Samantha (USA)

Samantha is 29 and works at New Jersey City University. She grew up here in New Jersey in a Spanish-speaking family, but had had an opportunity to pick up some English before she started learning it at nursery school at about the age of 3. Her father, who was born in El Salvador (a country in Central America) and moved to the U.S. in his twenties, spoke to her mostly in Spanish. Her mother used English more and with her grandparents and other relatives Samantha would use Spanish. She doesn’t remember having any difficulties growing up with two languages, which she calls “a routine”. Picking up English and using it on a daily basis was very easy as she would use it all the time with her teachers and classmates at a public school she attended. The only difficulty she remembers having early on in her studies was with some letters that she found confusing. Overall she can’t say she was learning English as a foreign language. Now she calls English her primary language and doesn’t feel that she has any foreign accent at all even though she’s met some people who say she does. According to Samantha, she sometimes feels she has a foreign accent when she uses Spanish. As for her nationality and identity, she prefers to call herself Hispanic, but the problem is that this nationality is often not listed so she chooses “white” instead. Spanish is still part of her life as she would still sometimes use it at home and sometimes has difficulty remembering English words for some things, e.g., vegetables. Her Mum watches a lot of soap operas in Spanish and Samantha finds it amazing how she can switch between the two languages and understand them without even realizing it. In her job Samantha uses Spanish with some international students. Generally, she doesn’t feel any discrimination as particularly in this part of the country, there are a lot of people who were born and raised here but have another linguistic and cultural origin that they identify themselves with. Therefore Samantha calls herself Hispanic and finds being able to speak two languages advantageous here and now as she believes bilingualism is regarded as something positive despite any policies enforced by the current administration. Overall she thinks that Hispanics are having an easier time adjusting to the U.S. culture these days than they used to. Her advice to anyone trying to make a living in the U.S. is to “push on through” remembering about the long-term benefits they are going to have. Using the example of her own father, she argues it might be hard to start feeling fully integrated and American especially after coming here at an older age. As grateful as he is for all the benefits he has enjoyed after moving here, her father hopes he will be able to spend more time in his home country of Salvador during the retirement.