Posted by: SSU Lingua Franca | May 2, 2018

HOPE Award Winning Essays

Each year, the Department of World Languages and Cultures holds an essay competition exploring the dynamic relationship between community and humanitarian service, education and leadership; particularly in the context of how these can improve our world.

The contest is open to students who are majors or minors in the department as well as to alumni. Essays are written in any of the languages represented by the department (Arabic, Chinese, German, English, French, Italian, Spanish).

The following three essays are the most recent winners. First, is the 2017 winner by Sean Burke. Second is the 2018 winner by Anthony Di Virgilio. The last essay is the 2018 second prize and it is written by Vanessa Cunha.

2017 HOPE Award Winning Essay

Sean Burke

Last year the writers were asked to respond to this quote from Salman Rushdie: “It is normally supposed that something always gets lost in translation; I cling, obstinately to the notion that something can also be gained”.

Salman Rushdie’s statement above resonates with me primarily because of his perception about translation and linguistics. By viewing translation with a “glass half-full” kind of attitude, one gains so much more than just simply translating words. Usually, when translating from one language to another, people just want to get their point across to the other party, which is where the idea of something always getting lost stems from. But if you look past that fact of “translating just to get by,” you immediately can learn about one’s background, culture and even personality too. To know more than one language provides instant access to an entire new world of knowledge and people. As there are countless people in this world that are multilingual, there are also many who know only their native language. Now, I am not writing to criticize those who are monolingual, but rather to magnify the significance of learning a second, third and subsequent language and how it enhances one’s life and understanding of others.

Personally, I find translation between any two languages fascinating. The sheer idea of someone being able to comprehend one language, translate it into the next and finally express the same meaning in that second language blows my mind. I am a World Languages & Cultures major with a Spanish concentration and I hope to use my second language every day; not only in my profession but my life as well. As of right now, I am hoping to land a job in an airport working with U.S. Customs & Border Protection. By being able to read, write, speak and understand both English and Spanish, I am now readily available to connect with and help a considerably larger percentage of the many people who pass through U.S. Customs every day.

The main reason why I chose this major and am taking the time to write this essay today, is because linguistics is used in everyone’s daily life across the globe. Whether it be written, orally, or mentally, language and linguistics is something that never goes away. So, if you’re on the fence about taking a new language or have any interest at all, my advice is simply DO IT! Take that first step and see firsthand how beneficial it really is. Learning a new language can be daunting and difficult to say the least, but in the long run, I can assure you that you will never regret taking that first step.

HOPE Award 2018 First Place: Language Study Creates Culturally Aware Scholars

Anthony Di Virgilio

In 2018 writers were asked to respond to this quote from Sandra Cisneros: “The more you speak more languages, the more you understand yourself.

Language is much more than merely a means of communication. It is rather, a vocal representation of the world’s various unique cultures and ethnicities. Sandra Cisneros’ quote: “The more you speak more languages, the more you understand about yourself,” explains how each language exposes individuals to its own unique way of thinking. The more languages one knows, the more perspectives one is exposed to. Furthermore, language study creates intellectual scholars by exposing them to ways of thinking that differ from their own and pushes them out of their comfort zone.

There aren’t two languages or cultures in this world that are exactly alike. Even within each language, there are various dialects that relate to various subcultures existing in each country. It is this uniqueness that we find while studying languages, that enhances our identity and understanding of our place in the world. Being multilingual enhances identities, by separating individuals from the overwhelming monolingual society that dominates so many countries. This extra exposure to additional languages, allows us to feel like we don’t just identify with one place in such a large world.

Travel is another great way to experience this feeling, by being exposed to diverse languages. Regardless of whether you speak the language or not, just hearing a new language being spoken provokes its own emotion. You may have no clue about what is being said while overhearing a conversation in a foreign county, but the thoughts and imagery running through your mind cannot be replicated in any other situation. Even talking with someone from another country who is visiting your own, is its own unique experience. It is in these situations that language study acts as a bridge between cultures.

Also, being multilingual can allow you to have a conversation with someone from a different country and culture you otherwise could not have. There is no way to measure the true importance that languages play in the role of everyday life. And perhaps, the reason that “the more you speak more languages, the more you understand about yourself,” is that language study best allows you to become a global citizen through exposure to diverse cultures.

HOPE Award 2018 Second Place: Languages, More than Communication

Vanessa Cunha

Languages are more than a means to communicate with others. Learning languages is more than figuring out how to say, “where is the bathroom,” or “please” and “thank you.” They are a tool that can be used to enhance our identity and understanding of the world around us. The author Sandra Cisneros once said, “The more you speak more languages, the more you understand about yourself.”  Learning other languages has made a difference in my life. Languages can push people beyond their comfort zone. Learning languages also helps break down barriers between people. Finally, understanding languages is beneficial to people and the community.

Comfort zones are places where people feel safe and are stress-free. People’s instinct is to be safe, and therefore they struggle to leave their comfort zone. However, there are many advantages that happen when one leaves this zone. Learning Spanish has helped me step out of my comfort zone. I constantly speak, write, and listen to others in English, which has made me feel comfortable using this language. Spanish, a language I am not fluent in, is different. At times, I do not know how to say something, or what is being said, which is an uncomfortable feeling. But, I understand that one of the best ways to improve my Spanish is by practicing it. Therefore, I put myself in situations where I do not know what to say. Even if I do not know how to express my ideas in Spanish, I will try, knowing that I have more to learn by trying than staying silent. Taking Spanish has made me learn that stepping outside my comfort zone will benefit me and lead to positive results.

Learning a language helps break down barriers between people. People are constantly interacting, talking, and communicating with one another. Often when people speak different languages and do not understand each other, there is a break in communication. This break causes a feeling of fear which leads to a barrier being put up. However, this barrier can be broken by learning languages. Even if people cannot speak the same language fluently, some communication is better than none. The more people try to communicate with one another, the more the feeling of fear will go away, which will lead to barriers being broken.

I plan to use my knowledge of Spanish to help myself and others. When I graduate, I would like to move to San Diego, California. San Diego is 17 miles from the border of Mexico and has a large Spanish-speaking population. Learning Spanish will be helpful and useful, whether I use it professionally at a job, or conversationally with friends. I also plan on using the language to help those around me. For example, if I am in San Diego, and someone who only speaks Spanish is lost, I will try to tell them where they need to go. Even though I may not be using the correct words or tense, it is still better to attempt to help someone than ignore them. Learning a language will improve my life as well as the lives of those around me.

Learning a language is more than figuring out how to say words or phrases. It is an opportunity to learn more about oneself and help those around us. Languages can bring people outside of their comfort zone and offer experiences that otherwise would not be possible. They also increase communication and break down barriers between people. Finally, learning a language helps people individually, but also benefits the community. Languages are more than a way to communicate with others; they are a gateway to a new world of opportunities.


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