Lily has been dreaming of traveling to Japan since middle school, maybe even earlier. Her first memory being captivated by Japanese culture and language was in the fifth grade where she was introduced to a classmate who had come to her school from Nagoya, Japan.
When I reached out to Austin Kaufmann about an interview for our blog, he wasn’t sure he had a story we would want to publish, one that highlighted the transformative power of a language learning experience. He certainly had experience with languages, spending time living in Lithuania, Kyrgyzstan, and Korea. His concern, however, was that since living in these countries, he had an experience shared by many learners: the saying preached by language teachers everywhere, “If you don’t use it, you lose it,” became true for Austin.
For Jessica Gonzalez, learning a second language was not a choice. She was raised by parents who immigrated to the United States from Mexico, who only spoke Spanish at home– and the same was true throughout her surroundings. Living thirty minutes north of the border between Texas and Mexico, nearly everyone in Jessica’s community was a native Spanish speaker. In school, however, classes were taught in English, which is how Jessica became fluent in both.
Few people have the same level of passion for languages as Stephanie Saba, a former MSU student who graduated with a degree in Arabic, English, and Secondary Education last year. For Stephanie, though, the language learning experience was not about her time in the classroom, but about the communities she formed– in Arabic classes and student groups at MSU, and in Morocco, where she spent her senior year.