I’ve always suffered from a certain degree of foreign language envy.
Anonymous multilingual portion of my (mostly imaginary?) interwebz readership, you know who I am. I am that girl. The one who loudly tells you to “OMG SAY SOMETHING IN [insert language here]” and then sighs happily when you rattle off a couple of sentences about what an idiot I am in the aforementioned language. Yes, I realize how frequently this happens, and yes, I am more than okay with it. Because, to me, there is nothing more intriguing/impressive/freeeeeaking awesome than having mastered multiple languages. Seriously. The idea of being able to travel the world and communicate freely and easily with non-English speakers is something I’ve always wanted, and it’s one of the many reasons that I’m pursuing a foreign language at the college level. After three years of Spanish, two years of Japanese, and seven years of French, I was more than ready to dive into Italian, a language that is not only seriously beautiful but also has a special significance to my Dad’s side of the family.
Coming to Hopkins, I didn’t know what to expect from Italian. You don’t really hear too much about foreign languages at JHU, what with all the millions of other exciting things going on here that are more than deserving of attention. But I quickly felt silly for ever questioning any facet of Hopkins academics. Italian has steadily risen to be one of my favorite classes, second only to Fiction and Poetry Writing II, my Writing Sems class extraordinaire. After talking to some other freshmen in language classes ranging from Elements to Intermediate, I decided that this is a part of my first-year experience that is definitely worth sharing. So, in typical JHU_Allison list-loving fashion, here are my top five reasons why the Foreign Language departments are Hopkins’ unsung heroes.
1) Good thing you’re indecisive. Because your options are essentially unlimited. You’ve got your basics: Spanish, French, Italian, and German. But are you feeling Russian? Always wanted to dabble in Korean? Hindu? Arabic? Hebrew? That’s cool, because they’re all very much ripe and ready for the taking. The ancients also get their due, so if Latin and Greek are your thing, then gear up for a Classics major.
2) Hello, credibility! Any Hopkins degree is undoubtedly a testament to your achievement and ability. But the French program at JHU somehow manages to transcend that. Upon graduation, majors are recognized by the French government (you heard me) for their mastery of the language. C’mon now. It really doesn’t get more legit than that.
3) Did someone say “Study Abroad?” This is arguably the best aspect of studying foreign languages at Hopkins. JHU offers tons of programs, many of which are specifically catered to your language of study. As a freshman, I’ve limited my travels to CharMar and UniMini runs, but all of the worldly upperclassmen I’ve asked about studying abroad describe it as one of their most exciting and defining life experiences thus far. So. Yeah. I’ll see you all in Bologna.
4) Lol-ing at verb charts. Remember those pesky things? For some reason, my middle and high school teachers always clung to those bad babies like life rafts. But at Hopkins, the emphasis is largely on language immersion and learning what’s necessary for actually, you know, surviving in a foreign country. My Italian textbook is structured to have chapters on hotel reservations and restaurant interactions, not past participles and direct object pronouns. The grammar is there, of course, but it serves as a backdrop for actual conversation and idiomatic expressions. And now, after only 1.5 semesters of Italian, I know I could visit Italy and totally rock the socks off of the natives. (Read: feel confident enough to ask where the bathroom is.)
5) Fluency. Duh. At the end of the day, isn’t this why we see a language through? I want to be fluent in Italian. And I know that Hopkins will get me there.
One of the most pleasant and welcome surprises of my first semester was just how much I fell in love with Italian. Now it’s more than just a Writing Seminars requirement – it’s a potential major or minor. My greatest advice to someone planning to start Hopkins in the fall is to explore ALL of your options. Because JHU has a lot to offer.
(Shout out to my Italian section for letting me photograph you way too early in the morning! You’re all beautiful.)