By Margarita María Gómez (FIGRI graduate, 2014)
Languages. This word means a whole world. For me, a language is a bridge to another country, a new culture and a new mindset. Learning languages has become a hobby for me so I don’t really have a single motivation as to why I study them. However, my main motivation when I started learning Korean was the Korean War (1950-1953), while learning Japanese was motivated by the different documentaries I watched on Canal Capital when I was 5 years old. Still, talking with foreigners and travelling have pushed me to study harder and has become the perfect motivation for learning.
Externado University became the perfect environment for improving my knowledge in different languages. Since I was exempt from taking English, I had many options to study a different language. So, I had the chance to study French (which is compulsory in my faculty), Japanese and Italian. My former exchange classmates were really kind by helping me with my French (which was awful!). Also, through the university I had the chance to do my internship in Korea, which was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for my language proficiency, and for my personal development. I cherish my memories of being a student at Externado.
When travelling, the difference between going to a country where they speak your language and going to a country where the language is completely unknown to you is quite big. For example, living in Korea and speaking Korean made my life easier, people were kinder to me and I was able to have new adventures that are not found when you’re just a tourist. But it doesn´t mean that you shouldn’t go to a country where you don’t speak the language. On the contrary! I would love to travel to places where I’m not great at the language, although I would try to get a basic understanding of their language beforehand. Travelling and backpacking mean all the effort you made while studying has a purpose, and you become more open-minded. As St. Augustine said “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.”
I always thought that learning a language was not only about textbooks and conversational classes, but about living the language, absorbing the culture and understanding the mindset of native speakers. That was my main study method, along with textbooks of course! Speaking even if you are not sure if it’s correct, and reading things several times until you understand the message; those techniques are useful for getting your brain used to the language. In addition, technology has become a wonderful tool for learning new things! Using different websites and apps for languages has become an effective and fun way to test yourself and discover new cultures.