By Carmen Puchulu, Volunteer ESL Teacher
In my nearly one and a half years volunteering with Progente Connections, I’m reminded of how important language is in the world today. Not only because there is only so much you can do without knowing what is going on around you, but also to make yourself heard and understood by those around you. You can be brilliantly eloquent in your native language, but for those who don’t know it in the slightest, they typically don’t understand why. This is why being bilingual (or trilingual or multilingual) is important. It’s another way of understanding the world, and it opens up new ways of thinking. It isn’t easy, and I give my students a lot of credit coming in week after week to learn English, since it is a very difficult language. Even if they learn just one thing each week, it is a step forward in the right direction. Sometimes a word can make a huge difference.
There have been plenty of times in the classroom where I wish I knew a little more Portuguese. It’s hard to explain an English concept when there isn’t anything to compare it to. There have also been times when, trying to communicate about important events outside of class or missing classes, where we have had to use Google translate to get our respective points across. That being said, I have learned a little Portuguese from my students; a few words here and there as they are learning the English equivalent. It has been a fun journey teaching everyone thus far, and I hope to continue to do so.