Day One: Living in Language

February 11, 2014

Progress: (noun) advance or development toward a better, more complete, or more modern condition

(Also: the coolest part of my summer)

Okay. Here we go. Describing my first day in language.

You know how when you wake up from a nap and the whole world is all blurry and you’re really disoriented? Okay, that may not be exactly what the first day was like. But, as someone who didn’t speak a word of Chinese, I was basically lost for a whole day. But it was really only one day that I felt that way, and it was all in my head (new campus + new language = Confused Jasmine). Before I signed the Language Pledge, I’d been given some important phrases in “Survival Chinese” (the class that saved my life). I got by easily, even though I didn’t know anything of what my friends were saying.

My teachers, RA and my friends helped me learn faster than I ever would have at school. I picked up easy phrases from my friends at an alarming rate, so much so that by the end of the session my friends didn’t believe me that I’d never taken a Chinese class before and thought that my vocabulary was even a little more advanced than theirs (which is not true, for the record). 

A few weeks after I returned from MMLA, I went to Europe with my sister. The first place we went to was Paris. I was still so used to speaking Chinese as my default foreign language that I could barely communicate in French, even though I’d taken it for two years. I heard French and wanted to respond in French, but my mind just kept switching to Chinese. It was really confusing!

But it wasn’t confusing for very long. Somehow, I’ve gotten better at learning languages from the program. I learned so much in a four-week program that I actually want to speak only the language  I’m learning in that class so that I can have that kind of progress again. I won’t speak English unless I have to.  I’ve always been good at languages, but four weeks in-language changed the way I think about learning languages. Everything just flows so naturally.

My progress over the summer was startling even to me, and I think that’s something I really learned about myself. At the beginning of the program, I was struggling to understand what everyone was saying, but after four weeks, I could converse with my friends (about simple topics like the Academy Olympics and when they wanted to do laundry, not global economics or anything like that).

My progress and growth was due to them as well as my teachers: I picked everything up so quickly from them, and from the most random things. Who would have thought that playing cards would teach me numbers and colors? I will never look at Uno the same way again.

Jasmine Hubara is junior in high school from Charleston, South Carolina. She is currently attending MMLA for Chinese, but also takes French and Spanish in school. This is her second year at Green Mountain College. Outside of school, she’s active in her synagogue youth and is busy with her senior thesis project and planning her future trip around the world (a girl can dream, right?).