Updated: May 29, 2022
“A Different Kind of love”
Oana Emilia Butnareanu
When I was four years old, I fell in love. It was not a transient love-one that stayed by my side during the good times and vanished during the bad, but rather a love so deep that few would understand. It was not the love for a person, but the love for a language. It was the love for Spanish.
Having been born and raised behind the Iron Curtain, in a country where Western influence was limited and the official and only language was Romanian, I was on my own. Everyone around me, especially my family, had trouble understanding what could possibly draw me to such a foreign and, in their opinion, unattractive language. But as they say, love is blind, and the truth of the matter is that I wasn’t even sure what it was exactly that made Spanish so fascinating to me. The only thing I knew was that I absolutely adored hearing its perfectly articulated phrases, and trying to make sense of its sweet and tender words: serenades to my innocent ear.
Spanish entered through my door on June 16th, 1994, when a man from the local cable company came to connect our living room to the rest of the world. That day, I was introduced to “Acasa,” a Romanian cable network dedicated to broadcasting Spanish language telenovelas (soap operas) to Romanian audiences. As I learned to read, I started associating the Romanian subtitles with the Spanish dialogue, and little by little, I began understanding the language. For a little girl who had yet to discover new aspects of her own language, this was quite an accomplishment, but no one around me felt the same way. My father, enraged at my apparent “obsession” with the language, scolded me incessantly, declaring that: “We are immigrating to the United States, not to Mexico! You should spend your time learning English instead of watching that nonsense!”
Sadly, my family’s objection was only the first of many hardships I was bound to encounter. When I was nine, my immigration to the US forced me to say goodbye to what had become a huge and indispensable part of me. I needed to hear Spanish, to listen to it daily, and although Los Angeles could be considered a Spanish speaker’s paradise, my largely Romanian neighborhood allowed for little interaction with the language. For six years, destiny kept us apart, and the feelings that Spanish had evoked in me soon faded away.
But high school brought about a new era in my life, an era in which my love for Spanish was revived and greatly amplified. For an hour a day, life was put on hold, and I was able to speak and read Spanish more actively than ever. After two years of Advanced Placement Spanish, I not only understood the language to perfection, but spoke it flawlessly as well.
There are no words that can describe how proud and greatly accomplished I feel today at my ability to speak Spanish. During a recent trip to Mexico, I was mistaken more than once for one of the natives. One man, after seeing my Romanian last name, asked me if it was my husband’s, for undoubtedly, he believed, I was Mexican. Given to a Romanian girl, whose family members were oblivious to the language, and who had learned it on her own despite their objections, this was the greatest compliment of all. In the United States, Spanish is the second most spoken language and a great asset for anyone who speaks it. It is not “nonsense,” as my father had dubbed it, and being able to prove this to him has made me even prouder for loving Spanish.
My love of Spanish has influenced much of who I am today. The fight that I led against family objections and immigration to a new land has allowed me to develop an ambitious and aggressive spirit in the face of adversity. It has made me stronger, and taught me that I must always fight with unstoppable perseverance for all that is important to me. I am determined to use my love and passion for Spanish to make an impact on the world. Currently, Spanish is the primary language of 21 nations around the globe, and one of the six official languages of the UN. I want to be the link that connects these nations to the United States, and to the 40 million Americans whose native language is Spanish. I want to use my ability to speak Spanish to learn more about the people of these nations, both on a professional and personal level. No matter where the path of life takes me, I wish for Spanish to always be a part of me.
Through the years, Spanish has evolved into one of my most remarkable accomplishments. Today, I am prouder than ever of loving Spanish - of having something that distinguishes me from the rest, something that makes me unique. It is not often the case for a Romanian -American girl living in Los Angeles to exhibit such passion and devotion towards a language that is foreign to both her native and adoptive countries. Nevertheless, Spanish is a big part of whom I am today, and an even bigger part of who I will be in the future.