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Advice to an International High School Student

Dear Professor Arguelles,

My name is Yiğit; I am 17 years old high school student in the US. Next year, I will go to Israel to continue my education as an IB (International Baccalaureate) student in an international school. The education language and everyday language will be English due to the diverse races in school and the IB Diploma Programme.

My nationality is Turkish; I live in the US, but our house language is Turkish, so I am fluent in both languages. A few months ago, I started practicing the Latin Language from Duolingo. I completed many of the units, and it improved my Latin Language knowledge— I believe. I want to study political science in College and wish to make a career in the academy as a professor. The reason I decided to start learning Latin was to be able to access the European library and to be able to work on Roman Politics.

Next year, as an IB student in Israel, the school’s second language will be French. So, I must study and devote time to a new language for the next two years I have never explored. My concern is I am interested in Hebrew; I can use it if I study the Israel-Palestinian Conflict or engage in religious studies out of my own curiosity in the future. Is it possible to start learning Hebrew while studying French and Latin and while participating in an intensive education program? According to my search, studying French and Latin together is efficient. But I want to take advantage of the opportunity of learning Hebrew when I live in Israel.

If you were in my situation, would you put Hebrew aside and just focus on Latin or French? Or put Latin aside — lost the progress – and focus on Hebrew or French? Or study three languages in a limited time near an intensive academic education program. Although I have watched and read your videos and articles, there is no limit other than time as far as I understand how many languages work together, but I still can’t decide what to do.

Your valuable ideas are essential to me. Thank you and best regards.

-Yiğit Çakan

My reply:

Dear Yiğit Çakan,

Thank you for sharing the details about your interesting background and circumstances. You have a variety of exciting options opening up to you no matter how this works out, so you are very fortunate. However, you are right that attempting to study one new language in classes, to continue to teach yourself another, and to acquire a third from the environment around you, all the while participating in an overall intensive educational program with many others subjects beyond languages demanding your time and attention – is likely to be too much. Something, either Latin or Hebrew, probably, will have to go, though I think that decision can and should wait until you get there and find out what the circumstances are like on the ground.

If you will be hearing Hebrew spoken around you all the time, then you will have a unique opportunity to acquire this language through interaction while in country, and I think you should definitely take it, even if it means dropping or putting Latin on hold. However, there are times when even though you are in a country, you find you are inside a bubble where that country’s language is not spoken, and I can imagine that an international school whose official language is English and draws people from around the world would be such a case. If you will be living in a dormitory where all communicate through English, then you might as well not be in Israel, so I think you can and should forget about Hebrew under these circumstances and continue to work on Latin. With or without Hebrew, if Latin gets to be a bit much with your school program, then I think you can put it on pause or maintenance (doing a minimal amount of minutes each day to keep it active and alive, but not trying to learn anything more for the moment). You can tell yourself truthfully that as you are learning French, you are really learning only a modern variant of Latin, and that the better you know French, the easier it will be to return to and resume making progress in Latin when you have the time to do this again.

With all best wishes for success in all your studies,

Alexander Arguelles

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My name is Alexander Arguelles. I have pursued foreign languages and literatures with a passion all my life. My goal is to share the knowledge and experience I have gained with others who would like to do the same. Find out more →

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