Dear Languages

To the languages that helped me survive foreign countries, study for anatomy and physiology tests or simply allowed for a more diverse frame of mind.

I’ve dabbled in several of you:

  • 2 years French
  • 1 year Latin
  • 2 semesters Greek
  • 1 semester (and one missions trip) Spanish
  • 1 missions trip Swahili
  • 1 semester Arabic
  • and several random phrases  in different languages picked up here or there

All of you have a place in my brain or heart…whether I like you or not.

French, you were the biggest pain in my rear end. I took you during Middle School. All the cool kids were taking Spanish, but my mom signed me up for French instead. I passed the class with something like a C-. Utter failure in my book. And I didn’t care, still don’t. It would be nice to be able to speak a language other than English, but French, we just couldn’t get along. There just wasn’t anything worth making a lifetime commitment to, so I dropped you. Happy day.

The only sad thing that came from my hatred of the French language was my unwillingness to travel to France with my class. They ran around for two weeks, looking at French paintings, eating French food, experiencing French culture. And I said no. My teacher wanted me to go, in fact, my teacher offered to pay for the flight. it would have cost under $1000 for me to go for two weeks, experiencing the best of France. But my hatred for the language ran so deep that I said no. This is the only thing I regret. Not that I like the language. But being where I am now, with my love of traveling and cultures, I can’t believe I said no. Stupid child I was.

Please don’t get me wrong. I have absolutely nothing against the people of France. It was just the language that I don’t get along with.

To Latin, I don’t have much to say to you. You helped me with English when I was growing up. Helped me understand where the words came from and the root of the words. But alas, as a dead language, you didn’t stick with me, and after a few semesters you fell.

Greek, you were my solemn helpmate during my pre-nursing years. The world of medicine is filled with your phrases, and knowing the basics helped me connect all kinds of anatomy together. But as my desire for nursing died, my knowledge of anything about the Greek language died as well.

Spanish, you whom I’ve never felt a need to study (despite everyone and their mother telling me it was wise to take it). I took you because, as I stated before, all the cool kids were taking you. However, the teacher left a lot to be desired and there was no structure to the class. Even in middle school I disliked classes that lacked structure and teachers who didn’t inspire me to learn. However, my second interaction with the language allowed for a more pleasant learning experience. However, the only phrase that really stuck with me was “Dios le bendiga”, meaning: “God bless you”. This was said to every single person in church on Sundays and Wednesdays, therefore the continual repetition forced the phrase into my head, and it will probably be stuck there forever.

Similarly, my dabbling in Swahili was only through my exposure to it for 10 days when I was 14. Although it was an extremely short exposure to the language, I picked up a few phrases and words. For example, “Mongu aku bariki”, means, “God bless you”, (shocker, I learned the same phrase in the missions trips I went on). But I also learned: “asante sana” which some may recognise in the funny phrase that the monkey in The Lion King sings “asante sana, squash banana”. The first part of the phrase means “thank you very much”. There are other words that I learned were mainly “Jombo” (Hello) and Matatu (Taxi). These were the only phrases I really needed over there.

My final dabbling in language is with my dear friend, Arabic. I loved it. It was fabulous. So foreign, so odd, so lovely. I took you because I thought I needed a language class to graduate (I was mistaken). I had several people tell me that I shouldn’t do it, that I should take Spanish instead. But the thought of drugging through another Spanish class was about as appealing as getting stabbed with a pin. So I made up my mind and signed up for the Arabic class. I excelled in the language. There was one time when my teacher was going to all the students when we were working on some words and he stopped by my desk and said “do you need any– oh, no. You don’t need any help”. Made me feel awesome. First time I ever felt that way about a language, like if I continued I could actually master it.

The sad day came when I realized I didn’t need the credit. So spending $1300 to continue in a class I didn’t need simply wasn’t justifiable. Therefore, despite it being my favorite language yet, I haven’t continued with it. I’ve looked every semester to see if it was possible for me to take it. But as of yet, it’s just not viable. I’ll probably go back and take some classes at the Community College when I’ve graduated.

The final category to examine is the random phrases and words, these are just what I’ve picked up from missionaries, my sisters journeys, classes and the like. They are pretty basic phrases. such as “munchi neellu” (clean water) which is Telugu. Or “guan xi” (Relationships) which I think is Mandarin (maybe Cantonese or Taiwanese). These phrases randomly pop into my head and make me feel more cultured and sophisticated which in reality is a load of bogus because knowing a few random words in a language doesn’t make you anything special.

All of you languages have helped in some way make me what I am. Even if I can’t recall anything but how to count to thirty in some of them (French). All in all it was a good experience though. and I’m generally glad I got the exposure to all of you languages that I did.

Ma’ Alsalam,


  1. #1 by SarahSki on May 16, 2011 - 11:25 am

    I took two years of Spanish in high school because the alternative was French, and I wasn’t fond of the teacher. I did become very close to my Spanish teacher, though. My senior year was the trip to Spain, and even though I hadn’t enrolled in Spanish III, she offered to let me go on the trip anyway. However, I was bribed with a dog instead. I can’t say that I made a bad choice, because I love my Mikenna, but I do wish that I’d gone. (I also wish I’d taken that third year of Spanish, which I didn’t out of laziness)

    I currently Spanish and Italian books for teaching myself. I just lack the discipline of being consistent with them, which makes me sad, because I do love languages.

    • #2 by Dana J. on May 16, 2011 - 12:04 pm

      Yeah, I thought about teaching myself Arabic, but I know myself well enough to know that I would only open the book twice then forget about it. But classes make me stick to things for an extended period of time.

      Did you really want to go to Spain? I think that would have been totally awesome (not unlike my trip to France).

  2. #3 by SarahSki on May 17, 2011 - 12:15 pm

    Oh yeah, I wanted to go to Spain. I’d heard too many great things about it to not be excited about it. Kicker is, for some reason that year, they ended up going to France for a couple days too. France doesn’t particularly excite me either, but two countries for the price of one?

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