Modern Languages: a Road to Cultural Understanding

Hun School students select from six world languages – Arabic, Chinese, French, Spanish, Latin, and English as a Second Language – in five levels, to fulfill the School’s language requirement. The study of foreign languages is an integral component of the School’s commitment to developing cultural fluency within its graduates, and students are required to take two years of language instruction. Many choose to go well beyond that; and for some students like Will Collins ’17, Vera Nikolavea ’17, and Martin Caforio ’18, language acquisition becomes a road to greater opportunities.
Fueled by his curiosity and a passion for the Spanish language, Will Collins’17 spent the last three summers traveling. Encouraged by his Spanish teacher Jennifer Mitchell, he travelled first to Segovia, Spain – where, at her recommendation, he enrolled in an intensive language course at Instituto San Pedro. The following summer, Will spent time backpacking through Patagonia in Chile. And finally, this past June, he attended a Hun-sponsored immersive learning experience in Ecuador.
During each of these international adventures, Will stayed with host families to learn as much as possible about his host’s culture and homeland. “Living with host families was extremely beneficial to my growth as a Spanish speaker. More than language acquisition though, by living with native speakers you live, breathe, and feel the tempo of their lives. It puts you into another person’s shoes and you begin to understand culture in a way that is very personal,” Will explained. 

“Your ability to understand people and to communicate is critical in a globalized world. I want to have options. I will be able to work in America, South America, or Europe, someday. That is what Hun does for its students. It gives them the tools to have greater options.” - Will Collins

By the time she arrived at The Hun School, Vera Nikolavea ’17 was already fluent in both her native Russian and English. Each year since then, Vera has added a new language to her course of study; she is currently enrolled in Chinese 3, Spanish 3, and Arabic 1.
Vera sees language study as an exercise for her brain that is unlike any other. “Studying languages is like playing chess. It is very strategic work, and it also allows you to anticipate better. When you learn a new language, you become a new person, there is a brand new side of you that wasn’t there before.”
Studying languages is also a strategic step for Vera’s long-term career goals. “I want to study international business in college and someday work for a company that has relationships in other countries. For example, if I am sent to China for business, I will be able to communicate in Chinese, and I will represent my company. I also want to learn French, Greek, and German. I want to be able to go anywhere in the world and make connections with people.”
For Martin Caforio ’18, languages have always come easily. By the time he was seven years old, he was fluent in both Italian and French. English is, in fact, Martin’s third language. At The Hun School, Martin is currently studying Arabic.
His interest in learning languages is rooted in his goal to someday have a career in international diplomacy. “I want my career to benefit our humanity. The conflicts in the Middle East are world problems with no simple solutions,” he explained. “I hope that I will have a career that allows me to work with people from all over the world to resolve issues that affect all of us, including those in the Middle East.”
Over the upcoming spring break, Martin plans to travel to Morocco on a Hun School immersion-learning trip, where he intends to speak only in Arabic.
Will Collins said, “Your ability to understand people and to communicate is critical in a globalized world. I want to have options. I will be able to work in America, South America, or Europe, someday. That is what Hun does for its students,” said Will. “It gives them the tools to have greater options.”
Click here to learn more about Modern Languages and Classics at The Hun School.
Click here to learn more about Global Immersion and Travel Programs at The Hun School.
    • Martin Caforio ’18 is fluent in Italian, French, and English. He is currently studying Arabic 1, in which he is developing skills in cultural fluency and language acquisition.

The Hun School of Princeton is an independent, coeducational, private day and boarding college preparatory school.  Student-centered, hands-on learning prepares students for the global community in which they will live and work.

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