What It’s Like To Be A Translator

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My mom learned she wasn’t “American” enough — every time someone shot a snarky comment about her broken English.

My mom is one of the funniest, most high-spirited people I know. In the living room of my uncle’s house, she cracks jokes — in Spanish. She cackles at them afterwards. Her laughter is unafraid and carefree–a sound I never hear from her in English.

That easy-going woman I know is not the same woman I see with PTA moms. In English-only environments, she doesn’t speak up. She looks at me to finish her sentences.

I used to watch other parents connect and wished so badly my mom could belong to that American culture. I thought that if she could just try harder maybe people would take her seriously. As I grow older, though, I realize that I can’t blame her for being uncomfortable interacting in English. If I was belittled every time I put myself out there, I’d be insecure too. I hope one day she won’t feel that she needs me to finish the ends of her sentences, but I’m proud of her even if she does.

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