Catherine (Cate) Lytle is a second-year international student majoring in East Asian Studies and Musical Studies. As an international student she cares about bridging gaps in cultural practices and communicating over barriers language.
What languages do you speak and how did you learned them?
I grew up in a bilingual family so I spoke Czech and English from a young age. At the age of 10 I began to learn to learn French and recently I started learning Korean.
Tell me about what motivated you to learn French and Korean.
There are only 10 million people who speak Czech (the population of New York City!) so it is very important for Czechs to learn foreign languages. As we lie at the heart of Europe we should be at least proficient in English, French or German so that we can communicate better with the rest of Europe. It was in my French class where I met my best friend who happened to be Korean. However, since her parents don’t speak English, I wanted to learn their language so that I could talk to them and better understand their cultural practices. Even though we were very close before, learning Korean has brought us even closer.
Please share one of your unforgettable experiences with languages.
Most of my unforgettable moments are related to Czech because since only 10-million of us can speak it and it is as difficult as Mandarin, we think of it as a “club language.” At Oberlin there are three of us who can speak Czech and each one of us was shocked that there is someone else here who can understand us.
What similarities and differences do you find among the languages you speak?
Each one of the languages that I speak comes from a different linguistic branch nevertheless I think that French and Korean sound very similar and I often combine the two. I feel a softness in French and Korean that I don’t necessarily sense in English or Czech.
Do you find any difference in your attitude depending on the language you’re using?
I am very particular when I speak and I try to choose my words very carefully. Czech has thousands of more words than English so sometimes expressing what I want to say is more challenging so I tend to be quieter and more timid.
How are you planning to continue learning French and Korean? Are you planning to learn any new language in the future?
These days I don’t have much time for French so I usually just watch French movies and talk to my friends in French. I did a six-week Korean language course over the summer in Seoul which really helped me improve — especially speaking. During the year I self-study and ask my Korean friends for help. I would really like to learn some Chinese in order get an even deeper understanding of Korean but I don’t really know when that will happen.