Another language, another window of opportunity

Ivadette Haziri, Staff Writer





One can hear greetings from around the world such as these walking down the hallways. Follow the sound, and one of the voices might belong to Nazli Pazhouhfam, whose multilingual fluency has brought her opportunities and knowledge that have helped her succeed in many aspects of life: school, family, friendships, and community participation. 

Although born in Iran, Pazhouhfam primarily mastered Turkish from her family, rather than Iran’s recognized language of Persian (also known as Farsi).

Thrown into the world of bilingualism, Pazhouhfam acquired Farsi language skills from Iranian schools while also learning Turkish. 

“In Iran, we went to school, and they taught us the alphabet in Farsi,” Pazhouhfam said, “They spoke to us in Farsi, and that’s how we learned.” 

Living in Iran until 6 years old, Pazhouhfam’s family decided to move to Turkey and her knowledge of the language came in handy when settling into her new school and environment. 

School in Turkey helped Pazhouhfam improve her writing skills and fine-tune her understanding of the language. As well as school, watching Turkish movies with her family refined her mastery of the language. 

“I already knew how to speak in Turkish, but when we moved to Turkey, I learned how to fluently write in Turkish,” Pazhouhfam said. 

In addition to knowing regular Turkish, she is also fluent in Azerbaijani Turkish, which are slightly different from each other. 

There are many other types (of Turkish) but those are the ones that I know,” Pazhouhfam said. 

As she was settling into the new environment, another big change in her life happened. During her first grade year in Turkey, her family moved to the U.S. for safety reasons, yanking her from what she was growing to understand and recognize as her home. Once again, this abrupt change meant that she had to learn a new language and settle into a new culture and environment. 

I had zero skills in English. I was bad. Really bad,” Pazhouhfam said. “My teachers were wonderful and they helped me get better by putting me in ESOL (English to Speakers of Other Languages) classes.” 

Dropped into an American, English-speaking environment, she took advantage of the tools around her to learn the English language and grow accustomed to the culture.

“Watching movies in America, and English movies in particular, helped me learn how to frame sentences with good grammar,” Pazhouhfam said. 

Watching movies has not only helped her master English, but also helped her improve her French skills. Dedicated to learning an additional language and currently taking French 2, she also watches movies in French that help her grammar and pronunciation.

“I’m not in a French environment, I’m in an American environment, an English-speaking environment. It’s difficult to learn French and comprehend something I would say in English to how it would translate to French,” Pazhouhfam said. “But my teacher is amazing, and she helps me with a lot of French topics and saying things in French, and I think that’s very helpful.”

Being trilingual (almost quadrilingual) is advantageous, and Pazhouhfam has many reasons for why learning all of these languages was worth it. 

“It’s helped me communicate with people from my own community. If they didn’t speak out on something due to not being familiar with a language, I can help with that.”

Pazhouhfam has also found a sense of community at school built on shared languages.

“I actually know of students that also speak Farsi, and it’s this sense of, ‘Oh, we’re from the same community,’ ” Pazhouhfam said. “I also help teach other students Farsi and Turkish and get them interested in these cultures.”

Overall, Pazhouhfam emphasizes the rewards of learning languages.

“I love learning languages, and I think it’s important to know many languages in society today, because there are many of us, and we have a very diverse community. Knowing these languages helps us better communicate with many people from many different places.”