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Our readers write from Texas

(Editor's note: This essay will be published in the June 2017 edition of Easy English Times. The writer is a student in Gay Ann Kato's IELI class at the University of Texas at Tyler.)

A foreign language

by Olga Zapolska

Did you know that our world has about 6,500 languages? Statistically, 40% of the world speaks two languages and only 3% of the population uses four languages or more. The knowledge of languages is the doorway to wisdom and promotes expansion of boundaries in our lives. Allow me to ask: what is the main reason for you to learn a new language? Maybe, it's just learning different words to name the same thing or finding another way to think about things. Find out your reasons.

In my case, it is a necessity. My family and I moved to Tyler from Ukraine 20 months ago. When I arrived, I could speak Russian, Ukrainian and Polish fluently, but struggled with English. For this reason, I began the ESL program for international students at UT Tyler in January 2016. Sometimes studying a foreign language feels like a never-ending road trip with countless dead ends. Staying motivated helps me keep my focus on my goal. The results will come if you give it time. You will thank yourself later. I worked very hard and diligently in order to finish the program in 32 weeks. Personally, I think that a good education system can be used as a trampoline to success and can teach you in a shorter period of time. A friendly atmosphere, wonderful teachers and good study books contributed to enhancing my knowledge, and improving my communication skills. My teachers not only gave me the knowledge, but also put their hearts into my life. As a result, I completed this program in October 2016 with a grade of "A". At last, I was beginning to understand what people around me were saying and, even more exciting, people were finally able to understand me. :)

Another reason why I wanted to learn English was to become a part of the community. Without knowing the language you can't integrate into a new society. The unexpected thing was that the community itself played a crucial role in learning the English language. A great benefit of communities is that you can interact with others, speak with native speakers one-on-one, practice understanding the language, and receive feedback regarding your skills. You have to be actively listening and be involved in conversations. It improves your listening and speaking skills in a perfect way. In this kind of situation you have to speak, because your life depends on it. I personally know the fear that comes with sounding silly, but it gets easier when you try speaking more often. Track your progress, and allow yourself a bit of pride each time you give yourself a good grade. Native speakers will try to be nice and attempt to understand you, no matter how bad your grammar is. Don't let a few mistakes stop you from continuing.

Education is the most powerful thing we can use to change our life, and so the world. This is why I decided to apply for the Master's Program even though I already held a Master of Science in Telecommunication Engineering degree in Ukraine. Learning the English language gave me a chance to be accepted into Graduate Business & Technology program, MBA - Quality Management, to receive additional education that can provide me with a better understanding of general business management functions in the U.S.

For me personally, knowing different languages allows me to view life in a different way. Every new language brought, and still continues to bring, incredible friends into my life and gives me access to new kinds of books, knowledge, and perspectives. It has enriched my life. Benjamin Franklin said: "Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn". The 6,500 beautiful languages we have in our world are a gift, and they are here for us. Use them!