Paige Giarmona is an alumna of the 2016 CLS Bangla program in Kolkata, India. She is currently a sophomore at Northern Virginia Community College earning her Associate’s Degree in liberal arts. After graduating, she plans to pursue a degree in political science with a focus on international relations and international development. Paige has spent most of her time in Northern Virginia but has also lived in other states across the country, including California, Colorado, Iowa, Wisconsin, and others. Her favorite thing to do is learn new things, which she accomplishes through travel, photography, and reading.
I was first introduced to the language by my best friend, who is a first-generation American-Bengali. She and her family introduced me to their culture and language. I’ll never forget when I was 15 and at my first traditional Eid ul-Fitr celebration. It was then I knew I wanted to become a part of this culture. I have translated that wish, as well as my desire to work abroad, into a professional career goal of joining the Foreign Service, and learning Bangla was easily the next step.
In a Word…
My favorite Bengali phrase is, “মেঘ ডাকছে” or “megh dakache,” which means, “rolling thunder.” The literal translation for the phrase is, “the cloud is calling.” In this concept, I started to see the complexities and depth between languages and the intricacies that reveal themselves as you learn another culture’s tongue.
I remember being on a weekend trip with a friend to Shantiniketan, a college town formed by the famous Rabindranath Tagore. This was towards the end of the program. We realized we were going to be late for our train back to our host city, so we both started frantically packing, as I called an auto-rickshaw service (called tuk-tuk in that specific area). I realized, only after I hung up, that I mindlessly spoke to the man in full Bangla. To make it even better, I understood him completely as well, full accent and everything! I gained so much confidence from this encounter, which carried on for the rest of the program. I know that this situation of gaining fearlessness to speak openly allowed me to progress in my language learning path.
Words of Wisdom
Bangla has become such a huge part of my life. The culture, the country, the people and the history are beautiful, rich, and fascinating. I was welcomed so whole-heartedly into others’ lives that I felt as if I were adopted. The Bangla language celebrates intelligence and emotion, and allows you to see a part of the human experience that English, or other Germanic origin languages cannot offer.