Journal: Learning Languages

Hi everyone. Today we are looking at the power of learning other languages. The languages of Morocco are French and Moroccan Arabic (called Darija).

When I went to tell one of the professors at my college that I was going to be in Morocco, she became so excited. I was going to a country where French was spoken! She teaches French. When I told her of my fears, she insisted that she would help me prepare. She took out one of her French Beginner’s Level textbooks and gave it to me. I promised I would study during my winter break.

As I left her office, a very important lesson dawned on me. I hope to carry it with me all my life. I had panicked about the language barrier. I had spent all my energy worrying about it. However, I had not thought to try to do something about it. I realized that panicking should always be the last option. I must make an effort, first.

Can you think of something you thought you could not do? Did you eventually try it? I resolved to learn a little bit of the language in Morocco, and try my best.

Once I started at my university in Morocco, I was able to interact with many students from Morocco and other areas of the world. I met many students from other parts of the world who speak English very well. Many of them learned it as a foreign language in their schools. Others went to American schools in their home countries. Many of the professors, even my Moroccan ones, studied in the U.S. Their English skills are excellent, too.

Some of the locals here have only a slight accent when they speak. It is usually not difficult at all to understand them.  Whenever I am away from school, however, I meet people who do not speak English. Some people know a few words, and some people don’t speak any English at all.

Trying to relate to those who don’t speak English can sometimes be funny! This is especially true when I try to order food. Over the last few months I’ve learned a few foreign words, such as poulet, which is French for chicken, and confiture, which is French for jam. When I don’t know the French or Arabic word for something, I usually just point to it or do a hand movement that I hope others will understand. They usually do. I’ve become an expert at Charades due to my Moroccan experience. Have you ever played this game? It is a lot of fun.

Just today, I wanted a caramel custard from the fridge behind the counter. I tried pointing. The young man pointed too, but it took a while to get the right one. We ended up laughing about it. I learned that the word I needed was flan. That is the same word I would have had to use in the U.S. or Spain! People here are very patient and understand that visitors need extra help with crossing the language barrier.

I think Charades is a very useful way to learn new words. As long as I make an effort, then I learn a lot. It is also good manners to learn some words in a foreign language. That way, it does not appear that you want others to only use your language. Learning some of the language of foreigners is a good way to show politeness, respect and an appreciation for others.

This relates to newcomers to the U.S. who don’t speak English. They, too, are in a new setting and are uncertain of what this new place is like. They are also adjusting to the food, the weather and the way of life. It can sometimes be difficult. They may miss home.

The good news is, you can help. Maybe you can try helping them learn a few words in English, including foreign kids who are new to your school. You can ask them what language they speak and how to say hello and other words. This is a great way to make new friends from all over the world. You will find you have things in common.

One of my dreams is to become fluent in Spanish, French and Portuguese. Once you learn foreign languages, all sorts of exciting experiences are open to you. There are many countries in the world, and you will be able to visit them. You can experience many cultures, and even read books that you would not have been able to before. You can do many things for yourself, like ordering breakfast or buying your bus ticket.

Think about what languages you would like to learn. You don’t even have to leave the U.S. You can interact with others right at home!


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