Elias Lozada is an Advanced student from Venezuela. Here he writes about cultural confusion and being his family’s “personal translator.”

Being in a different environment or in a different place is hard enough, and being in another country where no one can understand you is extremely confusing. Even if you can speak some of the language a situation like this can be scary.

The first time that I felt out of place was in the moment that I got onto the plane and the flight attendant asked my brother and I “You guys are brothers?” I couldn’t articulate anything; I just nodded  my head. The rest of the flight was easy, I only talked when I asked for my meal and it was simple, I only had to say “Burrito please”. After we did the transfer in Miami, I pretended to be asleep through the whole flight and that way I didn’t had to talk to anyone.

My first day in the U.S I had to act as my family’s personal translator, and I have to admit that it was very frightening. Every time that we walked into a store, they would said to me “Preparate” or get ready. But every time, I was lucky enough, and in the stores there was always someone that spoke Spanish, until the day that I ran out of luck, we went to a cell phone company, one of my dad’s coworkers wanted to buy a phone, this time, there were no Spanish speakers so I had to translate. One of my biggest fears was not being understood by the lady that attended us. I had never talked in English to another person because the way that I learned the language was a little unconventional; I learned in my room, watching American shows, (who said that television doesn’t teach us anything?). It turns out that my pronunciation was good enough and the lady understood me, but my ability to translate prices and numbers to Spanish, not so much. I confused some of the prices and when the lady gave us the flyers with all the correct prices was when I realized that I had made a mistake, no one said anything to me but on the inside I felt really stupid, the only thing I could do was learn from my mistakes.

Day by day I have been gaining more experience speaking to other people in LETC and my confidence to speak outside the classroom is definitely increasing. Even though sometimes I feel overwhelmed in class by all the technicalities due to my lack of formal training, I have managed to pull through. With effort and a lot of practice I been getting better and better,  improving my pronunciation, learning new vocabulary and how to write some of the words that for a long time I been hearing in television but I had no idea of how to spell. Although I think I’m always going to feel out of place, it’s important to learn the language to be able to understand a different culture and gain different experiences in life.