Carlos O.

"Keep going! Studying a language can be intimidating but it is worth it."

Major(s) and Certificate(s): Spanish

Graduation Year: 2016

Current Location: Verona, WI

Language(s): Spanish & French

What have you done since graduating from UW-Madison?

After graduating from UW-Madison, I moved to Milwaukee for teaching and graduate school. In Milwaukee, I went to Cardinal Stritch University for my MA in Teaching, with a focus on regular education and English as a second language. While attending graduate school, I also was teaching middle school language arts and social studies. Now, I am an English language and bilingual resource teacher for the Verona Area School District. However, I am still looking for ways to learn and practice French.

What motivated you to study this/these languages?

Spanish is my first language. However, I still took Spanish classes in high school, so I could become fully biliterate. Even though I could speak Spanish, as a heritage speaker of the language, I struggled to read and write. After high school Spanish, I enrolled in my first Spanish class as a freshman – Spanish 311 with Sarli Mercado. This class helped me become a better writer and challenged me to think critically about my word choice and fluency. Because of my amazing experience with Sarli in 311, I decided to continue studying Spanish as my main undergraduate major.

French, however, is a different story. I took French 101 and 102 the summer before my senior year. I wanted to take summer courses but I didn’t know what to take. As I was looking through the course guide, I saw that I could take two French semesters and I thought that it would be a good idea to learn a new language. This was a great choice. Not only was the course challenging, but it was also exciting to make metacognitive connections as a bilingual to see how the French language is similar and different to English and Spanish.

How have these languages enriched your life?

Earning a BA in Spanish has helped me become a better bilingual teacher. Additionally, I have tried to continue learning French on my own and I have travelled to France and Québec all by myself. Even though I still struggle with speaking French, my little bit of knowledge has helped me communicate and solo travel.

What do you remember about your UW language classes? How were they different from other classes you took?

My most memorable experiences were being in a space where the Spanish language is loved, respected, and appreciated. Growing up, I was constantly told and reminded that the language I speak at home is less than the language that is spoken at school. I am grateful for the professors I had who helped me become the bilingual teacher that I am today. They have inspired me to continue promoting the Spanish language and elevating the value of the language in my classrooms.

How have you maintained or improved your language(s) since graduation?

Spanish – I have learned how to become a teacher for biliteracy, which is different than teaching Spanish as a foreign language. I have learned and practiced the language of “biliteracy” in the classroom.

French – In Milwaukee, I tried going to the Alliançe Française de Milwaukee, but the course was too difficult. In Madison, I tried going to the French House but it is difficult for me to make the class on time. I would like to take French 203 and 204 this summer, but I am not sure yet.

What advice do you have for current language students?

Keep going! Studying a language can be intimidating but it is worth it. Also, you are bilingual, an emergent bilingual, or multilingual. Be proud of that.

What is your favorite word or phrase in a language you know? 

Me da igual. = I could care less/I don’t care.