Undergraduate Student Blog, Speaking of Princeton

Undergraduate Student Blog

Author: Abigail Denton ’20

Mobile, Alabama • Comparative Literature View Profile

The More, the Merrier

Learning multiple languages as a comparative literature student at Princeton

“So you can already speak Korean?”

I stared blankly at my roommate as I considered her question. Could I? I had just finished my Korean midterm and was feeling—as one does after midterms—completely drained. I had been thinking that my grasp of Korean was pitiful, but her question made me reconsider. It has been about six weeks since classes began, and sometimes you have to take a step back to really see the progress that you’ve made. I can say so much more in Korean than I could six weeks ago. I can greet people and hold a basic conversation, whereas before this school year, I knew approximately no words in Korean.

This is why I love learning foreign languages. You can move so quickly, and, once you really stop to consider it, the progress is so rewarding. As a Comparative Literature major, I need to learn two languages other than English. I started off with French, the language that I had studied in high school. It’s a beautiful language, and the language classes at Princeton are some of the most fun courses I’ve taken here. Korean has taken that enjoyment to a whole new level.

Last year, when I was deciding what other language to take, the only thing I knew was that I didn’t want to take another Romance language. I wanted to branch out. One of my friends suggested Korean and told me that she would help me with it. So I signed up, not thinking for a moment that I would enjoy it as much as I do. Learning a language that is completely different from any others that you know is a truly rewarding experience. To anyone who isn’t sure which language they want to take: Be brave and take a chance on a lesser-studied language. The classes are even smaller than more popular language classes—which are usually designed to be small anyways—and this means that there’s enough people to have lots of active participation in the language. For people who, like me, shy away from situations in which there is the possibility of making mistakes in front of other people, this also means that there aren’t enough people to cause any serious embarrassment. Fewer people also allows you to learn more about and interact more with your professor. In my Korean class, there are also individual sessions that you can sign up for with the professors to practice speaking and ask any questions that you have from class. Language teachers, in my experience, are some of the most accessible professors on campus.

There’s so much fun to be had in language classes, whether it’s by playing speaking games, learning about your fellow students or discovering new cultures. I hope that all students consider taking a language that is outside of their cultural comfort zone.