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Many languages form a unique voice

By Abby McGehee

Kaylene Eun, a rising high school senior from Durham, North Carolina, is passionate about learning languages and hopes to incorporate this passion into her future.

Eun is bilingual in English and Korean, speaking mostly Korean at home. She took Spanish for five years and Latin in school for six years, and she is self-studying Japanese and American Sign Language.

“I have a habit of watching every show and movie with the captions in a different language,” Eun said and laughed.

Eun’s Korean roots sparked her interest in languages, but she was also exposed to many languages and cultures throughout middle school and high school.

Eun, 16, attends the N.C. School of Science and Math, a residential, two-year high school in Durham. “All of the professors are so smart and supportive, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything, even though it is really challenging,” Eun remarked.

The school provides additional educational opportunities, including extra seminars led by students and faculty members. Through these seminars, Eun has also been introduced to multiple languages, including a trimester long seminar of both Russian and German.

“You really just get the very basics of the language and a cultural insight to see if you are really interested in it,” Eun said of the seminars.

Eun took an ASL seminar for two trimesters, which piqued her interest in that language.

“In June, I started an independent research project on how the integration of segregated deaf schools has caused black vernacular ASL to lose some of the sanctity of its culture,” Eun said. The project allowed her to look at a form of language from a different perspective.

After a year of working on her school’s newspaper staff, Eun said she became curious about the ways that word choice and language were perceived in things such as news headlines.

“I have always loved writing, but I never took part in helping people get their stories out,” Eun explained. “After having a taste of that, I developed an interest in journalism.”

She said she hopes to find a way to combine her passions for writing and languages to explore a “socio-linguistic” aspect of journalism.

Eun has also been a teaching assistant at the Chapel Hill-Durham Korean school since 2016, and she has been tutoring students from schools in Hispanic communities since 2017. Over the summer, Eun has been teaching English to students in the Jóvenes Para Ayudar program, which promotes education in Hispanic communities.

Through these different programs, Eun has gotten to know many of the children and received insight into their home and school lives.

“You get to see for yourself that a lot of these kids don’t have the opportunities to have a well-rounded education because they are supporting their families and working part-time jobs,” Eun said.

The Chuck Stone program attracted Eun because of both its relevance to her interests and its relevance to the things currently going on in the United States and that are featured in the media.

“I have always been very vocal about diversity in media and in education,” Eun said. “Educational disparities for underrepresented minorities and people with disabilities is a subject I would like to bring to journalism.”