Have you ever tried living in a foreign country while learning a third language? As crazy as it may sound, it is not Mission Impossible because people at Stony Brook University are enjoying it, including me.
Being a Chinese born-and-raised girl for 22 years, I have never imagined that one day I would be studying the Korean language in America. Two years ago when I just got to the States I could not even understand the Starbucks cashier because she spoke so fast! But now I have a bunch of American and Korean friends. Yes, the magic of language!
Indeed learning a foreign language through another is something hard to imagine, but when I first started my KOR111 class a year ago, I found myself actually enjoying the challenge it brought to me. I got an A- in the class, which encouraged me to claim a Korean minor and continue my effort on it.
For me languages are just tools for talking to the world, so you do not need to be a perfect speaker. What is important is understanding, since behind language there is culture. Americans like to use casual words and call others by their first name even when talking to older people, but that would never happen in Korea because their grammar has specific rules regarding conversations between seniors and minors. It is these things that make it interesting to learn languages. You can really see through unique cultures and compare them with each other, which provides new perspectives and expands your horizon.
I found it fascinating that many Americans think that speaking good English is a piece of cake and sometimes take it for granted; if a foreign student speaks fluent English, no one will offer a compliment. But the truth is living in a strange country and trying to blend in is definitely not easy. Many of us feel lonely and ignored, and most of the time it is due to the feeling of inferiority about speaking English, but it is a great idea to try to learn another language through English because it offers a fresh understanding of people around you. There is always a bigger world out there which deserves to be explored.
Jiajian Ding, a senior student from Beijing, was drawn to his Japanese class when he was a freshman. “I met lots of friends who shares the same interests and keep in touch with me till now, which is amazing. The great thing is that we can communicate both in English and Japanese.”
Making friends from all around the world is another fair reason to learn another language. After all, people tend to show kindness to those who speak their native language. That matters at a college since most of the students only hang out with their “own people.” Language is one of the best tools for bridging the gap between various groups of people.
It is understandable that sometimes foreign students choose to learn another language to fulfill the DEC requirement, but it turns out that many of them didn’t drop it after one semester. Ke Hsin, a freshman from Taiwan, explained that: “I have difficulty in speaking (Korean). I can’t pronounce or use grammar correctly.” “Then why not give it up?” I asked. “I think I really found something interesting in it. It’s a process of discovery. I like it,” she said.
Go try things you never imagined before, and you will be surprised with yourself. After all, that’s what college is about, right?