Growing up as a Croatian-American, I have had the privilege to have my life enriched with culture in every way it can. However, living in the Cleveland area, it isn’t difficult to get a taste for the world right in our city. Between the hundreds of restaurants represented by a variety of nations, to the cultural gardens, and festivals and fairs year-round, it’s easy to experience different places close to home.
Something that adds a special touch to learning about any culture would definitely be having a working understanding of the language. Being able to speak Croatian shaped my whole life, and has played into all kinds of aspects. For example, my decision to study Spanish in high school and now minor in college and have a major in International Business was rooted in my ability to speak Croatian. The more languages you know, the easier it gets to learn even more. My ability to speak Spanish has led me to start learning Italian, which I have noticed comes much more naturally, being a fourth language. My appreciation of other cultures led to my decision to study abroad. If you’re reading this and you are a college student, I can’t emphasize enough how beneficial studying abroad is. Regardless of what may be holding you back, I guarantee there is a solution to it. There are scholarships offered within universities and through outside programs for those worried about the financial aspects, and there are summer programs for those that are worried about fitting study abroad into a busy class schedule. There is no better way to understand a culture than by completely immersing yourself, living in a foreign country and learning the language by being surrounded by it.
The link below is to an article outlining several different language learning programs, including details such as price (some free or very low cost!) to the number of languages offered. If you have access to a computer, you have the ability to learn another language. It’s no longer a necessity to have a formal experience by sitting in a classroom. In addition to the programs listed in the article, there are other ways to learn new languages for free. Youtube has many multilingual users who post videos, many of which involving language lessons. Watching movies in foreign languages is a way to immerse yourself from the comfort of your own home. Or, challenging yourself to translate and read short stories or children’s books in another language also prompts results. While it takes dedication, the benefits of exposing yourself to new points of view is a life skill, and is guaranteed to enlighten.
“To learn a language is to have one more window from which to look at the world.”
By: Zeljana Opacak