Foreign languages have upsides

My mom has spoken Chinese to me often from the time as I was born, and she has always had Chinese classes for my older sister and I on weekends. I was bilingual before I even knew what that word meant. Then, later, when I was a freshman at Marquette Senior High School, I had the opportunity to learn Spanish. I thought it would be cool to learn another language in addition to Chinese so that I could be trilingual.

I have found Spanish to be much easier than Chinese to learn because in Chinese there are literally four thousand characters you need to know to be considered literate. Also, I have found that Spanish is fun to learn, especially because I have a great teacher, Mr. Reilly. My favorite part about learning Spanish would have to be learning about Spanish-speaking countries and their cultures. There are a lot of amazing things about those countries that I would not have learned if my Spanish book did not have about four pages devoted to culture and customs before each chapter. Mr. Reilly took students to Costa Rica last year and I can’t wait until I too can have a similar experience.

There have been many perks about learning Chinese as well. I have been to the place in China where my mother is from a total of five times and I have enjoyed each trip. My first trip there was in 1998 when I was just a year old. My last trip there was two years ago. I remember surprising my mom on that trip when I understood the majority of what she was saying to her friends. I guess she didn’t realize how much Chinese I had really learned. I also sometimes use Chinese to tell my mom things I don’t want my dad to understand.

I hope I get to travel to a Spanish-speaking country someday. I think it would be a wonderful experience, but I need to learn more Spanish first. When I went to San Diego with my mom last year, I couldn’t understand people speaking Spanish as easily as I could in China listening to Chinese. I wish I had known more Spanish. I was happy to be able to recognize a lot of the public signs in Spanish, though.

I encourage anyone to learn any foreign language. It will be a definite challenge, but it will be worth it. If you’re still in high school or college, you could take language classes and you could study abroad. An advantage of studying abroad would be truly experiencing the culture of another country.

Maybe I will be able to use my language skills in a future job when the time comes, but for now, I’m just happy that I can use three languages to say simple things, sometimes to avoid embarrassment, or to keep a secret.

Editor’s note: GlenEllen Lehmberg, 15, is a sophomore at Marquette Senior High School. She is a long time member of 8-18 Media and is also involved in dance and youth theatre in her spare time. Her parents are Paul and Z.Z. Lehmberg of Marquette. 8-18 Media is a youth journalism program of the Upper Peninsula Children’s Museum. Through the program, teams of kids write news stories and commentaries on issues important to youth and about any good, or bad, things youth are up to. For more information call 906-226-7874, or email at