My response to Mandela’s thoughts

What part of Nelson Mandela’s story do you find inspiring?

Nelson Mandela could very well have said that the Afrikaners were the enemy and he would not speak their language.  Instead he choose to see them as fellow humans.  I know the people I will be living with are not the enemy but westerners can bring a feeling of superiority when they travel overseas. I plan to bring Mandela’s  spirit friendship and openness when  I am overseas.

I love the quote about speaking to someone in his language. When I was in Paris on matter how badly I mangled the French or stumbled for the words I felt that the people responded to my attempt to speak to them in their language.  And in return I responded with a smile when the owner of a small caves spoke to my daughter and I in English or the taxi driver said “I speak English”.

What is the value of learning a foreign language?

Learning a new language helps you to learn the culture.  The words of a culture teach you what is important to the culture.  Although the story about Inuits having 100 or 200 or 300 words for snow may be an myth, they certainly have more words for snow than we do. That says snow is important to them. When we lived in Mississippi my husband, at the time, said to someone “It smells like snow”.  That phrase was totally foreign to the person from MS but any New Englander would know immediately what my ex meant, that snow was on the way.  And it did snow that evening.  You can’t know a culture without knowing it’s language.

I don’t think you can become part of the culture without know the language. You miss so much when you don’t speak the language of the culture you are living in. Part of my Peace Corps experience will be to immerse myself in the culture and I feel I can hardly do that without knowing the language.

How do you feel about learning and using a foreign language as a Peace Corps Volunteer?

It will be a fun challenge. I have always loved languages and would love to go somewhere and immerse myself in a new language. In fact I was slightly disappointed when people in France were so willing to talk English.  I can imagine my new neighbors and myself laughing at my gaffs and baby steps at speaking in a new language but I can also imagine becoming fluent and truly having a second language.

If I had my choice I’d choose French because of my High School background and because I love the language. However I am probably do not have that much of an advantage with my HS  French nor because I listened  to two drive and learn programs before I went to Paris!

Language will be another part of this amazing journey I hope to take.

-vicky

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