Obies Using Languages: Kiran Melnyk ‘17

Kiran Melnyk is a fourth year ENVS major.  

What other languages do you know and how did you learn each of them?

I speak French because I learned it at school starting in 3rd grade. I was really bad at it until tenth grade when I started watching french movies and absorbing more. Since i’ve been at Oberlin, I’ve mostly kept up my practice by going to the French stable in Stevenson. I wasn’t fluent until I actually went to France and shot a documentary last winter term. Afterwards, I went to Madagascar for a semester where I spoke a lot of French because it is one of their national languages. Since then, I haven’t spoken much.

Which language do you feel like you can communicate best in or are more yourself?

What language feels most like home?

English feels most like home because it’s my native language, but sometimes I feel like my thoughts are communicated better in French. When I speak French I’m less worried about how I’m phrasing my thoughts and am able to take more time to express myself. In French its totally ok to have a long pause in the middle of a sentence like euhhhhh to figure out what I’m saying, but in English this is viewed as sloppy. I like speaking french more than English.

What is your favorite word or phrase in another language besides English that is untranslatable to English? What does it mean?

In French there’s a phrase ca me fait chier which means you’re pissing me off but it literally translates to “that makes me shit” which is funny.

When you speak in other languages, do you think in the language you’re speaking or translate the words from another language in your head before speaking?

Now I can think in French easily, but that only happened because I was in France immersed. It’s different when you are immersed in a French speaking environment and communicating with native speakers, because translating in your head actually becomes a waste of time.

What is your favorite dish tied to the language you know best?

Steakfrits is my favorite dish which is just steak and fries but you can find it at any French restaurant.


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