Meeting Your Neighbors

“Learning a language is like being able to talk to all of your neighbors, rather than just looking out from a window. It opens up more doors and you get to meet all these amazing people.”

This is how Nathan described the experience of learning Arabic. Nathan is a Senior pursuing degrees in History and Anthropology with an additional major in Arabic. After studying Arabic for the past three years he has discovered that he wants to achieve greater fluency in Arabic in order to connect with a more diverse community.

I asked him what his favorite part of taking a language was: 

“It is a useful skill, but it is also rewarding in opening up a whole new world. I would have to say my favorite part is just being able to speak Arabic, not saying I am perfect, but being able to communicate in this new language is pretty cool.”

Throughout his journey of studying Arabic, the experience of communicating with native speakers at MSU and during his time in Jordan is what gave Nathan the confidence to say, “I can do this, but I have so much more to learn,” motivating him to continue his study of Arabic. This confidence comes from practice, while accepting that you won’t be perfect the first time, but that this imperfection can allow you to be more humble within a conversation, and within a new cross-cultural community. 

Contact with his host family in Jordan allowed Nathan to bring to reality his dream of making connections with people of other cultures. Language is often referred to as a barrier, but through the pursuit of one’s passion, connections can be made to break down those barriers in order to meet those “neighbors next door”. Thus, Nathan continues to discover that through his consistent language practice he is able to build a community of people that have a similar passion, a unique perspective, and a grounding sense that he has finally found another community to call home. 

– Story by Hannah Robar