Spanish Changed Her Life!

There are few things in life that are life changing. Many people would never think that learning a language could be life changing. In fact, learning a language can indeed change the course of your life. Opportunities that you normally wouldn’t know about seem to come knocking at your door. You even develop highly coveted leadership skills, such as the ability to communicate interculturally. What’s it like to have your life enriched by a language? Read on to find out how Spanish changed this Princeton University doctoral student’s life, and what helped her reach fluency. 

BGLL: Thank you so much for agreeing to share your story! Tell us about yourself. Who are you and what do you do?

Lindsay: My name is Lindsay Griffiths, I’m 21 years old and I’m a first-generation Jamaican-American (both of my parents are immigrants from Jamaica). I grew up on Long Island, but I am presently living in Manhattan. My native language is English. I have a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and in Spanish with a concentration in Translation. I am also a Ronald E. McNair Scholar and a member of the Sigma Delta Pi National Hispanic Honor Society. I am also in the English Ph.D. program at Princeton University, an accomplishment I owe to my strong-willed mama who sacrificed everything to see her kids succeed, and my God who honored that dedication. I currently work as an English writing tutor at the Macaulay Honors College at CUNY Hunter College. 

I really hope for my graduate research to explore the global and multi-faceted black identity, looking particularly at African American and Afro-Latinx literature. I know so well from experience that blackness is not a monolith, and I think the literature that we produce says so much about that difference, while also speaking to a very salient common experience.

I also consider myself a creative. I write fiction and have been working on a novel over the past four years. Set in a dystopian world, it is the story of a young woman of color and her search for a voice in a society that wants to silence her. I won't share much more than that, but hopefully I'll be blessed enough to get it published someday. I write short stories and poetry here and there, and I also used to sing with the Macaulay Triplets, an a capella group from my undergraduate institution.

BGLL: You’ve studied Spanish extensively, are you fluent in it? Do you speak any other languages? 

Lindsay: I am fluent in Spanish, and I’ve put it to good use. In 2017, in collaboration with the publishing house Chatos Inhumanos, and with guidance from Professor Adrián Izquierdo and my colleague Will Parucki, I translated a book – Mercedes Cebrián's Burp. Apuntes Gastronómicos (Burp: Gastronomical Writings in English). The Spanish Translation program at Hunter College gave me this opportunity; the faculty and program are phenomenal and deserve so much recognition. I’m also a volunteer translator with the non-profit 826NYC, and I spent a summer volunteering at El Centro de Educación de Trabajadores. There, I met and connected with people from across Latin America and Spain (and I was even mistaken for being Dominican, which I consider a high compliment of my fluency and coolness levels). I will learn (Brazilian) Portuguese next, since a third language is required for my doctoral program.

BGLL: What made you want to learn Spanish?

Lindsay: I started learning Spanish in the 7th grade simply because of a middle school language requirement. After I had completed the required courses, I found that I really loved the language, and so I decided to continue studying it all the way through college. I also grew up in a community with a lot of Dominicans, and I just fell in love with the way the language sounded. To me, the language just sounds like music, so fluid and beautiful; it’s almost sacred. I also learned Spanish because of the insightful interactions it enabled me to have with classmates who had just immigrated and only spoke Spanish. I appreciate that most about language learning - it breaks down borders and facilitates dialogue. 

Although Spanish is the only foreign language I know right now, I believe it would still be my favorite once I master Portuguese. I have so much history with Spanish; I have gained such incredible opportunities, met intriguing people, and learned valuable lessons because of my Spanish proficiency. I am also completely enamored with the sound of the Spanish language, in all native accents. It just melts my heart.

BGLL: Wow! It seems like Spanish is a huge part of your life?!

Lindsay: It is! I have grown so much. Knowing Spanish expanded the scope of my research. It gave me the command of English grammar that I needed to land my writing tutor job in undergrad. Yes, it has been complicated; with ten years of study, I can explain to you in intelligent Spanish the existential dilemma in San Manuel Bueno, mártir, but I sure can’t name all the parts of a car. Learning Spanish has been humbling. Sure, I had a Spanish teacher in middle school accuse me of cheating on a quiz because she couldn’t believe I had scored 100%. But I also had instructors who encouraged me to write poems in Spanish and enter a competition (and win), who proudly showed everyone my original Spanish rap song presentation (despite the awful high school grammar), and who recommended me, a little black girl who hadn’t even finished her bachelor’s, for a book translation. I am a product of so much love and support.

BGLL: What are three tips you would share with someone looking to learn another language?

Lindsay: Practice, practice, practice as much as you can. It's the use-it-or-lose-it principle that is crucial with language learning. Don't be afraid to look or sound stupid. You will make mistakes, and that's okay. I’ve found that people are usually excited that you’re trying, and don’t care that you’ve conjugated a verb improperly. Never stop learning. I think it was my hunger for improving and learning that really drove me to where I am today. And I am proud to be still learning to this day. Keep striving and keep learning languages, with the ultimate goal being to expand your world, and to communicate within and beyond it. 

BGLL: How can we keep up with you on social, Lindsay?

Lindsay: You can follow me on Instagram! My name on Instagram is @lindsaytaelor.

Next Project