Why I love languages, especially the language of Loreto
How is it that a monolingual English speaking kid came to a good degree of fluency in several languages? Part of the reason I love languages is that they are proof to me that within everyone there is something waiting to be ignited, and often it takes an inspiring teacher to light the flame!
My foray into languages came as a complete surprise to me. I grew up in an English speaking family, I only had access to an English speaking community and environment and I had never travelled to a non-English speaking country. But I did have a very proud maternal grandmother of Italian heritage who romanticised endlessly about her ancestors. On my first day of Year 7, a very stately, glamourous and fashionable Parisian walked into my classroom. My French teacher. I still remember the learning of the day, as will anyone reading this who was educated in the audio-lingual era. “Allô, c’est Philippe Ledoux?” Well, I was hooked. As soon as I was able to make my elective choices for Year 8 I hurriedly added Italian to my study of languages, as much to make my grandmother proud, I’m sure. I then added Portuguese to the armoury whilst on a 12-month exchange to Brazil. This truly awoke my senses to what it means to speak, dream, think, understand and feel in another language. This also meant appreciating other people’s culturally bound motivations, limitations and worldviews, including my own.
What I love most about learning languages is that one’s inner world can feel more expansive for everything that languages bring. There is a word in Portuguese, ‘saudade’, which can only be best translated as longing or nostalgia or homesickness, but the actual sentiment is deeper, more raw and there is no equivalent word in English. I know what it feels to experience ‘saudade’ in a way that I didn’t fully understand before learning Portuguese. I have always loved how my junior French classes would laugh every time I said ‘Oh là là’! Then I would hear several whispers of imitation as it became internalised in their being, waiting for the right moment to be used one day. Something in their understanding of that ‘Oh là là’ recognised that no such expression in English holds quite the same meaning.
In the same way that my inner life would be poorer for not having immersed myself in languages for many years, it would be poorer again without the language of Loreto to give my life shape, direction, richness, anchoring, fullness, hope and love. It might be my favourite language, if the truth be told. Sincerity, verity, felicity, justice and freedom of spirit…I savour these words that have taken on a renewed flavour and meaning in my life since I joined this language lesson, to the extent that they make me feel differently. In properly seeking to understand this language, these words and ideals challenge me. They stretch me. Like any good learning, it is not meant to be easy; it is meant to make us fuller humans in order that we might live better, love better, contribute more. That is growing fluency right there. A beautiful thing to behold.
The roots of a language are fascinating things to study. The language of Loreto, brought forth into a modern world by a daring woman, has its roots firmly grounded in the Gospel. Inspired by the life and teaching of Jesus, Mary Ward challenged her contemporaries into a new way of being that afforded a broad, liberal education for girls with faith at the core. I think the world remains thirsty for languages like Loreto, at once counter cultural yet enduring. How blessed are we to be part of a rich international community, united by this language of the heart, mind and spirit.
Dare I suggest that wherever you may be on the ‘language of Loreto’ proficiency scale is exactly where you are meant to be. May the teachers of this very alive language – our beloved Loreto Sisters, staff, students, ex-students, and parents alike – continue to take good carriage of this precious offering to the world and through their very example of a life well lived be testament to this ongoing gift.
My warmest wishes to you all as we embark on our new year held in this familial, celebratory, gentle and strong Loreto Normanhurst community.
Ms Sophie Kearns