Ramblings on language, culture, fellowships

Il est utile de connaître d’autres langues que la sienne…C’est comme de connaître d’autres gens, d’autres pays.*
—Assia Djebar, Femmes d’Alger dans leur appartement

While trucking through my senior French exam material (specifically Femmes d’Alger dans leur appartement—an excellent collection of short stories about being doubly other; for more click here), I came across this quote.

The sentiment it conveys in those two concise sentences is what I tried to communicate in my various personal statements for various applications to various fellowship programs (Fulbright ETA, PiA, TAPIF).

Foreign language acquisition opens so many doors: an enriched vocabulary for ridiculous tests like the GRE, the ability to read the descriptions/disclaimers on toiletries in multiple languages while sitting on the toilet, reading two different language versions of Wikipedia articles, eavesdropping on conversations that people think you can’t understand, filling your brain with all the different manifestations of fin’amor found in medieval French literature, communicating with foreign people in a foreign country. Language and culture are so intrinsically linked; you can’t understand one without understanding the other and I love that. That’s why I’m a French major. That’s why I want to try my hand at being an ESL teacher abroad next year.

But alas. Applications complete, I’m now in a state of limbo waiting to hear back from those various selection committees…Good thing I’ll be back to the Whitman grindstone in a week. Then I’ll be too busy to think about these things, let alone write blog posts or sleep. (On a side note, I did some Pio organizational tasks today. And so it recommences.)

*It is useful to know languages other than your own…To do so is to know other people, other countries.



  1. Love your opening quote! It reflects a mindset we should all adopt

  2. […] I discussed in an earlier post, language and culture are inextricably linked. Learning one (well) means you learn the other. […]

  3. […] as it was eclipsed by all of the French bureaucracy. It’s been great to be reminded of the passion for language and culture that made want to teach abroad in the first place. (It’s also been a blast reliving childhood […]

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