Story taken from interview with Erik, BAIS/MANPTS, ’18; Written by K.Throgmorton
Who says learning languages is too hard? Well, a lot of people actually. Enough that Erik listened to them for a while in high school. It was until he tried for himself that he found learning languages was actually pretty easy. Easy perhaps isn’t the best word but languages do come quickly for Erik.
It started in college when he met a friend from Brazil who inspired him to learn Portuguese. He taught himself enough to get started and then learned by finding conversation partners on the internet and practicing every chance he got. That strategy worked for Erik, he learned by simply talking to people. Sounds easy enough, right?
After dabbling in Italian and Catalan, other Latin languages, he decided to go for something a bit different. Arabic and Turkish fit the bill. Erik moved to Istanbul, Turkey for study abroad and stayed for a year. He took a German class and a Russian class. Now he was learning additional languages through Turkish and French. He even helped another student, originally from Poland, in the Russian class by translating what their teacher said in French to English.
Learning new languages is fun! It’s also relatively easy for Erik, which makes it even more fun. Especially when he is abroad, connects with people through languages. Learning and practicing a new language can be a reason to strike up a conversation in and of itself. Back in the States, it feels different to start talking with people in another language.
The exhilaration of travel soon brought Erik back to Turkey. Unfortunately, the timing didn’t work out in Erik’s favor so he moved to Russia for study abroad instead. There he worked as an intern at the Mexican Embassy and truly put his multilingual skills to use, writing posts for social media in three languages.
The next stop for Erik was Ukraine for a summer before coming back to Monterey to attend the Institute. Traveling and learning the language of a new place is a challenge Erik speaks about with passion and determination. He talks about joining the US Foreign Service or finding a position with the United Nations as possible career trajectories he hopes languages will help him achieve.
Erik’s advice: try learning a language for yourself before you write it off as too difficult. Don’t let others tell you not to do it. It helps if you enjoy what you’re doing. Don’t force a new language – use it and have fun with it.