Within this fast moving world, many acquire a special talent, whether it’s knowing how to solve multiple difficult mathematical problems or playing several instruments. Having a talent is similar to owning something that others don’t possess, and for me, one of my talents is facility of the four skills: speaking, listening, reading and writing in multiple languages.
As a young child and even today, I communicate with my family in Mandarin Chinese. Even though many find the language arduous to fully master, I naturally became fluent in this language through time even within a predominantly English environment. Mastering Mandarin Chinese granted me another perspective and proximity to my other culture, one that has existed for five thousand years. Meanwhile, fluency in English came from daily communications with my friends, teachers, community, and family. Being bilingual at a young age, I became more interested in learning additional languages, not knowing then how much they would widen my view of the world. Subsequently, during the summer of eighth grade, I began my self-learning journey into a new language: Spanish.
As the second widely spoken language in the nation after English, Spanish better connects me with my friends that speak the language, society, and the world. I didn’t set up a schedule purposefully, but instead spent roughly thirty minutes each day studying along with reviewing class content. As a result, I skipped from Spanish 1 to 3 Honors and then to 4 Honors with induction into the Spanish National Honor Society. From the process, I learned a lot about the culture and uniqueness of Spanish which further intrigued me to language learning. Spanish became more appealing as I unlocked more gates leading into the rich knowledge and history of the language. Over time, as I became more familiar with the linguistic concepts and rules of Spanish, I started my language learning journey in another language which shares similarities and popularity in the world: French.
As the primary language spoken in twenty-nine nations across five continents, French became the next language that I saw granting me connection with more individuals around the globe along with the opportunity to experience a more diverse culture. During the summer of my sophomore year, I immersed myself in the vast sea of French language and culture, becoming more familiar with the French pronunciation and alphabet, then transitioning into essential vocabularies and phrases, ranging from greetings to the present verb conjugations in French. During the process of self-teaching French, I became more interested in the language and noticed many prominent similarities that it shares with Spanish and even English. Without taking any French courses prior to the start of my junior year, I enrolled in French III. At first, everything was still a bit unfamiliar to me, but I quickly achieved a significant reputation and received perfect scores on every assignment and assessments in the class that I opted to take Honors French III to challenge myself and see how my potential will lead me during the second semester. After participating in the Le Grand Concours last spring and ultimately receiving a medal award as well as an induction into the French National Honor Society, I felt ready for the ultimate examination–The Seal of Biliteracy.
This year, I took three Seal of Biliteracy exams for the languages of Mandarin Chinese, Spanish and French. Knowing there would be challenges in testing in three languages, I began my preparation one week prior to the exams. However, I didn’t pursue a new way of study. Instead I proceeded to spend some time each day studying and practicing the four language skills while referencing the exam topics list to build up my fluency and vocabulary. After achieving high scores and the honor of receiving both the Connecticut and Global Seal of Quadriliteracy, I felt a sense of pride and recognition after all the hard work of my language learning journey. Through the exams, I acknowledged how critical it is to work over a longer period of time instead of cramming at the last minute. I would highly recommend students in the future to consider this way of studying to prepare for the Seal of Biliteracy.
As I graduate high school and go to college, I will continue my language learning journey to strengthen my fluency in my current languages and seek opportunities to comprehend new languages, such as Italian and Japanese. Knowing a variety of different languages will further support me in the future, as it will grant me the ability to connect with more individuals and their cultures. Being fluent in multiple languages will also benefit me in pursuing architecture in college since examining designs from infrastructures and collaborating with other architects around the world are essential. Ready to embark on the next chapter of my life, I see my fluency in several languages granting me endless opportunities.
By: Qi Han Zheng
William H. Hall High School ‘21