A Persuasive Argument for the Expansion
of One’s Expressive Repertoire through the Study of a Foreign
by Miguel Alejandro Valerio
What’s the orator’s primary tool? What’s the poet’s primary tool?
What’s the writer’s primary tool? Language!
Not only is language the primary mean of human communication, but
it is also an intrinsic element of culture, for it is primarily
through language that a culture is transmitted to every new
generation, and perpetuated through time.
More importantly, however, language is an essential tool for
self-discovery. The Mexican poet, Octavio Paz, put it best when he
wrote: Contra el silencio y el bullicio invento la Palabra,
libertad que se inventa y me inventa cada día. “Against the silence
and the noise, I invent the Word, liberty that invents itself, and
invents myself, every day.”
What do we have of Aristotle? What do we have of William
Shakespeare? What do we have of Emily Dickenson? Their dead bones
and their living words!
I bring you the key to immortality, which Juan Ponce de León, and
all the other treasure hunters of history, failed to find. Not only
do I bring you the key to immortality, but I also bring you the map
to this invaluable treasure, longed for since the dawn of
There is an Italian adage that teaches: Chi parla due lingue è
doppio uomo. “He who speaks to language is twice a man.” I
believe that the key to immortality lies in a masterful dominion of
one’s own language.
I believe that the road to this treasure is the expansion of one’s
expressive repertoire through the study of a foreign
We all fear foreign things. The word barbarian comes from the Greek
word βάρβαρος, which means foreign, strange, etc. “Civilized”
people have always feared barbarians, foreigners, for they are a
threat to “civilization” itself.
Many fear foreign languages. Among the countless reasons, is the
fear that in acquiring another language the person will loose his
own language. I can testify to the fact that this is an
unreasonable fear, for among the infinite benefits of studying a
foreign language, a better comprehension of one’s own native
language is perhaps the most valuable result.
I would consider it a great personal shame if left St. John’s with
just a piece of dead paper and a few laughs about Dr. Greg’s
I would consider it a great personal shame if I left St. John’s
deprived of that tool which shall be most necessary to me in the
school of life. If my whole life is spent seeking to speak to
every person in his native language, then I shall be true to the
words of Emily Dickenson:
If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.