Parlez-Vous en Anglais?

About three weeks ago I sat in the garden of a home nestled in the heart of a tiny French town. My ears buzzed as I struggled to piece together the jumble of words around me. I have enough trouble comprehending when my English speaking friends talk all at once so attempting to understand the bubbling French teenagers felt nearly impossible. As you can probably imagine my head was thrown when the question “why are you here?” was spoken in perfect English. I looked around to find myself answering a smiling boy with what to me was the obvious answer: “to learn French.” This he admitted was obvious but what he really wanted to know was why I took the time to learn another language when I could get by with English. At this moment I did not feel like I was getting by with English in the slightest; however, he explained to me that whenever he travels outside of France he is always able to find a person who speaks English. Therefore, he does not see the need for knowing another language.

I realize that there are people in the U.S who share similar beliefs but I was surprised to hear this from a person whose first language is not English. It made me reflect more on why as a U.S. citizen I should be learning another language and taking a Global Citizen Year. I quickly came to the conclusion that as a U.S. citizen it is just as important for me to be aware of other cultures and that is the main reason I have decided to take a gap year. I know there are many other American students who feel the same way and would see GCY as an invaluable experience. This coming year I hope that we fellows are able to lay the foundation for students such as those who believe as I do as well as show other students the importance of being a global citizen.