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One Challenge – Many Languages

Junior Haley Smalley studies languages. (Photo courtesy of E. Kindl)

Spanish. Japanese. French. German. Chinese.

Many schools encompassing the United States teach languages such as these, in attempt to broaden the perspectives of students and to get them familiar with a language other than English. Though many may view learning a language as simply a requirement to graduate, junior Haley Smalley views learning a language as a fun activity − setting her apart from not only other high schoolers, but Americans as well.

Most people don’t learn three languages, right?

Smalley freely studies Japanese and German, aside from Chinese, which she is learning through the school. She believes that learning on your own is much more effective and exciting than learning in school if you have the right mindset and drive. This is most likely the main reason why people slightly cringe when hearing that two years of foreign language are required to graduate − it’s just not going to be fun.

(Photo courtesy of E. Kindl)
Junior Haley Smalley studying from her German grammar book. (Photo courtesy of E. Kindl)

“You learn so much less [in school] than if you were studying on your own,” she said.

Though she chose Chinese only because it seemed the best of all the languages offered at Huntley, her pure draw towards Japanese and German led her to learn the two languages on her own.

Her dream career is to be a Foreign Service Officer, which is a diplomatic position in the United States Government, with its purpose being to implement and formulate U.S. foreign policy while being abroad. You would tell them the language that you are fluent in, and they typically station you in the country in which the specific language is in.

Through this determined aspiration to be an FSO, she is pursuing being fluent in both German and Japanese. Smalley wants to be stationed in Japan after she achieves this dream, because Japan’s culture is quirky − much like herself − and is extremely different from America. She has been learning Japanese the longest; Japan, its language, and its culture have been a passion for her ever since middle school.

Learning it has been difficult, she admits, but after a while, it became a very fun language for her to learn.

(Photo courtesy of E. Kindl)
A few language books Haley Smalley uses to study from. (Photo courtesy of E. Kindl)

“I knew that Japanese was a hard language, and I wanted to challenge myself.”

Even though Japanese is her main preference, a purpose still remains for her learning German as well. The interest all started with her German grandmother, and her mother who had studied abroad in Germany and was fluent in German for a while. A couple of things of Germany that attract Smalley are its unique food and beautiful, distinctive architecture.

She recognized that, looking back, as she continued teaching herself these languages, she’s a whole new person because of it.

“I’m a more accepting person than I used to be and [I’m] more open-minded.”

This fascination of culture and language, and this change of self encourages her to tell others about the benefits of learning a language − whether on your own or through your school.

“Everyone should study a language. To those who say ‘it’s too hard,’ they [should] wise up,” she laughs, “and get some other languages under their belt because it’ll help them in the long run.”

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Emily Kindl, Author

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