Breaking All (Language) Barriers

I have always been interested in Latino culture. From the delicious food, to the dancing, to the language and rich history—I love it all. Part of this could be attributed to the vast amount of Spanish classes I took while growing up, but most of it can only be experienced by traveling abroad. I have been to two different Spanish-speaking countries (Mexico and Argentina), both with very different cultures. While they mostly speak the same language (with varying slang and dialect), everything from their food to their mannerisms is different. It was only after I fully experienced these two cultures that I realized that even within the same race or ethnicity, there is great diversity.

When I decided to go to Texas for Spring Break, I did not know what to expect. Since south Texas lays along the Mexico border, the area has a very large Hispanic population, many immigrating from Mexico. Along with adopting Mexico’s culture and traditions, south Texas also has a culture of its own. While I have done my research and have been debriefed by people that live there, I still know I am not 100% prepared for what I will encounter in Texas. However, I am very excited to be experiencing this for the first time with eight other students.

The project that I am working on while I’m in Texas is assessing whether there is adequate parent awareness of speech therapy services for children in Rio Grande Valley. We will be administering surveys to parents in Hidalgo County at Head Start locations, asking whether they are aware of these early childhood intervention services, whether their child utilizes these services, and whether they believe the program is effective.

Since Hidalgo County has many Spanish-speaking individuals who don’t know much English, we will conduct some of the interviews in Spanish. At one point in life, I was close to being fluent in Spanish; however, over the years I have not used a lot of Spanish. What if I say the wrong thing or I don’t understand their answers? Conducting interviews in a new place about a subject you don’t know is a challenge in itself… but in your non-native language is a whole other story! There is nothing in my public health education that could have prepared me for this but I am ready to be challenged culturally, academically, and personally by this experience.


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