Transcripts: A Union of Voices: Building a Multilingual Positive Community through a Multilingual Writing Mentors Program

CLIP 01 – The Mess

Katy: I gotta be honest with you, I think my… they [professors] always see it as a mess because I see it as a mess. So I think that my professors would do the same: think it’s messy, it’s incomplete, which I’m not proud of at all. It’s nothing to be proud of.

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CLIP 02 – Introductions

Katy: My language background would be Spanish and I was born in Jersey City, NJ. My parents took me to the home country which is El Salvador when I was 2 years old and I came back to the United States when I was 11. So I consider myself more Salvadoran than American because I don’t know I guess I express myself better in Spanish than in English. And also because I had a rough time learning English.

Baneza: I grew up learning first Spanish because my parents are from El Salvador so that’s our native language. And then I started speaking a little bit English just around my siblings. I have an older sister so of course she knew English before any of us did. Spoke a little bit of Spanglish as I grew up more and more but my first language is still Spanish.

Adriana: My language background is Spanish and my parents are from El Salvador so they talk a lot of Spanish but not the proper Spanish I grew up to learn in middle school or high school.

Abbey: So I actually speak Filipino, Tagalog, and English.

Bianca: So I grew up speaking both English and Spanish at home. I don’t think that I have a problem speaking either; I’m pretty fluent with both, I can read and write in Spanish as well.

Claudia: I learned Spanish first. My parents always spoke to me in Spanish and I learned English from going to school and from my older brothers because they were already in school. So my parents spoke to me in Spanish and my brothers spoke to me in English.

Silvia: I grew up speaking mainly only Spanish. It wasn’t until we came to the United States when I was 16 years old that I started learning English and it has been a very long process, but, you know, I’m getting there I think.

Cindy: I grew up learning mostly Spanish at home, but my mom does speak pretty well English and so does my dad and I also went to a bilingual elementary school that taught me like math and science and all the courses in both English and in Spanish kinda like 2 and 2.

Reina: When I was growing up like my dad didn’t know how to say a lot of things in English. Obviously because he didn’t know English. Growing up I never did well in school like never did good in elementary, middle school or high school actually like barely passed because I never had someone to come home to and check my homework. My dad would be like, “did you do your homework?” he’d ask me in Spanish and I’m like, “yeah, I did it.” And he would believe me because he didn’t know any better. I mean, he didn’t know English. So I never did my homework. I didn’t have the help I needed. I think he didn’t know the resources that were available for me because I think I did have a learning disability because it was really hard for me to understand material and just process it.

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CLIP 03 – Mess Jumbled

Claudia: I didn’t feel like I could properly like put down on paper what I was thinking, like I felt like it was coming out jumbled.

Reina: Sometimes I say things that I’m trying to explain myself but it comes out either like a run-on sentence, or it’s just too wordy. It’s just like a sentence doesn’t really make sense… but it makes sense to me, but it doesn’t make sense to I guess whoever’s reading, peer reviewing my paper. But yeah, I see it sometimes.

Katy: I have difficulty because sometimes I when I’m writing, I’m thinking in Spanish, and I’m writing papers in my Spanish thinking, and verbs and… The grammar tends to be differently… especially in the order. So it’s difficult. It’s very difficult.
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CLIP 04 – The Mess Confusing

Cindy: I think even speaking it or as like writing it, it’s kind of difficult sometimes to like say words that we know in Spanish in English, like there’s certain things that I only know how to say in Spanish and I have to like explain to someone in order to say them in English and it’s the same thing with my writing, like sometimes I’ll know how to put like the proper accents and know better punctuation in Spanish than I will in English and so it’s like very confusing to find like a balance in between them both and like even to keep proper tenses in both languages it’s like, it’s like kind of tricky to manage it.

Like for myself in particular I always like I always have to hit the Spanish keyboard on my phone, for example, cause I have to remember where certain accents go. Or even like when I’m writing on the computer and I’m like talking to my cousins I’ll have to be like, “how do I say this?” or “how do I like put this properly?” without it popping up as another word on spell check or you know like… what else would it be? Like just having my thoughts come out in one straight language.

Bianca: Writing I think it sometimes it can be a little tricky because I think about things that I would want to say in Spanish or in English and sometimes it becomes hard to try to say those words or translate those words. And I have that trouble also when I’m speaking Spanish, so sometimes it gets a little bit confusing.

Abbey: Sometimes I have to look at it from a cultural perspective where how I would write something from like my Filipino culture perspective or the American culture perspective so it may have some conflict. So I think in terms of writing the key thing is that knowing who your audience are and how are they going to take it.
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CLIP 05 – The Mess Perceptions

Adriana: It’s just like how I even express myself. So I was told before, I just remember a teacher telling me that I write how I speak so I… and that doesn’t necessarily like make sense sometimes and that I when like a teacher asks me, “What do you mean?” like or and that would just make me think if I’m making sense in my writing or when I talk.

Baneza: I preferred writing more than speaking because when I speak–and I think I’m already doing it now–I sometimes take pauses cause my brain works in both English and Spanish and sometimes I wanna say a word in one language but I have to say it in a different language, so it was more uncomfortable. Whereas where I’m writing, you know, I could be writing on my own time. Nobody’s there waiting on me to give them a response then. So, as a writer, I always felt much better. But then I don’t think my writing was always great.

Just because I feel like people can tell that I’m probably thinking about what

to say in my head which is why I hated presentations. And I try to practice whenever I was going to speak, but then that would make me more nervous and sometimes I would just try to do things on the spot. And I have gotten feedback that I’m pretty good at it, depending on why or where I’m speaking, But, yeah, I just wish I looked or sounded more confident as a speaker. Like I knew what I was saying, or maybe I do know what I’m saying, but because of the nerves–they get the best of me sometimes. So it kind of looks like, “Oh, this girl is struggling.”

Like, I feel like people think that I probably don’t know what I’m saying, or I’m not sure how to get the point across.

Reina: So sometimes when I’m talking to someone I tend to say things backwards because in Spanish you say things… Instead of saying “old man” you say “man that’s old.” So I tend to talk backwards in English because, in Spanish, you say everything backwards–does that makes sense? Okay, okay. And so I think that affects my confidence because it makes me sound like I’m not educated. And yeah, it does affect my confidence.
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CLIP 06 – Confidence

Claudia: Oh. [laughs] Well, I never thought I was a good writer at all. I always thought my writing was mediocre.

Katy: But when it comes to school, writing and talking, I don’t feel confident at all, ‘specially when we have a presentations. I don’t feel confident of my accent, and I tend to freak out, get nervous, so that makes it even worse. And for my writing, I have my insecurities. I think that I’m not a good writer at all. I guess because writing is not my thing. It’s just… I don’t know… I lost my confidence.

Again, my confidence is what kills me, so regardless if my teacher thinks it’s okay, I kinda think that it’s the worst paper ever.

Adriana: Actually, growing up, being Spanish is just like in general, like in the culture, I just felt like left out but… and I’ve always struggled as a student, like when I had to read or write. But, like, when I was as a student, I just always felt insecure about my writing because of my language background and my cultural background, and I just always felt like I needed help. And so I tend to struggle a lot more in my writing and always like… I don’t know like over-think my writing and think if it sounds right. So… and it also affected me asking questions and feeling like a little bit embarrassed.

Baneza: Growing up… Or ever since I was little, I guess, I always lacked confidence as a student. I always felt I had to work extra hard as opposed to native English speakers

Interviewer: [off-camera] How do you think your instructors see your writing?

Baneza: Better than I do. [laughs] I think I’ve gotten better as a writer because of my education, and I’ve gotten support from my peers and other instructors. So like I’ve said I’ve grown as a writer, but there’s still always that little bit of lack of confidence. And I’m always like nervous or afraid of having someone else read it, but I just try to put that aside just cause I know it will help me and then I could help others in the future with writing.

Reina: I’m not that confident. I should be more confident. I’m not that confident. I have to go to a Writing Fellow or like the writing center to have my paper checked. Because sometimes I feel like it’s not… I don’t know, sometimes I feel like it’s not what is expected, like I’m not meeting the requirements, like “is this answering the question? Is this scholarly writing?” You know, so I have to get it checked.

Silvia: Learning English when I was a teenager affected my identity as a student because sometimes I had struggle writing papers because I didn’t have… like, I didn’t know how to express my ideas effectively or I may have grammar issues. So I think it did have a very strong impact on my identity as a student because I may not have feel as confident in writing and expressing all my ideas and supporting my thoughts and writing good papers.
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CLIP 07 – Good Writer

Katy: I’m a bilingual person so I’m not in tune with the big words in English, the fancy ones. So that sometimes that kills me because I feel like other people are writing more intensive vocabularies, I guess, when I’m writing just simple, practical English, I feel. So I feel like good writing would be [laughs] nice, fancy words, good grammar, long papers, I guess. Longer than what I write. And creative.

Silvia: A good writer would be someone who can express clearly and effectively and then someone who doesn’t have, who doesn’t have errors when writing, I think. Someone who doesn’t have grammar issues like I do, I think. So someone who has clear, a clear statement, supports their ideas clearly, so basically writing so well.

Adriana: I feel like a good writer is like, is pretty direct and clear in whatever they’re going to say. And they’re almost like you can relate in a way and almost makes you feel like you really understand what they’re saying by the words that they… that they choose to put. So, yeah, that’s what I think.

Baneza: I feel like this might be like a very general definition but it’s helped me get through it. When I think about a good writer, if I read someone else’s paper, let’s say it’s on a topic that I have no idea about or something that I just don’t know much about, if I can understand it, I think that’s a good writer. I’m not sure if that makes sense, and that’s another thing, because of my language, I feel like when I speak, I don’t… it might not make sense. See and I’m doing it now too, I take pauses. It’s hard.

Bianca: Someone who takes their time to write their paper. I don’t always get… I don’t always ask someone to always read my paper because I kinda read it out loud to myself. But I think that’s important to get other, another perspective, like when they’re reading, because sometimes you can be reading your own paper so much that it just stops making sense. And I think that just having enough time and reviewing your paper makes you a good writer.

I guess choice of words. Just trying not to use “like” or… I guess… I don’t know, choice of words. I know that sometimes I get stuck because I think that I’m being repetitive or… Yeah, just choice of words, I think.

Abbey: A good writer, first of all, I think needs to consider who their target audience are. And exactly what… so after identifying who their target audience are, they need to know exactly what they’re trying to convey, what their message is. Because I think having just sort of like a blanket message doesn’t really… may not necessarily be applicable to everyone.

Cindy: I think a good writer is someone who is like very diverse in their writing skills. Like who knows how to be descriptive when they need to be, or who knows how to be very like precise and like condense information when they need to. Or they have like the ability to make sure that everybody can understand their writing and like use the proper words or jargon, I guess you could say, and when it’s needed. I think that’s the kind of writer that I like learning from. Who’s someone who’s like that? Like I like people who break things down for you a lot or like can explain it very well, even if they’re just explaining something to you, or if they’re writing something to you, I think that’s like a really good quality as a writer to have.
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CLIP 08 – Good Writer

Cindy: Well, so far I feel like I’m a pretty good student here. Like, I feel like I can write a paper just like the rest of my classmates; I just can do it in both languages.

Bianca: I think that overall like I received pretty positive feedback on papers. I think that I received positive feedback on it and I think that, when I’ve gotten feedback, it’s not necessarily negative or it’s helped me improve on things that I can work on, like little things like citations. Like, when I transferred here, I had no idea how to do APA.

Abbey: I think I’m… In my opinion, because I grew up here, I think I write pretty much from like the American culture perspective. I always view it that way to like what we have in our society now, so I think my… what professors probably see it as such.

Claudia: After being a mentor, that kind of gave me confidence, I think. Like, “Oh, I guess I can write after all!” [laughs]
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CLIP 09 – Frustrating

Katy: Creative. Fun. Passion. Love for writing. They find enjoyment in writing, which I don’t. So I don’t… I see… I find writing more frustrating than anything else, but I’m pretty sure that a good writer must have passion for writing.

Adriana: I wish I could like to write better so like I can express myself better through writing as opposed to speaking in front of people. [laughs]
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CLIP 10 – Baneza

Baneza: And also the pressure from my parents cause, you know, they didn’t have the opportunity to go to school or they only went up to a certain grade. So there was a pressure that we had to work extra hard and actually become something, so that we’re able to provide for our families in the future. So I always felt a lot of pressure as a student and it affected me in high school. I guess I just… with all the pressure I got very discouraged and I just thought, you know, I don’t want to do anything. I’ll just go to work. But I didn’t. I continued going to school because I didn’t have a choice. [laughs]
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CLIP 11 – Peers

Baneza: With peers I feel like it connects us, cause within our… Well, when I was a student here and I… my friends were mostly bilingual students so we were able to, you know, help each other out cause we knew what challenges we were both facing. So, in that way, I think it was a good experience. And then I’ve noticed that me, personally, I would kind of alienate myself from non-bilingual students just cause I felt like maybe they wouldn’t understand me. Like, alienate myself in terms of our education, like perhaps, you know, if I needed help understanding a paper or something I would much rather go to my bilingual friend as opposed to the non-native… or native English speaker, cause I felt like they would understand me and there was always that fear of being judged, I guess.

Cindy: Language-wise, I think it’s pretty interesting now that I see like a bunch of other Latinos and Latinas in higher education with me. I know it’s like kind of… we’re looked a little differently or odd when we speak Spanish in front of other people. For example, me and Katy we talk Spanish all the time in front of other people, and I’ve never had that before until I got to Shady Grove, which I think is fun because like our other classmates will be like, “Oh, what are you saying?” and I’ll be like, “Oh, so I’m saying this that and the third.” Or they’ll ask, “How do you not get the words confused?” and stuff like that, and I’m just like I don’t know, it just comes second nature at this point.

Katy: So I tend to compare my writing with others, which kills me most of the time because I am more concerned about what my peer is gonna write than what I’m supposed to write. So I’m constantly thinking, “Oh, they’re gonna do it better than I am.” But the next day comes and they come and they complain that they barely finished it–the paper, I guess. So I guess we all connect somehow.
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