Photo by Bryce Owen ’17 – Mr. Andy Schmidbauer ’88 reviews conjugating verbs with his Spanish class on Tuesday Sept. 1. According to teachers, learning a language connects students to different cultures.
By Kaleb Lucero ‘18
Learning a language is helpful in many ways, but teachers say one of the lesser known benefits is its ability to connect someone to a foreign culture and people.
“Learning a second language… leads to an appreciation of culture diversity, it brings acceptance, more love and respect for the others. It opens your heart to new things,” said Mr. Cordova, a Spanish II and conversational Spanish teacher.
He also said that understanding one’s own language and culture is better through comparison.
Studying another language “enables people to gain a more profound understanding of their own culture,” he said.
Ms. Chabli Balcom, a Latin I and II teacher, said she believes that language brings people together in several ways.
Learning a second language leads to cultural awareness, which leads to acceptance, which turns into humanitarianism and eventually the “idea that we’re all in this together,” Ms. Balcom said.
Although Ms. Balcom mentioned a number of studies that showed how Latin and other languages enhance cognitive abilities, she also pointed out that it makes a person societally aware and intuitively curious.
“If you approach a person with their native language, it bridges that gap,” she said.
In Latin’s case, Ms. Balcom said that it allows students to connect with their ancestors, the roots of their common Western civilization, and the basis of many modern languages.
“The two most important things, I think, for me, is building the mind and also building that awareness,” she said.
Last summer, Jim Kelly ’17 went to Spain on el Camino de Ignacio. During his trip, he said he got to experience a lot of the people’s culture.
He said it was a great experience experience to have, and that speaking to the local residents in their own language allowed him to connect to the people more.
“It was really amazing. The only Spanish I had used was in class,” Kelly said.
Mr. Andrew Schmidbauer ‘88, the chair of the language department, said he fell in love with teaching in Costa Rica, and came back to Phoenix to get a master’s in education. He was offered a job teaching Spanish at Brophy, and has been teaching here for 22 years now.
“He that speaks two languages is worth two,” he said, explaining that it was a popular saying in Spanish.
Mr. Schmidbauer said learning Spanish introduced him to a culture he knew very little about, and had only heard the stereotypes. It exposed him to truths, and he was able to see the reality that broke down those stereotypes. It allowed him to see a culture that most people have no idea about.
Struggling to learn a language, he said, was important because it gave you a sense of empathy towards those who come to America and struggle with English and our customs.
It makes you walk in their shoes, and see how they felt, he said.
Ms. Balcom, Mr. Cordova and Mr. Schmidbauer all had similar beliefs in that knowing a person’s language leads to bonds and genuine conversation with them, which would be much harder to achieve otherwise.
When it comes to language’s ability to connect people, Mr. Cordova said that there was a quote from Nelson Mandela that held deep meaning in his heart:
“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”