“I think music is a good way to learn Spanish,” he said after he completed a lesson on Jeremih and Pitbull’s “Don’t Tell Em’/No le diga”. My youngest brother hit the nail on the head with that one. Music can take anyone’s language learning from 10 to 100 real quick. It was only after listening to “No Tengo Dinero” by Los Kumbia Kings that I understood the “yo” form of “tener”. Music and media are great ways to make a language come alive.
My younger brothers and my mom sit at the dining room table that doubles as a classroom desk and we learn together. We discuss colors, numbers, phrases and everyday terms. Terms that will not only help them to chat with neighbors down the street but learn about a new culture. I love to teach the language but it is our talks about Afro-Latinidad that inspire me the most.
The dominant narrative on Blackness may be African American but this is my little way to counter it. For one class project, I had my family research and present Latinegr@ figures to the class. My mother showed us singer Maxwell. One of my brothers presented actor Laz Alonso. I was stoked that they were recognizing that the Black diaspora is diverse.
When I was a teenager in Spanish class, I learned nothing of Latinegr@ histories. That is why my goal is for them to see how learning Spanish relates to them. In addition to talking about Latinegr@s, we talk about African Americans who travel. We recite phrases like “Yo soy inteligente” because they are Black excellence. Spanish class is a memory for the laughs, jokes and moments we share. But most importantly, it is something they can take with them. A skill that will lead to jobs in the future and cross-cultural connections.
A skill that will become a part of their being and experience.
A moment that we will cherish forever.
This was originally published on the LatiNegr@s Project.