My passion for learning and studying language started at a young age. In my first year of elementary school, I was a student in the Spanish immersion program within my public school district in Lehigh Valley, PA. My classmates and I walked into the classroom on the first day of first grade knowing nothing about Spanish, however, that was the only language we were spoken to by our teacher. I will never forget the feeling of confusion I experienced during that class. It was scary.

After school, I arrived home and talked to my mom about the troubles I had that day in class. Despite my discouraging thoughts, my parents reminded me that learning a new language takes a lot of time, practice, and patience. As classes continued, learning became easier and soon my classmates and I could have full conversations with our teacher. I spent 5 years in the immersion program, where each of my school subjects were taught only in Spanish. Each year, my understanding of the language increased, and I felt more confident in my own ability to speak the language.

Once the program ended and I entered High School and higher education, I knew I wanted to keep up with my language skills and help others learn languages. During my second year at Penn State, a close friend of mine introduced me to Mid-State Literacy Council (MSLC) and told me about her amazing experience as a tutor. Although I had never tutored before, the connections she made with the people throughout MSLC motivated me to become a tutor and my experience after two semesters of classes and one-on-one tutoring was exceptional!

I met so many amazing people and learned so much throughout the process. For example, during the weekly meetings and tutoring sessions, I learned more about the backgrounds and cultures of the students I worked with and developed valuable connections. Some of my favorite experiences while tutoring or teaching in larger group settings was discussing our favorite foods and being introduced to new recipes or meals from different countries and cultures.

I also acquired a new understanding of the language learning process and the differences that come with learning a new language at different times and places throughout our lives. Although I was spoken to in Spanish throughout school, once I returned home, I could speak my native language with my parents. Weekly discussions with some students showed me this difference between our specific language learning experiences, allowing me to adjust my own teaching methods and think differently.

This experience at MSLC has led me to apply to become a full-time English teacher in Spain throughout the 2024-2025 school year. Through my time at MSLC, I have been reminded of the importance of language and the connections it provides between people from all parts of the world. If you ever feel discouraged while learning something new, just remember you have people around you to help, support, and encourage you! Anyone can experience the joy of learning a new language. Embrace your language learning journey!

Author: Gabriella Gormas

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