Students can benefit from learning foreign languages - The Buffalo News

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Students can benefit from learning foreign languages

Étudiez mes amis! Le monde change rapidement!

For those who may not understand the above statement, it is French for “Study my friends! The world is changing quickly!”

Yes, the world is moving closer and closer together each day. It’s a social term known as cultural diffusion, and it’s a beautiful thing. So much of what we see around us today, from food dishes to architecture, are a result of people coming together, or visiting foreign lands in search of what is lesser known to their own culture. Many dream of seeing the world, but they may be afraid of the rigors of such an adventure, such as whether they can handle the cultural differences, or merely understanding the language. As it turns out, learning about a foreign language cannot only help the verbal aspect of it, but also encourages cultural understanding.

The trending logistics of the global market rely heavily on international interactions. This has caused a rise in globalization of several facets in business, political relations and hospitality between visiting travelers and hosting natives. In the very near future, this will be vital in the unification of nations on a social and economic basis. However, a level of cultural understanding is needed to support such a movement.

In the United States, it is becoming clear that students will need some experience with other languages to see success in several areas. According to the Global Language Project, 84 percent of the top 25 industrialized countries generally commence foreign language studies for students between kindergarten through grade five, while U.S. students usually begin at age 14, on average. This time frame for learning does not bode well as 80 percent of European students are entering a globalized world with bilingual, and even multilingual, status. In addition, Mandarin Chinese, which is spoken by 1 billion people globally, is being studied by only 50,000 of 55 million students in the United States.

These statistics may seem like cause for concern, but many high schools have exemplary foreign language departments where students can thrive.

Victoria DiLorenzo, a long-tenured teacher of French at Amherst Central High School who also is fluent in Spanish, understands how important a strong precollege education in foreign language can be for a student’s future.

DiLorenzo’s love of language began when she was 16 on a high school trip to Paris. After roaming the streets attentively and thoughtfully, and marveling at Versailles, she describes it as instant love. Enough love to return there for studies at the Université de Grenoble.

A teacher for more than 30 years, DiLorenzo has seen the benefits of learning a foreign language in high school. She said that former students often contact her after they begin their college studies and the usefulness of strong language departments is evident.

She said that the benefits of longtime learning go beyond the language. It presents the bearer with cultural understanding.

Not only does it make world travel easier, but it also makes the traveler more accepted in a foreign environment.

Dmitri Lippe is an accomplished language student at Amherst Central High School. He currently takes the College French 5 course, and is the lone student taking the AP exam for it. His family is originally from Greece, and his support of language study is evident.

“The benefits range from the ability to be more cultured and have a more expansive worldview,” Dmitri said.

My cousin, Joseph Coudriet, is a global liaison manager at the Bank of New York Mellon. He has been effective in his job because of his fluency in Mandarin Chinese, and proficiency in Spanish and Latin.

“The languages I have acquired have helped me immensely in my job,” he said. “The primary benefit has been cultural context. To truly learn a language is to broaden one’s knowledge outside of one’s own experience.”

For a globally enhanced job, he connects yearly with foreign complexes, thus requiring a knowledge of international hospitality. For anyone pursuing a career in business, along with business travels, this is as important as ever.

Coudriet had to meet with an Indian project manager, and cultural context was a focus.

He was “able to build a good relationship with him – an essential ingredient in any business, whether that be finance, social sciences, education, etc., because I was able to meet him at his cultural level,” Coudriet said. “He and I were able to talk about cricket, street food in Mumbai – all the things that are important to him – because I understood that his culture is different from my own.

“My experience with language learning helps me in these types of situations,” he added. “Don’t learn a language to simply master grammar, syntax, morphology, etc. Learn a language to think critically.”

Even beyond business, languages can be essential in critical thinking, and, as most language enthusiasts would agree, personal usage also is evident, as Coudriet expressed its application in the relationships he has developed over the years, and new hobbies.

Soyez à l’esprit ouvert! Olla avoimia!

As both of those phrases say, be open-minded!

John H. Coudriet is a sophomore at Amherst High School.s

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