¡Sí, se puede! How This Spanish Teacher Empowers Others By Teaching Spanish

*stock photo courtesy of CreateHER Stock

Meet Sydney, a proud 24-year-old Black woman from Baltimore, who has dedicated her life to teaching Spanish and helping others learn the language through her platform. With a Master of Arts in Spanish from Georgia State University, Sydney is a true expert in her field and has made it her mission to encourage young people who look like her to explore the beauty of the Spanish language and culture. Through her innovative approach, Sydney incorporates content related to blackness into language learning, providing a unique and empowering experience for her students. Join us as we explore Sydney’s journey, her passion for the Spanish language, and her inspiring work as an educator and content creator.

BGLL: Thank you so much for sharing your language learning journey with us. Tell us about yourself.

Sydney: My name is Sydney and I’m a 24-year-old black woman from Baltimore, MD.  My native language is English and I speak Spanish fluently. 

I have a Master of Arts in Spanish from Georgia State University and I am a high school Spanish teacher in Georgia (USA)! I’m also a new content creator for Black people learning Spanish! My Instagram page is @blackgirlloveslanguages, where I’ll share helpful resources to help you along your Spanish language learning journey and to find interesting information along the way!
BGLLThat’s amazing. What is your approach to teaching Spanish? 

SydneyMy approach is to encourage others to explore this beautiful language via music, reading suggestions, and pacing guides. My purpose is to demonstrate that Black people can see themselves in the culture and language that they are studying, so I do my best to incorporate content related to Blackness into language learning. 

I love what I do! My job is full of proud moments! What I love about what I do is inspiring young people who look like me to build their Spanish language skills and pursue a lifelong journey of exploring their passion for the Spanish Language. The majority of my students are of African descent so I love seeing that my students are often inspired by witnessing the presence of blackness in the Spanish language. They can express culturally significant events in addition to self-expression and knowing that there are people who look like them who speak the language. Having the student know this has drastically accelerated their language acquisition journey.

BGLLDo you speak any other languages?

SydneyAlthough I am interested in learning Portuguese soon (I’m interested in the culture and structure of the language), I only speak one world language, which is Spanish! I learned Spanish through music since I am an auditory learner. I would learn grammar and vocabulary with song lyric printouts, listen to the song in front of me, circle and translate the words that I didn’t know (and make annotations on the document), and review the lyrics again with my annotations until I was able to put away the lyrics and match the lyrics of the song to the sounds of the language. 

My first ‘language love’ is Spanish because I fell in love with the sound of the language! I also love the various dialects of the language. I had an amazing High School Spanish teacher that exposed us to several individuals with the same background as me, enabling me to think that the language is for EVERYONE to use. That ignited a fire that will never die out. 

BGLLWere there opportunities that you were able to take advantage of because of Spanish?

SydneyI’ve had several opportunities due to my language capabilities! I’ve been a translator for corporate agencies, teaching the language to young black students and inspiring them to learn Spanish, and the ability to communicate with others who speak a different language. 

BGLLWhat is something you’ve struggled with in language learning?

Sydney: A significant struggle in my journey was trying to reach and define fluency. I thought in the past that fluency was equivalent to perfection, and that the only way to get there was to make no mistakes with the target language. I truly believed that I would never reach fluency because my understanding of fluency was distorted. Once I understood that fluency is a lifelong process instead of a finish line, I felt more comfortable with the term and stopped unhealthy skill measurement practices. 

BGLL: Did you ever struggle with speaking?

SydneyMost definitely! I am somewhat shy which can be amplified when I’m speaking Spanish (mainly due to overthinking). I eventually overcame that by learning to accept my mistakes but also learning from them and to PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE! In the past, I assumed that I needed to be perfect in my Spanish speaking, and whenever I wasn’t, I would freeze up and shut down. Letting go of my perfectionism has given me the confidence to show up as myself and to be confident in what I have to say in the target language.  

BGLL: What are some tips you have for others who may be learning Spanish?

SydneyFirst, it is important to be consistent and to keep practicing regardless if you are progressing or not. I had a rough patch where I thought I was not making any progress but then later, like a light switch, everything clicked and I was able to understand and produce. Motivation alone will not get you to ‘fluency’. You’ll need  DISCIPLINE

Another thing that I recommend is to not be afraid of mistakes and failures. This is critical to learn continuously!

Lastly, seek community! It is helpful to find others on the same journey as you so that the group can hold each other accountable while serving as an inspiration. Seeking community also enables you to be open to different perspectives that can open one's eyes to new experiences and approaches to the language. 

BGLL:  How can we keep up with you on social (social media)?

SydneyMy content page is @blackgirlloveslanguages and my page is @bigbaaaawdybenz.
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