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The Journals are the premier publications for high-quality, hyperlocal news and advertising in Monmouth County, New Jersey

Jan 31, 2017

RFH World Language Panel Extols Benefits of “International Mindset”

Late last year, the RFH World Language Department brought together five distinguished guests for the second annual “World Language in Our Community” panel discussion at Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School. While student attendance was optional, it was once again a “standing room only” crowd, eager to hear the panelists share their career and life experiences as they relate to world languages and cultures. This year’s panelists were Sue Finley, Taylor Forry, Mark Jeffers, Gianna Maita, and Greg Thomas.

“If I could go back in time, I would be sitting here, taking the study of language very seriously,” said Mr. Thomas, who is a Supervisory Special Agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). “RFH’s World Language program is amazing, and this forum is highly beneficial. Your language skills will set you apart and open many doors for you.”

Mr. Forry, who works with Mr. Thomas as a Special Agent for the FBI, speaks Mandarin Chinese and Spanish. He immersed himself in the Chinese language and culture by studying abroad in Beijing while in college. “All of my career successes can be traced back to the day I decided to study Chinese,” he said. “Speaking someone’s language gives you an instant connection, and shows trust and understanding.”

Mr. Jeffers is an RFH alum and president of Zodiac Aero Evacuation Systems in Wall Township. Zodiac is a major supplier of aircraft seats, evacuation slides, oxygen systems, and more to aircraft manufacturers in the U.S., France, Germany, Russia, China, and Brazil. He learned that knowledge of a second language was crucial when he traveled internationally in his work with the F16 aircraft, and met colleagues who spoke at least three languages – and some as many as seven. At age 40, he enrolled at the Language School in Red Bank, determined to be a star pupil and help ensure his social and career success. ”I want to stress that you need to embrace the study of world languages and cultures to compete effectively,” he said.

Ms. Finley was encouraged to pursue language studies by her father, a high school French and Spanish teacher who served in World War II and became trapped behind enemy lines in Italy. “For some, language may be a matter of ‘how do I order a cup of coffee?’ But for my dad in the war, it was literally a matter of life and death,” she said. “He spoke no German or Italian, and he never forgot that feeling of not being able to communicate. He studied language upon his return and then advised me to do the same.” She began studying French in seventh grade and graduated with degrees in French and Journalism from New York University, where she was named the school’s top French student in 1984. She is the co-founder of an international newspaper, the Thoroughbred Daily News, which is read by thousands in 180 countries. Ms. Finley travels to Normandy and Paris several times a year and speaks French fluently. “The study of language can take a lot of years, but eventually you will ‘get’ it,” she told the students.

Ms. Maita is a member of the RFH class of 2011 and a 2015 graduate of Georgetown University, where she majored in Justice and Peace Studies with a minor in Arabic. She recently completed a research fellowship in Nicaragua, where she used her knowledge of Spanish and interviewed the students and staff at the Universidad Centroamericana in Managua. She also has varying levels of proficiency in French, Italian, and Afrikaans. “If you can, study abroad,” she said. “It will help you build language skills and broaden your world view.”