Sara Donoso

Credentials: Languages: English and Spanish

Position title: Undergraduate Student in Psychology

Could you tell me a bit about yourself and what you do at UW-Madison? How does language intersect with your work or your studies?

I am a first-year undergraduate student studying Psychology and possibly double majoring with Linguistics as well. I am involved in several Latine student orgs such as MECHA, LSU [Latine Student Union], and Fuego. Through my studies, I hope to dive deeper into the aspect of bilingualism and in the future I want to investigate how bilingualism might lead to a different development or organization of one’s brain. I also am interested in being a speech language pathologist for bilingual kids. Currently, I am doing some research on how teen books use bilingualism within novels and how this usage is intentional and creates certain feelings or emotions.

How do you feel your languages contribute to your personal or professional identities?

My bilingualism is a huge part of my personal identity. It allows me to be a part of a completely different culture, which ultimately connects me to my family. I think that this has allowed me to be more open to learning and respecting other cultures. Professionally, bilingualism helps me see what I am studying or learning about from a different perspective. I am constantly keeping in mind how the concepts I am learning apply to both languages, especially when studying Linguistics. Additionally, in a professional setting, being bilingual is a very big advantage, because it allows you to communicate with more communities and thus help provide services to more people. For me, this could be especially useful in a Psychology or pre-med field.

How do you feel your languages contribute or add value to your work or studies?

As I touched on previously, my language plays a very big role in how I approach my work and my studies. It helps me understand that there is not only one perspective to see something from. It also helps me collaborate and understand the importance of hearing other peoples’ ideas.

To what extent do you feel others on campus value your languages in the context of your work/studies at the University?

With the research that I am doing at the moment, my bilingualism feel very valued and my perspective is heard. Additionally, by becoming involved in organizations that are for Latine students, my language feels normal and accepted. This helps me feel at home.

Have you experienced/observed linguistic prejudice or discrimination? If so, could you describe what happened?

Yes, I constantly observe linguistic prejudice and discrimination. This has affected my family, because, in a general sense, when people hear someone with a strong accent they immediately assume that they are not intelligent. This leads to series of discriminatory actions such as ignoring what that person has to say, a huge lack of respect, and also leading to several other assumptions about immigrants. Hearing about and observing these experiences has led me to not feel very comfortable speaking Spanish outside of my home. However, now, being surrounded by other Spanish speakers on campus, has allowed me to feel more comfortable speaking Spanish in public and being proud of my bilingualism.

How does linguistic diversity add to the richness of the various communities you navigate?

Our language is at the center of our culture. It helps music connect us, it allows us to pass down stories, and it allows us to be a family. Without my language, I would find it very difficult to feel completely connected to my background and where I come from. It is a very big privilege to both know and understand both English and Spanish.

In what ways do you believe the campus community can better recognize the value that linguistic diversity brings to the community?

It would be incredible to see more multilingual or bilingual minorities in authority positions because it not only helps big institutions connect with more communities but it makes their voices and struggles be heard and respected. Multilingualism brings in multiple perspectives on issues that are often fought from a very privileged perspective.

Is there anything else you would like to add or questions you have?

One thing I would like to touch on is what it is like to be bilingual within a country or area where the language you don’t primarily use is the main language. For me, this would be a Spanish speaking country. When I visit Latin America or am around adults from Latin America, I have noticed how they are constantly being aware of your pronunciation, your grammar, and simply the way you speak. There is this underlying judgment of bilingual Spanish speakers that are from the US, and it has created this idea that, even though you might be bilingual, your Spanish is not good enough. I have gone through this struggle of thinking I don’t speak good Spanish, or that Spanglish is terrible, but in reality, simply being bilingual is a privilege no matter your proficiency in a language.