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Language Autobiography 1

Language Autobiography
Kassidy Boyer
Professor Cho
C&T 820
September 15, 2014

Language Autobiography 2
Language Autobiography
I sat at my desk, very uncomfortable that afternoon. My chair seemed too hard and the air
around me too hot. It had to be at least ninety degrees in here. Despite the lights being off and
two fans circulating air around the room, I still felt like I was roasting in a sauna. Ms. Artherton
called the class to attention, and I perked up my head. She declared it was time for writing, so I
put away my math book neatly in my desk and waited with anticipation as my best friend, April,
handed out our writing folders. My writing folder was twenty-five cents of sheer magic, and as
far as I was concerned, the best part about fifth grade. It was orange, my favorite color, and had a
small stack of notebook paper safely secured inside its three rings. These blank papers were for
me to fill with my ideas and stories the whole year, and I hoped more than anything, that we
would start writing in them today.
As Ms. Artherton started speaking, I hung on her every word, hopeful to begin my first
assignment. She began, "This week's story needs to be at least two pages long and is due on
Friday. You may write a story about anything you'd like. Happy writing!" My eyes lit up.
"Anything I'd like! Anything I'd like!" I thought. Those words sparked my imagination and
creative thoughts flooded my brain. I put my pencil to paper and started filling the page. The
more I wrote, the more my imagination soared. My pencil just couldn't keep up! My story
became more involved and interesting with each new sentence. What started as two siblings
hiking in the Rockies, became a story about an alien invasion with the fate of planet Earth resting
on the shoulders of two ten year olds. My imagination came to life that day. Anything could
happen in the world of writing. Anything was possible.
My fifth grade writing journal is one of my favorite literacy memories, and it captures the
love and zest for writing I had when I was younger. As I child, I caught on to reading quickly in

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school and began reading books at home for fun. I was a successful reader. Sounding out words
came naturally to me, but I often reread to have better comprehension. Although I liked to read
for fun, I despised the subject of reading in school. Our time consisted of each pupil taking a turn
reading out loud to the rest of the class, stories took ages to get through, and then we filled in
workbooks with sentence after sentence recalling what we read. I was dreadfully bored by this
routine day after day. My true love in the literary realm developed in third grade when my
teacher took us deeper into writing. I cherished every moment my teachers taught about writing;
I was like a sponge absorbing everything they said, and tried to emulate it in my own writing.
Writing was a valid means for me to express myself. I kept a journal at home and wrote
my own song lyrics and poems. My enjoyment of writing continued into my adolescent years.
High school brought along more extra curricular activities, an after-school job, and tougher
classes. Thus, free-time started dwindling and so did my journaling. I didn't have as much time to
write at home, but I still made time to journal about impactful events in my life. I delighted in the
more complex writing assignments I received in high school as I developed skills for academic
writing. My academic success and the literacy development I experienced throughout my
schooling prepared me to take on the college world and the various literary challenges I faced
there.
I enrolled at KU as a freshman in 2007 and decided to take on a new language adventure,
Spanish. I took French for two years in high school, but through rote memorization of
vocabulary and grammar rules without much application, I had no command of the language and
only remembered a handful of words. I walked into my first Spanish class both nervous and
excited, but mostly nervous. My anxiety was momentarily put at ease as I learned the other
students had no Spanish experience either, but was again heightened when the instructor

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announced our class would be taught in Spanish ninety-five percent of the time. "Ahhhhhhh!
How will I ever learn? This is crazy! She can't be serious! Oh no, what have I gotten myself
into?" These thoughts raced through my head and the worry of failing a college course in my
first semester came over me. I did not know how I was going to learn Spanish under such
circumstances and left class bewildered that day.
Sure enough, the next day, my teacher spoke almost entirely in Spanish for the whole
period. I was surprised by how much I caught on to her instructions, even though I didn't know
what the words meant. I left the class with more confidence when I came in, and that confidence
built momentum as the week went on. By the end of the week, I was having an absolute blast in
class and had learned several Spanish phrases.
Our class was structured in a conversational way. We practiced learned phrases with
multiple classmates and soon became comfortable speaking with each other in pairs and small
groups, though speaking in front of the class still caused me some anxiety. When I saw Spanish
words in the book, I knew what they meant, but I could not always find the word I needed when I
was in a conversation. I did a lot of nodding my head to the teacher, not even sure what I was
nodding my head about that first few months of class! However, as time went on I began to
understand almost everything our instructor was saying. Wow! What a jump! I actually
understood and spoke limited Spanish. I felt accomplished and proud of myself with this little bit
of knowledge, but I still had a long way to go. I took another Spanish class the following
semester and even had many of my classmates from the first class in it. I decided to continue my
education the following year.
Over the summer, I lost some of what I learned from the previous classes, but there was
no time for catch-up in class. I had to rely on my dictionary for lost vocabulary and my old

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textbook for forgotten grammar rules and verb conjugations. These Spanish classes were more
advanced, and our instruction included more complex elements of the language. The textbook
was almost solely in Spanish, and I had to expand my vocabulary as I read on my own in order to
understand several words I did not recognize.
We even had essay tests, and writing in Spanish became harder. I eventually felt more
comfortable speaking Spanish in class than I did writing in Spanish. When I spoke in Spanish, I
may not have gotten all grammar rules correct or found the exact word to say, but I could convey
overall meaning and carry on conversations with others. On the other hand, writing required me
to be more precise. I had to go back and look up grammar rules to make sure I was following
them; it was hard to keep all of them straight in my mind. My Spanish writing style was based on
my English writing style. I thought what I wanted to write in English, and then tried to figure out
how to form the words in Spanish. I tried to translate using word-for-word translation, but
Spanish does not always translate one-to-one or use the same expressions as English does.
Despite the obstacles, I was successful in my Spanish class and got to be conversational in
Spanish by the end of my second year of study.
That was my last year of Spanish classes, and I never used Spanish outside of that
classroom setting. I haven't practiced Spanish for over five years now, and I cannot speak it any
more. I still know a few words and phrases, but not enough to carry on a conversation with
someone. It would be incredibly beneficial for me today if I had continued speaking Spanish and
studying the language. The school district I work in has a high population of English learners and
most of their parents speak Spanish as their native language. I would love to communicate with
these students and parents in their native language, instead of them having to converse with me
in limited English, or in some cases not even being able to communicate with them without a

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translator. I am keeping my fingers crossed that when I try to acquire Spanish once again, that I
can pick it up more quickly than I did before.
Another circumstance I found myself wishing I still spoke Spanish was when I went on a
mission trip to Nicaragua this summer. I surprised myself when I opened an old Spanish textbook
before the trip and could still read and understand a reasonable amount. When I heard Spanish or
tried to speak it, however, it was a different story, a mental block. I was fumbling for words and
had to substitute many words in English hoping that the Nicaraguans would catch on.
It was fortunate that we had many translators on our trip; most of the Nicaraguans who
worked at the ministry knew limited to very good English. The translators helped me speak to the
Nicaraguan people I distributed Bibles. As I prayed for these people, the translators would
translate. My favorite part was when the translators began to pray on their own and speak to the
people in the local Spanish dialect. I had never been completely immersed in a language before,
and it was an amazing to experience Spanish being spoken everywhere I went.
With an attempt to speak the language, came inevitable misunderstandings. One of the
local women I distributed Bibles with is named Catalina and she only spoke Spanish. As we
were walking through the streets of Nandaime together, I gathered enough courage to strike up a
conversation with her in Spanish. I asked her if she lived here in Nandaime, where we were
distributing Bibles, and she said that she did. However the next day, she rode on the bus that we
took from Diriamba, where we were staying, to Nandaime to distribute Bibles. I was confused,
so when we arrived at our destination, I asked one of the translators, Osmond, if Catalina lived in
Nandaime. He said, "She lives in Diriamba. Didn't you see her on the bus?" Then he started
laughing. I started laughing too. I will never know what I asked Catalina that day, but that's okay,
I don't have to. We made a connection on that trip even though we could not speak the same

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language. Through our smiles and service together, we formed a friendship I hope will be taken
much deeper the next time I go to Nicaragua, because hopefully then, I will be speaking Spanish
once again.
I enjoyed writing this language autobiography and reflecting on the experiences of my
language development in my L1 and attempted L2 that are meaningful to me. Thinking about
how I acquired language has me thinking about the language development of my students.
Understanding the struggles of developing limited proficiency in an L2 will help me empathize
more with my English learners. Memories of specific struggles can give me insight into some of
the struggles these learners could be experiencing.
Doing a language autobiography as an assignment in my classroom will help me get to
know my students better. The better I know my students, the more I know how to provide
instruction that best meets their needs. I teach third grade, and the first step students would take
to create a language autobiography is make a timeline of important language events in their life.
Students would need the assignment modeled for them, and I would provide examples of the
types of events they may use. Parent help may be needed to provide some information for
students. For example, one event students could show is when they spoke their first word. After
completing a rough draft of the timeline, students would conference with me, and I would guide
them in developing more events if necessary. Students would then make a final version of their
timeline with pictures for each or most events. The second step is students will choose one single
event from the timeline to write about. I would hang the completed timelines around the room,
with student writing below their timelines. We would share as a class so that the students would
understand one another better and celebrate their differences.