Story taken from interview with Christina Lukeman, MBA, ’17; Written by K.Throgmorton
Learning a language is humbling; it’s hard to do and takes time as well as dedication. When Christina talks about the languages she speaks and the learning process they require, she acknowledges just how awkward it can feel to start learning a new language.
Prior to beginning her degree at MIIS, she spent a summer studying Mandarin Chinese at the Middlebury Campus in Vermont. She began the summer knowing little more than basic phrases, but, little by little, kept with the language pledge and learned how to vocalize her opinions and thoughts in Mandarin. She describes the first meal in the dining hall as being full of long silences after everyone at the table, young and old, exhausted their small talk repertoire. She describes a point of breaking–when everyone’s mind is exhausted and can’t translate anymore–and that is where the real learning happens. “You give up trying to translate everything in your head and start actually thinking in another language,” she says. In the summer program, she and other students fought past the preliminary struggles of linguistic comprehension to build strong, lasting friendships and an incredible ability to speak a new language.
Although a current Master of Business Administration Candidate, Christina was originally admitted to the Institute under the Translation and Interpretation program in Spanish (Fall 2014). After she was admitted, she spent time traveling through Southeastern Asia, where she worked for a Cambodian NGO as a liaison between the local staff and an Australian Board of Directors. Here is where she really came to understand the difference between interpreting and speaking, and ultimately had a change of heart in studying to be a translator/interpreter. “Translation takes a very unique skill-set; it is much more than just being able to speak multiple languages,” says Christina. “I knew that skill-set wasn’t mine.” Christina found the role in connecting stakeholders to be quite rewarding; she was able to act as cultural entrepreneur to connect different cultures through her knowledge of different backgrounds and languages.
Why does she love language so much? She feels that with language comes a cultural mindset that you can only begin to understand once you begin learning the language. “Understanding another culture requires profound empathy,” says Christina. “Opening your worldview to relate to others first requires attempting to understand their point of view, and as you acquire someone’s linguistic framework, you can get a touch of that.” Christina is innately attracted to the way in which empathy creates connection. “This way you can start to think of others not as ‘others’ but as friends,” she says.
“When you open your mind to learn other people’s [linguistic] frameworks for thinking, the whole world can be your friend.”
Next she hopes to participate in the Critical Language Scholarship program in Tanzania to learn Swahili during Summer 2017. As a MBA Candidate with a focus on Social Enterprise and Impact Investing, she hopes that learning the native language of social entrepreneurs in a hotbed of entrepreneurship will help her connect to more stakeholders in the region. She believes that acquiring languages is a vital tool in making connection–and impact–across the world.