French and Linguistics Personal Statement
Each language has its own particular charm, whether it is my mother tongue Kannada's comforting rhythm or German's compound words. I fell in love with something about each language I learned, and wanting to further explore human communication, I dipped into linguistics by reading J.P Davidson's 'Planet Word'. Suddenly languages revealed turbulent histories, threats of extinction and in the case of French, existence as a national identity. This social impact first attracted me to the subject of linguistics and studying it together with French would combine the scientific study of language with an artistic appreciation of one. Since language is omnipresent in society, linguistic subfields are numerous, and I had a taste of just how varied the field is by doing the online courses 'Logic and Language' and 'Miracles of Language'. Within these, the subfield of pragmatics, dealing with conversational language, particularly caught my interest. An example provided was in a politeness module, where informants speaking different languages tended to react to social situations differently, demonstrating how language and culture can shape each other even after considering personality differences. This theme came up in works I read such as: 'A Little Book of Language' by David Crystal and 'The Language Instinct' by Steven Pinker. In the latter, much of the book discussed the theory of Universal Grammar and how our mind processes speech, and I found the Sentence Tree model fascinating, because it split sentences logically into phrases that are then assembled, very similar to a computer's input methods. Logical analysis is something I too wish to hone, since I have introduced the Linguistics Olympiad to my school. French was a window into a world with different customs and habits to mine, but upon pursuing it, I grew to appreciate the incredible diversity of francophone countries and the beauty of the language itself. I was fortunate to start it early, thus building an interest for its wider culture at a young age, an opportunity that I tried to create for others by running a French club in a local primary school. I read 'Le Tour du monde en quatre-vingt jours' and 'Voyage au centre de la terre' by Jules Verne, and although not traditionally literary, they are considered the beginnings of science fiction. Personally I found the tales of adventure and overcoming obstacles refreshing in comparison to the often dystopian style of the genre today. Phileas Fogg from 'Le Tour du monde...' inspired me to emulate his quiet determination to achieve the extraordinary in my own life. My classroom learning was reinforced by meeting native French speakers in my area for conversation. Furthermore, trips to the Rhineland region of Germany and staying with a host family brought out the spontaneity in my speech, for which I gained a school award in German. I also experimented with different registers of speech by translating parts of a web portal into French for Wipro Technologies. Similarly for linguistics, attending the Cambridge Master Class and Languages Summer School was invaluable in terms of being introduced to different fields in linguistics such as morphology or phonetics. Besides school work, I like to broaden my knowledge in other ways such as participating in the Chemistry Olympiad, for which I won a Bronze Award in Year 12, and mentoring younger students in French and German. In the wider community I volunteer every week at Sue Ryder, a charity shop. In addition, as part of the National Citizen Service program, I raised awareness for food poverty in the area, even being elected as Graduate Representative for my team. Naturally languages also take up my spare time as I learn Chinese, Swedish and Irish online, which help in encountering new language structures. I find the intellectual challenge proposed by a university education a welcoming one, and I hope to deepen my understanding of what is possibly mankind's greatest tool, language.
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