I have spent a combined total of four years learning Spanish, in high school and at Mercyhurst College, and have also delved into Japanese, Turkish, Bulgarian, and Tewa (a Pueblo language). Immersion is always helpful because it forces you to remember things you otherwise wouldn’t even try to, and also because it encourages improvisation and flexibility—if you want to say something, but can’t remember the words, what words can you use to say it another way? Another thing that has always helped me is to learn the grammar system. In our own languages, we often take the grammar for granted because we are just used to how things should sound. However, the structure of other languages is often different from our own. Without knowing the grammar, language learning is just memorization and mimicry. When we learn how to assemble the parts of the whole, we can be more creative and take ownership of what we are saying. Spelling for me has been easy in other languages, because by large, they are more phonetic than English. But this, and working with non-native speakers, has made me realize how challenging the spelling a pronunciation rules (and exceptions) are in English. I have always loved languages, and learning Spanish was mainly an academic exercise when I began it. But with the other languages I have, and am currently, studying, the learning came out of a desire to communicate more fully with people who spoke these as their native tongues. You can exist in the United States without speaking any English. It is possible, but it is not desirable. Because, wherever you are, there is much to be gained by talking to, and listening to, others. Yes, learning English will help in gaining financial and academic successes. It will also provide something more intrinsic to the quality of life. To paraphrase Socrates, it is the arête of human to reach your highest potential.

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