Christian Belman: A Spanish Speaker Learns English
Christian Belman is a former student. When he enrolled in my English Language Acquisition class (English as a Second Language) as a ninth grader, he didn’t speak English. He stayed with me for two years. Now he is a college Junior majoring in English and Spanish. He is also an aspiring fantasy writer.
Christian, what were the most important skills you learned in my classes? Why are they important to you now?
One of the most important skills I learned in your class was self-dependence. In high school, many students are not used to doing most of the work by themselves. They do not research on their own and they want most of their questions to be answer by their teachers. If something gets too hard, they give up and hope that their teachers can solve their problems.
In your class I learned that, even though you would help us, it was up to us to learn the material, do our work, and look for the answers by ourselves. You taught me self-discipline, which is something really useful in college because there, even though they do help students, professors do not provide the amount of help high school teachers usually do.
Critical thinking is another skill I remember I practiced in your class. You taught me not to scratch the surface of a subject, but instead, to dig all the way to the bottom to see the real meaning. This is also helpful in college because in some classes, at least the ones I have taken so far, we have to make connections within the different subjects in order to construct essays with well supported arguments. If I had not practiced my critical thinking skills, I would not be able to see the connections between my different subjects, I would not understand the true essence of some topics that we discuss in class, thus, I would not be able to write essays at the level I do now.
What were your greatest challenges as you struggled to function in a new language?
The greatest challenge I faced while learning English was the transition from going to one language to another. I would try to speak English the same way I spoke Spanish, which, grammatically speaking, is often impossible. Learning the grammar of the language, as well as learning many new words without forgetting them as I learned more was one of the hardest things for me.
Tell me about your writing journey.
I knew I wanted to become a fiction writer ever since I was a kid, but it was not until I turned fourteen years old when I knew for sure that I wanted to write for a living. It was on my fourteenth birthday that I wrote a story that I have not abandoned after eight years.
Although I enjoy writing stories, I have found out that writing can get really hard and frustrating sometimes, and not just for a lack of inspiration, but because there is always something I do not like about the story and I do not know what it is or how to fix it. In addition to that, understanding the publishing process is even harder than writing. There are so many new demands and expectations.
Now that I am in college, I do not have the time I used to have to work on my story. In fact, I have not worked on it for over two years, but I have not given up. I know that in order to write good fiction and to get better, I must read and write a lot. For that reason I do not want to work on my major story, because I know I will not be satisfied with my work. Instead, I want to read books about fiction writing, learn new techniques, and then, when I have more time available, I can finally work on my story–a story that, as long as I am alive, I will never abandon until I see it finished and published.