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Written By: marina on December 17, 2007 No Comment

I must begin by saying that, while my first semester at

Cal has been a truly enriching experience, the city of Berkeley has had a far greater impact on me culturally, than the university itself. Because I am also a waitress as well as a student, I cannot help but feel that the time I spend working in food service is as much of a cultural experience as going to school. While my school life and work are strikingly different, I feel that, linguistically, both of these institutions make poignant social commentaries. There is nothing more beautiful than to be surrounded by individuals who share a common love and adoration for language. If Sapir and Whorf were correct in their belief that language influences the habitual thought of its speakers, than perhaps learning another language is like wearing a new pair of magical glasses that miraculously change our perceptions and the way we view life. How extraordinary indeed! But I cannot help but wonder what perceptions are formed when one must learn a language out of necessity rather than out of curiosity or shear pleasure. Most of my peers and fellow students at Cal are deeply enthralled by the written and spoken word, and there is a sense of passion that is sincerely inspiring. On the other hand, I have friends who have never had the opportunity to attend a university to learn a new language, for they are bilingual because they had to be in order to survive. I think of my dear friend in Paris who left her home in Ecuador four years ago. I met her when I was working as une femme de ménage, and between my broken Spanish, and the little French she spoke, we managed to exchange stories from the heart. While our grasp of one another’s language was not strong enough to engage in deep, philosophical conversations, we had a level of communication that went beyond correct sentence structure or grammar. When I asked her to tell me about her children who she had not seen for two and half years, I barely understood a word she said, but I knew how she felt as her eyes welled up with tears.

Anyone who has the opportunity to learn another language is truly blessed; however, we must also keep in mind that there many ways of learning, some less painful than others.

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