Actually, I learned while still in Ecuador. I was three and my grandmother, already in New York, sent me the VHS as a gift. I watched it every day, making my aunt rewind it over and over again, until I could do it myself. I should get her a sweet gift as a thank you.
Sometimes I wonder what it was about this specific movie that enchanted me as a kid. I was already taking English as a second language, but it wasn’t enough. Repeating foreign words in a classroom didn’t mean anything. When I watched the movie, each word came to life. When I moved to New York at age 6 (maybe 7), I don’t remember the transition. I simply remember having complete understanding of what was being said to me in this new foreign school.
I can’t say I wouldn’t have ever learned without The Little Mermaid as a gateway to language, magic, and mermaids—surely I would’ve gotten there somehow—but I’m very glad that it was. I wouldn't be the person I am without it.
Zoraida Cordova was left by some merpeople on the coast of Guayaquil, Ecuador, where she learned to speak English by watching Disney’s The Little Mermaid and Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker on repeat. She’s been a New Yorker since she was six, and never forgot about her mermaid lineage. She studied with Jaqueline Woodson, Ann Angel, and the late Norma Fox Mazer at the National Book Foundation writing camps. In 2007 she was awarded the Dennis Lehane scholarship to Pine Manor’s Summer Solstice Writing Conference. She majored in English Literature at the University of Montana and Hunter College in New York City.
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