Learning languages outside of the classroom

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The current language requirement for Harrisites is three years of modern language and two years of classical language classes. However, there are some students who take on the extra challenge of learning a new language by themselves, aside from the ones included in the curriculum.

Sophomore Ruqaiya Mithani teaches herself Korean, as she was first exposed to Korean dramas and K-pop music through her friends. Through this process, she “realized how beautiful the language was and how similar it is to English in terms of having an alphabet.” Thus, she started to formally self-study Korean, first by picking out words and phrases from TV shows and then using a website called “howtostudykorean.com.”

Over the course of two and a half weeks, Ruqaiya was able to recognize all of the letters, and could put characters together and read by the end of one month. In addition to the website, she also used an app called “Duolingo,” as she previously used it to study for Spanish. She explained how she would use the app for ten minutes a day for about a month and stated that “Duolingo made learning fun and easy.”

Similarly, sophomore Kelly Cheng decided to take on the challenge of learning Korean. She stated that “I decided to learn this language because one of my goals as a kid was to learn Chinese, Korean, and Japanese.” Like Ruqaiya, Kelly uses a website called “talktomeinkorean.com,” which is a free website in which the user can learn Korean starting from the very basics. “The website was very helpful since it included videos and online audio clips, as well books that could be purchased for further study,” she said.

Some students also choose to learn their native language outside of their own homes. Senior Diana Stachula is currently learning Polish, since both of her parents are Polish immigrants. Instead of using online websites to study, she actually attends a Polish school in which she “speaks strictly in Polish and learn[s] about Polish history, literature, geography, and language.”

Likewise, sophomore Bushra Islam is also currently trying to learn Bengali, as her family is from Bangladesh and speaks the language fluently. “Learning Bengali will make communication easier between myself and the older members of my family,” she stated. “In addition, learning Bengali will help me feel more connected to my culture.” Although her parents taught her the alphabet when she was younger, she continued to pursue learning the language by trying to incorporate it into her daily life. For example, she stated, “When my parents watch Bengali TV shows or movies, I try to read the credits or captions as fast as I can in order to improve my reading speed and comprehension.” She also speaks in Bengali with her parents and relatives and asks that they tell her if she is using improper grammar or pronunciation.

For students who wish to self-learn a new language, Ruqaiya recommends “finding a natural way to integrate it into their lives and take it slow. It’s important to not overwhelm yourself with a bunch of things because you’re not going to be motivated to learn anything.” She also stated that the process of choosing a language to learn is important because “if you actually want to learn it, you’re going to try harder and make a real effort.”

Kelly explained how determination was an important factor when learning a new language. She advised, “You really have to be determined yourself to do it, because no one else is going to push you. If you yourself don’t have the willpower, then you won’t learn anything.”