Multilingual Valerie grew up speaking English and French, is now loving her German studies – and hopes to learn Italian in the future.
For Valerie (Grade 12), the joy of learning a language is using it in the real world. “Not just relying on textbooks and using our knowledge of the outside world helps us learn,” she says. “It means we have a better perspective on the language and what’s happening all around us at the same time.”
Valerie has been named as the winner of last year’s Hanna Gasser Award, a scholarship to attend a German-language residential educational programme in any German-speaking country. It is given to the student who has demonstrated the most growth and potential for German language capabilities, something Valerie is taking to a new level by writing her IB Extended Essay in German.
Valerie’s family comes from French-speaking Canada, and they have always spoken French at home. “Just by speaking French at home and English at school, I’ve always had to translate in my head,” says Valerie. “But I think having really good German classes in school has helped to develop those skills.”
Valerie hasn’t yet decided on a career path but, she says, she knows that the languages she has learnt will serve her well, no matter what she decides to do. “I know that if I want to work for a global company, it will help me communicate and make connections with people. And an understanding of languages help me have a global outlook, too.”
The best thing about speaking German is being able to connect with people, she says – even if you’re not speaking with fluency every time. “Speaking their language helps build confidence and trust, as people realise you are making the effort. It’s important to have the confidence to express your thoughts, even though it might not be perfect grammatical structure.
“It makes living internationally so much easier when you can talk to the people around you, and it helps you to understand that world much better".
Words Lucy Jolin, Photography Camilla Greenwell