The Importance of Learning Another Language

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Anyone who knows me even in the slightest is aware of the fact that I am Ukrainian. I didn’t really have a choice in this, however. Ever since I was little, my parents taught me the Ukrainian language, sent me to Ukrainian school every Saturday, and signed me up for Ukrainian Girl Scouts. I would complain every time I was rushed out of the house on weekends for these activities, asking, “Why do I even need to know Ukrainian? Everyone in this country speaks English!”

I did not notice the impact of learning another language until this summer. Still a part of Ukrainian Girl Scouts to this day, I traveled to Germany with other scouts from America to meet Ukrainian scouts from all over the world. I had no idea what to expect. Apart from the worrying fact that this was my first time overseas, I had no idea how I was going to communicate, let alone connect, with people from countries like Belgium and Poland. We had no similar culture, had grown up with completely different lifestyles, and couldn’t understand each other’s customs. However, we had one thing in common: we all spoke Ukrainian. Knowing this language raised a barrier between us. We could understand witticisms and sarcasm in this language, even if we could not understand them in the other’s native language. Where someone else would have had to take out their dictionary and choppily translate every word directly from the definition, we could talk about abstract ideas. During this camp, I made some of the best friends I have ever had the chance of knowing, despite living almost 3,000 miles apart.

I know that not everyone has been learning the language they are interested in since they were 2 years old. However, even if you have been studying since kindergarten, since freshman year in high school, or have just decided to begin, you can achieve this type of connection I experienced. Although it may seem grueling and pointless at times memorizing vocab words and taking quizzes, when you meet someone from Spain or from France and successfully communicate with them, nothing will ever surpass that feeling. When you finally learn the language you have been struggling for years to grasp, nothing can limit you anymore. You can travel to another country and feel completely at ease, you can make friends from all over the world, and you can participate in more than just what you have grown up knowing. You become a part of something bigger.

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