Why Foreign Language Matters

Jenna DeLuca, Staff Writer and Columnist

By, Jenna DeLuca, Staff Writer

You may never know when you’ll be given the opportunity to break the language barrier and I, for one, had received it last December while on the marching band trip at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida.

It was like finding a needle in a haystack when I had managed to meet an Italian couple – probably in their late-twenties or early-thirties – in a place where the majority of people spoke Spanish; I mean, even some of the channels on the TV in my hotel were in Spanish.

But I remember standing in line for a 3D show with a close friend and hearing the words bambina and ci sono from the two standing behind me.

Instantly, it had clicked with me that I had heard Italian. Though I was only in Italian II at the time, I dug deep into my memory to resurface anything that Mrs. Kibler had taught me, and surely, that was enough to hold a basic conversation with them. I even Googled what I was going to say before I said it, just to make sure it was grammatically correct, and all of my verbs would be conjugated correctly.

After rehearsing several times in my head, I gathered the courage to turn around with the intent to ask them,”Parlate Italiano?”, which means,”Do you guys speak Italian?”

But in reality, I had actually said,”Scusi. Parlo Italiano?” which translates to,”Excuse me. Do I speak Italian?”

And yes, although they chuckled at my mediocre attempt at speaking their native language, they grinned, nodded, and said that they spoke Italian.

With a shaky voice, I went on to introduce myself, managing to tell them that I had been studying Italian at school for two years and wanted to go to Italy in the future. They asked where I was from, and I had remembered how to respond to that from Italian I, so I replied and asked the same. But, that was where they lost me.

After they had responded to my question, we blankly stared at each other for a moment, and that was when it hit me that they were waiting for my response. By this time, the line was growing smaller, and we were soon to part ways, so I told them that I didn’t understand and apologized for my vocabulary being small. After we had said good-byes, my eyes had grown tearful at the realization that I, a second year Italian student, had just spoken a legitimate Italian conversation.

That very moment was a gift I’ll always cherish. I don’t think words could describe how exhilarating it felt to speak another language, especially since Italian is so rare to come across in America compared to Spanish.

From what many have told me, they chose Spanish as a language to study because it was actually useful in America, but I had defeated the odds that day.

So, when you begin to question if whether or not the concept of foreign language classes in high school hold any value, just remember that one day, you might actually be able to use it.