South’s foreign language opportunities valuable, rewarding

Leah Dunne, co- editor in chief

In a day and age when face-to-face communication can sometimes feel sparse and even obsolete, one may ask themselves ‘why is it necessary to learn how to communicate with others in language other than my own?’ Well, learning another language can and will open so many doors for you that would not have been possible without it. Though it may sound cliché, it can, as it did for me, truly open your eyes to another culture and worldview.

Having taken a language class at South all four years, I know how it can sometimes feel like ‘just another class’ and in some cases even be a burdenous addition to our already bustling schedules, but taking a foreign language for me, and hopefully for you too, has allowed me to experience learning in a completely different and tangible way that can be useful in the real world.

For me, I did not experience this aspect of tangibility until the middle of my junior year when I found out that I had an opportunity to travel to Spain over the summer for two weeks to prepare for AP Spanish in the coming year. To say I was apprehensive would be an understatement. My fear grew even worse when I learned that on the trip we would be staying with host families; in other words, our only method of communication could be through Spanish.

Despite having taken Spanish for three years I still felt unconfident in my speaking abilities and almost started to rethink continuing on with Spanish my senior year. I thought to myself ‘what’s the point; if I can’t even speak Spanish here at GBS, why would I need to travel halfway across the world to learn the same thing?’

Ultimately, thanks to some much needed encouragement from my parents, I decided to take a chance and go on the trip, and if that meant working a little bit harder my junior year in Spanish class and taking an additional AP my senior year, so be it. Once I wanted to go, I was all in.

As soon as I got to Spain most of my fears disappeared as I realized that the people there were so accepting of us, and knew that we were still learning their language. The inner perfectionist in me had to learn that it was okay if I used the wrong verb form, or stumbled on a freshman year vocab word I just could not remember.

I did learn, but don’t get me wrong; there were more than a few times that I probably sounded like an idiot trying to recite the simplest things like what I ate for lunch or what I did that day to my host mom. She still helped me, and would slow down when she was talking to me so that I could understand more of what she was saying.

Although having dinners with my host family and watching Los Simpsons (the Simpsons) and Padre de la Familia (Family Guy) was quite fun, the most rewarding experiences of my trip were those that I spent with my friends exploring the cities and learning about the rich history and culture that is Southern Spain.

Being able to learn about the history of another country in the most pure form, in that native language and from a native himself, was truly such an incredible experience and one that led me to want to continue learning Spanish and hopefully study abroad again when I am in college.

It wasn’t until I really got home and reflected on the trip that I came to realize how truly blessed we all are to go to a school like Glenbrook South that has such a vastly developed World Languages Program. Not only one that provides opportunities for students to study abroad like I did, but one that truly prepares you so well that you could visit that native country of the language and be able to adapt and communicate sufficiently.

I’m writing this because I feel like to some extent I took for granted our language programs for almost three years. Not because I didn’t try or challenge myself (trust me, Lazarillo de Tormes was by no stretch an easy read), but because I did not take into account how fortunate we are to go to a school that offers six languages, all taught by teachers that are so passionate about the language and the culture associated with it.

Don’t let it take you having to travel to another country to realize how incredibly lucky you are or how prepared you are from GBS: trust in yourself and your capabilities that you have attained from learning that language. Challenge yourself in and outside of the classroom. Half of learning a language and truly become proficient in it is using it, so what are you waiting for?