Merci, Danke, Nanni, Shukran

(This article was submitted to the DiscoverWP weekly blog post on the topic “Learning”)

As a university student, it would not be difficult for me to recount the number of times I sat down for an exam, imagining my chances of getting a decent grade diminishing away by each passing minute. Instead, it is my journey with languages that I wish to write about, and how my character was shaped by the languages I encountered.

It all started with the slanted strokes on a signage located above what seemed to be a public restroom Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station in China. It was a strange thing to have caught my attention, and futile one might think, particularly since it was a Chinese character and I had no prior learning of the Chinese language to be able to decipher what it says.

Capture
Chinese nu character

A few more minutes of observing the character triggered a faint recollection from a class I took in which I read about the Chinese writing system, and I understood it to translate into the English word which meant “female”. It was the recognition this symbol sparked from an earlier setting which marked an important milestone for me as it highlighted the scope of my personal learning through cultural immersion and also provided me with the impetus to learn new languages.

As I come from the Great Indian Subcontinent, I was exposed to the multitude of languages present in India namely Malayalam, Hindi and Tamil. During my high school, I took French classes as a second language which in retrospect, have played an important role in realizing my desire to studying languages and has made learning other languages an exciting endeavor.

I imagined I knew the height of diversity while I was in high school – after all, my friends were from Portugal, South Korea, Romania, Lebanon, and India. It wasn’t until I joined university, and came into contact with individuals of different nationalities and speaking multiple languages that I rediscovered my passion for learning languages. I learnt that the majority of math and physics terms have Greek and Latin roots. In fact, if you ever had the chance to visit Greece you would see “physics-speak” such as alpha and beta on signs and billboards.

I’ve been exposed to different cultures and languages over the past two years and I’m truly grateful for the numerous opportunities to practice what I love. In retrospect, by studying French – one of the Romance languages – with its numerous verb conjugation rules, I can attest that it has immensely helped me in my recently underway project: learning German.

Auf wiedersehen!

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