Angela Fantone speaks five languages and said she wants to learn as many as Cleopatra, who had reportedly learned nine languages in her lifetime. Fantone said, “I want to see if I can do that before I die.”
Fantone, a Winter 2020 graduate from the Philippines who graduated with a degree in English, was raised speaking English and said she learned Tagalog at the age of 12. She soon learned Cebuano, another language of the Philippines. “I want to keep the [language] and polish it so that I am more connected with my culture,” she said.
She shared, “I always imagined that I would be able to speak different languages. I thought it was always a gold mine. It’s an amazing ability to be able to communicate with other people.”
I always imagined that I would be able to speak different languages. I thought it was always a gold mine. It’s an amazing ability to be able to communicate with other people.
While attending BYU–Hawaii, she said she learned French to meet the language requirement for her major, and she later learned Spanish.
Immersing into the culture
Iris Zavala, a freshman from Honduras with an undeclared major, said about learning languages, “Nowadays you don’t have to go to another country. [You can] go onto YouTube, get familiar with the culture and learn.”
She described how she had witnessed Fantone pursue her desire to learn languages through immersing herself in music, friends who speak the language and setting personal goals for herself.
Fantone advised others who want to learn another language to take advantage of available media. She said to buy books, subscribe to YouTube channels, and watch movies in the language someone wants to learn. “Speak to people with your target language. You don’t even have to buy an expensive Rosetta Stone; download Duolingo and make friends. You can find resources around you,” she explained.
Dani Castro, a friend of Fantone, said he has known her for more than two years and also graduated in Winter 2020 with a degree in English. He said he had once left some of his belongings with Fantone when he and his wife went off island. When they returned, she was speaking to him only in Spanish, which confused him until she informed him that she was doing a 24-hour Spanish challenge, even though she didn’t know much Spanish.
Castro said, “It was really admirable. The thing I love about Angela is she is the type of person who creates goals for herself. She doesn’t find goals from a professor or from some sort of program, but she has a desire to improve herself consistently.”
Zavala said one day they were both listening to a Spanish song, and the next time she saw her, Fatone was singing the lyrics. “I was so impressed. She is always wanting to talk in Spanish with me. She shares new words she learns and steps out of her comfort zone.”
Fantone said she has found the best way to get to know someone is to talk to them in their own language. Castro backed up this sentiment. “If you want to get closer to someone and show love to them and try to learn more about them and who they are, the best way to do that is to learn their language.
“When Angela wanted to learn Spanish, I felt close to Angela because she started to get to know a side of me that not everyone gets to know.”
Fantone said, “For the first few years of my life before I learned Tagalog, it was tough to keep in touch with my culture because I did not have the linguistic aspect. We have missionaries who go to foreign places … They act like they’re natives because they have that linguistic part of them. I did not have that.”
Castro said, “Angela loves Spanish so much that she decided to do her senior seminar on a Spanish book. That fact that she did that made her senior seminar so much more meaningful to her and other people. When we introduce ourselves to a different language, we are introducing ourselves to those people and culture.”
He said the more people learn and educate themselves and can read materials in another language, they learn so much about their history, learn different perspectives, and are more sympathetic. “I think the conflict we have these days is we don’t understand where we come from and what makes us tick, which makes us who we are. It gives us a better method to share the light of Christ.”