Lingo Logic: Why Students Pick Their Foreign Language

Students discuss why they decided to take their foreign language of choice.

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Question: What prompted you to choose the language you take at Stuy, and/or what do you enjoy about it? 

“I picked German mostly because it's so similar to English—not in an ‘it'll be a free class’ way, but rather an ‘it'll be super interesting to see how the two compare, and maybe it'll make me better at English, too’ way. I always hear Latin students talking about how knowing Latin helps with English, and I've found the same thing with German. I understand what's happening with word order and English tenses much better than I used to, and a big part of that is the fact that I actually had to learn the rules for German instead of just hearing and absorbing English. Also, it just sounds cool! I could say words like ‘Quatsch’ and ‘doch’ all day.” —senior Zoe Cater 

“I chose Latin because I love etymology and mythology. It’s the stem of so many languages and has so many intricacies in its construction.” —junior Dale Heller

“I chose Chinese because I speak Chinese, but I can’t read or write it, and I wanted to become completely fluent.” —freshman Margaret Castiglia

“I chose Spanish because I had a foundation in Spanish from middle school. I wanted to continue learning it and building upon the skills I acquired. I like interacting with a new culture and also find it interesting how many words sound alike but carry different meanings.” —junior Anna Lau

“I chose to take Spanish at Stuyvesant because it is the second most spoken language in the country. Also, I can roll my Rs very well, so I thought I should apply my talents to this language. Not only that, but I took Spanish in elementary and middle school, so I thought it was in my best interest to continue to pursue and learn this language.” —freshman Sabrina Gao

“I took Spanish because my grandfather, on my mother’s side, was Cuban, so I figured it would be a good way to immerse myself more in that culture, especially considering my mom didn’t learn Spanish growing up, so it helps me connect to my roots. I love the language itself and the culture, but also [I love] Spanish music.” —sophomore Tahlia Jamir

“Before I was born, my parents met in Japan. My dad was stationed at 横須賀 for the US Navy and my Mom was an English teacher at 横浜英和. After my father’s deployment, they lived in 横浜 for a few months, before moving to NYC. Growing up, there’d always been a small connection to Japan. My mom used Japanese phrases (such as ちょっと待ってください) [please wait a second] with me all the time to the point where it became second hand nature. Upon graduating middle school, one of the factors that helped me make a decision was how many languages a school offered. At this point, I knew I wanted to study Japanese due to my familial connections and because of my previous experiences with the language. Only a few schools in NYC teach Japanese with Stuyvesant being one of them. Honestly I’m surprised I even got into the class. I missed the language preference form by like two weeks. Upon taking it my freshman year, it hit me like a truck. All of a sudden, 60s and 70s became the norm for Japanese. Growing up in a non-Asian household, I knew I had a disadvantage. I knew a few characters here and there (mostly from my mom and Power Rangers Samurai), but nothing really prepared me for the beginning of freshman year. Out of my entire time in Japanese, those first few weeks were the hardest. I’d never cried so much because of school before, and I was starting to wonder if it was even worth it. Nevertheless, I was too stubborn to quit and I persisted. In hindsight, that was probably the best decision I made at Stuyvesant. I started studying on the daily, going to office hours, and having study sessions with my friends, things I’d never really done before. Over time, as I got closer with my classmates, my 60s became 80s, and even a few 90s. And yes, for perfectionists, that’s the end of the world. But a 85 in Japanese meant more to me than a 100 in any other AP class. I’ll never forget the different trips we took to Lincoln Center with Sensei, or competing in Japandemonium for あんぱん, or crying together when listening to talks from a Hiroshima survivor. It was certainly the hardest class I took at Stuyvesant, but also, my favorite. This past summer, I stayed a month in Japan and was able to converse and get along with the locals just fine! I ordered meals, bought electronics, and even spent days entirely by myself just traveling the country. I’m trying to self-study, but nothing compares to Sensei’s teaching style or classroom culture.” —senior Matthew Monge

“Not a lot of people take German, so I thought, ‘why don’t I do something different?’” —sophomore Kavya Green

“My math teacher from middle school told me to choose a third language that I never experienced, and I thought French was very cool and unique.”  —freshman Fiona Wang

“My older sister took Japanese when she went to Stuy, so I decided to take it so I can get some help from her.”  —freshman Glynnis Gravador

“For me, to be honest, it was just a matter of interest. I take German—my mom, she did German, so she had experience in it. Personally, compared to other languages, it just piqued my interest more. Something I like about it: in German, we learn a lot of German culture, like sometimes whenever holidays come around, and I find that really interesting.” —freshman Ananya Gupta


“I just found French to be very beautiful and elegant, basically I took French because it's fancy.” —sophomore Jareefah Alam

“I chose Spanish because I already had over a 100 day streak on Duolingo, and I thought it would be easy. It’s definitely an experience alright, and I enjoy the people in my class.” —freshman Josh Arthur

“I chose Spanish because I’m Hispanic and I never learned Spanish, so I want to learn it.” —freshman Jayden Vallejo

“The reason I take Mand[arin] is because my parents want me to talk to them in an understandable language besides English, which they are horrible at” —junior Daniel Wu

"The reason why I chose French is because I thought that French was a very romantic language when I was in middle school—like there is a certain aesthetic to it. Now that I'm learning it, I really enjoy the fact that I can converse with people and understand this language, which used to be so mysterious and foreign to me.” —sophomore David Son

“I chose Latin because I was fooled by my middle school math teacher into thinking it was a useful language. My current Latin teacher is cool, but it doesn’t help when all the teachers at Stuy don’t know Latin is still being taught.” —senior James Li

“Honestly, I chose Mandarin because my parents told me to.” —junior Stacey Chen

“I took Spanish in middle school and decided to stick with it. I speak Chinese at home and did not want to waste the opportunity to develop my knowledge of a different language. It's also the most commonly spoken after Chinese so that helped. I enjoy being able to randomly blurt out Spanish whenever I feel like it because I've needed to practice it so often for class. Having fourth year Spanish or the elective class was pretty helpful in retaining the information and being able to practice while having fun.” —senior Inga Chen

“To be honest, I chose Spanish because it’s the second most spoken language in the US, so I wanted to be able to know how to speak a language that would be useful in real life scenarios. I’ve also heard it’s not too difficult to learn, and having taken it for two years I definitely love everything about the class.” —sophomore Rebekah Abraham

“I chose Spanish because I live in a heavily Spanish speaking neighborhood, and I want to be more involved within my community.” —freshman Tallulah Conolly-Smith

“Since I am Japanese, I felt like learning Japanese was a need and I needed to learn it eventually anyway. Without taking Japanese, I would’ve gotten a much higher GPA and my mom told me to drop it and switch, but I didn’t switch. I don’t want to give up on it—I’d feel unaccomplished.” —freshman Joshua Hori

“I’m taking Japanese because I was interested in Japanese media and wanted to read and watch without subtitles. I thought the class would be a challenge (which it for sure is) and also liked how there’s only one Japanese teacher, which makes the class feel a little more special.”—sophomore Angelina Weng

“I decided to take Latin because it seemed to be much more interesting to me than other languages. Many languages, including English, derived from Latin, which made it all the more intriguing. I love how I can look at a word in English and be able to figure out which Latin word it's derived from!” —sophomore Aasha Zamir

“My decision to study Mandarin was initially influenced by my friend, who chose to take it as well, and I hoped to be placed in the same class as them. I also thought it'd be great to refine my skills, as, though I already had the ability to speak Mandarin proficiently, my writing abilities were subpar. Something that I particularly enjoy about Mandarin is how immersive the learning environment is.”  —freshman Daniel Li

“I took Spanish because I already took two years of it in middle school. My favorite part is Sra. Ambia; I've had three years of Spanish with her.” —senior Kelsey Pan

"Since I was four months old, I had this nanny who speaks Spanish. In middle school, I had to choose between Spanish and Mandarin, and I wanted to keep improving the skill I already had. [Coming into Stuyvesant], I already had a credit and wanted to improve further." —junior Jakob Weir