Opinion: Challenge yourself to learn new languages

Jaidyn Yarber, Columnist

Have you ever thought about learning a second language? Spanish, French, ASL or maybe German? If you’ve ever downloaded Duolingo or taken an elective foreign language class, then you probably have an idea of what it’s like to take on that challenge.

Personally, learning a second language is one of the most challenging jobs I have ever taken on. After two years, I am still at an elementary level of Spanish. It is a mental argument of altering the way I think and talk; it provokes the mind to forget instincts and try to run a new route. Studying the vocabulary means re-learning the alphabet and tripping over every other word until they stick. Learning the language is strenuous work, and it can be really awkward and discouraging at times, but nothing is more rewarding than the process of development.

I have always dreamt of being fluent, or that I could have been lucky enough to be raised in a bilingual environment — a scenario where speaking another language would be nothing but natural. Sometimes, I feel embarrassed speaking Spanish in front of native speakers because I am such a beginner, but I have to remind myself of the motivational saying that goes, “Dreams don’t work unless you do.” Taking courses at Eastern and participating in and outside of the classroom reminds me that the long road ahead of me is a rewarding one. Outside of class, I am a part of Mi Amigos ‘N Friends, a group of students that teach English as a second language. It forces me out of my comfort zone, and I have to communicate with a dialect I am not entirely comfortable with. My advice to anyone struggling to grow in a language is to practice out-loud, speak and use what you know to communicate. You have to take advantage of your opportunities and put yourself out there, even if it means mispronouncing every other word; mistakes will only teach you how to improve. Most importantly, you have to be willing to work hard and understand that small steps will take you a long way.

Most people have only been exposed to foreign languages through required electives in school, or perhaps they’ve heard the incoherent conversations of strangers in public, but it was never enough to connect with. It is unfortunate that there are so many people that give up. Whatever reason you have to take on a new language, run with it. There is nothing to lose and everything to gain when it comes to learning foreign languages. Push yourself out of your comfort zone, and don’t ever give up.

Jaidyn Yarber is a freshman English major. She can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]