Punjabi with the locals. Ironically, sometimes when I conversed with the younger generation in Punjabi, the answer was often given in English. Just like me, many of the local villagers were fascinated with English. The villager’s exposure to mass media primarily in English had allowed them to learn English. The locals experience mirrored my experience with my third language Hindi.
Personally, media was a key tool in helping me learn my third language called Hindi. The process of learning Hindi wasn’t strenuous because it has common roots with Punjabi. The relationship between the two languages is analogous of the relationship between Spanish and Portuguese. However, both Hindi and Punjabi have their own alphabets, grammar and syntax rules. Due to the demographical aspects, Hindi is a widely used language in common Indian media. During the week, my grandmother often watched Indian soap operas and movies. Sometimes, I would sit along with her and watch the shows to comprehend what they were saying. Since, my grandmother was born and raised in India, she was able to Hindi clearly. Hence, I began to watch Hindi media and listen to the conversation of native Hindi speakers. Overtime, I eventually picked up on the language and can now speak conversational Hindi. However, since I didn’t attend a formal learning school hence I can’t read or write in Hindi. My decision of learning about Hindi wasn’t based on any motivation. Instead it was due to my daily exposure in a Hindi-rich environment with my grandmother. Similarly, I was exposed to a high Spanish speaking environment which lead me to learn Spanish during high school.
My fourth language experience reflects how it is possible to fail to learn a language even after many years of schooling in it. Despite having six years of formal education, I failed to learn Spanish. In the beginning of 7th grade, I tool Spanish as an elective. Ms.Ramirez’s Spanish class perhaps is the only reason why I can speak beginner’s level Spanish. The following five years of Spanish didn’t emphasize the use of Spanish in real world scenarios. In 7th grade as I began to learn Spanish, I became more intrigued by the language and decided to attain fluency. My Spanish teacher didn’t make us memorize the language, she taught us how the use the language. Perhaps, Ms. Ramirez’s effective teaching style made a new language engaging. However, Ms. Ramirez transferred to another school in district. As Ms. Ramirez left , the ambition of learning Spanish diminished. The new Spanish teacher didn’t teach Spanish effectively and never challenged us in class. During class presentations in Spanish, students were allowed to have notecards which essential state everything. Hence, the students only read off from their notes and didn’t use the language.
For the rest of my high school career, I stayed in Spanish with the Ms.Oriendain. Even though, I didn’t learn Spanish effectively I gained insights on the Latin American culture. My decision of staying in Spanish for the duration was also effected by academic success. In all four years in Spanish, the grades were relatively high. Now reflecting back, my motivation for taking Spanish for four years wasn’t because I wanted to become fluent. Other external factors such Spanish being the only foreign language at my school skewed my choices. In my class of 16, one other student and I were the only non-native Spanish speakers. At the end of my high school carrer, I took the Advance placement test for Spanish and passed it. Regardless of passing the AP test, I don’t feel confidence in my Spanish verbal skills. Perhaps so far, Spanish was a complex language to master due its many tenses and grammatical rules. Unlike, Hindi and Punjabi I didn’t use the language regularly and practice it in a social context. As I look back, I regret not practicing Spanish with the other native speakers to learn it more effectively.
The multifarious community of San Jose provided a pallet to explore the several ethnic languages present in our society today. Within my household, my parents and grandparents helped fuel the spirit of learning new languages. My experiences depict different methods of learning a language and their consequence in teaching a new language. Languages represent a vital part of cultures that assess the basic foundation of certain communities. Even if an individual isn’t able to acquire the use of the language, a better understanding is reached. In the future, I have to complete the foreign language requirement for UCLA. I perspire this as a chance to either revitalize my Spanish skills or to learn American Sign Language. Either choice will provide me with an enriched experience in learn about certain communities. The journey of my language learning shifted it patterns yet have remained to reach the same goal. The goal of learning new languages that are present in the environment around me. Lastly, I hope to retain and repolish all the four languages I have encountered in journey.
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