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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Triumphs and challenges of learning a new language

Learning+languages
Photo by Photo by Kiara Stewart
Learning languages

Despite a national lack of language skills, many students make efforts to learn a new language during their time at A&M, whether it be to challenge their mind, advance their personal life or achieve career goals.
An article published in 2015 by The Atlantic said America is lacking in language skills with only 7 percent of college students in America enrolled in a language class. At Texas A&M students currently have the option to take Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Latin, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish classes, which range from beginner to intermediate levels.
Sociology senior Ethan Bodzin said he took Spanish in high school for four years but didn’t care enough to learn it or pay attention. However, he is currently taking a Spanish class at A&M and said he is tries harder to retain the information.
“Now that I am back and here at A&M, I have the option to take a foreign language as part of my major off of my curriculum and I am taking it a lot more seriously,” Bodzin said.
Jean-Baptiste Charlot is a French lecturer at A&M and said there are many benefits that stem from learning new languages.
“The concepts of a sentence are different, so you have to think differently than you would in English, which is good for your brain,” Charlot said. “The effort they are investing in learning a foreign language, in my case French, will pay. They are exposing themselves to another culture and see things through a different eye.”
There can be some deterring factors in taking on a new language as an adult, such as learning limitations, lack of proper motivation and treating language as an object rather than a skill, according to an article from businessinsider.com.
“I try to keep the class engaging for them, because if you learn a language just for the sake of learning a language then it’s kind of boring,” Charlot said. “You want to have good reasons for learning it and not just for a good grade at the end of the semester.”
With historical and cultural derivations, some languages have similar roots, especially if the languages spoken are geographically and culturally close, according to George Adams, Japanese senior lecturer.
“One of the things that I hope Japanese students will do is to see the language as a door or bridge to other Asian languages,” Adams said. “Some students take Japanese because A&M does not offer Korean and this is the closest they can get to it, but that’s a good way to approach Korean.”
According to Stephanie Harris, head of the Department of International Studies, most of the professors who teach language at A&M are native speakers and had their own reasons for wanting to learn English as their second language.
Yuki Waugh, Japanese instructor, said she thinks learning new languages can be a valuable way to look at the world from a new perspective.
“When I was in high school, I was interested in [learning] another language, because I thought of never being outside of Japan and I didn’t know anything about how other people live or think,” Waugh said. “I think to understand diverse perspectives, it’s very important to learn different languages.”
According to the A&M Study Abroad Office’s website, over 5,000 Texas A&M students participate on international experiences each year. Charlot said he encourages his student to visit the language-speaking country in a “non-touristy” area if they are not interning or studying abroad, in order to practice their language skills and learn more fully.
“Nothing will be more enriching and efficient than going to the country to learn,” Charlot said. “The reason is simple, yes, I teach them the language but it’s 50 minutes every two days and if they go there, they will be bathing in the environment and learn much more.”

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