Taking the trilingual perspective

Nov. 30, 1999, midnight | By Fidan Karimova | 20 years, 12 months ago

Multilingualism opens students' minds and hearts

When I was a child, and still living in Azerbaijan, my favorite book was Tom Sawyer, which I had read and reread in Russian as an assignment for school. Once I came to America and got acquainted with the English language, I reread Tom Sawyer in English, and reading it in another language made me see the same story in a whole new light – the pure pleasure of reading a book in its original language added flavor to the adventure, especially the jokes, which are the hardest to translate and lose their punch in a foreign language.

That is just one of the many benefits that come with knowing multiple languages. The command of multiple languages is a great advantage both for educational and conversational purposes. Originally from Azerbaijan, I am fluent in Azerbaijani and Russian and eventually became fluent in English since moving to the U.S. five years ago. At home, I am immersed in a multilingual environment, because both my parents are trilingual.

As I sit down for dinner one night, my mom asks me, "Anything interesting happened today?"

"My day proshol xorosho. Anjax men çox yoruldum," I reply, saying that my day went well, but I am really exhausted now in three different languages.

In Blair's population, which is 50 percent multilingual according to ESOL teacher Joseph Bellino, there are Blazers that have reaped the benefits of being a true polyglot. Senior Bruktawit Dagnew and junior Hamrawit Dagnew, who both speak three languges -- French, Amharic and English -- assert that Blair is the perfect place to amplify their "trilingual skills." When the Dagnews came to the U.S. a year ago, they were quickly engrossed in the big Ethiopian population, and now they enjoy spending their lunch time hanging out with other Ethiopians and speaking their native tongue, Amharic. Bruktawit Dagnew also used her knowledge of French to decipher the meanings of unfamiliar words on the SAT.

Junior Samira Ali, who speaks English, Amharic, French and a little bit of Arabic, believes that there are vast advantages to knowing more than one language. "It makes you think a little bit more about how you talk and what you say," says Ali.

In addition to expanding vocabulary, knowledge of multiple languages can enhance oratory skills. "Your own speech will be more eloquent because you have been exposed to different ways of expression," says French teacher Arlette Loomis, who speaks French, Spanish, English and a little bit of Arabic.

Languages could help in deciphering other country's beliefs and customs, but simply knowing the basics of a language can be beneficial as well.

Junior Samia Said works as a translator between her grandmother, who only speaks Tigrinya, and her brother, who is not able to communicate with his grandmother. Said's brother even pays her for the translation.

But there are rare occasions when translation is ruled out, because someone in your surroundings understands what you are saying. Once, while at the pool, I began speaking to my little sister in Russian. A black man at the other end of the pool kept looking in our direction. "What does he want?" we wondered, and started to talk about him in Russian. We were shocked when he swam up to us and said, in clear Russian, "Hey girls! Where are you from?" Not many black people speak Russian.

With an increasing rate of immigration in the U.S., knowing several languages is a vital asset in the 21st century. Especially in a diverse environment like Blair, the knowledge of multiple languages can help Blazers get to know their peers and give foreign students a chance to keep their native language and culture alive.

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Fidan Karimova. Fidan is a SENIOR!!! She is happy to be a part of the Silver Chips staff, considering that it's the best high school newspaper ever! She would also like to point out that she is one of two Azerbaijani students at Blair and proud to … More »

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