Senior Dilara Erhan delves into different languages

Senior Dilara Erhan delves into different languages

In Chinatown in New York City with her family, senior Dilara Erhan peruses the shops on the boulevard. Looking around up and down at the shop signs, she can read them in their natural state, no English translation needed.

“I want to be able to go to China one day and communicate with them,” Dilara said. “Chinese is one of the world’s most common languages. When I went to Chinatown in New York City, it was really cool. I tried speaking Chinese with a woman at the grocery store, but she didn’t want to speak back, she just kind of nodded. But I thought it was amazing how I could read it. [The experience] just made me more excited to learn it fluently in the future.”

Languages and linguistics particularly interest Dilara, as she is already fluent in two different languages.

Her parents immigrated to the U.S. from Turkey, and they raised her and her siblings on the Turkish language. For reading, writing, and speaking, Dilara’s first language was Turkish, and it is her primary method of communication with her family today. She then learned English later and is now fluent in both.

“I maybe want to become fluent in Korean too,” Dilara said. “I like the Eastern cultures. I like all cultures, but [with East Asia], I like the temples and their fashion, so I like to study the different cultures there.”

While Dilara is not currently studying Chinese, she did so for a little over two years and plans to minor in it in college.

She would like to go into criminal justice and believes any section of the field will be appreciative of her multilingual abilities.

While also looking good on a resume, Dilara’s linguistic skill brings experience and new perspectives to the learner who is branching out into other cultures.

“I think that as you learn to communicate more with others, it unites people together,” Dilara said. “I think once people hear a strange language, they build up this hatred because they don’t understand it. It’s how racism starts and how people in America discriminate against foreigners. If you try to understand and empathize with other people around the world, it will make the world a better place.”

Speaking mainly Turkish in her family, Dilara has experienced first hand the discomfort people around her feel in public when she says something they don’t know. They’ll give odd looks or try to eavesdrop on the conversation. Dilara believes most of America, along with the rest of the world, is xenophobic, or disliking or fearing of foreign people.

“It’s sad; this place was built on immigrants,” Dilara said.

Seeing these things in her world, knowing what she does, and her love of trying new things all combine to impact her desire to learn new languages and experience other cultures.

It’s sad; this place was built on immigrants.”

— Dilara Erhan

“I really like languages,” Dilara said. “I love how we can all communicate differently. I want to learn more so that I can communicate with everyone.”