Ask Away: 5 Questions for a Recent Grad En Route to Business Training in Dubai
We’re asking students, teachers, and counselors five questions on how languages play a role in shaping personal and professional success…
Meet Brian—a recent NYU grad for whom languages (Chinese, Uzbek, German, and Arabic, to name a few!) have been a lifelong passion.
1. As a high school student, you studied Uzbek at Arizona State University’s Critical Language Institute on two different occasions. What attracted you to the program, and to the Uzbek language?
My interest in ASU’s CLI program for Uzbek was rather personal and random—I had always been interested in Turkic languages for their interesting agglutinating grammar and fascinating speaker base in Central Asia. I was looking for something to do over my summers at age 16 and 17, and the program was a perfect fit. I enjoyed living in Phoenix and studying with the excellent instructors and classmates in the program. It was one of my most rewarding language learning experiences and a great memory for me.
2. Since high school you have studied multiple languages… What draws you to language learning?
Language learning is important to me because I want to expand my ability to think.
I am interested in the way that different people perceive the world and how language helps them express who they are and what they need, want, love, or know in life. I am a student of globalization and constantly looking at how language shapes new realities in digital contexts and in the encounter of different cultures.
3. What advice would you have for those who are interested in learning multiple languages?
Learning multiple languages means studying meaning and expression in different systems, and it does not have to be daunting or confusing.
I think it is important to study linguistics and become friends with grammar. Too much of modern language study strays away from it but learning the reason why words and sentences are the way they are is very empowering. Also, certain key base languages that I call ‘lexical head’ languages like Arabic, Chinese, Russian, Turkish, and Spanish/Latin to name a few, can massively help you gain vocabulary in other languages that you’d then proceed to study after.
4. You have done a lot of traveling abroad and have spent time in places such as the United Arab Emirates, Australia, and Easter Island. How have languages helped you to explore and understand different destinations? Any funny anecdotes?
Travel is the most exciting application of a curiosity in language for me.
The UAE is a great example because while English is the lingua franca in business and daily life, there is ample opportunity to explore languages that are spoken by the widely diverse communities there. Oftentimes more Hindi, Urdu, Malayalam, Tagalog, or Pashto can be heard on a day than Arabic, but Arabic is also very present. Countries like China are great for studying monolingualism and immersion and dialect. Countries like Switzerland are fascinating for studying multilingualism. The examples go on and on. Language has enriched my travel in endless ways.
I have so many funny situations happen to me as a western learner of Chinese in Mainland China. Whether it’s girls giggling about something in the elevator thinking I can’t understand (and then me replying to their great surprise/laughter), or striking a bargain with a fruit seller on the streets of Yantai, or finding my way out of strange situations with taxi drivers in Beijing or building security in Shanghai, it’s extremely humbling to be in an environment where one is learning a language and fully committed to whatever comes their way.
5. Can you tell us more about your degree from NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study? What is your vision for that major, and how does your interest in language learning play a role in it?
Yes, my bachelor’s degree that I have just completed at NYU was an individualized major that I designed with faculty to combine several interests in language, globalization, and the study of identity.
While my studies were not formal linguistics, I took several language courses and continually looked at the role of language in the construction of nation-states, identity communities, and the narratives of tourism that places use to attract visitors.
BONUS QUESTION: What role do language and cultural skills play in your future career plans?
Language played an essential role in helping me manifest the opportunity that I am excited to be embarking on: a 9-month program in Dubai, my new home, to study business and cultural ambassadorship under the patronage of the Dubai Government and with partners like PwC, Emirates, Expo 2020, and others. The program is designed to promote business and cultural connections between the Middle East, China, and greater global community.
I shared with them that one of the contributions I wanted to make was to connect with the one-third of graduates in the program who would be coming directly from China, and how language and cultural understanding was something I truly value and want to be part of.
To this day, I feel the most valuable skill I have ever chosen to invest in myself is the study of language, and especially Mandarin Chinese which I began at the age of 12 in 2008, back when China was only finally beginning to get the attention it needed in the global scene especially in America.
I will say to anyone of any age—but especially students and those who are curious about an international lifestyle: the opportunity is out there to soak up the knowledge and wonders of different peoples on this planet, and to limit oneself to one language and one identity may leave one missing new opportunities of self-expression that can give you joy beyond belief.
Whether it’s a commonly studied language that gives you major access to huge speaker communities, or a lesser commonly studied language you can leverage to learn the ways of those who are massively under-served in this world, I wish you the best!
Interested in learning Arabic, like Brian? Check out our Lead with Arabic page for scholarship opportunities, university programs, videos, and student blogs…
Or, are you also a recent grad, bringing your language skills on a new adventure? Tell us your language learning story @LeadWLanguages on social media.