I distinctly remember a moment in early Grade School leafing through an electronics manual that had several-language versions wondering, semi-frustratedly/excitedly, WHEN (not if) I will get to read the sections of languages other than English.
I remember flipping through my sisters’ Chinese books out of my own free will and begging my mom to teach me how to read Bopomofo in Grade 4 so I could at least phonetically read those Chinese books.
I remember using my 99-Peso Japanese grammar book to death in Grade 7 (which I had bought from lunch money), and being elated for having been spoken to comfortably by the Japanese exchange students that came to school the following year (yup, even their adult companions). I have brought myself to tears listening to some exquisitely sentimental Japanese songs that held so much emotion and spirit, but were only vaguely translate-able in the exact same way it could make you feel in that original language.
I remember going to the library in the days before internet was easily available, in order to look up, study, and memorize Korean writing and basic grammar and having tons of aha moments comparing it to Japanese, and some similarities it had to Chinese.
I remember specifically deciding to be a fan of Josh Groban for his Italian songs, and trying to decipher the meaning of those, alongside his French and Spanish songs. I have no words to describe the excitement I’d feel back then every time I’d make a connection between those three Romance languages, in my then-quietly-expanding innocent mind of 16 years.
I remember getting so hooked on LOTR that I endeavored to deconstruct/study the basics of Elvish (Quenya, specifically, and some Sindarin), and glorying in the short excerpts of poems/songs from the books that I had decided to analyze, feeling that somehow reading and understanding all its words and variations and rhythm transports me to the exact same world that language exists in. I even had a separate filler notebook that I scribbled down notes in, complete with rudimentary illustrations of Woodland Elves.
I then went on to learn Spanish and a mere three semesters of French during my stay in the Ateneo, as well as an audit in Japanese to remind myself of times past, and here I am now, making a living by teaching Spanish to teenagers. That exact same halcyon age I found myself dizzyingly wanting to learn more. It is a great responsibility for me; one that I have yet to feel I have had any measure of success in. I have taught 12-to-18-year-olds, and yet I feel I have failed to impress upon them the same love and gusto I had at their age, when I myself used to say daily prayers for God to ‘please let me have enough money to take language courses after school, please please please’.
I have taught around 300 different, unique, individual students in the time I have half-decided to make this my career path, and I am waiting to meet more when I go to work in Spain in September as a language assistant. Sure, I successfully teach them all the rules, all the words, and this or that accent. But until the day I have changed a life by impressing upon even just one of those 300 young minds the beauty and wonder and awe that I once held for wholeheartedly diving into other languages, then, I will have considered my quest unfinished.
That is really the only point of today’s post. Today, I decide to honor that little girl who stared longingly at that multilingual electronics manual. Today, the wanderer, gypsy, life-chaser Shaira formally dips a toe in the feared box of commitment to a somewhat singular cause (not that I could ever fully stop chasing my million other mini-fascinations) — and that is today, I vow to make something out of this language-teaching career. If there was once a little Shaira thirsting for the knowledge that I have now, one of these days, I will stumble upon another one from this generation. Maybe I could even make more of them, in my lifetime. In this monumental occasion in my life, I reject my once-held belief that the only way to glorify life is to break every robotic, institutional evil in rebellion. Today I decide the best way to affect the tides of change is to join it first, and work from within.
I have such a deep love of languages, their sounds, their textures, their tones, their specific worldviews, their little ironies and quirks that I could literally bring myself to tears at their exaltation in written art: poetry, stories, little excerpts here and there. I realize not everyone has this same passion, but I am beyond certain that many of you have felt similar things for your own personal passions. I hope this mid-year rant has tickled your personal fancy in some way, too, and we can be wolves together, you and I.
Until the next stirring of my little heart,