Learning Spanish prepares students for the future

By Malik Baker-Gore ‘18

“¿Dónde puedo comprar comida?  (Where can I get food?)

            “What? I don’t understand.”

            Would you want this to happen to you? What if you were the one asking where to find food and the person couldn’t answer you? Is there a way to avoid this? Indeed, there is. Just ask Ms. Vassallo!

            “The Spanish speaking population is the fastest growing population in the United States. We would be fools not to think that learning Spanish is important,” says Spanish teacher Amy Vassallo. “It opens doors to so many possibilities because you don’t have the language barrier.”

            Spanish is spoken by 37.6% of the United States, as of 2011. If so many people are coming into the US that only speak Spanish, it’s prudent that everyone already here learns it. Vassallo feels that if this population keeps rising, and we can’t talk to them, it’ll cause confusion. But this isn’t what inspired Ms. Vassallo.

            “I had already been studying Spanish for quite some time, and I had an opportunity to go to Bolivia with my friend, and I got really frustrated with not knowing what everyone was saying. I craved the knowledge,” says Vassallo, “It makes me feel confident and powerful to know that I understand another culture, and I’m able to communicate with Spanish speakers.”

            Vassallo became interested in learning another language while in high school. She had the opportunity to go to school to be certified as a teacher. She could have been a teacher of psychology or Spanish, but since she had such a love and a passion for Spanish, she chose to teach the language.

            “In Spanish 1 there’s such a huge amount of acquired knowledge throughout the year. It’s fun to watch the students make connections and have a clearer understanding of the language and the culture,” says Vassallo. “The “ah ha” moments are the best. I like getting to know my students, trying to learn to tap into their interests, and seeing how it connects to learn a word language.”

            Vassallo says that students are learning how to communicate with others not only in another language, but learning about other cultures and food. Students also learn good note taking and organization, which are key components to learning anything. Vassallo also teaches her daughter, who has a great interest in Spanish.

            There are many stereotypes that students express in the class room such as Mexicans mow their lawns early in the morning or that they eat a lot of beans. Vassallo doesn’t think that anything will change if you only tell them to stop or that it’s disrespectful. She has her own solution.

            “Stereotypes are a lack of knowledge, so there are times when students have to be corrected by teaching them about stereotypes. Hopefully, it broadens their perspective of others,” says Vassallo. “People don’t treat me differently as much as getting surprised because I don’t fit into their stereotypical view of a Spanish speaker.”

            Vassallo feels that we have to be ready for the growing change in our society. No matter what happens in the near future, we’ll benefit from having better communication skills.

            “Learning another language is essential because our society is transitioning. Learning another language is important particularly so we don’t fall behind the rest of the countries in the world,” says Vassallo.