Students shift languages after school hours

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Simona Covarrubias

Simona Covarrubias and her family in Chile over the summer.

According to decaturga.areaconnect.com, 66% of Decatur’s population is white; however, two Decatur students fall under the other 34% of the population. When sophomore Simona Covarrubias and senior Dandhara Da Silva go home, English is not the language they speak.

“I only speak English at school and to my boyfriend, but I’m teaching him some Portuguese. At home my dad speaks Portuguese to me,” Da Silva said.

Dandhara was born in Brazil but has moved back and forth from Brazil to the U.S.

“I moved four times counting, first in 2000 to Atlanta, Austin in 2007, 2009 to Miami, and in 2012 to Decatur. I have been here for almost two years,” she said.

Dandhara’s father, Francisco Da Silva, and Dandhara work at Several Dancers Core, located in the Decatur square. They both teach Capoeira to people of all ages. This is one of the main reasons her family has moved so many times. Her mother lives back in Brazil to take care of sick family members.

“I speak Portuguese and learned how to speak English when I went to middle school in the USA. It’s sometimes very hard to change languages and speak it correctly but I still learning,” she said.

Like Dandhara, Simona Covarrubias comes home after school to her mother who speaks Spanish. As a child, Simona lived in Chile until she turned five because her mother’s brother moved to the United States. She also wanted her daughter to have better educational options. Simona now has a younger brother, Caspian, who is three and does not know much English or Spanish but seems to respond more to Spanish.

Simona takes Spanish III with Olivia Roller. She notices a slight difference in how she knows and understands the language from how it is taught.

“I speak Spanish, and [in class] it’s pretty different from the Spanish that I speak at home. The Spanish I speak is Chilean, and it’s different because at home some words are more ghetto or slang. At school we use really different vocabulary,” she said.

For these girls it’s not always the easiest thing to transition between languages, but as the years go on, it has become less of a challenge.

“I think students should really take advantage and learn a new language because it will really help in the future,” Simona said.