II. My special thanks go to the one and only John G. Cummins, my mentor and friend.
I don’t even know how to start. I guess I could start by trying to explain what got me here, which is what everyone -students and teachers- eventually asks, what they want to know about me.
Not having been born or raised a native English speaker rules out the possibility to be who one truly is and communicate the way we do straight away –unless you are Northern European. This is the general belief or at least so it is here. Try asking any ESL student from Spain, this is surely what they will tell you. It is more than a believe, it is a conviction which is pretty much ingrained in everyone’s brain.
I met John Cummins when I was 17. The first multilingual person I had ever met. It’s been 22 years. A lot has happened in 22 years; a lot of living, a lot of learning, a lot of teaching and a whole career –a successful one. It all started with him and it is to him that I owe him all I am, professionally and personally today.
In the midst of young late nights in and out, he is the one who sent us, my friend and I, to Ireland -as “no matter what we did, we would have to speak English”. And that was that, off we went to Kenmare, Co. Kerry. He spoke to his family, made arrangements, got us a job half way through the season and made us have no choice but to learn so that we could speak and relate to people, find a better job and move on in life –in English. I was 20. This is where: https://www.parkkenmare.com/
That made it possible for me to spend almost 4 years there, move back, go to college, get a scholarship for my senior year in DC, come back and get a job- my first official job after graduation- in teaching at the number one savings bank back then in October 2008 -right after the summer Lehman Brothers crashed –with him.
Looking back, that must have been one of the best jobs I’ve ever had if not the best in terms of learning. Teaching at an entity that went from somewhat merging to going public to being bailed out –the biggest bail out in Spanish History; the end of a long-lasting CEO, the former one’s tenure and the start of the current one -still standing. Countless articles flooding the news during the crisis itself and its aftermath: downsizing, restructuring and lay-offs as well as many employees -my students- who made it through with patience and resilience. And hard work.
Looking back, that must have also been the one I enjoyed the most despite the circumstances as I got to work with John. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed that much at work and I don’t think I ever will –and I actually laugh a lot. Working together felt like living a different reality at a tiny corner of a tower on the 13th floor. At that corner, no economic chaos was taking place, our lives were. Those lives and their events –many events- were coded in a language we had made up and we still use, full of words and expressions most of which did not exist but made sense and became real in fitting the experiences of two very different individuals in a world we couldn’t share any less with but we unavoidably were part of. Like a jigsaw puzzle that would make sense on the whole though it is built bit by bit by means of putting very different pieces together. And that’s what we did, every day, for three years.
That’s the time in which I realised I could be myself in a language that I had been told I would never make my own. It was with him that I realised I could be myself in a language I had not been raised with. It was because of him and what we lived together that I was made aware of my own potential -that what everyone said it would never happen to me cause it never happens to anyone was simply just not true and that knowing both languages so well was in fact my biggest asset. So it was then and so it is now. Thanks to him.
Ever since then, I have also followed the mulitlingual path myself. I studied French and Italian while I lived in Ireland and I've recently have had the chance to go back to my multilingual path again by getting to learn Portuguese and Greek. I have a vision in which people do not communicate through languages but through sharing life experiences -and languages are just the means by which we are able to do so, to code and share the meaning in our life experiences.
So these are just a few words to thank John Cummins, my dear friend, the person who did not only push me to start living in a world I did not control by making me leave the country I had been born in but also took me on and taught me that only by being myself and believing in it and taking it to classrooms would I ever have a successful and rewarding career -without any words nor grammar rules. This is the only way I could use to honor him and let the world know how much of him there is in me and how proud I am of it.
And as usual, If you’d like to keep reading about it, wait for my next post or send me a message on LinkedIn /link-tin/ if you think you cannot wait! ;)
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--> Amazingly beautiful pic taken by Luís Carballo.