Language connects senior to community


Emma Hoffman

Aguilar counts votes in Japanese on what show to watch during an Anime Club meeting.

There are nearly 2,300 languages in all of Asia. Within the 48 countries that make up the continent, countless regions build their own cultures and traditions. It would be nearly impossible for anyone to learn all of these languages. However, Jonathan Aguilar is on his way to defying that assumption.

Aguilar has a background that is an embodiment of diversity at VHHS and is one of the most outstanding seniors in our community. His history of language learning, however, stretches back to before high school. 

Jonathan was born into two very different cultures. On his mom’s side, he has a very extensive Polish family, while his dad’s side is mainly from Puerto Rico. Throughout his childhood, the two sides were blended into one big family, which led culture and traditions to become a big part of Jonathan’s life. 

However, this had also brought on confusion surrounding his own identity. He didn’t look Polish, so he was constantly excluded from their circle, but he didn’t seem to know Spanish well enough to be part of the Puerto Rican crowd.

“For a lot of my life, I have kind of been an outcast,” Aguilar said. “In terms of belonging, people who had a similar appearance to me, black hair, some melanin, brown eyes, I felt like I belonged somewhat with them. I find that languages help with that.”

Over the years Jonathan has taken up learning Spanish, Polish, Japanese, German, Russian, French, Thai, Vietnamese, Finnish, and even Mandarin Chinese. While free time might seem scarce for most high school students, he’s used it up to showcase a passion for something that is truly remarkable. 

“Languages are important to learn because you get to learn about something that is not about you,” Aguilar said. “You get to learn about [others’] cultures, history, and you think a bit in their perspective.”

Among this vast variety of languages, Aguilar thinks of Japanese to be the most personally impactful in his eyes. He took it up the summer after freshman year and has fallen in love with it after quarantine gave him more free time. Over the years, he has gone through multiple workbooks, watched countless anime shows, and is looking to connect more closely with Japanese culture. 

“By learning Japanese I got to know some more people. Not because I could speak it, but because of the media I watched or even the songs I listened to,” Aguilar said. 

Jonathan is also a part of many cultural clubs, including International Club and Asian Student Association. He says that these clubs help him become more engaged with other cultures as he learns their languages and traditions. 

“Learning more about other cultures and languages makes those people feel appreciated by getting to know them a lot better, and that’s in general one of my goals,” Aguilar said. “I want to make people feel appreciated by learning their culture, their history, their language.”