POSTED: Thursday, March 22, 2012 - 10:00am
UPDATED: Thursday, March 22, 2012 - 10:04am
New Orleans, La — Now thousands of miles from their native countries of Venezuela and Mexico, respectively, during basketball season Greivis Vasquez and Gustavo Ayon live in a country where English is the most common language. While Vasquez has been a resident of America since high school, Ayon has only resided here for a few months after signing with the Hornets in December.
As Ayon continues to take English classes and adjust to his unfamiliar surroundings, he received a small taste of home on Tuesday, March 13, only a few blocks from the New Orleans Arena. Ayon and his close friend Vasquez – both Spanish speakers – were special guests at the International School of Louisiana, located on Camp Street in New Orleans. Also joining Ayon and Vasquez was Hornets Spanish radio play-by-play broadcaster Emilio Peralta.
During an afternoon Hornets Reading Timeout, the 25-year-old point guard and the 26-year-old power forward read children’s books in Spanish to about 30 bilingual elementary school students. The two Hornets players also stressed the importance of education in leading a successful life, saying that even if you want to be an athlete, you must maintain good grades to stay on the team.
Vasquez was taken aback by the outstanding grasp the schoolchildren had of Spanish, saying he did not expect them to be so fluent in a second language. During part of the assembly, the kids asked Vasquez and Ayon questions in Spanish about the two players’ lives and basketball careers. “It’s important to be bilingual,” the University of Maryland product said. “I was shocked – these kids speak great Spanish. Most of them speak English as a first language, but when we were reading a book in Spanish, they understood everything and were even speaking in Spanish to us. So I was really impressed.
“It’s important to be bilingual,” the University of Maryland product said. “I was shocked – these kids speak great Spanish. Most of them speak English as a first language, but when we were reading a book in Spanish, they understood everything and were even speaking in Spanish to us. So I was really impressed.
“As a Latino, you always like it when someone speaks your language (while you’re in the United States). The way they did it, at that age, is big-time. It was fun.”