Column: What People Don’t Know About Me

Maddi Etxebeste

Staff Writer

I am Maddi Etxebeste. As some people will know, I am a Spaniard, from Basque Country . I arrived here at the end of August. These are my first two months in the United States and the Americas in general.  Because of this, I often have trouble with English. Something my classmates surely notice!

It is easy to just blend in in class and with the rest of the students. But there are some parts of me that might stay invisible if I don’t share them. So I’d like to share some with you.

I am 14 years old. I skipped first grade, so technically I should be in 9th grade. I had the opportunity to attend school in France and learn French from a young age because I lived in a city which was located at the border. I went to school there for almost 11 years, so I am fluent in Spanish, Basque, and French. At school I also learned English and German, and I know how to read and pronounce Russian and Italian.


I’m sure that my first name causes problems with pronunciation because it is not a  common name in English. However in Basque–my region’s language– it is quite a popular name. My last name is even harder to say than my first name , and harder to understand why is it pronounced that way if it’s written in a completely different way.

My first name is pronounced like Ma and the sound of letter e. (Ma-yee) The difficulty of saying my first name is knowing how to pronounce the “dd”. It’s kind of like they aren’t  pronounced. In English, it sounds closest to the “y” of the word “yes”.

My last name is Etxebeste. Yes, it is very weird to the American ear. The “e”s are pronounced like the “e” in Spanish. The “tx” is like “ch in the word “chair” or “chess”. After that comes another “e” pronounced like I said before. And then “beste” like the word “best” in English and that Spanish “e” again. (Ehchehbesteh)

I don’t get bothered if someone doesn’t pronounce my name right, because in some way I understand. For example, at school in France, most of the teachers didn’t pronounce it well. So I got used to hearing the teacher not pronounce my name correctly. Many people here in the U.S. will pronounce my name as “Maddie”(which is quite logical). In France they said it in a similar way. Ms. Pahomov and Mr. Todd pronounce  my first name in the correctly. But some of them don’t know how to say it yet. As for my last name, any teacher except Ms. Pahomov asked me about its pronunciation, and she pronounces it quite well!


If someone else who is reading this article is new at SLA and came from another country without a fluent English background, I would tell them to be patient, that little by little, as the weeks pass, I am getting more and more used to this language. When I came here I came with the level of English that I learned in an extra class outside of school, because the school’s one was quite low. I learned British English and I could notice the difference when I arrived here. First, the spelling is sometimes a bit different in both languages. I learned to spell “color” like “colour” or “center” like “centre”!

But those are just little details. The biggest difference between British English and American English is the pronunciation. That’s one of the reasons why I had and I have problems understanding some things.  


I feel that people here were very welcoming. I have very nice classmates in my stream, when I don’t understand something someone explains it to me. Moreover, there is a student in my stream, called Jacobo, which is from Spain too and sometimes is my translator and my Spaniard peer at SLA!

One of the hardest things is to get “integrated” when they all have their preset “groups” and when you don’t speak their language fluently. The language, at the beginning, was a big problem in class, I couldn’t understand many things or talk quite fluently. Now I can talk and understand a bit more easily than before. Another hard thing is to go to a totally new school, to a totally new city, bigger than my original one, and with a school system and rules that are totally different than my old one. For example, the first day at SLA I went into the wrong class! And all the things that I am used to doing at school are not done here or are totally different. That’s one big thing that makes things more difficult: that all is new and all is different to what I knew before. Moreover one of the hardest things was saying goodbye to my friends, because I didn’t live in a small village, it was a big town and I knew a lot of people Before I left they organized a surprise farewell-party for me, which had been very fun, emotional, and unforgettable!

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