Why I Decided to Study a Foreign Language While Studying Abroad

Kayla Craigmile is a student at Kansas State University and was an ISA Featured Blogger. She studied abroad with ISA in Athens, Greece. As both a Spanish and Anthropology major with a focus on cultural and linguistic anthropology, it was never a question if I was going to study Greek while in Greece. It fact, the language learning aspect of my study abroad experience was one of the most important factors that ultimately led me to choose Greece, and for good reason. First off, I think that language and its ramifications are so incredibly fascinating, fun to learn about, and perplexing to wrap your brain around. For me, it is like putting together a puzzle, but when you finally put it together, you can communicate with a whole new group of people and understand a whole new way of thinking! The more rewarding puzzle in existence might I say. Although I am only just now beginning to study Greek, it has proved especially challenging as I had to start from zero. I didn’t even have the basis of an alphabet to begin with, and don’t get me started on figuring out how to write the letters! I would say there is quite a learning curve, but in the past few weeks I have made substantial progress on my 40,000 piece puzzle (see below for the basic conversation I am now able to write, read, and have in person). 

Κατερίνα: Γεια σας                                                             Hello

Κειλα: χαίρετε                                                                     Hi

Κατερίνα: πώς σας λένε;                                                  What is your name?

Κειλα: με λένε κειλα. Εσάς;                                              My name is Kayla. You?

Κατερίνα: είμαι η Κατερίνα. Χαίρω πολύ                     I’m Katerina. Nice to meet you

Κειλα: κι εγώ                                                                     You too

Κατερίνα: από που είστε;                                               Where are you from?

Κειλα: είμαι από την Αμερική. Εσείς;                           I am from America. You?

Κατερίνα: είμαι από την Ελλάδα                                  I am from Greece

Additionally, learning a foreign language helps us to more easily assimilate into and learn about other cultures since language and culture are complexly intertwined, constantly evolving and influencing one another. When you interact with the language of a specific place, you are at the same time learning about the culture of that place. It’s impossible not to. Language is not only grammar, syntax, and vocabulary, but also the cultural meaning that is embedded within it. The fact that cultural norms and customs are entrenched within language makes language even more powerful because it shapes how we see the world and how we live in it. This is also why it is essential that young people are exposed to different languages and thus, different ways of living, being, and thinking. It allows them to start the conversation, dispel stereotypes, and combat ethnocentrism, the belief that one’s culture is superior to others and then judging other cultures from the perspective of one’s own culture.  Lastly, it just makes your life easier when you are able to engage in basic conversation! When you get in a taxi, when you go to the grocery store, when you meet new Greek friends, it never hurts to be able to say hello (ya-sas), good morning (ka-li-me-ra), or thank you (ef-hari-sto).

Your Discovery. Our People… The World Awaits.

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