by Jessica McKenzie, Asst. Feature Editor
Five Manhattan College alumni visited campus to present a panel on the importance of studying a foreign language. The event took place on Wednesday, March 4 at Miguel 311 to celebrate International Mother Language Day in February.
Former participants, Shayla Ortiz, Albert Palladino, Andrew Amadei, Jacob Sarasin and Maryann Stallone studied foreign languages in college during different generational periods and have found immense use of their skills in various areas of work over the years.
Shayla Oritz, Class of 2015, was a specialist in international relations and Spanish while in Manhattan. She quickly discovered her passion for teaching. Nearing graduation, she joined Teach for America, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing underprivileged children with a high-quality education.
She now uses her foreign language skills as a Spanish teacher within the organization.
“It’s a very ‘hands-on’ job… [the children] do not learn directly from textbooks, but through games, conversations, and projects,” Ortiz said. “They learn to ask questions and solve problems at the same time.”
Ortiz continually challenges herself with Spanish language, history, and culture, so she also facilitates conversations about race at Teach for America. She also oversees a Latinx affinity group at school.
“These are young children who
have incredible questions… [we as teachers] connect them with different cultures around the world,” Ortiz said.
Albert Paladino, class of 1993, grew up hearing his parents, both Italians, speak in the dialects of southern Italy. In childhood and early adulthood, Paladino had a strong desire to become bilingual.
“My dad grew up in a time when there was a stigma to talking [more than one] Tongue. He didn’t want me to learn [Italian]“, said Paladino.
By the time Paladino reached seventh grade, he was two years ahead of his classmates’ reading level. He was invited to participate in a program in which he would learn Spanish while his peers continued their regular English classes. He eventually entered the program despite his father’s resentment. Paladino fell in love with the Spanish language and became fluent by the time he reached high school. He then learned Italian.
Paladino graduated from MC with a bachelor’s degree in computer science and a minor in Italian. He landed a job in transaction processing systems and acts as a translator between his company’s branch in New York and its headquarters in Italy.
Andrew Amadei works in the study abroad office at The New School in Manhattan. His role is to communicate with the employees of the Paris campus of The New School.
Amadei graduated from MC as a French major in 2009, having also studied Italian and Russian outside of school. Since he was looking for a job at the height of the Great Recession, he was very difficult for young graduates like Amadei to find work.
“I found that my language skills constantly separated me from everyone applying for jobs,” Amadei said.
Amadei then went to graduate school to pursue a master’s degree in philosophy and international relations. He discovered a deep interest in the field of human rights. His foreign language experience landed him a position with the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, creating language proficiency tests.
“If you can train your mind to learn another language, you can train your mind to learn a human rights framework of law, culture and society,” Amadei said. “You teach your brain to react to someone else’s point of view.”
Jacob Sarasin is a 2019 graduate of the School of Liberal Arts and is currently UNESCO Deputy Director for Model United Nations. He was in the first class of the Chinese minor in Manhattan. Unlike the languages previously discussed, he finds Chinese to be unique because it incorporates symbols with words and phrases as opposed to letters.
“I wanted a unique challenge,” Sarasin said. “Learning Chinese…was something that pushed me out of my box. It was a completely different way of thinking.
Sarasin was one of the first students to participate in MC’s summer study abroad program in China. Studying abroad helped him hone his language skills. He met the developing society in China in person, an experience that most people on this side the globe may never have.
“Many of the questions we are taught to think about in American society are the same type of questions asked in Eastern society,” Sarasin said. “When you ask these questions in China, however, you get completely new answers.”
Studying abroad, insists Sarasin, is a great experience to put on a CV and talk about during job interviews. Unusual or unique hobbies are also a great conversation starter. During his last interview for a paralegal job, he talked with employers about a Chinese game he likes to play. Unexpectedly, he and the investigators had this in common and he eventually got the job at the law firm.
Her employer is panelist Maryann Stallone, who graduated in 2000. Stallone has a trajectory of other alumni in that she grew up speaking fluent Italian from an early age. When she entered Manhattan as a freshman with the goal of studying the Italian language, she had no experience writing or reading in Italian.
She has since used her Italian language skills in her paralegal career, as well as while studying abroad in Florence and Costa Rica.
“Using your language skills shows [natives] that you care,” Stallone said. “It shows you want to learn, and it’s something that gives you a level of respect that you might not get if you insist on speaking English.”
Students interested in learning more about studying foreign languages should contact linguistics professor Samira Hassa at [email protected]