2020 Hall of Fame Nominee

Lynn Johnston
Alderwood Middle School
Lynnwood, WA
2020 Finalist from PNCFL

Little did I know that signing up for French in seventh grade would steer the course of my life. Learning languages has influenced my intelligence, pastimes, relationships, career, and life goals.

I believe learning languages makes me smarter. Managing two or more languages is a mental workout. The muscles of the working memory grow stronger, boosting retention and recall speed. Because this mental juggling requires concentration and coordination, multilingual students steadily improve their ability to focus.

Language learning develops literacy. Students are practicing communication strategies, learning how to exchange ideas, to comprehend and interpret, and to create effective oral and written messages.

Not only did learning a second language improve my communication skills and multiply vocabulary in my first language, it made learning additional languages much easier. Learning a second language develops new brain networks that are primed and ready when you embark on learning a third language. In addition to French, I took three years of Swedish in high school and then studied Spanish in college.

Language learning strengthens college and career readiness. These improved literacy skills help prepare learners for college entrance exams. People who are competent in more than one language outscore those who are speakers of only one language on tests of verbal and nonverbal intelligence.

Learning a second language makes travel easier and more enjoyable. It gives me the confidence to ask the locals where they like to eat, shop, and have fun. Travelers who know more than one language are more easily able to navigate outside the tourist bubble and to connect and interact with the place and its people in a way that is often inaccessible to those without the language. Some of my favorite life experiences have been ordering tapas in Spain, scuba diving in Bora Bora, driving all over France, navigating the canals of Amsterdam, boating with locals in Tahiti, exploring the Vatican in Rome, and eating 12 grapes with a local family at midnight on New Year’s Eve in Mexico. These experiences might not have happened if I had not been motivated by a middle school French teacher who inspired me want to see the world.

Second language study has inspired many relationships in my life and made me part of different communities. In particular being part of the board of the Washington Association for Language teaching has provided me with some awesome relationships and leadership opportunities. Multilinguals have the unique opportunity to communicate with a wider range of people in their personal and professional lives.

Learning a second language is a resume differentiator. It’s the ability to communicate and collaborate in another language across cultures and interact in a global community. Language learning became my career and passion. I have been teaching languages to middle school kids for 35 years now and enjoy almost every minute of it. My main goal is for students to love learning languages and to continue in their studies. The benefits that I have experienced are essential for and within reach of all learners.