The Power of Language

Every first-year student at Williams lives in an Entry—a thoughtfully constructed microcosm of the student community that’s a defining part of the Williams experience. From the moment they arrive, students find themselves in what’s likely the most diverse collection of backgrounds, perspectives and interests they’ve ever encountered. What might differentiate you from the 19 other first-year students in an entry? What perspective(s) would you add to the conversation with your peers?

“Watashi no namae wa Hung Nguyen desu.”

My voice trembled as I nervously introduced myself to my Japanese class.

At first, Japanese was just a bunch of random noises in the anime that I occasionally watched. But as I started to watch more anime episodes, I began to notice the hidden complexity behind the Japanese language — it was an amalgam of three distinct writing systems that majestically strung the language together. This fascination piqued my interest to take on the arduous challenge of learning Japanese. Learning Japanese soon became an addiction. I was addicted to the exhilarating rush I felt when I had fluent conversations with my Japanese friend or smoothly read a passage.

Somewhere along the line, my goal was no longer just to master Japanese, but to enrich my perspective on the vast cultures of the world and to learn it for the sake of learning. I realized that language is merely words, but when you know the story and culture behind it, language can reach people’s hearts. I wanted to learn Korean, Chinese, and various other languages. I wanted to become the link that connects people of multitudes of cultures through languages. As Nelson Mandela once said, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes into his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes into his heart.” With language, I will connect and reach the hearts of the students in my Entry, with the whole of Williams, and with all who are ready to share their own voices.

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