So Much More Than Words

Meet Brigid— a new member of our SLE Columbia team!

I grew up speaking English. That’s it—nothing else.

My parents’ families have been English-only speakers for generations, and so the tradition continues, but I was always in awe of foreign languages. My sister, who was taking high school Spanish, taught me numbers in Spanish when I was 5 or 6, and the idea that I was communicating the same thing but in a totally new way really captivated me.

Since then, languages have been a passion of mine.  Granted, I only know 2.5 languages (one is still in the works), but I blame that on the American education system.

When I heard about SLE, I was actually doing linguistics research in Tanzania; I didn’t even think twice about applying.  The opportunity to work with speakers of less-commonly-taught languages and foster the linguistics community on our campus was something I couldn’t turn down.

I love how languages are so much more than words – they are ideas, traditions, cultures, jokes, quirky and baffling at the same time.

I love random language facts, like how Cinderella wears a glass slipper because someone mistranslated “fur slipper” from Old French.

And though languages by themselves never cease to amuse and mystify me, I mostly love how languages enable communication between people.  There are billions of people in the world who I cannot communicate with if a translator is not present; that’s insane!

I know that the more I learn, the more I can communicate.  And the more I can enable others’ learning, the more the world can communicate.  That’s why I joined SLE.




Brigid is a junior at Columbia University studying linguistics.  She spends her days beatboxing, working with changemakers at FeelGood, and reading foreign language dictionaries.



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