Rebecca, UIC B.S. in Biology, 2021
Ever since I was little, I’ve loved language. I fondly remember my “močiutė” telling me fairy tales in Lithuanian and the sounds of different languages at larger family gatherings. Sometimes, a cousin would share a bad word they learned in Spanish to make me laugh, or how to say the alphabet in ASL that they learned from the Scouts. My mother instilled in me a love of reading and made sure I had my weekly library visits to keep me satiated as well. Music lessons were also fascinating to me; I never knew what kind of detail went into even playing a simple verse of “Hot Cross Buns,” much less a Mozart concerto. There was an appeal to speaking other languages–they were the keys to new ideas, cultures, and understanding. I then set on a quest to learn as much about/as many languages as I could.
Although often too impatient as a child to gain decent proficiency in many of the languages I attempted to self-teach, I gained an understanding of many basics, especially my favorite part, grammar. When it came time for high school Spanish, my teacher was extremely dedicated to her students and made learning fun, which only furthered my appreciation. With a good structure in place, I was finally able to solidify my skills and progress. I later used that same structure to begin teaching myself Polish after many patients at my work could not speak English. The excitement I had when I first started Spanish was back.
When I started at UIC, I had the difficult decision of picking just one language class for my graduation requirement. Once I saw Lithuanian, though, I knew I had to choose it. For so long I’ve wanted to speak the language of my heritage, but never had the opportunity. Unsurprisingly, there are very few resources available for learning Lithuanian, and due to its intense complexity, it is very difficult to learn from scratch without a proper teacher. I started with Lithuanian 101 and am now taking LITH 102.
I am absolutely in love with the Lithuanian language and I am thrilled to speak with my family in it. It is also interesting, because sometimes while listening to the professor speak, I can understand things without really knowing what is being said. I personally wonder if the memories and connections from the time I spent with my Lithuanian-speaking grandparents as child are still hidden somewhere in my brain.
Regardless, I believe that language and communication is beyond crucial for life to exist. For us humans, learning a new language unlocks so many new opportunities, both personal and professional. Myself, I just don’t know what I would do without Spanish drama series and Polish cooking, and I think everyone should expand their horizons while they have the opportunity to do so.