Learning a new language

Advice from the experts


Madison McNamara, Times Staff

If you’ve ever wanted to learn a new language, now is a good time to start!

San Jose City College has quite a few options to choose from: French, Japanese, Spanish, Vietnamese and even American sign language!

On top of the joys of learning a new language, they all count for some part of your GE requirement. You could learn them for fun and also get credits toward your graduation!

Along with taking classes on campus, there are many language apps, podcasts and websites to help with your learning journey.

Duolingo is a free app that can be useful, and most of the learning is done by playing games. It even has a course in High Valyrian for you Game of Thrones fans out there!

Rebecca Gamez is one of the Spanish teachers here on campus. Her class is very interactive and gets you involved, keeping you interested and ready to learn.

Gamez says that though there are known cognitive benefits to learning a second language, such as impacts on academic and professional success, learning a second language can help personal growth and self-esteem. Opening your mind to learning a new language can also have positive effects in community-building.

“As a Tejana whose family had suffered from discrimination and systemic racism, I was encouraged to prefer English over Spanish,” Gamez said.

She said that even though she grew up with her parents speaking Spanish at home, English came to dominate. She was saddened that she felt such disconnect, and so she began her adventure in studying Spanish.

As many language resources recommend, she spent a year in Mexico to help reconnect with her heritage and immerse herself in the language.

“I believe learning another language and appreciating other ways of being is an important step in eliminating borders, linguistic and otherwise,” Gamez said.

While taking a language class here on campus, you not only advance your knowledge in the language, but you also learn a lot about the culture where the language originated.

Professor Blair Rufus teaches sign language and has been teaching on campus for 15 years, but he teaches on other campuses as well.

“People often ask, ‘Oh, deaf people can drive!?’ I tell them of course, and there are even stats to show that they actually drive better than most people,” Rufus said.

He says that sign language is very visual and does not follow the rules of English.

“Some people would say American sign language is a form of broken English, but it doesn’t even follow at all,” Rufus said. He recommends frequently looking through the class textbook. It will make it very tough if you never open it at all. Rufus posts videos for his class online as a study guide for students. Students also do a lot

of in-class partner work and class activities to help the information stick. Rufus was born deaf, so he grew up with sign language. He encourages students to meet new people in the deaf community to help with their learning progress and using flash cards. “American Sign Language opens your mind to the world around you and makes you a better person,” Rufus said. “I think it’s great if I can go into a store and find someone who can communicate with me. I get so excited.”

Learning a new language expands your communication skills and lets you communicate with a much larger variety of people. It is an exciting new adventure that will open your mind to the world around you.