Every September, high school students across America dread
returning back to their language courses, but in my case, it has blossomed into
something that makes up a huge part of my identity. In grade 7, I started
exploring the French language. My interest in French started as a hobby and
developed into something much greater- I would refuse multiple calls for dinner
because 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 my
lens on life completely.

                I
encountered 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 particular
stood out to me. The French word for our planet, Earth, was different from the
English name we use to describe it. The word is, “Le monde.” This completely twisted
my 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 sense
entire of location was altered. What I learned from this experience was that
although every living being shares a common home, the language that we immerse
ourselves in as children is partly responsible for the blueprint of how one
person thinks in comparison to another.

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One of my very first interactions
with the French language comes from the third grade when I had befriended a French-American
girl in my class, Kim. In my mind, I pictured an “average” French speaker with
white skin and light features.  I still
fondly remember meeting Kim’s mom, a native Parisienne, whose appearance completely
contradicted 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, it
never 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 own
could speak French at all! As you learn new languages and meet new faces, you
also learn the diverse culture behind the language. This experience made a
lasting impact. I learned not to associate a certain image with a feature that
a person may have, and perhaps I also discovered my interest in language and
culture.

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I'm Dora!

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