by Nicole Mathes
An Intimidated Spanish Speaker
My name is Nicole and I am a senior at the University of Illinois, double-majoring in Psychology and Spanish with a minor in Communication. Currently I work on campus in the office of admissions as an Illinois Student Admissions Representative (ISTAR) and at Car Pool, a “rent-a-car” for faculty members. I am also heavily involved with research in both the Department of Psychology and the Department of Communication. In my psychology lab, we look at the cognitive development of children ages 3.5-8 by playing “games” with them and coding their responses. In my communication research team, we look at the Facebooks of high school students and their identity development. My experiences at the University of Illinois have led me to further my education and pursue a career as doctor of school psychology.
I was first exposed to Spanish when I was in sixth grade. At first, I was a bit reluctant to learn the language; I had been taking afterschool French for three years and even though I really had not retained anything from those classes, I still felt that I should have stuck with French. However, we had a Spanish teacher who went above and beyond and I quickly discovered that I not only enjoyed learning the language, but I was surprisingly good at the subject. Unfortunately we did not have the same spectacular teacher for 7th and 8th grade Spanish. Nevertheless my interest in Spanish continued and I decided to take four years of Spanish in high school. My junior and senior years I had the same Spanish teacher and she challenged me to increase my Spanish vocabulary and develop advanced grammar, writing, reading, and speaking abilities. Because of the knowledge and skills that I gained from her classes, I decided to double major in Spanish in college. At the end of my senior year, I recognized how prominent the Spanish language was becoming in the United States and knew that having an academic background in Spanish would be advantageous to my future career aspirations.
Honestly, my Spanish classes at the university are not what I expected they would be. The classes mainly focus on Spanish literature, linguistics, and culture; all are important areas, but I was expecting a larger emphasis to be put on Spanish grammar lessons and speaking ability. One of the reasons I wanted to take Spanish 332: Spanish & Entrepreneurship was to develop my Spanish speaking skills and gain experience in a Spanish speaking community. It’s great that classes are taught entirely in Spanish and that we are to speak to our peers in Spanish. However, classroom “talk” is not the same as actually having a conversation in Spanish in the community. For me, I am confident in my listening and writing ability, but I am often terrified to speak in Spanish and believe that experience in a Spanish community will be beneficial. Even though I have been taking Spanish classes for almost ten years, I don’t consider myself a strong speaker and am intimidated in situations where I should and can be speaking in Spanish. My hope is that by working in a bilingual classroom at Garden Hills Elementary School, I will be forced to practice my Spanish and, in the end, will gain more confidence in my Spanish speaking ability. I am excited to work with students at the school and cannot wait to see what I learn from them!