By: Ariel Gruver
At 5 years of age Adriana Tellez already knew that she wanted to learn a second language.
Her father, Juan Tellez, was both a fluent and native Spanish speaker. Though Tellez’ mother was never fluent in Spanish, she was able to follow her husband’s conversations throughout the course of their marriage. Growing up in a bi-lingual household Tellez longed to have these foreign words roll eloquently off the tip of her tongue as they had for her father, yet he refused to be the one to teach her to speak Spanish.
Sitting at the Erb Memorial Union at the University of Oregon Tellez shakes her head and smiles, now reflecting over her father’s outlandish preference toward her upbringings. “That’s my dad,” Tellez says with a sigh. “He wanted me to learn the language on my own, to prove that it was something I really wanted.”
Tellez’ mother and father lived in a classic ivory white two-story home in a suburb right outside of Portland, Oregon. She lived in this house for most of her life until she graduated from Tigard High school in 2007. Despite her parents’ divorce when Tellez was 13 years old, she held on to the desire to study language. Tellez enrolled in every Spanish class she could fit into her schedule while still in high school, and even found an interest in the French language along the way. After graduation, Tellez moved out of her childhood home and headed to Eugene, Oregon to continue her education at the University of Oregon.
Now Tellez sits near an open window of the Knight library reviewing for two separate midterm exams she will take this afternoon: one in French and the other in Spanish. After four years at the university, Tellez is only months away from graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Romance Languages. She skims over her notes, reciting the words as if they were both first languages, and clasps her hands together excitedly as she states, Okay, now I’m ready!”
Surprisingly enough, language has always been one of Tellez’ strengths from the time she took her first Spanish class in middle school. “ Once I understood the basic forms and conjugations there was really no limit to what I could learn.” Tellez says brushing her dark curls away from her eyes. She adjusts her black-framed Versace glasses and continues. “ I don’t think my dad ever expected language to be as big a part of my life as it has become, but at least now he knows that at 5 years old, I meant business!”
With graduation time nearing, Tellez is already planning on how she can continue her studies in foreign language. Tellez admits that a change from the typical college routine would be nice. She wants to travel abroad, explore her options, and work toward building up her savings. Eventually Tellez would like to continue on to graduate school and earn a master’s degree with hopes that some day she will get to teach students who share her passion, and even those who don’t. Tellez says “I would like to help people see language as I have experienced it over the years. Not as a college-level requirement, but as a window of opportunity to communicate with and comprehend an entirely different part of the world.”