Category Archives: Uncategorized

Paraphrasing and Problem Solving

While many people have a tendency to associate the act of problem solving with mathematics or with other STEM fields, foreign language is an often overlooked area of focus that contributes greatly to the acquisition of problem solving skills. As a Spanish and Portuguese student with an extensive background in the natural sciences, I can verify firsthand the impact that foreign language has had on my ability to solve difficult problems common in everyday life. While my biology, chemistry, and physics courses have certainly helped me improve my ability to solve problems within their respective fields, my foreign language courses have given me the critical thinking skills necessary to solve a variety of problems not only within the realm of foreign language but within life.

My decision to study abroad in Portugal was one of the most important choices I have made in my undergraduate career; the experience has instilled valuable lessons in me that I will take with me as I enter the workforce and as I continue to navigate my way through life. While studying foreign language in a classroom setting is important, studying a foreign language in a country that primarily speaks that language is a priceless experience that increases one’s proficiency not only in the target language itself, but in other life skills in general. One of the most challenging things I faced while studying abroad was effectively getting my point across with relatively little vocabulary in my target language. As a beginner level Portuguese student, I oftentimes could not say exactly what I wanted to say; I had to figure out how to incorporate the vocabulary I did know into sentences that conveyed the same message as the more complicated English versions that I had in my head. By the end of the trip, I was able to communicate with my Uber driver with ease; the skills that once frustrated me and took me a long time to achieve became second nature.

This capacity to problem solve, especially in the context of communication, is an important skill for nearly every aspect of life. The workforce needs people with the ability to think critically (which ultimately arises from the ability to problem solve); many employers search for employees that can provide innovative solutions to difficult situations and that can resolve any issue that may arise between them and their colleagues. In every social setting, effective communication is highly valued; the only way to effectively communicate is to be able to overcome challenging communication problems (and challenging communication problems will inevitably always arise). If a person acquires the ability to communicate effectively with someone in a foreign language, then their ability to solve communication errors in their own language exponentially increases. After returning to the United States, I noticed a decrease in misunderstandings between me and the people that I interacted with. If a misunderstanding did arise, I was able to quickly rephrase my thoughts into something that made better sense to the both of us. Foreign language does not only increase one’s ability to problem solve in the realm of communication, however. Ultimately, the thinking skills developed from problem solving communication errors carry over into nearly every other area in which problem solving is required.


Do You Have Any Fruits and Vegetables? – Jada Chambers

Critical thinking is not something I would have consciously considered when prompted about my skills in the workforce, especially in my native language. One year ago, however, that all changed. 


I stand in line at Customs at the Atlanta airport in an utterly exhausted haze. Through the haze, I hear a Border agent’s voice call out over the din of travelers.

“Does anyone here know French?” he calls out. I look for the teacher I’m traveling with. She spoke French quite well. I look again, but I can’t find her. She’s not here. I look again. Still not here. I raise my hand.

The agent waves me over. 

“You speak French?” 

Why are you asking again, you just asked, I think. 


“I need you to help me ask this gentleman some questions.”

 A tall, old man with white hair and the same plaid shirt every old man owns acknowledges me. I smile at him and tell him, “Bonjour.” 

The border agent goes through the questions with me. What’s your purpose in the United States, where is your final destination, how long will you be staying, and finally, do you have any food or drink with you? I consider the first question, thinking of the right words. I am so nervous I’m sweating, but the agent nor the man can see that, see that my heart is about to beat out of my chest. I ask the man his purpose in the United States. He tells me. 

I look  at the agent and say, “He’s on vacation.”

The agent nods and repeats the second question. The man and I go through the same process with this question. He’s going to New Orleans. How long is he staying here? This one causes some trouble. I can’t quite hear the man. He holds up both hands and splays his fingers. Ten days. 

“Ask him if he has any food or drink.” 

I start the process again. Something is wrong. Before, I found the words, found some equivalent that got the point across. This time, I can’t think. I don’t know the words for food or drink, not right now at least. I turn to the old man, and finally ask him if he has any fruits or vegetables. He shakes his head and I tell the agent he has nothing. 

We’re done. The French man and I share a moment of relief that this ordeal is over. The older man thanks me profusely, in the (admittedly adorable) formal french only older people use. I tell him it’s nothing, really, and then he leaves, off to New Orleans. 


That happened almost a year ago. I would be lying if I said I didn’t think of that day and that old man often. I think of that day with reverence, too. I hold that day dear because it was the first time I was able to put skills I had learned in the classroom, in my major, to use in real life. I was able to communicate with this man and he was able to understand me, even when I made mistakes, and even when I hesitated or felt silly because I couldn’t translate the sentence exactly as the agent had asked it. I was able to make several quick decisions in the moment despite being exhausted, from deciding to help the man and agent, to finding substitutes for words or phrases when I didn’t know the most accurate translation, all while making sure neither man saw that I was anxious out of my mind. 

My experience translating gave me the confidence I needed to continue pursuing my major, and is a constant reminder that I am capable of performing essential critical thinking needed for the workforce, even when I doubt myself.

The author on a roadside overlook in Nice, France, with the Côte d’Azur and the Mediterranean sea behind.

Failed Presentations and Confusing Communications – Lucy

I was sixteen. It was my first class presentation for German and I had memorized half the words, with no note cards to help me with the other half of the words. My slides on my presentation were set to switch after 30 seconds, as imposed by my teacher Mr. Eickhoff, and as soon as the presentation began, it quickly went downhill. As I struggled to remember the words I had not committed to memory, the slides continued to change, and soon I just stopped talking, standing in front of my class silent as the presentation cycled on. I imagine it was very painful to watch. Mr. Eickhoff allowed me to try again a week later, and I, desperately trying to avoid the same mortifying experience, practiced my presentation dozens of times. I ended up getting an A. 

Two years later I was in Berlin, Germany on a summer abroad program, standing in front of another class. This time, I was ready. My words weren’t memorized, instead, I had a general idea of what I wanted to say and a larger working vocabulary to pull from. And so I stood in front of the class and I did exactly what I couldn’t do two years before; I came up with half of my words on the spot. Not because I hadn’t prepared (though I definitely had been more interested

Sightseeing in Berlin

in visiting the Brandenburg Tor then doing my homework the day before), but because I knew enough of the language to phrase my sentences based on the moment. And it went wonderfully. After I thanked my class for their Aufmerksamkeit (attention), I returned to my seat and all I could think was: I just presented in German. No sweat. And if I could present in a foreign language, a language that I wasn’t even fluent in, then I could accomplish anything in my native language. 

Or at least, I have a newfound confidence in my communication skills. I’ve been in front of a room full of people, overwhelmed and stressed out, and I’ve choked before. And from that experience, I’ve learned how to recognize my weaknesses and improve myself. I’ve gained the confidence I need to command a room and the humility to recognize where I need improvements, which in the workplace can make me a vital team player and introspective worker. 

Class presentations are just one of the many character-building experiences language learning provides. Immersive language settings, such as living with a host family in a small Bavarian town when I was 15, have pushed me to be more flexible and adaptable to unknown experiences. In Straubing, Germany, I stayed with a girl my age, Angie, and her family. At the time, I spoke not a word of German, though Angie’s family spoke in such a thick Bavarian dialect I may not have been able to understand them anyway. Angie spoke English well, but she often didn’t tell me what plans we had for the day. Thus, I was constantly being thrust into new situations without preparation. One day we woke up and she announced we were going

With Angie’s family on a random adventure

to a music festival in Munich. We got on the train and I realized it was a two hour train ride. 

Staying with Angie taught me how to roll with the punches, but also, it emphasized to me the importance of communication. It wouldn’t have been difficult for Angie to tell me our plans; she

did speak English after all. She would tell her friends, who were with us, in Bavarian dialect, but neglect to tell me and by effect, I felt very excluded and isolated. By keeping others in the loop on details and plans, it fosters a sense of community and acceptance; something which is very important in a formal workplace.

 Dedicating my time to learning German, Spanish, or even that one class I took in Latin, has improved my human relations skill set exponentially. Each experience builds on the last, whether it be choking on a presentation, taking random two-hour train rides to Munich, feeling isolated by others’ lack of communication, or one of the numerous other experiences that have equipped me to thrive in a formal work setting.

Language majors have robust critical thinking skills

As a French and Linguistics double major, I have developed robust critical thinking skills that will transfer well into the workforce. I have excellent analytical skills given the emphasis on critical analysis placed in Emory’s undergraduate program. One of the primary foci of my French degree included learning how to dissect the point of view, objectives, and rhetorical devices found in texts. I am using texts in a general sense to refer to genres including literature, film, images, websites, and others. This experience prepares me well to deduce the objectives of outside parties that I find in company correspondence. Based upon my close reading of outside parties’ goals and stipulations, I will be able to provide well-informed recommendations for company action. Additionally, I will be able to produce and guide the creation of company documents that convey objectives effectively. For example, I will shape the company website in order to best highlight points that are important to company goals. The training in critical analysis that I received in my French and Linguistics degrees equips me well to understand and implement company goals through correspondence and publications.

Studying languages requires students to critically analyze texts from a variety of genres, including art.

I have also developed a keen understanding of diverse perspectives through my experience studying and working in France. I realize that the best service caters to each customers’ needs and desires, which is only possible when the company understands its diverse customer base. I learned this lesson while interning at a translation firm in Paris, France. My clients from Italy and France had very different expectations in terms of deadlines, cost, pace of communication, and other factors. In catering to these different client expectations, I learned how grateful clients are when they realize that companies are tailoring service to their needs. In a future career, I will continue to prioritize understanding the diverse perspectives found in my client base.

How to: Hone Human Relations Skills with Language

“So, what made you decide to major in [insert language of choice here]?”

You must hear this a lot – in casual settings with friends and family, or in professional settings with professors, advisors, or interviewers. Sometimes it is hard to sufficiently describe your love for languages, and even then, that might not be accepted as a sufficient answer by whoever it is you are speaking with.

This is one of the obstacles of being a foreign language major. Being able to navigate this question and demonstrate to others that language-learning should not be simply a hobby and is a tangible, feasible field of study is an essential skill. From this obstacle, you learn to talk about how other skills you have gained from studying languages has empowered you in different contexts.

For me, one of the most tangible skillsets that you can attain from studying languages is human relations skills. Luckily, progress and growth in this particular skill is evident in how you interact with others, as that is essentially what human relations entails. Being a foreign language major emphasizes your empathy and sensitivity to cultural differences, your ability to relate to other people and their experiences to create meaningful relationships, and your ability to tackle uncomfortable situations with professionalism and adapt.

Personally, the three aforementioned abilities are closely intertwined with each other. As a foreign language major, one of the best ways to hone my own language skills is to throw myself into settings of complete immersion. After all, you learn something the best and the quickest when you need it to “survive” somewhere. (“Survive” is used loosely – you wouldn’t die from not being able to communicate, but it definitely makes your life easier.)

At the same time, as a young adult who has the privilege to access higher education, one of the best ways to acknowledge my opportunities is to reach out to communities who may not have the same resources. This involves empathy, being able to see beyond just yourself and things solely beneficial to you, and being able to address that gap appropriately.

I have been able to develop these human relations skills through working with Project SHINE, which is an organization that focuses on helping immigrant populations in America. Although, yes, you could gain these skills without a foreign language major, I truly believe that your skills would not grow to the fullest potential. As someone who is trying to learn to communicate in a foreign language, you would better understand and better be able to relate to those who come to America and try to learn English. Your struggles in the classroom relate to their struggles in English as a Second Language classrooms, or even outside the classrooms. Knowing how to navigate a language barrier teaches you to be patient, attentive, and supportive when you have been in similar (although, to a lesser degree) shoes. Your human relations skills also comforts whoever you work with because they realize that they are not alone in the process, and this builds meaningful relationships with the people you serve.

Fullbright Essay

I was born and raised in Jordan. At the age of four, my dad moved to Texas due to the lack of jobs available after losing his job. My mom, despite the unimaginable toll of my father’s absence and the financial hardship, instilled determination and perseverance in me and my siblings. During my early childhood, I hated it when people asked: “what do you want to be when you grow up?” because I thought what I truly wanted was not good enough; I wanted to be a professional car racer but felt inclined to say otherwise. I knew, however, that being successful at whatever it is I decided to do in the future entails great sacrifice and strong will. I toiled to be ranked first in my class trough seventh and was tenacious to maintain that level of academic achievement throughout high school. That was the plan until we had to move to Texas. I was intimidated because not only would I have to learn a new language, I would have to adapt to a new environment and culture, which I believed would inevitably impede me from maintaining the academic achievement I sought.

Having come to Texas not knowing any English, I refused to use my lack of English knowledge as a crutch and reason to fade into the crowd; I found immutability within me. The values my mom instilled in me did not allow to simply quit. I realized that I had no control over my present, but my future is in my control, and to ensure a bright, I overcame the language barrier by stepping out of my comfort zone.

Going into high school, the confusion among freshmen was markedly worse for me. As I was still learning English (I came to the US a year before high school), colleges seemed extremely overwhelming and expensive. Having the resoluteness to become familiar with the higher education system and pave my road to college, I took rigorous classes while familiarizing myself with the admission process, swotted, and was able to bring my rank up to be among the top ten at my school.

I used to wish I had come to Texas two years earlier allowing me to be more prepared for high school. However, I am appreciative of the challenges I have faced as they sculpted my identity into a sturdier one, capable of withstanding and overcoming future obstacles. I have come to value-efficient time allocation as well as setting goals and working relentlessly towards them. Developing such valuable skills has, without a doubt, defined other areas of me and continue to help me succeed.

During my time at college, I have enjoyed my chemistry classes the most and began working as an Undergraduate Research Assistant at one of the Chemistry Department labs. Working at the lab has taught me the value of research and exploring areas in science that have never been explored before. My future aspiration is to continue pursuing my curiosity of exploring fields in chemistry that have not been before. The Fullbright Research Grant will help me overcome the financial obstacles that might stand between me and pursuing my passion.