THE POWER OF LANGUAGE
“Learn a new language and get a new soul.” ~ Czech Proverb
Cheryl Johnson, OFLA President 2020-2021
Instructional Technologist for the Department of Modern Languages, Denison University
The musicality and message of the words of Amanda Gorman as she recited her poem, “The Hill We Climb,” on inauguration day moved my soul. This experience once again reminded me of the extraordinary power that language has. Words written or spoken can destroy or build-up, sow seeds of despair or produce the fruits of hope, spew hatred or sow love, divide or unite, obscure or enlighten.
I believe that we world language teachers, either consciously or subconsciously, recognize and revel in this power. We draw joy from communicating in our language(s); we enjoy listening to the sounds and rhythms of the words. When we see our students grow ever more proficient and gain confidence in their abilities to understand and communicate, we beam with pride. We have dedicated ourselves to the task of empowering our students to express themselves in a new language and to appreciate the workings and the music of this other language; by doing this we are immersing them in a new way of seeing and understanding others. We know how proficiency in another language has changed us and enriched our lives. We value the other ways of perceiving the world; we enjoy learning about customs, traditions and histories that differ from our own. To instill this passion in our students prepares them to live in a much more culturally fluid world than we or our parents grew up in. We prepare them to use their new language proficiencies to be better citizens, leaders and people in this very interconnected and interdependent world. Hopefully, they will learn that different does not mean wrong, weird or something to be feared, but rather just different.
To impart this passion for learning a new language and a new culture is not easy and we celebrate when we see this passion ignited in our students. However, I realize that many students may not see the value in it now or ever and it is for this reason that I would like to acknowledge this work that you do and thank you for it, especially now with the added challenges of COVID-19. I salute you and I wish you a safe new year full of many great moments that will bring a smile to your face.