International communications: Multilingual education opens mind, cultural doors

America has the reputation of many of its citizens being monolingual, but one student is breaking that stereotype. Senior Dylan Thatcher has studied and practiced multiple languages for the past several years. He is currently learning French and German, but he knows bits of Spanish, Russian, and Chinese as well. He sees language as a way to reach others and experience new cultures.

“When you’re someone who speaks one language and then another person speaks a different language, there’s a wall between you,” Dylan said. “Learning new languages is a way to connect with other people. It helps break barriers between different people.”

German teacher Jan Krammer has enjoyed helping Dylan learn a new language and appreciates his thirst for knowledge.

“He’s passionate about languages,” Krammer said. “He’s curious and wants to learn as many of them as he can. He draws parallels between them that help him be very effective in that process.”

Dylan had very little experience with languages other than English until he moved to Texas in 2010 and started elementary school.

“I noticed the diversity of different cultures, and I started hearing people speak different languages,” Dylan said. “That was my first exposure to a language other than English.”

Since then, he has pursued linguistics and makes a strong effort to increase his fluency however he can.

“Dylan’s German gets better every time he practices it, and he practices all the time because he seeks out people around the world to practice with,” Krammer said. “He’s gone from basically nothing to being a pretty capable speaker in a couple of years.”

Some of the people Dylan practices with include friends he has made abroad through the app HelloTalk.

“I have three friends who live overseas: one who lives in Germany, one who lives in Russia, and one who lives in France,” Dylan said. “I’ve been practicing my languages with them, and they find it really cool that I’m learning their languages.”

Dylan wants to use the languages he has picked up to travel and experience new cultures.

“I’m hoping to travel the world,” Dylan said. “I want to see new places and get to learn new things from other people and be able to express myself in a different way. My favorite thing is the people you meet in different cultures and getting to learn about someone else and their way of life.”

Dylan believes that the exposure to languages helps broaden one’s mind and is an invaluable experience.

“People should at least try to learn new languages because it expands your mind,” Dylan said. “It furthers your knowledge of other people and helps you get to know more about the history of why you speak a certain language and why things are the way they are.”

Krammer also feels that language is very important to people’s understanding of not only the outside world but their own language.

“The more languages you can speak, the more different ways you can express yourself,” Krammer said. “By learning a second or a third language, you actually learn your own much better and you learn different ways to think, and thinking in different ways allows you to see the world in different ways. Goethe once said, ‘You are as many people as languages you speak,’ and I think that’s true.”

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