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Interview with Vivian E Cortes

Cortes, Vivian E.
LeBaron, Cindy
Date of Interview: 
Cultural identification; Overcoming obstacles
Vivian Cortes talks about her education in Puerto Rico and her kids and her career as a music teacher in the US
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Cindy LeBaron interviews Charlotteans to collect stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
CL (Cindy LeBaron): One, two, three, testing, one, two, three. This is Cindy LeBaron. It's January 17, 2003 and I will be interviewing Vivian Cortes about her experiences in learning English. Good morning Vivian.
VC (Vivian Cortes): Good morning. How are you?
CL: I'm fine. How are you // today? //
VC: // I'm // very good, thanks.
CL: Uh, Vivian, I'm going to talk to you today about your experiences learning English, but first I'd like to find out some personal information about you. I know you were born in Puerto Rico but I don't know when you were born.
VC: Yes, I born in Puerto Rico, uh, February 27, 1963.
CL: Have you ever lived in another country, other than the United States?
VC: No. This is the first one.
CL: How long have you been in the United States?
VC: I've been here since, uh, 3 years ago.
CL: So, // 1999? //
VC: // 1999, // December 1999.
CL: OK, and you've been in this same area since you came to the United // States? //
VC: // I've been // in this same area.
CL: Uh, and what kind of education do you have?
VC: I have a, a high school degree and a bachelor degree in music.
CL: OK, where is your bachelor's degree from?
VC: From the Conservatory of Music of Puerto Rico.
CL: Wow. A conserva-, conserva-.
VC: [Laugh] Yeah.
CL: -Tory [laugh].
VC: A 'y' after the 'r.'
CL: Oh, thank you, conservatory. OK, well, thank you. Uh, how old were you when you started learning English?
VC: Uh, I start, uh, when I was kindergarten, we start learning, uh, the basics, uh, numbers, uh, colors, and every year we move to a, a different, uh, skill.
CL: And when you were in, um, elementary school and you studied English, did the teachers test you, or how did they, um, figure out if you were learning the English?
VC: Yes, they test us, uh, by different exams, uh, when they finish, uh, any unit they they gave us an exam.
CL: A written exam?
VC: Uh, yes-.
VC: -More than, more than, um, conversation.
VC: ( ) Yes, reading.
CL: OK. And then when you were in middle school, high school, whatever your equivalent is in Puerto Rico, did you continue to study English?
VC: Yes, yes I did.
CL: So you studied from kindergarten through the end of high // school? //
VC: // Yes, // yes, we studied, but the thing is that, uh, what I feel that we really need, what we really need to see if we really know English, we have no, not too many, uh, opportunities to, to speak with someone. We learn more, uh, vocabulary, and how to make sentences, how, how to organize the, the words to make sentences. But It's not until you have to speak that you know if you really // know or-. //
CL: // [Laughs] //
VC: -What do you need.
CL: I had a similar experience learning Spanish. I studied Spanish in college and I felt like I could read it reasonably well, but when I went to talk to native speakers of Spanish I could not understand them because they talked much faster than my book // talked-. //
VC: // Too. //
CL: -To me.
VC: Too fast.
CL: Too fast.
VC: Yes.
CL: And also I didn't have enough words really to express what I really wanted to // say. //
VC: // Yes, // that's, that's, that's that's, right.
CL: // [Laughs] //
VC: // That's // right.
CL: [Laughs] That's a problem for you too // [laughs]? //
VC: // Yeah. // [Laughter]
CL: OK. Um, when, when you, uh, were taking these English classes all through your educational experience, how did you feel about the classes did, did you, other than feeling like you really couldn't use it very well, did you feel like you were learning enough?
VC: Um, I think that when we were, when I was in the school, we were doing like the same thing every year, probably a little bit harder every year. But, uh, we never, when we are young we never think that that's going to be important for you. Now I realize-.
CL: // [Laughs] //
VC: // -That it is very important. // [Laughter]But I feel like that when, when I came here about three years ago I, I was very afraid to say a single word. Yes, if anyone comes to me speaking English I try to, go to the // right in the opposite direction-. //
CL: // [Laughs] //
VC: -Because I was really afraid but, uh, now I feel that at least I can do a, a, a short conversation with people and-.
CL: You do very well. [Laughter]
VC: But not, I, I would like really to stay, uh, here learning the most I can, just to try to see if I can, uh, speak English the way I speak Spanish.
CL: // Uh-huh. //
VC: // That's // my goal. [Laughter] I try to, to, to tell everyone what I really feel, all, all what I feel. Sometimes I, I have to, to, to keep some of some things because I am not able to express-.
CL: // Uh-huh. //
VC: // -Everything // the way that I express in my language. [Laughter] But I will keep working [laugh].
CL: How long do you think that will take you?
VC: When you are an adult, it is harder.
CL: // [Laughs] //
VC: // Yes. // And also if you're a teacher you, you think that everything needs to be correct, right, all the words in the in the right order, all the, the, how do you say, the, the conjugations, everything needs to be right before you say any word to anyone. [Laughter] And, thinking about that, probably will take me about five more years. But, if I see the, the day I came and the da-, today it's a, it's a big difference.
CL: Yeah.
VC: It's a big difference.
CL: // Yeah. //
VC: // It's a // big change.
CL: // I'm sure-. //
VC: // Yeah. //
CL: -It's a huge difference.
VC: And, uh, it's just keep working // [laugh]-. //
CL: // [Laugh] //
VC: -Keep improving.
CL: [Laughs] Uh, you, so you want to get to the point where it feels natural, and it's not hard work // to speak English. //
VC: // Uh-huh. // Yes. That's right.
CL: That's where I would like to be in Spanish-.
VC: // Uh-huh. //
CL: // [Laughs] // But I will have to go live in a Spanish speaking country // if I want-. //
VC: // Uh-huh. //
CL: -To accomplish // that. //
VC: // Yes. // That's right
CL: Uh, when you were at the conservancy of // music-. //
VC: // Conservatory. //
CL: -Conservatory of music, did you study English there also?
VC: I took, I took, uh, one short required, uh, course-.
CL: Uh-huh.
VC: -But it, it was not really a big, uh, difference.
CL: // Hmm. //
VC: // You // just, you do you job and that's all, but, the thing is I, I, I didn't, I, I don't, I didn't feel that, I knew, uh, English until I came here and practiced.
CL: // Uh-huh. //
VC: // I // think that is one of the, uh, most important reasons we moved here. We want to, to learn the, the language.
CL: Uh-huh.
VC: For me and for my kids, I want them to also to learn the, the language and to practice.
CL: Uh-huh. Do they speak English better than you do?
VC: Yes. // Of course. //
CL: // [Laughs] //[Laughter]
VC: And that's, that's the reason. They are, they are not afraid. And they, they don't think, uh, uh, they are not worried about to make mistakes, and uh, and the problem I think when we, when you are an adult you have, you have, uh, more, uh, vocabulary.
CL: // Right. //
VC: // And // when you try to speak another language what you're doing is trying is translate-.
CL: Uh-huh.
VC: -Using your own vocabulary and sometimes you can't find those words [laugh]. And that's, your, that's your stop sign for you. [Laughter] You see, but the children, they speak in their, in their regular language and-.
CL: So that you're saying they don't have as much to learn. [Laughter]
VC: They don't have as much vocabulary.
CL: My shortcomings in Spanish came up the other day when I had to call a parent about lice-.
VC: Uh-huh.
CL: -And that they // had-. //
VC: // Uh-huh. //
CL: -Found like in her daughter's hair and I did not know the word for lice.
VC: // [Laughs] //
CL: // But // now I have it.
VC: Piojos?
CL: Yes.
VC: // [Laughs] //
CL: // Piojos, ( ) now, // for the next time.
VC: You see, that's, that's, that's what happens now, if you, if you work with your mind first to, to try to do what you can, your best and don't, don't try to impress anyone [laugh]-.
CL: Right.
VC: -Using some, uh, strange words-.
CL: [Laugh]
VC: -You see, I think it's easier if you, if you try just to fo-, follow-.
CL: // Uh-huh. //
VC: // -Follow // the yellow, how do you // say? //
CL: // Follow // the yellow brick road // [laughs]. //
VC: // Yes, that's // that's it.
CL: I'm sure my Spanish does not impress anyone. [Laughter] I just [clears throat] want to speak it well enough to get the point across most of the time.
VC: [Laugh]
CL: Um, I know that when you came here and you wanted to teach school that you had to take PRAXIS, uh, tests that were testing your proficiency in music but also since you had to take them in English it was a test of your English proficiency. Can you talk about that a little bit and how you felt about that?
VC: Well, uh, I, I took the, the test, the teacher licensure test the first time and I fail [laugh], because, uh, I didn't realize that I had to read and to comprehend faster than I thought. And I think that was the problem, not, not really the, the kind of test, it's the, the, the, my experience trying to comprehend and read faster. Because it's a time, time, uh, timing test.
CL: Hmm.
VC: And of course, it's very, it was hard. It was very hard, and, uh, then I decide to took the, to take the test a second time, but that time I, I went, uh, faster [laughs], faster, and I, I, but I try, I, I I learn, I learn how to, to, to answer the test. If I don't understand something skip that one and then go ahead and answer the next and then go back. That's what I need to know, uh, before. But, it was, it was hard, it was hard. And, but, that's good I // [laugh] I-. //
CL: // [Laugh] //
VC: I, I, I, I did it [laughs].
CL: Well, many native speakers do not pass PRAXIS the first time, // so-. //
VC: // Uh-huh. //
CL: -You should // feel really good about your accomplishment. //
VC: // Yes, I did and I // feel proud. Uh, in my mind what, what I think the first time was just a practice.
CL: [Laugh]
VC: Just to see how everything, uh, work, but thank God everything work fine.
CL: Was your PRAXIS related to music? It was the music?
VC: Music. One it was, uh, uh, a multiple choice and the second, the other test it was, a writing test.
CL: // Uh-huh. //
VC: // I // think that one it was the, the hardest one because you think in Spanish and then you need to answer in English, and use the, the best vocabulary because they, they don't, uh, evaluate anyone, uh, in a different way, they evaluate everyone in a different, in the same way.
CL: // Uh-huh. //
VC: // And // you know I'm, I'm, I'm competing with English speakers. But-.
CL: But you did it. [Laughter] Um [clears throat]. When you teach every day you communicate with your classes in English.
VC: Yes.
CL: Is that, are you very tired at the end of the day-.
VC: // Hmm. //
CL: // -From // the language?
VC: Not really, uh, let me tell you when, when I'm doing my uh my classes with the children it's much easier for me to speak because I, I have never had any problem with any, any, any children telling me, "I don't understand." Oh, but I know that I am not really perfect. But children, they, they know how to feel, how to make you feel good.
CL: // [Laugh] //
VC: // [Laugh] They, // they don't express any kind of face when, when you say something. They try to understand.
CL: Uh-huh.
VC: They try, and I think teachers they need to know also that, they need to learn how to understand other people.
CL: Uh-huh.
VC: And I don't, I don't feel the, the same way with, uh, people, adults.
CL: Uh-huh.
VC: Uh, I feel sometimes that some people, they, they, they don't, they don't come to, to me to make a, to have a conversation because probably they feel I will not understand them or probably they will not understand me. And I feel, yes.
CL: I can't imagine that they // would have-. //
VC: // Yes, yes. //
CL: -Trouble understanding // you. //
VC: // I, // I, I but I feel, I feel that, but, that's why I say when, when I am with the children probably, I'm, I, I can speak better than the way I am doing right now because I feel that-.
CL: // [Laugh] //
VC: // -You know // [laughs] you are [laugh] rating me how do I speak. But the children, it's, it's much, they make you feel better and improve what you know-.
CL: Uh-huh.
VC: -In a better way. I don't feel that I'm tired at the end of the year. Probably I'm tired to, to, to do seven lessons because it's hard-.
CL: // Uh-hmm. //
VC: // -But // not, the only thing, I am very, very, uh, I like to do things very well-.
CL: // Uh-huh. //
VC: // -And // that's the reason I take more time now doing my planning because I need to know exactly what I, what I am going to communicate those kids-.
CL: Uh-huh.
VC: -In a, in a different language, you know, if I, if there is any word that I don't know I need to find out what, what word is-.
CL: // Uh-huh. //
VC: // -Before // I say any word in front of them.
CL: Uh-huh.
VC: I don't want to, to, to say, "Oh, I don't know how to say that in, in English," you know, if I'm going to do my lesson I need to know all the words translating from the way I know Spanish-.
CL: // Uh-huh. //
VC: // -To English. // So I // be-. //
CL: // So // it would take a long time to do // your lesson plans. //
VC: // Yes, yes, yes. // Probably, uh, years ago I can improvise my lessons, if I have any problems, without, no problem because-.
CL: // Right. //
VC: // -I have // everything here. But now I need, I need to do plans every day because, just in case. [Laughter]
CL: So you've taught music in Spanish-speaking schools.
VC: // Um-hmm. //
CL: // And // that was easier-.
VC: // Oh. //
CL: // -Because // you didn't have to-.
VC: // Yeah. //
CL: // -Grapple // with the language.
VC: Yes, I, I just, I just knew what I am, what I am going to do and every, everything was fluent. [Laughter] But now I, you know if I am really want to do my job good I need to, to plan and also plan the words that I am going to say, any, any words, any new word that I need to use-.
CL: Uh-huh.
VC: -For, or something, just to be ready.
CL: That's a // lot of work. //
VC: // [Laughs] // That's a lot of work, it's hard.
CL: I can't imaging if I had to teach a class in Spanish how much preparation time that would take me. Of course, my Spanish is not anywhere near as fluent as your // English. //
VC: // [Laughs] // That's, that's why, that's why I say that, uh, I don't know how, how long I'll, I will be here because really I miss my family, I miss my country-.
CL: // Uh-huh. //
VC: // I // can't really, I, I, I don't think I am going to be my whole life here. Although I like here-.
CL: // Uh-huh. //
VC: // -You // see, but-.
CL: But it's not home
VC: Yes, it's not home, and I need my, my family. We don't have any family here. But I think when, when, when I decide to move back to Puerto Rico I have had a, uh, a very good experience-.
CL: // Hmm, definitely. //
VC: // And I // feel that if I, if I, uh, ( )?
CL: Uh-huh.
VC: Teaching in English, mus-, teaching music in English, when I come back, I, I can do everything.
CL: Uh-huh. You could teach English-.
VC: // [Laugh] //
CL: // -You // could teach music.
VC: Probably not, not, not English, but what, uh, but, what, what I know really how to do. I'll be able to, to, to compare and, and to, um, how you say that? Um, include some of my experiences that I have here.
CL: Uh-hmm. That would be // wonderful. //
VC: // [Laugh] //
CL: How old are your children now?
VC: They are 14 and 12.
CL: So when you move back to Puerto Rico, they might be old enough to choose to stay here.
VC: Yes, yes.
CL: Would that break your heart?
VC: Yes. [Laughter] That's what I told my, my husband. If they decide to stay here probably [laugh] I will stay with them because I don't want them to, to be alone. But, uh, right now, uh, a, about 2 weeks ago we were talking about, about this, me and my children, and I, I asked them if they would like to, to go back to Puerto Rico-.
CL: // Uh-huh. //
VC: // -Or to // stay here. And they say they would like to stay here.
CL: Oh no.
VC: Yes.
CL: // [Laughs] //
VC: // Yes. // But I said but why and I think it's because when, when we move they were, uh, in fourth and sixth grade-.
CL: Uh-huh.
VC: -They were babies.
CL: // I know. //
VC: // And // now they are, they are a little bit older and they have friends and a different, uh, kind of, uh, uh, options in the, in the schools-.
CL: // Uh-huh. //
VC: // -And // different experiences and, and I think they will miss if they move back // [laughs]. //
CL: // I'm sure // they would.
VC: // Yeah. //
CL: // My // children are similar ages and they would not want to move.
VC: But, I think after three years I'm, I'm here, one of my goals was, uh, to have my children learning English-.
CL: // Uh-huh. //
VC: // -And, // and I think they are, they know, they know, I mean if you hear them, speaking, they sound like, they have the pronunciation.
CL: Uh-huh.
VC: Even, I, I can tell you that, uh, my daughter, she is a white skin-.
CL: // Uh-huh. //
VC: // -Girl, // and their, their, uh, teachers din't even notice that she's from other country. At that time // [laughs]. //
CL: // Wow. //
VC: Yes.
CL: So she can pass herself off // as an-. //
VC: // Uh-huh. //
CL: // -American. //
VC: Yes, that's right. And, uh, she came here to visit, uh here, this school and, uh, some children ask, uh, ask me if she speak Spanish.
CL: Um-hmm. [Laughter] Um, do you worry about your children not keeping up with uh their skills in Spanish? With reading and writing-.
VC: // Hmm. //
CL: // -Their // academic skills since they have been working in // English? //
VC: // They, // they, they, sometimes they, speak some words that are not even English, they are not // Spanish. //
CL: // [Laughs] //
VC: They are Spanglish.
CL: Oh no. [Laughter]
VC: But not too many. Uh, they know how to speak perfect Spanish. But I think, uh, I need to, time, I need to take time and show them some, uh, Spanish grammatics-.
CL: Uh-huh.
VC: -Like accents and some things that they did not learn because they moved.
CL: Right.
VC: At that time, they moved here and, uh, that's the age when they're supposed to learn, uh, those skills.
CL: Right.
VC: Six, seven, they are, they were here.
CL: Um-hm. That's what, with some of the children in the school that I serve, I feel like they are such a resource because orally, they're bilingual, but many of them never learn to read and write in // Spanish. //
VC: // ( ). //
CL: And, uh, I think it would be wonderful if their parents would help them with reading and writing-.
VC: // Uh-huh. //
CL: // -So // that they would have the skills in both languages.
VC: The, uh, my children they speak Spanish all the time at home. And, uh, out of, out of the house they speak English. I think they are, they have // a good-. //
CL: // ( ). //
VC: -Balance. Yes, with both, they, they don't do just one, they do both at the same time.
CL: It's such an asset to have two languages-.
VC: // Uh-huh. //
CL: // -I // think that's wonderful.
VC: Uh-huh.
CL: [Clears throat] Have you ever studied another language in school?
VC: Never in my life. [Laughter]
CL: Are your children studying another language?
VC: No, not yet.
CL: In high school, do they have to take a language?
VC: Probably, I think // ( ). //
CL: // Maybe // they can take Spanish-.
VC: Uh-huh.
CL: -And work on the reading and writing in Spanish.
VC: He took, when he was in seventh grade, uh, he took Spanish.
CL: OK. [Laughter]
VC: You know, it was not really hard. He, he knew Spanish, he, he knows Spanish and- [laugh].
CL: My, my son is in seventh grade and he is taking Spanish and he says there are two students in his class who are native Spanish speakers.
VC: Uh-huh.
CL: But they're, you know, they, for them it is very easy to speak it but they have to work on the grammar and things-.
VC: Hmm.
CL: -Too, you know, that's part of it is hard for them too, that part of it-.
VC: // Uh-huh. //
CL: // -So I // guess that's why they are taking Spanish even though they can speak it.
VC: I think my children they, they, they got a, a very good preparation.
CL: // ( ). //
VC: // Better than me, // more than me.
CL: // Ahh. //
VC: // I // studied in a, in a, in a public school-.
CL: Uh-huh.
VC: -And it was not really bad, but it was not as good as, they were, they studied in a private school.
CL: // OK. //
VC: // And // that's the reason that, uh, almost, uh, in Puerto Rico, uh, there are many private schools.
CL: Uh-huh.
VC: And I think it's because they, uh, they work hard, uh, uh, that kind of ( )-.
CL: Uh-huh.
VC: -And they got a very very good teachers. And they learn about, and it was not any, they had no problems when they moved here, to, uh, they were-.
CL: Uh-huh.
VC: -They were first in, in their classes first // year. //
CL: // Wow. // In English, their second // language. //
VC: // Yeah, // uh-huh.
CL: // Wonderful. //
VC: // And // it's because they had a very good background-.
CL: Uh-huh.
VC: -When they, when they come, when they came. And the thing is now, they, they, they, uh, she, she doesn't want, my daughter, she doesn't want [laugh] to be in ESL because she feel that she miss all, all, all, all, things-.
CL: // Uh-huh. //
VC: // -In other // classes.
CL: // Oh. //
VC: // And, // and she feels that she is doing good.
CL: Uh-huh. Does she go to ESL classes?
VC: Um, she, she's been asked to, to go-.
CL: Uh-huh.
VC: -Because she is from different country. But, uh, they send me letters asking me if, if I want and, and I say, "Yes, of course," I would like her to participate in the program because I know it is good for her, but she feelS [laugh], she says that, uh, that she think that she, she doesn't need that.
CL: Uh-huh.
VC: And I say.
CL: If she, when she goes to ESL classes, does she miss time in her other // classes? //
VC: // That // what, that's what she's really worried about. She doesn't want to fail anything from her class.
CL: Uh-huh.
VC: Her regular class.
CL: So that's the, that's the problem-.
VC: That's the problem.
CL: -To have to miss class to go to ESL.
VC: Yeah.
CL: You said at one point that, um, when they came here, the school had a different style of teaching. Can you tell me a little bit about the differences in the education // system? //
VC: // Hmm. // Um, they, they were to private school and I think they work harder there-.
CL: // Um-hmm. //
VC: // -Than // here.
CL: Uh-huh.
VC: It was very, I, I, I had to spend every night with them-.
CL: Uh-huh.
VC: -And sit one hour with one of them, one hour with the other one, because, uh, I think they, they try to, to do as much as possible and they were very, uh, uh, they, they have to many, too many homework. Too many things at the same time. They, they // want to compete. //
CL: // [Laugh] .// Right, right.
VC: And, uh, when they came here they, they felt that everything was very easy. I think it's because here, uh, they were, uh, not to faster and there are not too many, there, there are too many subjects. We take Spanish, English, uh, religion, um, um.
CL: // Math ( ). //
VC: // The // whole year they, they take science, math, uh, social studies, about seven or eight cla-, uh, subjects-.
CL: Um-hmm.
VC: -For the whole year.
CL: That's a lot.
VC: Uh-huh that's a lot, and, uh, but I think they had a very good education.
CL: Uh-huh.
VC: Yes.
CL: I wonder if their, uh, private school in Puerto Rico would be similar to private school here? // Where-. //
VC: // I think. //
CL: -The standards are much higher.
VC: Yes, and also, uh, they use almost the same, uh, book text-.
CL: Uh-huh.
VC: -Text.
CL: Textbook?
VC: Uh-huh, textbook-.
CL: [Laugh]
VC: -Sorry, yes. [Laughter] Yes, the, uh, the English one is the same one you use here in school.
CL: // Really? //
VC: // Yes, // it's the same one.
CL: So, just in their English class-.
VC: // Uh-huh. //
CL: // ( ). // So they're keeping up with children in their same grade level here-.
VC: // Yes. //
CL: // -In // terms of their understanding of // English? //
VC: // Yes, // that's right. That, the, the grammatic, we learn, in English we learn the same, the same thing.
CL: Uh-huh.
VC: But the difference is that, uh, we, we, this is, uh, this is our second language.
CL: Right.
VC: But we learn that the gramatic, the same, the same-.
CL: Same level.
VC: Same // level. //
CL: // Same time. // That's very impressive-.
VC: // Uh-huh. //
CL: // -Because // many of our native speakers are not very proficient with what's in their English book-.
VC: Hmm.
CL: -In any given grade.
VC: Yes and I think if, uh, where my children studied, uh, the, uh, English, uh, let me try this word, curriculum coordinator [laughs], she was an English, uh, uh, person-.
CL: // Uh-huh. //
VC: // -And // she tried to do the same curriculum as in the United States.
CL: Wow.
VC: The head of, uh, the // English department. //
CL: // So it seems like // that one class would have taken a lot of time and preparation for them to be working at that level in English-.
VC: Uh-huh.
CL: -And if they had seven or eight // classes-. //
VC: // Uh-huh. //
CL: -That's a lot of homework.
VC: ( ) OK, yeah.
CL: [Laugh]
VC: -But, but the thing-, once again I repeat to you, we can learn everything, but if we, if we don't have the, the, the chance, the opportunity to speak, we never practice what we know-.
CL: Uh-hmm.
VC: -And you forget, you forget.
CL: Uh-hmm.
VC: If I, if I stay all my life in Puerto Rico, I don't have to speak English there. Even almo-, is-, if everyone, uh, almost everyone knows a little bit-.
CL: // Right. //
VC: // [Laugh] // But we don't have, we don't have to speak English, I would forget.
CL: Uh-hmm [laugh].
VC: That's, that's why we decide really to-.
CL: [Laugh]
VC: -To move and get some experience and, and try to see how hard is life. [Laughter]
CL: I, I remember just traveling in Mexico and Guatemala and how tired I would be at the end of the day from listening to-.
VC: // Ohh. //
CL: // -A, // another language all day 'cause it was such hard work to figure out what people were saying // and-. //
VC: // Oh. //
CL: -To try to talk.
VC: Yeah.
CL: It was exhausting //[laugh]. //
VC: // Yeah, // that's right. For, for example, I, I listen, I hear you speaking and I can understand every word very good.
CL: Even with my English accent.
VC: [Laughs]
CL: [Laugh]
VC: I can understand everything but I have people, that I need to be like, try to, to open my ears very big to, to catch all the words, if not I will not understand because it's so fast and, I think it's the same thing for you, you hear some Spanish. [Laughter]
CL: And even when I, when I ask somebody if they could please speak more slowly they will for one or two sentences and then they forget.
VC: // Yeah. //
CL: // [Laughs] //
VC: // Uh-huh. That's right. //
CL: // [Laughs] // Yeah.
VC: And, and sometimes I feel that and I have to speak to someone, I need some prac-, I need some time to think some word if I really would like to improve my English-.
CL: // Uh-huh. //
VC: // -I, I // would like to take my time and think a words that I know that I, I know how to say that-.
CL: // [Laugh] //
VC: // -Word, // but if you let me think, I put that-.
CL: // Right. //
VC: // -Word // where it belongs // [laughs]. //
CL: // But you // need that time-.
VC: // Yeah. //
CL: // -To think. //
VC: I need that but if, some people are not able to, to, to wait.
CL: To slow down.
VC: Yes.
CL: // [Laughs] //
VC: // To listen // to anyone speaking too, uh, too slow and-.
CL: // Well-. //
VC: // [Laugh] //
CL: -It's very interesting listening to how you learned English and so forth and, and it sounds like all the tests you had about your abilities in English were all very traditional-.
VC: Uh-huh.
CL: -Paper and // pencil tests. //
VC: // Yes, yes. //
CL: Um, what I'm going to be learning about in my class is kinds of testing or assessment that are authentic. For example, if our objective is to teach a, a language learner how to answer the telephone, then for their exam, we would have a phone call with him-.
VC: // Uh-hmm. //
CL: // -And they // would show that they could answer the telephone.
VC: // Yes, that's, that's-. //
CL: Do you think that would have helped, um, you feel more comfortable with English if your testing matched the real skills that you needed to use English?
VC: It's, it's like when you, when, when I read, uh, when I read English, it's, it's easier for me to understand because I see the words-.
CL: Uh-hmm.
VC: -I have the words in front of me but it's not the same when you're, uh, talking. When you're listening you someone you need really to, it's like to, to, to read the words-.
CL: // [Laugh] Right. //
VC: // -In the air. // [Laughter] You see? And, that's, that's the hard part. It's, it's, it's easier if you have something and you write, and you have time to, to, to, to, to see the words.
CL: Um-hmm.
VC: It's a big difference, it's just, you know.
CL: [Laugh] Well, in our language classes now, we try to have more authentic kinds of assessment so that the children would be demonstrating what they know, not always on pencil and paper, // but-. //
VC: // Uh-huh. //
CL: -They would have real tasks, // for-. //
VC: // Uh-huh. //
CL: -Example the telephone call or, um, going to the doctor's office and saying why they are there // and-. //
VC: // Uh-huh. //
CL: -So forth and interacting with the doctor. That would, // uh-. //
VC: // Yes, // I, I think, in my experience, the first test that I have to, uh, to pass is to not be afraid.
CL: Uh-huh.
VC: Don't be afraid. If I am not afraid, I will be able to, to, to show you, when I speak to you-.
CL: Uh-huh.
VC: -What I really know, you see? [Laugh] If you are able, if you're, if you are willing to, to wait-.
CL: // [Laugh] //
VC: // [Laugh] // And to listen, and be patient. And, uh, and I think, uh, that's a, that's a very good idea. If, if I had, the first when I came, I, I had only just one person that I, uh, it was my husband's boss' wife // [laugh]. //
CL: // Uh-huh. //
VC: And she was not really the best, the best, uh, person I have to, to try to improve, but I really I was, I was, uh, I was praying to have one, one person at least to, to have a conversation no matter if I make, uh, 50 percent of, uh, mistakes [laugh], you see, I need, I, I feel that I need that, uh, I need that, because that's, that's, that's the only way I // would learn it. //
CL: // Uh-huh. //
VC: If I have the opportunity to, to speak, and, not only papers and-.
CL: Do you feel like you get that at school because you're teaching in English, or do you feel like because that's not really conversation, do you feel like you don't get that?
VC: Yeah, because, uh, every year, ( ) like how to make sentences, the, uh, subjects, verb, the different, uh, tense, // the verbs-. //
CL: // Uh-huh. //
VC: -You know you are practicing that all the time, all the time, but I, I can't remember if we really had any kind of, uh, conversational English.
CL: Uh-hmm.
VC: And, but, when my, my children, uh, went to school, they had a, just a class for conversational language-.
CL: Uh-huh.
VC: -English, English conversation. How do you say // that? //
CL: That's, that's correct.
VC: Conversational? They had a class only-.
CL: And did they have another class for English reading, // writing, grammar? //
VC: // Yes, uh-huh. //
CL: Wow.
VC: And that's what they had, they had a class just for, for that, and that's, that's, that's what I would like to have when I was // young. //
CL: // Uh-huh. // Have you thought about taking any conversational-? Are there conversational classes in our, in our junior colleges here, something like-?
VC: When I came, I went to RCCC-.
CL: Uh-huh.
VC: -To try to get, uh, English class. But everything it was really, it was very, that was the same thing that I was doing [laugh], there, and I think probably for other person here, // like-. //
CL: // Uh-huh. //
VC: -Uh, many Me-, Mexican adults, they don't, they don't know any thing, it was good for them-.
CL: Uh-huh.
VC: -But, I, I went to all the levels, levels-.
CL: // Right. //
VC: // I took, // I took, uh, uh, the teacher, she, she gave me some, uh, tests-.
CL: Uh-huh.
VC: -To see what my level, and I pass all of them.
CL: All the way, and // you-. //
VC: // Uh, // but it was writing test-.
CL: Uh-huh.
VC: -And listening and, I said, "But that's not, I, I need something else."
CL: Uh-huh. A conversation. So you could not find a conversational English class.
VC: No, no, that's what I would like really to, to have.
CL: Uh-huh.
VC: If I find something, I, I will do it because, you see, I know that there, there are many things that you can learn to full affordable, uh, speaking.
CL: Uh-huh.
VC: I still listen to some things, but I try to figure out when to say that-. [Laughter] -When and, and, and how, that, that in Eng-, in Spanish, and you see you try to be like a, like a, like a robot, when you say when // can I-. //
CL: // When // can I say that? // [Laughs] //
VC: // Yeah, // yeah. But I would like really to be, to enroll in one of // those-. //
CL: // Uh-huh. //
VC: -Classes and also in an, in an English, a little bit, uh, advanced class // for grammatic-. //
CL: // Uh-huh. //
VC: -And I would like really to, but here, I don't know, I, I can't find any.
CL: There may not be any English conversation classes.
VC: No.
CL: I know, um, when I was in college and I took German, we had informal German, like a German club where we could get together and speak German but there were no native speakers in the // club-. //
VC: // Uh-huh. //
CL: // -And so-. //
VC: // Uh-huh. //
CL: -There was, it was limited.
VC: // Hmm. //
CL: // At least // we did get some practice speaking but it was very limited.
VC: Uh-huh.
CL: 'Cause it's very helpful to speak to a native speaker.
VC: I really I would like to, to have that, uh, opportunity here. I know that what I am doing is also a, a practice // [laugh]. //
CL: // Absolutely. //
VC: It's, it's a big step I am doing because I have to, I have to speak.
CL: // [Laughs] //
VC: // It's not if // I want, I have to // [laughs]. //
CL: // Uh-huh. //
VC: You see, but, uh, every day, we try to, we like to do better.
CL: We have many many idioms in English as you do // in Spanish. //
VC: // Uh-huh. //
CL: Is that one of your challenges?
VC: // Uh-huh. //
CL: // ( ). //
VC: I, I, that's why I really, I would like to be able to, to express, I, I, but I can tell you I would like to be able to know English, I can't express really everything-.
CL: Uh-huh.
VC: -What I have-.
CL: // [Laugh] //
VC: // [Laugh] // I don't know if you understand me // [laughs]. //
CL: // I understand that. //
VC: But I, sometimes I can't say just some, some things because, uh, I don't have probably the the exact word, or, or I don't know if it sounds, if, if when I translate it's going to be the same-.
CL: // Right. //
VC: // -Meaning. // [Laugh]
CL: Often it's not exactly the same. The nuances are different.
VC: Yeah.
CL: I have the exact same problem in Spanish.
VC: // [Laughs] //
CL: // Exact-, // I'm always worried that I will say something that sounds correct in English but that the translation is offensive.
VC: Yes.
CL: I don't want to offend someone // [laugh]. //
VC: // Yes. //
CL: Or say the wrong thing you know, so I understand that.
VC: And I, and I say sometimes, probably, it, it affect the, the way the people look to you.
CL: I'm sure it does.
VC: Because probably some people will think that I am not, uh, too friendly you see because probably I am not, I am not in the middle of the conversation all the time. But I feel, I feel both, uh, both things. I, I think, if I am not able really to express what I, if I am, with a big, with, uh, with a, in a with a group, I can't express what I feel, I prefer not to be-.
CL: // Oh. //
VC: // -Because // they will feel, uh, that I am not, I don't feel good there with those, with that-.
CL: // Yeah, //
VC: // -Person, // or-. [Laugh]
CL: It seem to me that you could express what you feel if they are patient.
VC: Yeah.
CL: For you to find the words. 'Cause what you say is very clear to // me-. //
VC: // [Laughs] //
CL: -Very clear.
VC: But I can tell you. Because I feel, I feel, um, good speaking with you I don't feel the same thing that I am [laughs].
CL: Even with the tape recorder? // [Laughs] //
VC: // Yes, // yes. I feel, I feel, uh, uh, free.
CL: Well thank you. That makes me feel good.
VC: I feel free, and, uh, because you, you, you make me feel free.
CL: // Good. //
VC: // It's true, // it's true you make me feel, uh, that way. And some people make you feel, uh, free to, to express and, you see, but-.
CL: I feel freer talking to some of the teachers here than to others, and it's not just a language // thing-. //
VC: // Uh-huh. //
CL: -It's personality and-.
VC: Uh-huh.
CL: -A little bit of everything. But your English is very clear.
VC: Oh // [laughs]. //
CL: // You can make yourself understood. // That's really all I need to talk to you about on the tape. Um, I, I thank you so much for your // time. //
VC: // Now // we can turn off the tape and [laugh] get talking. [Laughter]
CL: Well, thank you so much.
VC: You're welcome.