For most people, learning a new language is an incredibly difficult challenge, and it is a task that is simply done for a few years in high school or college. But for sophomore Juan Peña, language and culture is one of the most important and beloved aspects of his everyday life.
From the time he was born, Juan has been learning how to speak both the languages of English and Spanish. As his family is from Colombia, the Spanish culture has lived in his home for his entire life and has shaped Juan into the person he is today.
Moreover, growing up with a Columbian family has provided Juan with a strong support system throughout the years. Juan’s extended family has proved to be there for Juan throughout any challenges life may throw his way, and they are always there to provide a positive and welcoming environment.
“My family is from Colombia, and like any Colombian family, they are loud, energetic, and crazy ninety percent of the time,” Juan said. “My biggest supporters in my life are my family including aunts, uncles, grandpas, grandmas, and so on.”
Growing up a part of a Colombian family has allowed Juan to embrace the Spanish language and allowed him to learn a second language alongside of English. As Juan and his family speak Spanish within their home, Juan is surrounded by diverse cultures as he goes through his day at school and at home.
“The best part about speaking two languages is that there’s two different cultures involved,” Juan said. “You can easily adapt to any culture by knowing more than two languages.”
As a young boy, learning the two different languages proved equally difficult for Juan. Neither Spanish or English was more easily picked up by young Juan. Each had its own individual challenges, and each was helpful in their own situations.
“Knowing two languages poses challenges,” Juan said. “When you want to say something in English and don’t know the word, but know it in Spanish, it can be difficult sometimes.”
Although living a bilingual lifestyle can hold its own unique challenges, it also carries many helpful and positive aspects into Juan’s life.
Whether it be at school, at home, or while out in his community, Juan is able to apply his Spanish and English skill sets to better himself and others around him.
“Knowing Spanish helps me academically by identifying problems and seeing them through many different points of view,” Juan said. “It can help me solve those problems backed by many different points of view.”
Whether in America or Colombia, Juan has learned how his great knowledge of the English and Spanish languages can help others surrounding him. If translation is ever needed by a stranger, Juan is always able to step up and allow others to better understand the world around them and solve any problems being faced.
“I can relate to many people in the world,” Juan said. “I can even help random strangers translate English to Spanish when I am in Colombia and from Spanish to English when I am in America.”
Though most people find the knowledge of two languages impressive in and of itself, Juan doesn’t feel content with being able to communicate in only Spanish and English.
As he continues through life, Juan wishes to pick up at least two more languages; this would make Juan fluent in four different languages and have a vast knowledge of four different cultures.
“As a matter of fact, my goal is to learn at least four languages,” Juan said. “It puts me, and others that step up to the challenge, at an unbelievably higher advantage.”
For Juan, the ability to speak and communicate with others in multiple ways is an important and cherished aspect of his life. He holds a strong appreciation for the advantages it provides him with, and he is able to view the world through separate, unique lenses each day of life.
“I appreciate knowing and being able to speak more than two languages because I am open to a wider variety of things and opportunities,” Juan said. “Knowing the Spanish and English languages has helped me identify problems much easier and view them from many different angles and perspectives.”