Ready or Not: Access Granted Through Languages

“Because of French, I have received prizes and honors.”

When I was younger, I was obsessed with the cartoon, Madeline. Even now, as an adult, it’s one of the few children’s programs I can sit down and watch to my heart’s content. I love the show so much that I still have some books about the title character and her adventures. Honestly, I don’t know why I loved Madeline. Growing up, I was what many would consider a “tomboy,” so maybe I felt I could relate to Madeline because she didn’t always do what was expected of her as a “girl.” Regardless of the draw to this program, Madeline exposed me to French life and culture. I believe that this is where my love for the language began.

In middle school, I began taking French classes. My teacher of two years was a soft-spoken woman who clearly loved sharing her language and culture with her students. Don’t get me wrong—she was strict. However, I learned enough in her class that I continued my studies well into my undergraduate years. Because of French, I have received prizes and honors. I was able to study at a prestigious language school with some of the best professors in the world. Also, I have received opportunities to utilize my language skills for financial and professional gain.

Arguably the greatest thing learning French has done for me, as a single woman, is allowed me to learn about other aspects of my personality. When I begin speaking and switch to my francophone alter ego, I experience a freedom that isn’t easy to explain. It’s almost as if I embody French culture the minute I open my mouth. The woman who has grown up in the West disappears and another with a different outlook on life replaces her. If you’re a language enthusiast, I’m sure you can relate. In any case, I see myself taking risks and doing things with my francophone friends that I would never do with my English-speaking ones.

“The woman who has grown up in the West disappears and another with a different outlook on life replaces her.”

Now, as I embark on improving my Spanish, I see another personality taking form. She’s sensuous, chatty, and eager to please. She’s not the first to initiate conversations, but she tries to hold her own. I started studying Spanish years ago in undergrad because I entertained ideas of becoming a UN translator or diplomat. Those dreams faded as my passion for teaching grew; however, I never lost my love for languages.

Brushing up on my Spanish was triggered by a string of conversations with friends over the last two years or so because of all that’s happening with globalization. On a practical level, having multiple popular languages under my belt makes me more marketable. When I go to sit at the table with other major players (primarily men), I don’t have to rely on someone to speak on my behalf. Also, I am a firm believer that I will gain more respect from those I come into contact with if I speak to them in their language. Not everyone shares this viewpoint, but it’s one that I’ve always held near. There are a few other personal reasons for me wanting to master Spanish, but I’ll save those for another time or post.

“When I go to sit at the table with other major players (primarily men), I don’t have to rely on someone to speak on my behalf.”

Fellow navigator, if you can, I encourage you to learn another language. Yes, this is America and just about everyone speaks English. But there is an entire world out there with people of every race, ethnic group, and tongue who have incredible stories, jokes, and thoughts to share. If we only limit our conversations to English speakers, we miss out on the richness and beauty our brothers and sisters have to offer. Now, you don’t have to be like me and aim to master seven languages. But I think that shooting to acquire a second language will grant you access to a life you never knew existed. Who knows? Maybe your Spanish alter ego is sassy, free-spirited, and holds nothing back. Perhaps your French persona is refined, soft-spoken, and reserved.

It’s 2020 and globalization isn’t going away anytime soon. It’s probably best that we embrace those who are different and find a way to get along with each other. Maybe, in this process, we’ll find a beauty in their language that sets us on a journey of our own self-discovery.

Fellow navigator, since many of us are still living under quarantine, have you considered learning a new language? Which language have you always wanted to study? What’s holding you back? Tell me about it!

4 thoughts on “Ready or Not: Access Granted Through Languages

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