Kaitlin Gillespie Je suck at French.
I said that once, talking with my friends about the number of languages that exist in Morocco. In one semester alone, I’m taking 120 hours of Modern Standard Arabic. That’s a lot of Arabic. That does not include the 15 hours of Dareeja, the Arabic dialogue spoken here, and the constant French I use on a daily basis with my host family, professors and locals.
It also does not include the random snippets of Russian, Spanish, Italian and German I’ve picked up from listening to my classmates try different languages with Moroccans. It turns out in Morocco that if you have a language, it never hurts to try it. Someone might have the words you need to understand.
Can't pull that off in the U.S.
You would think that as a French major, budget cuts allowing, I would be great at this language. I’m not. I understand almost everything that is said to me, but I can rarely respond back with any kind of fluency. I can read everything I see with few exceptions, but if my classes were in French and I had to write an essay, it would be a disaster.
I didn’t start my language study, like most Americans, until my freshman year of high school. I’ve been told in almost every class since my junior year of high school that we would speak exclusively in French. That has yet to happen.
My littlest host sister is fluent in French and is studying English and Modern Standard Arabic in school. She practices her Dareeja and Arabic with our house keeper.
Foreign languages are not a priority in the U.S., and because our country is just one of more than 200, the limitation is quite isolating. The little French I do know after six years of study has opened up the world for me, but it is nothing compared to what I see my host sisters accomplish every day.
Even at WSU, I know I can never expect to achieve the level of fluency most people here have in a second, third or even fourth language, because neither the time nor the money is invested into those programs.
What’s worse, I expect to lose all my Arabic when I return, and the notion is already heart-breaking. Arabic is a beautiful language and while I’d love to become fluent in it, I will never have that opportunity at WSU.
In the U.S. it feels like foreign languages are a numbers game based on how many people are interested. Having one language is typical.
In Morocco, knowing just one language is a mark of the uneducated.
Maybe educators in the U.S. ought to take a hint.