The SLP as Second-Language Learner “I’ll see you next eggs,” I said to the principal of the small Mexican elementary school where I volunteered years ago. Realizing that my sloppy pronunciation of “Thursday” (jueves) sounded like “eggs” (huevos), I thought I understood his expressions of momentary confusion followed by true amusement. It was just a ... First Person on the Last Page
Free
First Person on the Last Page  |   August 01, 2011
The SLP as Second-Language Learner
Author Notes
  • Sheila C. Cullen, MA, CCC-SLP, is a bilingual speech-language pathologist working with Spanish-speaking preschoolers through the Santa Barbara County (Calif.) Education Office. She can be reached at shlcrum@yahoo.com.
    Sheila C. Cullen, MA, CCC-SLP, is a bilingual speech-language pathologist working with Spanish-speaking preschoolers through the Santa Barbara County (Calif.) Education Office. She can be reached at shlcrum@yahoo.com.×
Article Information
Cultural & Linguistic Diversity / First Person on the Last Page
First Person on the Last Page   |   August 01, 2011
The SLP as Second-Language Learner
The ASHA Leader, August 2011, Vol. 16, 39. doi:10.1044/leader.LML.16082011.39
The ASHA Leader, August 2011, Vol. 16, 39. doi:10.1044/leader.LML.16082011.39

Graphic Jump LocationImage Not Available

“I’ll see you next eggs,” I said to the principal of the small Mexican elementary school where I volunteered years ago. Realizing that my sloppy pronunciation of “Thursday” (jueves) sounded like “eggs” (huevos), I thought I understood his expressions of momentary confusion followed by true amusement. It was just a tiny vowel error, really, a sin any non-native speaker might commit. A moment later I became even more horrified with my “tiny” error when I remembered that “huevos” is also the slang word for “testicles.”
Although it would have been a fantastic stroke of luck to grow up bilingual, learning a second language as an adult has offered me special insight into language learning I missed as a child. As both learner and teacher, I have come to observe my own process with a certain degree of fascination. I now view words not as simple referents but as living beings with their own unique and complex personalities. My first language serves as the anchor that allows me to lodge words in their proper cerebral habitat, but I must spend much more time together with my new words in many different places before we truly become friends.
In my practice, I share these insights with my students’ families. I explain the importance of family field trips to the beach, library, zoo, or farmer’s market, because in each setting new words sprout into existence, while others are refined with new associations. I, too, must expand my social-linguistic contexts to give exercise to less familiar words. Thanks to Skype, I continue to benefit from regular communication with my Mexican teacher, who challenges me to step out of the practiced linguistic arena of my work.
With a textbook knowledge of Spanish grammar, I am now very well equipped to identify those particular syntactic markers that are red flags for language impairment in Spanish-speaking preschoolers. Interestingly, their persistent errors are often the very ones I struggled with in Spanish. From word-finding to word order, I am empathetic to the challenges of second-language learners. I feel compassion for the child who just can’t seem to remember the difference between “walk” and “walked.” After all, it’s just a tiny phonetic distinction, like “jueves” and “huevos”—right?
0 Comments
Submit a Comment
Submit A Comment
Name
Comment Title
Comment


This feature is available to Subscribers Only
Sign In or Create an Account ×
FROM THIS ISSUE
August 2011
Volume 16, Issue 8