Every September, high school students across America dreadreturning back to their language courses, but in my case, it has blossomed intosomething that makes up a huge part of my identity. In grade 7, I startedexploring the French language. My interest in French started as a hobby anddeveloped into something much greater- I would refuse multiple calls for dinnerbecause I was so invested in watching French movies and reading the magazine,Paris Match.
At the time, I did not realize that learning French would widen mylens on life completely. Iencountered this lesson upon skimming through a French-English dictionary,eager to study everyday French vocabulary.Hello=Bonjour, Goodbye=Au Revoir, House=La Maison.
However, one word in particularstood out to me. The French word for our planet, Earth, was different from theEnglish name we use to describe it. The word is, “Le monde.” This completely twistedmy little 11 year old brain. What was so mind-blowing to me was that my home,and the home of other human being, did not share a common name for it. My senseentire of location was altered.
What I learned from this experience was thatalthough every living being shares a common home, the language that we immerseourselves in as children is partly responsible for the blueprint of how oneperson thinks in comparison to another.One of my very first interactionswith the French language comes from the third grade when I had befriended a French-Americangirl in my class, Kim. In my mind, I pictured an “average” French speaker withwhite skin and light features. I stillfondly remember meeting Kim’s mom, a native Parisienne, whose appearance completelycontradicted the image I had in my mind of a French speaker. It threw me off guard.
For some reason, even though we had studied French colonization in Africa, itnever occurred to me that there were actually black people in France. In fact,it never even occurred to me that anyone with a darker complexion than my owncould speak French at all! As you learn new languages and meet new faces, youalso learn the diverse culture behind the language. This experience made alasting impact. I learned not to associate a certain image with a feature thata person may have, and perhaps I also discovered my interest in language andculture.