In the very first paragraph of “My English,” Julia tells us that she and her family, living in the Dominican Republic, only spoke Spanish at home. However, all that changed when Julia and her sisters enrolled at the Carol Morgan School, where they would be learning English. From then on, Julia's family became bilingual.
Julia's parents regarded it as extremely important that their children speak English around the house. At the dinner table, when Julia asked her mother to pass la mantequilla (butter), her mother immediately corrected her:
But would you be needing some butter on your bread?
When she was a girl, Julia's mother, known as Mami, had attended Abbot Academy, a boarding school in Massachusetts, where she became quite Americanized. From her schooldays, Mami understood the importance of learning what she called “your English,” implying that the language is part of Julia and her sisters' inheritance and must be used wisely. Her parents' commitment to Julia and her siblings learning English meant that it was important to speak it at home.
However, Julia's Spanish gets mixed up with her English to become “Spanglish,” a hybrid tongue that she and her sisters spoke for many years. When she was at school, Julia found Spanish words sliding into her English, much to her teachers' displeasure.