Непознатият език е шум за ушите, познатият – песен!

Some facts about me:

  1. I began learning German at the age of six; then, at the age of 11, I started studying English. I had already discovered my passion for learning languages.
  2. I learned languages at school and with the help of private tutors. Krasimira Gelusheva has by far been one of the best teachers I’ve ever had the opportunity to work with; had it not been for her patience and help, I could not have attended boarding school and excelled in the American educational curriculum.
  3. At the age of 13, I began learning Spanish and Russian. I am still learning new words and grammar as I hope to become fluent in both languages.
  4. I graduated as CATS Academy Boston’s valedictorian earlier this year.
  5. As a high school senior, I applied to many universities and colleges all over the world. In the US, I was accepted to Kenyon College, Tulane University, Dickinson College, and many others. I was also admitted to the prestigious Ivy-feeder Carleton College; I was awarded a $46.6k annual scholarship. However, I decided to “follow my heart” and return to Europe for university. I will be attending the University of Glasgow in September to study Business Management and English Literature.

Thoughts about learning, words and languages

by Maya Stoilova, 17

At the tender age of 17, I’m nothing more than an average university student. I love to complain about my circumstances–such as, you know, too much work, long essays, short deadlines, and scarce time to have fun–and, still, unlike my peers, I find books and long conversations rather invaluable. As pretentious as this may sound, I have this thing–an affinity, you might call it–for learning. I just love it. I love it when I can blur out that Nietzsche despised nihilism nearly as much as Dostoyevsky did when someone says their life has no purpose. I love it that I can eat a pomegranate and think of Persephone or roam the streets of Athens and think of the symmetry of Greek architecture. I love it even more when someone utters something, they did not plan on admitting and I can tease them on their “Freudian slip.” I love it that I can do this—be cutely obnoxious—all because of learning.

I’ve been “learning” since the day I was born. At first, it was the shape of my mother’s face and the nipple of my baby bottle (my mom was too busy to breastfeed). Then, it was how to walk (because I started walking before I could crawl) and how to mumble words (no was my first word). As the years rolled on, I learned more of the world–there were seasons, winter was tedious, people spoke different languages, my existence was insignificant, and cigarettes didn’t smell nearly as bad when you were the one to smoke them. I also learned that words were powerful and harnessing their power was to be my calling.

            The 21th century and the appearance of instagrammable poetry where everybody can be a poet have eradicated the power–and astonishing beauty–of words. If you ask my friend Dima—who’s way too much into technology to care about words—he’d tell you that words are like money.  They’re no more than a mere tool to get what you want.  Yet, in this statement of his, Dima would forget that money is not just a medium of exchange, but a tangible creation with a plethora of intangible uses; so are words. You see, with a word, there is its definition, its connotation and etymology, it’s use in modern slang, then its synonyms, its mark as politically correct or not, and, ultimately, its pronunciation distinctive sound.

            Not many people appreciate words like I do. Having a single word dedicated to a single object is simple.  Words with two meanings are a burden. People despise burdens and would pay the highest of prices to dispose of them.  I, on the other hand, don’t find words to be one of the burdens I carry. I actually want to be somewhat of a lexicographer, one of those people who, desperate enough to end a boring conversation, utters a word no one else knows so his interlocutors shut the heck up. That’s what I call disposing of a burden.

            I have studied different words and languages, taken language courses, and even gone to tutoring. Yet, despite all my efforts, a single tongue manages to float to the surface of my superficial eloquence and triumph over the rest – English. As flawed as my English remains, it is far more flawless than, let’s say, my German or my Spanish. My Bulgarian, according to my parents, is the reason they’d pretend I’m not their daughter if I were to write something longer than a page; as previously mentioned, language is a powerful tool, mighty enough to get my parents—and my home country—to disown me.

            The thing about being bilingual is that you become byelingual with at least one of the two languages.  You can state you obtained a language proficiency certificate on your resume or that you speak five languages, but, truthfully, you never speak five languages on the same level. Something’s gotta give. Luckily for you, people don’t tend to understand that and you can still market yourself as a polyglot. (We all know (even personal) marketing to be the entertaining process of enhancing the already ugly truth.)

The cool thing about languages, though, is that they’re all about your ability to communicate with foreign people, to connect with them. Languages are an ornamented bridge that bridges people. It is satisfying when you can go abroad and blur out a “hola” or a “xin chao” to earn yourself a wide smile from whomever you’re talking to. People accept you then. Congrats, you’ve crossed the bridge!

Languages are as particular as people, I’d say, all because of their words. Certain languages have words other languages do not; I don’t think there is a direct translation of my all-time favorite word “petrichor” in Bulgarian the same way there isn’t one of “Tsundoku” in English. Languages are as particular as the people who speak them; hence, the few true polyglots out there are a vivid combination of the languages that mingle in their conscious and unconscious minds and the experiences they’ve gathered while learning them. 

The gist of this spontaneous piece of writing is that learning—anything, really—is just as good for your mind and soul as words are to convey meaning. The gist of this piece of literary crap is to urge you to explore yourself and your socio-political environment through words. Learning languages—and communication in general—is no less than a gateway to the world and its peoples, to literature and its peculiarities, and, even more importantly, to our own (hopefully profound) character and apparent eloquence.