Sergio Estrada/ Personal Journal Entry: Learning English; A Journey…

by Sergio Estrada

I lived most of my lifetime at the border Calexico-Mexicali, where a majority of the inhabitants speak Spanish as a first language.

All that time, I was incapable of communicating with others in English. I did not make an effort to learn it because I was living in a comfort zone where I could easily request a “hamburguesa con papas fritas”.

In addition, I prohibited my daughter Erika from speaking English at home because we were Mexican. Obviously, we are still Mexicans but today I understand how important it is to develop communication skills in a foreign country, especially when I am looking to be successful.

When I arrived at prison in 2009, I kept the same behavior, but a few months later, a feeling of frustration invaded my senses when I could not understand a single word during a court session.

After twenty months of imprisonment, I arrived to Atwater Federal Prison camp in Atwater, California.

Then, a Mexican good man who introduces himself as a Christian brother kindly welcomed me.
He invited me to attend bible study. Unfortunately, at that moment, it was conducted in English. This situation and my commitment to follow God pushed me to the limit of learning English as my second language.

Paraphrasing an outstanding storyteller and wise man named Paulo Coelho from his exquisite book and international bestseller “The Alchemist” I realized that when you discover the purpose of your own life, and make the commitment to following it, then the journey begins and the whole universe converges in your favor.

I have been a “Mariachi” for several years, in addition, I developed drawing and painting abilities once immured.
Last June 2011, I received an invitation from the recreation department of Atwater Camp to participate as an art tutor. The sign in sheet was filled with thirteen names end federal Identification numbers; most of those names belonged to men of diverse cultures and languages; American, Afro-American, Asian, and Hawaiian men, only a few of my own ethnic group and language. It forced me to translate my knowledge from Spanish to English.

Most of these people became my friends and they constantly encouraged me to keep trying to improve my communication skills. Consequently, my vocabulary increased little by little as we shared quality time together expressing life experiences and giving emotional and spiritual support.

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