After six years of German classes, I traveled to Germany for the first time and relied on my knowledge of the language to navigate my way around the country. I was determined to study Hindi at Pitt in order to better communicate with the Indian side of my family, and after two years of Hindi classes I studied abroad in the Himalayas and took an intensive Hindi course there.
Each time I decided to start studying a language, I did it with travel in mind – I wanted to visit Germany and India and use my language skills there. The time I spent in Germany and India solidified my grasp of both languages; although my vocabulary is limited, I am able to communicate with relative ease, even with people who do not speak English.
During both of my trips I found that my knowledge of the languages enabled me to more deeply participate in the communities I visited. While I was WWOOFing in Germany I was in a small town where not many people spoke English, but I was still able to speak with neighbors and people in shops enough to learn a little bit more about the area. In India my Hindi made an even bigger difference – we traveled to remote villages where nobody spoke English on several occasions, and I was still able to communicate with my host family and other villagers. When we returned to our home base between field trips, I could speak with the staff of our school and shopkeepers in the bazaar, and I taught some English to one staffperson’s sons. I was able to learn much more about the daily life of villagers in the Himalayas because I could actually speak with them.
I expect that German and Hindi will both continue to benefit me. Even at home, I am able to use Hindi to better communicate with my family, which is something I hoped would happen for most of my life. I plan to use German after college as well; if I go to graduate school, I intend for it to happen in Germany rather than in the United States.