By Juan Rosa Melendez, Spanish tutor at Spanish Blackbelt language school, Brooklyn, NY
My passion for art, dances and languages has given me a lot of satisfaction and the chance to meet people from all over the world. That allowed me to become familiar with different cultures and their gastronomy, music and traditions. It also made possible for me to meet people and socialize with them, but also to have better job opportunities and to expand my dreams.
Before coming to New York, I had been living with my extended family in Venezuela for more than 7 years. Living in Venezuela, far away from my close family, was the first experience I had immersing in a country with a mixture of cultures. I now think that experience well prepared me, a traditional Peruvian girl, for my cultural immersion in NY, this time alone, a few years later.
As a Latina and Spanish Blackbelt tutor in New York, I now feel very proud to teach the Spanish Language. Every class is a journey. My Spanish students and I enjoy an atmosphere of intercultural exchange. Some students talk about the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River while I talk about Macchu Picchu and the Urubamba River in Cuzco, Peru. Some have given me lists of many good restaurants where to eat the best pizza in New York and I have encouraged them to eat at the best Hispanics restaurants and try some sangria and “pollo a la brasa” from Peru.
I celebrate my students’ interest in my language and culture. I see satisfaction in their eyes when they are finally able to communicate their ideas in Spanish and understand aspects of my culture they didn’t know before. It reminds me of my own journey. In my case, for example, all my effort and dedication to learn English while I was in Peru and Venezuela was rewarded when I was finally able to communicate my ideas, feelings and thoughts to others, in English, here in the United States. Learning English opened doors for me to get to know the American culture. And the more I learned abut the culture, the more I got involved into the language.
Learning about other cultures is an adventure. The most important thing is to always respect each other and embrace our differences. Everybody is proud of their roots. For example, in New York, the diversity of people from all over the world is huge, but we all fit together in this great City. The Spanish community is growing in a fast pace and many people are now involved in Spanish lessons, not only to socialize but also to get better opportunities in life. No matter where I go, my culture will go with me, and is both, an honor and a responsibility, to always show the best of my beloved Spanish Culture to others.
Teaching Spanish, dancing and having appreciation for other cultures has given me a lot of smiles and joy in my life. I just wish now the same to my students.