A Passion for Communication
AHS Student is Breaking Down Language Barriers
Writer / Melissa Gibson
Sarah Ardeel, a junior at Avon High School has been fascinated by communication and language from a very young age. She’s still a typical teen in many ways.
She enjoys the band Maroon 5, watches CSI, is in the drum line with Avon’s Marching Band and doesn’t get straight A’s, but Ardeel’s intuitive nature and aptitude for language, has given her a unique perspective on people and the way they respond toward one another.
When her younger, twin cousins seemed to communicate in a way others didn’t understand, the only child started to question how people interact and the many facets of language.
Today, she “dabbles” in as many as 28 different languages and speaks five fluently, including Spanish, Russian, Belarusian (found in Belarus, Southern Ukraine and Russia), German and American Sign Language (ASL).
It all started with family.
“My grandfather spoke Spanish and I wanted to learn, maybe as a way of impressing him,” Ardeel says. “But watching my cousins, it occurred to me that language isn’t just a formula and rules. It’s understanding on an emotional and physical level. It’s not something you can just learn. You can’t teach that connection.”
She recognized the depth of understanding among families and communities and wanted to learn more about those deep connections.
“Language is a tool of communication, but it’s so much more,” she says. “It’s the look you give to a friend when the teacher says to work with a partner. It’s the differences between the way I speak to a teacher, my parents or my best friend.”
In fact, she gravitated towards those that were different.
“When I was in junior high, there was a Chinese exchange student named Emma,” Ardeel says. “People didn’t really talk to her because they couldn’t. I wanted to make her feel welcome. We often didn’t know what each other were saying, but we could still enjoy each other’s company.”
Ardeel doesn’t learn a new language in a classroom or the many self-taught programs out there. She learns through music.
“Music is unifying to me,” Ardeel says. “Belarusian music has a really pretty sound, but when you translate it to English, it doesn’t even come close. All the emotional investment is missing.”
She began by breaking down lyrics, piecing together the meaning in the language spoken and playing a single song on a loop.
“I think about how it makes me feel the first time I hear it,” she says. “What is my mood at the time, where I am, what time of day it is., and on the 300th time, if I feel the same way, if it’s consistent, I want to look more into the language. If it’s that powerful to make that emotional connection, then it’s just beautiful.”
Ardeel spends time learning about the culture of a language she’s studying and only considers herself fluent when she feels she can interact with the people of the culture in speaking and writing.
She references the marching bands motto “commitment to excellence” when comparing the respect she has for people and their ways of communicating.
“In band, we don’t do it for the trophies,” Ardeel says. “We do it because it’s what we love to do.
“If I can’t put what I’ve learned into practice, then it doesn’t really matter. I think God created us for different purposes and designs, but he still created us all. It’s amazing we all speak in different tongues, but we’re the same in so many ways.”
Ardeel says her passion is helping people and sees herself working with adults or children in a communication field.
“I’m open to opportunity,” she says. “To be honest, I don’t really know what all is out there. I love to write and would love to write a book one day. I’d love to teach a dying language. I’d love to work with the government in translating other languages.”