Senior sharpening mastery of multiple languages

According to Cambridge University, 23 percent of the United States population are bilingual, being fluent in two languages, but Maddie Hoelscher can speak not just two, but seven languages as well as being in the process of learning three more. 

“I grew up speaking English and Japanese mostly. My stepmother is Japanese, so that is how I was introduced to the language,” Hoelsher said. “I can currently speak English, Japanese, Russian, German, Tagalog, Vietnamese and Mandarin Chinese.”

Hoelscher’s stepmother influenced her to learn Japanese from a young age, but she never spoke Japanese to her as a child, as Hoelscher learned Japanese on her own. 

Hoelcher said, “I feel as though I wanted to speak all of these languages to broaden my horizons and get more career opportunities. Languages like German and Russian seem to me very important in this day and age, and having more options to work with is important to me.”

As well as being fluent in seven languages, Hoelscher said she is currently learning Spanish, Turkish and Swahili. 

Hoelscher said her language acquisition will pay off one day. “I feel that this will definitely impact my life in the future by giving me more options for career paths and also giving me the opportunity to communicate with more diverse groups of people in general. I think that all inclusion is important.”

Hoelscher said that she believes that for some languages it is better to have a teacher to learn them. Hoelscher has a teacher for Japanese, Vietnamese, German and now Spanish. 

She said she has “inner dialogues” with herself to keep her languages sharp. “Oftentimes, it is hard to find someone to practice the languages with. Of course, German and Spanish are taken at school, so I can easily practice those with someone else. but most of the time, I have inner dialogues with myself, as funny as that sounds. and now, the foreign exchange student from Japan has agreed to practice Japanese with me and my little sister,” Holescher said. 

Hoelscher said that the hardest language for her is Vietnamese, but “Mandarin Chinese is also pretty difficult until you get the hang of it. As for the easy ones, Spanish and Tagalog are very easy to me. The rest of the languages I know are kind of in the middle.” 

As for similarities in languages, Hoelscher said there are cognates in some of the languages she knows. “There are a lot of languages that have words called conates, meaning that they sound the same in another language, as well as having the same meaning,” Hoelscher said. “For example, Spanish has a lot of cognates to the English language.”

Hoelscher offered some advice that she believes would help someone learning a new language. “Practice all the time. In the bathroom mirror if you have to. Get a teacher to talk with. I personally recommend iTaki, an app where you can get cheap lessons in any language, and, lastly, never give up. You will be so proud of yourself if you stick with it,” Hoelscher said.

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