There is a resurgence in Latin Americans reclaiming their heritage language, the language spoken at home that’s different from the dominant language of the country. When Christina Mangurian’s abuelita was diagnosed with leukemia, Mangurian and her mother were very involved in the older woman’s care. Mangurian would sit by her abuelita’s side in the hospital, and when she was discharged, she would stay at Mangurian’s parents’ house.
Mangurian’s first language is English, and her abuelita’s first language was Spanish.
“Her English was maybe as good as my Spanish, so our relationship was really loving, but I could never ask her things like, ‘Tell me about what it was like when you were younger,’ or ‘What do you think happens after you die?’” Mangurian said.
She wished she could really have gotten to know her abuelita. But that would have required a fluency she did not have.
Mangurian is a professor of psychiatry, epidemiology and biostatistics, as well as the vice chair for diversity and health equity at UC San Francisco . The nuances in communication that she missed with her abuelita are absent as well in her conversations with her Spanish-speaking patients.
Growing up in a bicultural household — with an Ecuadorian mother and […]