Speaking of Bilingual Students at ODA…


Misha Fazlutdinov, a native Russian speaker.

There’s almost no doubt that most Americans living in the United States are predominately monolingual. But for those Americans who are bilingual, the benefits are tremendous. In a 2015 article by ScienceMag, researchers found that people speaking different languages have totally different perceptions of the world and of society.

“Speakers of the two languages put different emphasis on actions and their consequences, influencing the way they think about the world, according to a new study. The work also finds that bilinguals may get the best of both worldviews, as their thinking can be more flexible.”

In the comments section of the article, reader William Rapien agreed with the notion of bilinguals having different worldviews.

“Words divide up the world into ideas and give a method to combine those ideas into complex concepts. Each language has a different perspective on how those ideas can be combined. In Spanish, I possess hunger (tengo hambre) but in English my hunger is a state of being (I am hungry). These differences influence how our inner consciousness interprets what we feel and gives us a richer ability to express ourselves.”

Similarly, in a 2014 article by The Economist, some linguistics experts examined the claim made by some bilinguals that they hold multiple personalities while speaking two or more different languages.

But what would this mean for how we think about students in our community? Do both highly reputable articles by ScienceMag and The Economist truly explain why bilinguals’ insights are different?

It seems that the only way to answer these questions are to listen first hand to bilinguals at ODA speaking a language other than English. Do our perceptions of them change?

So lets find out by getting an earful of a very popular Slavic language, Russian.

Russian speaker Mikhail Fazlutdinov, a sophomore, likes to speak his native Russian by reciting poetry.

Misha Fazlutdinov, a native Russian speaker.
Misha Fazlutdinov, a native Russian speaker who’s Russian skills are almost scholarly.


“Scarlet light of dawn appeared at the lake

at the pine forest the capercaillies cry with a ring

somewhere an oriole cries, hidden in a tree

but I do not feel like crying,

I am happy

I know you’ll go behind the crossroads in the evening,

We’ll sit together on haystacks.”


“Sometimes it is hard to translate phrases or ideas in Russian to English. Sometimes you cannot translate everything in one language to another language,” says Fazlutdinov.

Let’s see how Italian changes your perception of Matteo Romano, a sophomore:

Matteo Romano speaks Italian.


“My mom is mainly German, but during the 1980’s she lived in Milan [Italy]  for almost eight years. When I was a little kid, we used to speak [in Italian] together, and I learned Italian like this.”








What about a language that is not derived from Latin, like German?

Enter Tony Varga, an American-born, ODA junior who speaks German.

Tony Varga, an ODA student who's German is impeccable.
Tony Varga speaks German.


“I have known German ever since I was little, and my mother taught me German at a young age. I moved to Germany from Florida at a young age. I have been living in Florida ever since I started school in the US, and I still go back to Germany periodically.”






But other than the European languages of German, Italian, and Russian being spoken at the Out-of-Door Academy, there are also Asian languages such as Mandarin Chinese.

The following is from native Chinese speaker Liu, a freshman:

Liu, a native Mandarin speaker who articulates his Chinese pronunciations superbly.
Liu speaks Mandarin Chinese.


“Hi I am Liu, and I am from Beijing. I came to the United States to get a better education, and I winded up at the Out-of-Door Academy. I now currently live in Sarasota.”






Given the many languages spoken at ODA, it is quite obvious to conclude that ODA is an ideal place for bilinguals. Not only does the speaker’s perceptions of the world change, the listener’s perceptions of the bilingual change also when a different language is spoken. So next time you meet a bilingual in or out of the ODA community, make sure that you have an open ear and an open mind.