Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Tell it from the heart

A few months ago, I was asked to emcee the launch of V-me, MPT’s new Spanish-language digital channel. I remember the first time I read about V-me. I was so excited to know that quality programming specifically designed with a Latino audience in mind would be coming to fruition—and through a network that’s already known for its quality programming, PBS.

The night before the launch, I was in my basement going over what I would say. I could hear our PR director’s voice in the back of my head, “Tell a story that’s from the heart. Make it personal.” I wanted to talk about my struggles trying to learn Spanish, but I wasn’t accustomed to revealing personal tidbits about myself.

I was born in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico, but my family left the island when I was only a year old. Like many others, they came to the States in search of a better life. Somewhere along the way, I lost my proficiency in Spanish. Of course, it’s embarrassing not knowing your native language—but even more embarrassing to be “expected to speak Spanish” because of your surname and not know it either. I get by with my half-sentences and “Spanglish” conversations. And I’ve taken many courses and tried speaking the language with friends. But there’s nothing worse than being corrected by someone for misusing a word. That’s part of the reason why I won’t “put myself out there” and practice the language more. As a broadcast journalist and on-air reporter, I’m not used to people correcting my words…especially how I pronounce them.

I openly announced to the media at our V-me launch that I struggle with my Spanish language deficiencies daily. Just being able to say it freed me of my fears. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. I have plenty of friends (Dominican, Cuban, Columbian, etc.) who are not fluent in Spanish either. Heck, one of my friends finally learned how to speak Spanish fluently while being locked up in federal prison for 10 years! (I hope that’s not what it takes for me to learn my native tongue!) Now that V-me is on the air, I plan on tuning in to practice my Spanish as much as I can.

Your Regal 'Rican,
Yolanda Vazquez

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