Speaking her mind

Courtesy photoEmilia Sanz-Rios, an incoming sophomore at Phillips Academy, gave a TeDx Talk on The Overlooked Struggle of Bilingualism.

Emilia Sanz-Rios knows what she's talking about.

Emilia, a 15-year-old student at Phillips Academy, gave a talk titled "The Overlooked Struggle of Bilingualism'' at the school's annual TeDx Talk event.

The soon-to-be sophomore at Phillips was one of 12 students selected from a pool of more than 60 applicants to make a presentation on their chosen topics.

"For a very, very long time, people have been nagging my parents on getting me and my siblings tested for various different learning disabilities, and a lot of it had to do with our bilingualism," she said.

Sanz-Rios, whose parents are both from Spain, speaks Spanish, English and French. She grew up in a Spanish-speaking household, but spoke mainly English at school.

She said that as her siblings were growing up, people wanted her sister to get checked for dyslexia and reading comprehension issues, and her younger brother for a stutter at the age of 3. In actuality, the siblings were simply struggling with growing up bilingual.

Sometimes, Sanz-Rios said she would forget all of the English she knew, and other times would forget all of the Spanish she knew.

And while many people have a first language, Sanz-Rios said she doesn't, and her struggles stemmed instead from growing up with dual languages.

"For me, the biggest barrier was the standardized testing. The SATs were a huge challenge," she said. "In the math section I did great. It was always the reading and writing that stumped me. I would say that in school, too, my worst subject was always English class even though I tried my best and did a lot more work."

Though she was nervous to give her talk, Sanz-Rios was also excited, and said she hopes to reach as many people as possible with her information on the struggles of being bilingual.

"It's kind of a shame when you see some people dumbed-down so they can have room to catch up, when they are really capable," she said.

The topic is one that Sanz-Rios said she is very passionate about, and not many people are aware of.

A self-proclaimed "anti-procrastinator," she had been preparing her talk since she watched videos from the event the year prior. She said she spent about one hour a day, five days a week perfecting and rehearsing her talk.

The talk was originally 42 minutes long, but she managed to cut it down to 10 minutes for the event. A video of her talk is now on YouTube, and has already gotten more than 1,000 views.


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