For bilingual students, an unexpected struggle

By Drew Lash

For most students, studying grammar in English class is no big deal. But for some, studying grammar in their spoken language happens more than once a day.

David Fox ’10 learned to speak Spanish and English at the same time as a child. However, despite being fluent he has taken Spanish classes since the seventh grade. At home with his family, he speaks both languages with his parents who were born and raised in Mexico City.

“I was able to read, write, and speak it, but my writing had room for improvement and I needed help to perfect my grammar,” Fox said.

“The first day of Spanish class in seventh grade in Spanish 1B made me feel as though it would be an easy A throughout the 6 years I would spend at HW,” he said.

“But the grammar and accent rules I never learned as a kid have been more challenging to learn than I originally thought,” he said. As expected, Fox finds it easier to express his ideas than his classmates because of his fluency in Spanish.

Yet despite the obvious advantage of being fluent, Spanish has never been Fox’s easiest class. With a large emphasis on grammar and essay writing, Fox’s current AP Spanish Language class can be quite difficult.

“Sometimes it seems as if teachers and fellow students expect more out of native speakers because they come into class already knowing how to speak the language, but they also came in to class on the first day of school knowing just a small amount of the grammar and structure of the language,” Fox said.

Spanish teacher Javier Zaragoza said “All six [of my fluent students] have a certain degree of writing deficiencies due to the lack of writing exposure either at home or in previous courses. All six have stronger reading comprehension and deductive reasoning skills than the other students.”

Luna Ikuta ’11 was born in Japan and her parents taught her to speak Japanese. But because Ikuta moved to America at such a young age, she learned to speak English around the same time.

“[At home] I usually speak both. My parents usually speak it to me but I usually respond back in English and only sometimes Japanese,” Ikuta said.

Even though her parents taught her to speak, she had a tutor until middle school who taught her to read and write the language as well. Like Fox, she finds the hardest part is learning the correct grammar structure of Japanese.