English as a second (or third, or fourth) language

By Lindsey Carter – Horizon News and Features Editor

Anyone who has ever learned a second language knows challenging – and rewarding – the process can be. But for those who aren’t bilingual, imagine taking classes in a language that is not your first. Imagine, for instance, sitting in Bib. Lit. listening to Marion or Michele explain “the Christocentric worldview” or “the hermenuetical bridge” in an unfamiliar language and you quickly get the point.

Thirty-one bilingual international students at Hesston College know this experience firsthand. For Yoshiki Kasai, one of at least five trilingual students, taking classes in English was only half the challenge. Kasai also took Spanish with Maria Day both semesters this year.

“I was the only international student in the class,” Kasai said. “Everyone else was American.”

But Kasai is thriving. He said he learned Spanish much faster than he originally learned English. He began taking English class in 7th grade and studied the language for six years. However, Kasai said he didn’t enjoy the class because it was mostly written, and the teacher didn’t speak in English very often. In contrast, Maria Day leads the class in Spanish as often as she can. Kasai said this teaching style and his love for languages helped him to learn Spanish much more quickly.

The importance of learning a language, according to Kasai, is “learning also about the culture and how people think.” This creates the opportunities to make more connections, Kasai explained.

As for freshman Haiti native Junau Louis-Jean, his main focus is on perfecting his English before hopefully moving on to learn more languages in the future.

Louis-Jean’s first language was Creole, but he quickly learned French as well since both languages are taught in Haiti schools. Louis-Jean then took English in high school, simply because he found the language interesting.

The most influential method of learning for Louis-Jean was listening to American music. While listening, he would view the English lyrics and the translation of the song into Creole. By doing this, Louis-Jean recalls that he learned English very quickly. He was also able to learn American phrases such as “caught red handed.” This phrase, he remembers, was picked up from a song by the artist Shaggy, “It Wasn’t Me.”

But Louis-Jean says he doesn’t want to stop at three languages; he wants to know five. Chinese, Spanish and American Sign Language are on the list of possibilities.

“There is no boundary for you,” said Louis-Jean. “As soon as you learn a language, the gate is open.”


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