Monday, August 10, 2009

The power of language

SJPers taking a break from reporting during the baseball game between the Newark Bears and Long Island Ducks. (Photo Credit: Brian Rokus '99).
By Jancey Taveras (Newark, NJ)

The popcorn popped, the players played baseball and the music was tuned to the beat. While the Newark Bears played the opposition team The Long Island Ducks, many of us engaged in one of the world’s most powerful forms of communication during breaks from reporting on the game: the power of being able to speak in more than one language.

There I was sitting in the blue stadium seat as the fluorescent lights illuminated the stadium. Not only was I surrounded by my follow peers, counselors and directors, but I was also surrounded by an abundance of languages. We all spoke English (of course), but others also spoke Spanish, French, Armenian, German, Korean, Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, Creole, or a combination of two or more (Counselor Ruben Gaytan Lemus SJP '07/Yale '12 was the exception -- he can speak French, Spanish, Italian, German, Portuguese, and some Russian). Some learned to speak other languages through their parents, schools, or out of mere curiosity.

“Podemos hablar en espaƱol , por favor?” Counselor Marion Smallwood (SJP '07/UPenn '12) asked in Spanish and it was this question that sparked the usage of other languages into our conversations.

Counselors Marion, Krystal Valentin (SJP '07/Princeton '12), Tasnim Shamma (SJP '06/Princeton '11) and I talked some Spanish, we next talked French, some Bengali, back to French, and then Spanish again.

Can you repeat that? How do you say that again? Can you pronounce it in a better way? What?! It’s too loud -- can you please say it slower?

Throughout the baseball game these were the only questions that required us to use our common language, English. Though interrupted by our common language, for the most part we all learned sayings, words, or anything we did not know how to say. And the fact that we were learning was fun.

The diversity of languages in some way, shape, or form united us; the unity was formed by our learning and language. Even though we spoke a variety of languages, it was as if were only speaking one.

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