My name is Lilly Pireva and I am currently a freshman majoring in Cognitive & Behavioural Neuroscience and minoring in Spanish and Arabic. I am lucky to have grown up bilingual, speaking Bulgarian with my family at home and English at school, so I learned to love foreign languages from a young age. I started Spanish in middle school and picked up French in high school, so it only made sense to me to add another language when I began college! I chose Arabic because I wanted to challenge myself by learning a language with an alphabet that is entirely different than either the Roman or Cyrillic one, and also a language that has few cognates compared to Slavic and Romance languages. I had also heard that Arabic was one of the hardest languages to learn (especially for English speakers), so I definitely wanted to prove to myself that I’m capable of not only learning it, but one day becoming as comfortable speaking it as I feel speaking French and Spanish. Lastly, as I want to go into the medical field, I’m hoping that speaking Arabic will help me connect with more patients and make me more accessible as a doctor.
Growing up as an immigrant, I know how difficult it can be to feel comfortable with doctors who do not speak your language, so I want the ability to offer that to as many people as I can, whether it is through Spanish, French, Bulgarian, or Arabic. It may seem insignificant to non-immigrants, but as someone who is both an immigrant and has parents who are immigrants, I can verify that working with someone who speaks your language can relieve so much of the stress that comes with moving to an entirely different country, and often times it can make people who came here with by themselves feel less alone.
My parents have always supported me in learning foreign languages, and both of them learned multiple languages as kids growing up in Bulgaria. My father in particular has a specific interest in the Arabic language and culture, so he was very excited when I told him that I wanted to start Arabic as a freshman. He enjoys hearing about the lessons that we learn in class, and although he knows a good amount of the cultural aspects due to working with several people from the Middle East, there are still facts that completely shock him, such as when I shared with him that Arabic numbers have different symbols and are read left to right even though Arabic is read right to left. I think Arabic has helped us have a closer relationship, and often times we will text each other small words in Arabic such as شكراً (thank you) or مرحبا (hello). We also go over pronunciations of words that he’s familiar with a lot of the time, and it was especially funny to try and explain to him the difference between ج , ح,خ ,and ه . Neither of my parents had a lot of experience with French or Spanish, so Arabic is the first language that all of us have been able to contribute to whenever we are all together.