One of the hardest transitions from Mexico to the United States was the language barrier. In middle school, they taught us some English but not enough to be fluent. I only knew bits and pieces when I came over to the United States. The first week that I was in the United States, my brother suggested that I start going to these English classes at the local elementary school. The classes were at night after work, and they were taught by some very nice, old ladies. I decided to give it a shot because my brother had learned a lot of English by going to these classes. I liked going to the classes even though my body was usually exhausted after a hard day’s work. After the class, I would walk over to my aunt’s house because she lived near the elementary school. I would wait there and visit with her until my brother came to pick me up. One night after class, I started to walk to my aunt’s house when two guys started to follow me. They started to call me and whistle for me to slow down, but I walked faster because I knew they wanted to mug me. I started walking faster and faster until I took off in a sprint. The two gangsters chased after me, but I was much faster than them.
Finally, I made it to my aunt’s house, and as soon as I walked in the door I told my aunt that I was done with those classes. I did not want to take that chance again so I never went back. Although I stopped going to the English classes down at the school I was able to start learning English from other interactions.
I learned that language was often a huge barrier at work. One of the last jobs that I worked in Arizona was as a custodian at my children’s school. I felt that I was a very good worker so I decided to apply for the night shift manager position. The principal called me into her office to ask me why I thought that I deserved the position. She told me that I was a very good worker, but it would be difficult to manage others since I did not know English. I had to think fast so I told her that custodian was one of those jobs that you don’t have to speak English in order to show someone how to clean a toilet. I guess my answer worked because she gave me the job on the spot!