Celebrating World Language Week: Hear the voices, read the stories

Listen to Algonquin students representing their native languages during World Language Week
Algonquins World Language Week was held last week, March 4 through March 8.
Algonquin’s World Language Week was held last week, March 4 through March 8.
Graphic Ellie O’Connor
Junior Maria Nagaria
Junior Maria Nagaria

How many languages do you speak? How did you learn them?

“I speak a Gujarati dialect at home. It’s a mixture of about three different languages: Gujarati, Arabic and Urdu. The group of people that I’m related to came from Yemen to Gujarat in India, so our languages melded together. I learned Hindi through movies, so I don’t know how to write in Hindi but I can speak it. Arabic is what the Quran is written in so I can read it; my language is written in Arabic the way you write Spanish and English with the same alphabet; even if you don’t understand Spanish you can still read it and the same goes with [my language] and Arabic. I’m fluent in Urdu and I’m able to do Punjabi here and there because it’s pretty similar.”

How does language influence your identity and how you connect with others?

“I grew up going to Catholic school and I was always very isolated because everyone around me was of European descent, spoke only English at home and I never was really able to connect with anybody, besides at the mosque. Now that I go to Algonquin, I meet so many people that speak the same language as I do or grew up with the same movies that I did. It was so revealing. I never fell in love with my culture until I came to this school and saw other people who lived in the same environment but were able to cherish what they truly are. So language has definitely helped me really connect with people.”

What is the hardest part about speaking more than one language?

“Definitely not mixing them up, because sometimes I’ll do that. Especially if me and my parents happen to be talking in Hindi, I mix it [with Urdu and the Gujarati dialect]. They can understand me, but if I were talking to a Hindi speaker it would be lost.”

Say a sentence/phrase in your native language(s) and what it means in English. 

“It means ‘Maria is from America.’”

Senior Sitan Zhan
Senior Sitan Zhan

How many languages do you speak? How did you learn them?

“I speak two fluently, so that’s Mandarin and English. I learned English by obviously living here and I learned Mandarin because I lived in China for roughly eight years and then after I came here I also spoke Chinese at home, taught people Chinese so I sort of retained that.”

How does language influence your identity and how you connect with others?

“I think language influences my identity by giving it more complexity. There’s more nuance I think as well as diversity in my identity, and that’s something I embrace and I like because I think I really like every specific aspect of my identity, but the fact that there’s so many that I can look to is something I really really treasure and I find that to be very helpful and useful when it comes to a time I can get along with people from many different backgrounds.”

What is the hardest part about speaking more than one language?

“The hardest part about speaking more than one language I think, especially when your household is another language, is trying to find words in one language that doesn’t necessarily exist in another language and trying to convey that feeling. So, for example, say if you’re trying to explain something about a certain emotion. That emotion might be, let’s say, anxiety. If you say, ‘I feel anxious right now,’ it’s easy for people to understand, ‘Oh, he’s feeling anxious,’ but perhaps in Chinese, perhaps, there’s no specific word for anxiety. I’m pretty sure there is, but take for example. And that’s harder to get across, those sort of feelings you want to express in another language instead.”

Why do you think it’s important to speak more than one language?

“I think it’s important to speak more than one language because people are not, or life is not, one-dimensional. You’re going to end up going to places, you’re going to encounter situations you might not expect, and I think it’s important to, the first part is being able to communicate clearly with people is how you build strong relationships, is how you foster new connections with people, and conflict is built upon misunderstanding. Every major conflict I think is built under misunderstand and if everyone can communicate properly with their language knowledge then they can hold back those issues.”

Say a sentence/phrase in your native language(s) and what it means in English. 

“[Never give up] is probably my favorite phrase because I think… you can apply to all walks of life, anything you do, whether it be forming bonds, doing school, anything. As long as you apply that logic and try your best, it’s good.”

Sophomore Emma Vidal
Sophomore Emma Vidal

How many languages do you speak? How did you learn them?

“I speak English and Spanish. I sort of learned them together. I also know French because of school. Spanish was because of my parents, and English it was also a little bit because of my parents, but I mainly just picked it up from school and stuff.”

How does language influence your identity and how you connect with others?

“Sometimes it’s very weird to connect with others in this school because a majority of the people are white, or they speak a different dialect of Spanish, so it’s not really the same. I don’t speak enough Spanish at school as I probably should or could.”

What is the hardest part about speaking more than one language?

“The hardest part is probably that you mix up words with two languages, especially with French. French and Spanish, I always think that one word is another word, and I always try to ‘spanishify’ French and it doesn’t work like that. So it can get very confusing for my brain.”

Why do you think it’s important to speak more than one language?

“Well I think it’s important because it helps you connect with more people, even just knowing one more language, that unlocks a whole other country that you could visit and that you can connect with those people. It is also good for you to learn another language..”

Say a sentence/phrase in your native language(s) and what it means in English.

“It means ‘girl,’ but adding that ‘ita’ at the end makes it ‘little girl.’ It’s not weird in Spanish, it’s endearing. Sometimes when my aunts are talking to me they will be like, ‘Niñita!'”

Junior Karma Bebway
Junior Karma Bebway

How many languages do you speak? How did you learn them?

“I speak Arabic and English. Arabic was technically my first language, I learned that before I moved to America when I was five years old. Then I learned English, which I know best right now. Arabic was the first language and I still speak it with my family.”

How does language influence your identity and how you connect with others?

“In general, learning another language, especially when you have a community of people that speak that language, or when your family speaks that language, it’s really nice to connect with them. When visiting Egypt it’s nice to speak to them in Arabic and understand people from my own culture.”

What is the hardest part about speaking more than one language?

“For me, I didn’t have to learn Arabic, so I think the hardest part about learning another language is not forgetting it because a lot of people when they move here, they end up forgetting the language that they knew. I try to speak it a lot at home so I won’t forget it, which I think it’s really nice right now because I can still speak it. I know a lot of other people that forgot the language that they knew when they moved to America.”

Why do you think it’s important to speak more than one language?

“We live in America, that’s one country out of hundreds in the world, and yes a lot of people speak English but a lot of people don’t. A lot of them speak so many other different languages, and it’s good to be able to know those languages and be able to talk to other people outside of America, especially if you are planning to travel. Even just being able to understand some of the basics is helpful in life. It makes a better community for everyone.”

Say a sentence/phrase in your native language(s) and what it means in English.

“It’s an Arabic verse. In English it’s translated ‘I am the true vine dresser.’ It’s where I got my name, Karma is translated differently in Arabic than English.”

Sophomore Simon Linden
Sophomore Simon Linden

How many languages do you speak? How did you learn them?

“I speak two languages, Swedish and English, and they are both my first languages. I was raised bilingual by my parents.”

How does language influence your identity and how you connect with others?

“Swedish is not a very popular language, but I speak it at home and it really connects me to other parts of the world, specifically Sweden and my relatives there. It doesn’t influence too much of how I connect with others because most people don’t speak the same language that I do, but sometimes I’ll come across someone that speaks Swedish, and it’s great. It’s another way to connect with someone.”

What is the hardest part about speaking more than one language?

“Being completely fluent in both and having the time to focus on it. I only speak Swedish with my dad and my siblings so it’s pretty difficult to stay on top of having my biliteracy rate high and being fully embraced in it and not forgetting things.”

Why do you think it’s important to speak more than one language?

“I think it’s important to speak another language because it can connect you with new people and it opens up tons of different opportunities.”

Say a sentence/phrase in your native language(s) and what it means in English.

“It means ‘I am a potato.’ It’s the sentence I usually go to when people ask me how to say something in my language, and I always tell them something random of what it means. I’ll say, ‘Oh it means a lovely day’ or something like that because I don’t always know what to say, and it’s funny to say something that they won’t understand.”

Director of Multilingual Learners and Equity Selvi Oyola
Director of Multilingual Learners and Equity Selvi Oyola

How many languages do you speak? How did you learn them?

“I speak English, Turkish, some German. I also speak some Spanish but I don’t count it as a proficient language. I went to a German school during my middle school years which is where I learned Turkish which is my home language and where I’m from. English, I learned once we got to the United States and I learned Spanish because my husband is from Puerto Rico.”

How does language influence your identity and how you connect with others?

“I think your home language influences the way you think, express your emotions and perceive the world around you. The more languages you learn, the more diverse ways of expression you are able to understand and use.”

Why do you think it’s important to speak more than one language?

“It opens up your mind and word to other ways of living. It allows you to realize you have so much more in common with everybody in the world. It’s a personal journey of continuing to learn and grow.”

What is the hardest part about speaking more than one language?

“I don’t know if there are any hard parts about it. I think it is really important that people try and learn more languages because most of us feel shy to speak the language we are not most proficient in and for me, maybe that is the hardest part, trying to speak more like a native person but that shouldn’t stop anyone.”

Say a sentence/phrase in your native language(s) and what it means in English.

“This is from Rumi, and it translates to ‘Raise your words, not your voice; it’s rain that grows flowers, not thunder.’”

Senior Annika Harmsen
Senior Annika Harmsen

How many languages do you speak? How did you learn them?

“I speak two languages fluently. I speak English and German which is my native tongue. I lived in Germany till I was six and while I lived there I had a private English teacher.”

How does language influence your identity and how you connect with others?

“It’s always fun to learn when other people speak another language as well. It’s something to relate about, how different cultures exist here in America and it’s really interesting to see how many different people are from different cultures and to be part of that is really exciting.”

Why do you think it’s important to speak more than one language?

“Especially here in America people believe that English should be the main language but in other countries it’s not an expectation for Americans to know the language of the people they are visiting and often get frustrated when people don’t understand them. Just having that perspective that your language isn’t the only language in the world is important.”

What is the hardest part about speaking more than one language?

“It’s being bilingual, where you start to lose vocabulary in both languages. I will think of a word I need in the opposite language of what I’m speaking in that moment.”

Say a sentence/phrase in your native language(s) and what it means in English.

“The literal meaning is from ‘stick to stick,’ but I like to think of it as one thing leads to another or getting sidetracked.”

Freshman Beatriz Bentes de Oliveira
Freshman Beatriz Bentes de Oliveira

How many languages do you speak? How did you learn them?

“I speak two languages [English and Portuguese], but I understand three. I learned English doing ELD, talking with American people and practicing with my father. I also understand Spanish because of my friends and because my father speaks Spanish.”

How does language influence your identity and how you connect with others?

“It helps a lot because now I can know a lot of information about everyone and I can make a lot of friends. It’s good, especially for your mental health, to have a lot of friends knowing different languages.”

Why do you think it’s important to speak more than one language?

“It’s good for you career, and it’s also good for your mental health because it’s good to make friends. You can learn about different cultures and connect things with another language.”

Say a word/phrase in your native language(s) and what it means in English.

“‘Love everyone as you love yourself.’ I think that’s so beautiful.”

Junior Eva Gulbankian
Junior Eva Gulbankian

How many languages do you speak? How did you learn them?

“I know three languages. My first [language] is English because I grew up here and go to school. I know Armenian from speaking it at home, and I would say that’s my second language. I’ve been learning Spanish at school for around five years since middle school.”

How does language influence your identity and how you connect with others?

“It’s a really great tool to be able to communicate with more people. If I’m going to a cultural event I’m able to speak with not only people that speak English but people that speak Armenian as well. When I go to Armenia, it’s been a great way to joke around with people and to show who I really am with them instead of using Google Translate to get around. It’s just another way to express yourself.”

Why do you think it’s important to speak more than one language?

“It’s important to know more than one language because you can talk with more people. If you’re traveling, you’re able to communicate with the natives, and also many companies are looking for people who can speak more than one language so they can cater to more consumers.”

Say a word/phrase in your native language(s) and what it means in English. 

“[It] means the neighbor’s dog… One time someone was talking to me and I said, ‘Who are you talking to?’ They said, ‘Oh the neighbor’s dog.’ It’s been a recent phrase of mine.”

Sophomore Liah Biran
Sophomore Liah Biran

How many languages do you speak? How did you learn them?

“Hebrew is my first language and English is my second; I learned it when I came to the US. I started learning Spanish in second grade, since it was required where I was living at the time. Then I moved to Newton, where I started learning French and Mandarin. I started learning Korean two years ago for a friend and Russian because my grandmother speaks it.”

How does language influence your identity and how you connect with others?

“It really helps you connect with a lot of other people of a lot of different cultural backgrounds. Every summer I travel to see my family in Israel but there’s a lot of Russian, Spanish and French people there so it’s really helpful to be able to communicate with them.”

What is the hardest part about speaking more than one language?

“Communication is really important globally; especially now, a lot can get lost in translation and the general understanding is just really important.”

Why do you think it’s important to speak more than one language?

“Pronunciation is difficult but since I started with Hebrew, it’s got a lot of phonetic elements that happen in other languages. When you speak a certain language for a long time, you get an accent, and it doesn’t matter if you know that language fluently. If I speak a language first thing in the morning, that’s the language that I want to speak for the rest of the day. Right now I’m speaking English, but it feels weird and I don’t have an accent.”

Say a sentence/phrase in your native language(s) and what it means in English. 

Sophomore Altea Mehillaj
Sophomore Altea Mehillaj

How many languages do you speak? How did you learn them?

“I speak English and Albanian, which I learned from my grandparents because they don’t speak a lot of English. I speak Albanian at home, not as much with my parents but I spend a lot of time with my grandparents.”

How does language influence your identity and how you connect with others?

“For me, speaking another language is connected to my culture, so the way I interact with my family members, the way I connect with them and connect with my culture influences my identity.”

What is the hardest part about speaking more than one language?

“It opens your eyes to so many different opportunities, like being able to go to another country and speak the language, being able to read the news in other languages; it kind of opens your mind.”

Why do you think it’s important to speak more than one language?

“At first I thought, ‘I’m the only one speaking two languages, it’s weird that I’m learning [Albanian]’ and I kind of hid that part of me. Everyone else was speaking English so why do I have to speak Albanian? But now I’m so thankful for my parents and grandparents that made me learn it and I’m really glad I did.”

Say a sentence/phrase in your native language(s) and what it means in English.

“My favorite phrase in Albanian is ‘poop and flowers,’ which means that no matter how bad things get you always have a silver lining, which is the flowers.”

Junior Srikari Vissa
Junior Srikari Vissa

How many languages do you speak? How did you learn them?

“I speak three languages: English, Telugu and Hindi. I learned English and Telugu at the same time because both my parents speak it. Then I learned Hindi once I got older, after I turned 11 or 12 because my parents also spoke it and I watched a lot of movies in that language.”

How does language influence your identity and how you connect with others?

“I’d say it makes it easier to talk to people who have a different culture or background, because whenever I go to India that’s primarily what people there would speak so it just helps me talk to them and understand.”

What is the hardest part about speaking more than one language?

“Sometimes if you want to say a word in one language, it’s hard to translate it into another language or find a word that means the same thing in that language.”

Why do you think it’s important to speak more than one language?

“Because it’s easier to communicate: I know that in a lot of places, they speak English, but I think it’s really important to understand and respect the languages of other places rather than try to force them to learn what you know.”

Say a sentence/phrase in your native language(s) and what it means in English. 

“That means ‘useless’. It’s my favorite word as of right now because you can put it in any sentence and it’s really fun to use.”

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Ava “Cam” Arcona
Ava “Cam” Arcona, A&E Editor
Ava has been part of the Harbinger since sophomore year, where she started as Assistant News Editor and moved to A&E editor in junior year. Her favorite topics to write about are album releases, pop culture and the arts within ARHS. Outside of Harby, Ava is president of two honor societies and is a setter for the varsity volleyball team.
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Calla Torres, News Editor
Calla decided to join the Harbinger after taking journalism during her sophomore year and has since become the Online Editor. She has always loved writing and discovered an early passion for journalism during a school project in the third grade. In her free time, she enjoys hanging out with friends and listening to music.
Jax Jackson
Jax Jackson, Sports Editor
Jax has been involved with the Harbinger since his freshman year as a graphic designer, but taking Journalism as a junior got him truly excited about journalism. He has discovered a passion for storytelling, advocating through his work and sharing news, recently becoming an Editor-in-Chief. In his free time, Jax enjoys playing tennis, ceramics and performing music.
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Mia Nicosia, News Senior Staff Writer
Mia took journalism in her freshman year and has since become the Politics Coordinator and an Assistant Opinion Editor. One of her favorite things about working on the Harbinger is getting to help people share aspects of their lives through her writing. In her free time, Mia enjoys reading, presenting for World of Difference, participating in steering, CAP, competitive riflery and archery.
Altea Mehillaj
Altea Mehillaj, Assistant News Editor
I took journalism my freshman year and now I am an Assistant news editor. I started writing for my middle school newspaper and I fell in love with writing articles, so when I went to high school I knew I had to join the harbinger. Outside of school I love to read, play tennis, and spend time with my friends and family (especially my dog).
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