Diversify your linguistics, discover new worlds

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“A cappella”, “blitzkrieg”, “sofa”, “carpe diem”, “déjà vu”, “dolce vita”,

“zeitgeist”, “harem”, “tofu”, “savoir faire”, “pijama”…

As an American, you have probably heard these words or even used them in your everyday life. But what do they mean? Where do they come from?

The world of languages is vast and each language is a world in itself. There is a Chinese proverb that says "To learn a language is to have one more window from which to look at the world." We teaching assistants love studying languages: it gives us a better understanding of the world. Without knowledge of other languages, you only experience one. As learners of foreign languages, we can say that learning languages have made us see things in a different way and has helped us realize that our languages are not the only ones that exist or the only ones that are important. We have found out how rich other languages are and how rewarding it is to be able to understand someone who lives thousands of miles away and whose native language is different.

Learning languages also helps you get to know people from all over the world, with no further language barriers, meaning that you can get to know other customs as well. Lots of people are afraid of going abroad because they think they will be foreigners and that nobody will understand them. Well, as Edmund De Waal said, "With languages, you are at home anywhere." The culture might be different and this can be shocking at first, but you will never understand why it is this way if you do not speak the language. There is nothing like being able to get answers without needing anybody else to tell you.

It is quite evident that almost every student at DePauw takes a language course because of the language requirement. We would like to encourage students to be aware of the fact that languages are a key tool for the future, as it will provide them with a great range of different opportunities and possibilities to embrace other cultures.Plus, studying a foreign language helps you understand yours better, too. As Geoffrey Willans said, “Those who know nothing of foreign languages know nothing of their own.” It’s a fact that languages contribute to a better understanding of our own language, and sometimes of our own culture as well. He then says, "You can never understand one language until you understand at least two."

Our suggestion is to study as many languages as you can to open your mind and look at the world around you. A flawless example could be us, teaching assistants, who have learned one or more languages in order to be able to go abroad, experience other cultures and open up to our new and intriguing job opportunities.