A Way with Words

Language isn’t a barrier — it’s a key that unlocks opportunity.

Connie Beltran '16 plans to move to South Korea in December to teach English.

A Way with Words

Language isn’t a barrier — it’s a key that unlocks opportunity.

When I was in the second grade, my family decided to move to Texas, and I still didn’t know the alphabet.

I was born in Mexico and lived there for the first seven years of my life. Naturally, Spanish was my first language.

When I started elementary school in Texas, I was so far behind that I had to repeat the second grade.

Everything was so new to me. The school was bigger. There was a cafeteria, a playground, water fountains, and school didn’t end at 1 p.m. like it did in Mexico.

During lunchtime and recess, I would watch the other kids in my grade. They all looked different, but I couldn’t talk to them or be their friend.

The language barrier stopped me from approaching them.

I remember one day the entire class had to go to the cafeteria to get school pictures taken. I was so distracted because I kept looking at all of the other kids.

By the time I turned around, my classmates and teacher were gone, and I still didn’t know my way around the school. I sat in the cafeteria hoping that my teacher would come look for me because I didn’t know how to ask for help.

Language is important to me because it has created a bridge from me to people of other cultures and experiences. When I am able to communicate with a person in their native tongue, I gain a special connection with them. Each language opens up different opportunities.

When I learned English, I was able to make friends with kids in school. I was able to read books that were only available in English. I was able to ask for help when I needed it.

Now that I am approaching graduation, I can speak three languages: English, Spanish and French. I also know a little Korean.

I want to continue to broaden my knowledge of other languages. I plan to live and work in France and South Korea to be immersed in the languages and cultures. In January, I plan to teach English to children in and around Seoul.

Eventually, I want to use my knowledge of languages to create awareness about the things that are happening around the world and help voice the concerns of those who might not be able to do so.