Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Power of Words

Sherice Guillory Torres, Senior VP of Nickelodeon Consumer Products, and GLP Board Member

Sherice Torres
I went to public school in Northern California. When I made it to junior high, like most kids of my generation I had to choose a foreign language. While the rest of my friends chose Spanish (a practical skill to master on an increasingly multicultural West Coast), I decided to go with French – a language of romance and intrigue, reminiscent of distant lands filled with magical monuments. It was also the language of my Haitian grandfather (although his was more of a Creole pidgin, not that “good French” as he called it). But, if I really think about it, my choice was really driven by my desire to be different – to choose my own path rather than going with the crowd.
I loved French, and continued my studies throughout high school. When I entered college, I was sure that I would be able to ace the exemption exam for language with 6 years of straight A French classes under my belt. I went into the exam hall filled with confidence, ready to check the test off of my list and move on to more exciting things. The written exam was a piece of cake. Then came the verbal portion of the test. The instructor rattled off a sentence so quickly that I had no idea what language she was even speaking, much less what the words actually meant. The second sentence was no better. By the time she streamed on to the third, I was convinced that I had magically been transported into a different classroom and was taking the oral exam in a language that I could not have possibly studied for the past 6 years.
What I learned from that mind-blowing exam was that I was taught French in the public schools of Northern California the very same way that many subjects are taught in schools across the country today. While we may have consumed classic French literature like Les Mis̩rables and began each class with La Marseillaise, the classes mainly focused on teaching to the test. The strategy was rote memorization of vocabulary and grammar rather than using the language in a practical way Рby actually mastering the art of French conversation.
After I failed the foreign language exemption exam, I went on to take 4 more years of French in college followed by 2 years of Spanish once I went on to business school. Now as an executive in a global business, I understand the power of words and the critical importance of mastering a language – many languages – other than your native tongue. Being able to speak with a friend, a teacher, a business contact in their own language is an irreplaceable, powerful and valuable skill. As a mother of two young boys, I have made it my mission to instill the importance of immersion in language and global cultures from early on. We speak English, Spanish and French in our household and my 6 year old has chosen Mandarin as his foreign language for elementary school.
I became involved with Global Language Project because it is filling a critical business and cultural need for the youth of our country. By emphasizing language mastery and cultural education, rather than simply teaching to the test, GLP is preparing countless students to lead our increasingly global marketplace. I only wish that I’d had this approach when I was preparing for my college language exam….

Sherice Torres recently joined the Board of Global Language Project. She currently serves as Senior Vice President of Nickelodeon Consumer Products. Torres also serves as BadAssMama-in-Chief of BadAssMama Enterprises, Inc. – a lifestyle management brand for working mothers. She is also the founder of her own blog, The BadAssMama Chronicles.  Among her many honors, Sherice was chosen as one of Black Enterprise’s 75 Most Powerful Women in Business (2009) and Top 100 Black Executives (2008). Torres received her MBA at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Management. She currently lives in New York with her husband and two sons. 

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