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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Fleitman ’17 celebrates a love of language

Published: November 6, 2014
Section: Features, Top Stories

Many college students across the country experience difficulties finding their passions, and moreover, finding a subject of study to pair along with it. Tali Fleitman ’17 is the exception. With a double major in Health: Science, Society and Policy and Economics, along with a minor in French, Fleitman is also fluent in four different languages.

She was born and raised in Mexico City. With an Israeli mother, Fleitman was exposed to Hebrew by speaking it at home, and Spanish, because it was the language of the city around her. It was in Mexico that Fleitman discovered and celebrated her love of soccer. At age 14, however, she knew that she had to make a choice: either pursue her dream of soccer or continue with her studies. With an interest in potentially completing high school in the United States, Fleitman ultimately chose the latter. After applying, and later being accepted, to a boarding school in Florida, she began to attend the school in the middle of ninth grade. It was in Florida that Fleitman had her first true exposure to the English language.

“It was really hard for me at first, because coming into school, I didn’t know past basic English. I was placed within an English as a Second Language program, and for a month and I was constantly asking people what things meant,” said Fleitman.

While she enjoyed her time in the United States, after completing ninth grade, Fleitman decided to go back to Mexico to live with her family. She ultimately finished her sophomore year in Mexico City. However, upon the year’s end, Fleitman made the decision to spend the summer in Israel to visit her family. While the plan was to return to Mexico at the end of the summer, Fleitman decided to stay and live with her grandmother for familial reasons. Attending the American International School in Israel, Fleitman discovered her love of French and studied it during her two remaining years of high school. Being in Israel during that time was also productive for her, as she was able to take care of her grandmother and continue with her studies.

Coming into Brandeis University her first year, however, Fleitman had no intentions of taking French, and didn’t in her first year. “While I stopped studying French completely for a year, in the back of my mind I always knew that I needed to continue. I wanted to improve my language skills in French, to be fluent or at least proficient.” This need was satisfied when Fleitman attended the French program at the Middlebury Language Schools in Vermont the following summer. In fact, the immersion environment that this program featured allowed Fleitman to return to Brandeis speaking fluent French. “Coming back to Brandeis, I was very motivated to not only continue my studies in French and pursue a minor in the language, but I have also now started studying Chinese at Brandeis.”

When asked where her passion for languages comes from, Fleitman states, “I am very interested in studying languages because I love being able to communicate with people on a more personal level. A lot of time, so much in someone’s identity is missed by not understanding a person’s culture or by not having the ability to understand someone express themselves in their native tongue.”

At the moment, Fleitman’s future plans include applying her studies at Brandeis and her passion for language in China. She states, “I am very interested in going to China to attempt to understand the lack of correlation between the economic growth they have been experiencing and the health care system present within the country.”