Talk considers language, connection

Dawn Varela
Staff Writer

Alexander Lev-Da-Silva, instructor of modern languages, was the speaker for the second installment of monthly series “What Matters to Me and Why” on Sept. 21 in the Ludwick Center Sacred Space. 

Before an audience of about 40 community members, Lev-Da-Silva talked about his journey and how language was central to many of his experiences.

Born in Mexico, Lev-Da-Silva moved to the United States as a child. He struggled to learn English as a kid, he said. Then he eventually grew into a language aficionado and teacher.

“Language is the essence of being,” Lev-Da-Silva said. “Language is what makes us human. It’s what we call each other, and how we label each other.”

Lev-Da-Silva talked about his experience in the military where he worked as a translator for seven years.

He also was a peace corps volunteer, which took him to Kazakhstan for eight months. During his time in Kazakhstan, he said he felt disconnected from his home and background. 

Though he added that he was able to overcome his homesickness by drawing on his military experience and other life experiences.

“I went in there feeling miserable, lonely, disconnected,” Lev-Da-Silva said, adding that at one point when eating at a small restaurant in Kazakhstan, he heard the music of Enrique Iglesias in Spanish and he felt a sense of connection. 

“This was when I truly felt this linguistic identity, this linguistic connection,” he said.

Lev-Da-Silva’s talk of connection resonated with many in the audience, including one audience member who suggested he write a memoir. 

The event ended with refreshments: pan dulce and coffee, Lev-Da-Silva’s favorites. 

“I found it relatable when he said that while living abroad he missed his Mexican culture — the language, music and especially food,” said Michelle Leyva, sophomore educational studies major. “My freshman year of college I really missed having homemade Mexican food.”

Dawn Varela can be reached at


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