This I Believe

Elaine - Port Matilda, Pennsylvania
Entered on February 22, 2009
Age Group: Under 18

I’ll admit it; I didn’t like foreign language at first. My thoughts were that I could live in the U.S. forever, and not have to speak another language. I couldn’t have been any more naïve or wrong. It didn’t take me long to realize, I was making rash comments because I didn’t understand the true power language possesses. As human beings, language is what we are.

As the world becomes more and more intertwined, understanding more languages becomes more and more vital. I tried to go a day without speaking, and found it immeasurably frustrating and impossible; but that’s how it is for many people as soon as they enter a foreign country, or meet someone who doesn’t speak the same language. It’s frightening to think of the vitality of it, in a life-threatening situation: If you’re stranded on an island with someone. Obviously, you’ll have to communicate and work together to escape, but when I think of trying to discuss survival plans using finger-jabbing, head-nodding, and signaling, I realize the vitality of precise communication, and therefore, speaking other languages.

There’s a sense of incredible sense of frustration, when I can’t relay my message, and an great sense of accomplishment, when I can speak in someone else’s native language and have them comprehend my words. Traveling to Spain, I realized how frustrating, not speaking the same language is. As I scream, ‘water’ at the waiters, it’s inevitable to me that I just want something to drink, but to the waiters, that one word is far from simple. But then, it took me a second of thinking to figure out that I could just say, ‘agua’, a word I had just learned in Spanish class. The waiter’s face lit up as he realized what I had been asking for the whole time, and it was at that moment, I discovered how much language can change life. I’ve come to the understanding, that it’s not just me that is upset when communication is a struggle; the person I am talking to may feel a sense of incompetence because they do not understand me at all. In a blunt statement; learning to speak foreign languages not only makes life better for me, but for those I try and communicate with.

Now I start off each day bright and fresh by heading to my Spanish class where I know I’ll learn another phrase that just may become useful someday. I know, when I learn to speak a foreign language, that’s one more person in the world that can communicate clearly with more people, and so, this I believe: in the power and virtue of learning languages