A Linguaphile’s Calling

© New York Czech Centre Event Logo

© New York Czech Centre

When Karen Fowdy and I began to talk about other people who could support our programs, we realized immediately that our own students had to be a part of the list.  They are the ones who are heading out into that global world we keep talking about; they are the ones who can be our strongest ambassadors for language with their parents, peers, other teachers, and beyond.  I volunteered to ask one of my current students to put some of her thoughts on the subject to paper. We also would like to invite other teachers to do the same—how great would it be if we could generate an archive of many such articles to bring with us to administrators and parent nights?  Whose quotations could be more powerful snippets for our elevator speeches?  Please contact advocacy@waflt.org if you are interested in having your student’s work featured here.  Thank you to Emily Luytan, Wayland Academy Class of 2016, for writing what you will now read:

Keely K. Lake, Ph.D.
Latin and Ancient Greek

I am a linguaphile, a lover of languages, for so many reasons.  Knowledge is the most valuable asset that a person can possess, and language is the most powerful tool one has to learn and to share one’s knowledge. In fact, the word “communicate” is derived from the Latin verb communicare, meaning “to share or impart.” A world without languages would not be much more than a lonely planet inhabited by disconnected creatures scratching at the dirt. By exchanging knowledge through spoken and written language, we can strengthen the bond between each individual person, creating a cohesive and innovative global community.

Language fascinates me because it captures us, keeping communication between a writer and reader alive between the covers of books and along the twists of words on pages. In this way, language immortalizes human beings. Take Homer and Vergil, for example: their words have survived thousands of years and continue to excite our imaginations today. To me, reading texts like Catullus’ poems and the New Testament of the Bible in their original Latin and Greek connects me to the past, to all the rich history, and to the authors themselves in a way that no translation can possibly achieve. This is part of the reason why I study languages erroneously called dead, so that I can keep those languages, their authors and peoples, and their cultures alive.

I feel it is my duty to spread my appreciation and knowledge of languages to others where I can. As part of the Dodge English Language Learners program at my local library for the past four years, I have the opportunity to use my own developing Spanish language skills every week when I meet with Spanish-speakers in order to unite our community through another language: English. Sitting across from my student, Lordes, and listening to her sound out a word, I see the gears and cogs turn in her head as she makes her own connections with the language she is learning. For her, knowledge of a new language is worth all our hard work. For me, Lordes’ victorious smile and eagerness to understand are precious rewards for my time. Language is shared and passed down from mother to son, friend to friend, human to human. It becomes a web through our lives, a ripple effect that never weakens, and a constant building of a more connected world. I have shared my knowledge of the English language with Lordes, and she, in turn, has taught me the power of language itself.

Within each individual language, there are words with ideas specific to its speakers. Some words lose their complexity, their unique completeness, through the process of translation. They hold a different weight, a different meaning in their original language; in translating a word to another language, its full force can be lost. Even within each language, each dialect conveys ideas with different words. When I study languages, I believe that I am learning a part of that language’s culture in the language itself; thus I better understand its speakers’ way of thinking and their way of perceiving the world. Without that knowledge, I am not truly learning a language but only visiting parts of it. This is why I study languages. I do not want just to visit the world; I want to live in it, with it, and as a full part of it.

Emily Luytan
Senior, Wayland Academy
Spanish, Latin, Ancient Greek

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