Speak Up for Languages

Do you remember the time when languages “clicked” for you? When you knew that languages would always be a part of your life? When an encounter with a different culture or a trip to a foreign country made a lasting impact on you?

We want to hear that story.

Inspired by Language Advocacy Day and the great work of many language advocates around the country, we are embarking on a mission to collect language stories from America’s classrooms. We hope to build an archive of stories and a community of teachers and learners around these stories who can make an impact on the policies related to access to language education.

For some example videos and tips on how to upload your story, visit our website.

For inspiration, here is a story from Michael Lorusso, a high school Spanish teacher from New York:

When I was eleven years old, I started to hear Spanish spoken all around me, but only on Saturdays and Sundays. I spent my weekends with my father in an Italian restaurant where, ironically, the primary language of the kitchen staff was Spanish. I had been exposed to the Italian language since I was born, since my father was an immigrant from Italy and his family was still in Italy.

Fast forward through high school and into college: I liked what I was hearing in the restaurant from the Spanish-speaking employees so I decided to study the language. It really made sense to me and it was an easy language for me to acquire with the help of some incredible teachers and that invaluable practical immersion at the restaurant. I decided to major in Spanish and to teach others this valuable language that is spoken by people in 21 countries around the world and so widely spoken in the United States, predicted to account for more than a quarter of the population in 40 years.

I have always tried to instill in my students the value of learning a second or even a third language. I tell them that language is the key to everything that we do in this world and through speaking a language that others speak, your possibilities in life become limitless.

Nineteen years after I first heard Spanish in that Italian restaurant I ended up in Nicaragua, as a translator for a group of adults and students on a mission trip. As they say in Nicaragua, “Dios te pagará” or “God will repay you” — I met my wife Hazel there and after a year and a half, she moved to the U.S. where we currently reside and are raising our three children, who are trilingual in English, Spanish, and Italian.

I love what I do—teaching young people how to speak Spanish and how to appreciate the language and the culture. I love speaking languages and it truly fascinates me to be able to converse with people in their native tongue. You have never seen a more sincere smile, as when you speak someone’s language to them, especially when they are struggling to communicate. That is what I teach my students. That is how I inspire them.

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