Student Spotlights: In Conversation With Raquel Ramirez

Can you tell us about the languages you speak?

I speak English, and I’m Mexican so I’m a native Spanish speaker. I went to a bilingual school when I was growing up before I moved here to the States, so that’s where I learned English. So both of [those languages] have been with me pretty much my whole life. And then, I also speak French, German and Chinese, which I have taken here at the high school. I also speak Russian which I self-taught with some programs with the State Department, and tutoring from other people. I speak some Turkish as well.

What part of learning languages is most appealing to you?

I personally really love talking to people and learning about other cultures, and I felt like language really fit into that. Grammatically, I like learning languages that are different. It’s just a lot of fun for me, which I know might sound a little awkward, but it really is fun. My motivation was personal in that way; I didn’t learn it for anybody else or for anything, it was just because I wanted to. 

What was your main motivation for learning all of these languages?

I always wanted to be a lawyer. That has been my goal since I was little. I personally liked the humanities realm of law and I really liked the political and cultural side of history, so I knew that I wanted to do something more with international law. Once I’m at Yale, I intend to study abroad over the summer and I definitely intend to use my languages.

Tell us about your experiences using the languages you have learned.

I was in Latvia in January, through a Russian exchange program with the State Department. Once I started learning Russian and I got to a level where I felt more comfortable, I really wanted to study abroad, so I started researching ways to do that and I came across this program. We got to meet with one of the Latvian Members of Parliament and I was able to speak with everybody there that I needed to in Russian which was really cool. 

Why do you think learning languages is important?

Not only are you growing yourself [by] knowing another language, it’s another skill you could apply, not only to your job but in general. When you’re meeting new people, learning a language is how you’re going to meet people that you never thought you would ever meet. You’re going to make connections that you never could have made otherwise and that human aspect is invaluable. There’s the cultural aspect of learning a language. You are so much closer to the culture of that country: you can read their literature in that language, and you can understand some of the thought processes and really get closer to other people, because you have more connections with them. It’s a way of expanding your world and your horizons, so I think it really is super valuable.