A Fascination with French

Clara Zioli Da Igreja on the ‘magic’ of learning to speak French

November 02, 2022

Clara Zioli Da Igreja ’23 arrived at Grinnell fascinated by Chinese literature and culture; she expected to explore this interest further. But when she was invited for an oral placement in French, she was captivated by the language and the professor’s passion for teaching. As a native Portuguese speaker, Zioli Da Igreja could understand Italian and Spanish. French, however, was a mystery to her, though it is one of the most widely spoken languages worldwide.

“Considering that we learn so much from the people that cross our paths, I could only imagine how many stories and how many people I would be able to connect with by learning a language spoken in so many culturally diverse countries,” Zioli Da Igreja says.

Sometimes things need to go wrong so that they can go right.

Clara Zioli Da Igreja ’23

She was also fascinated by international development and learning about different ways of perceiving life. Studying the French language allowed her to connect with cultures in Latin America, Europe, and Africa.

Simply Magical

“Learning languages is hard, so the moment when you become capable of easily communicating with someone else in a new language is simply magical,” Zioli Da Igreja says. Language can build a bridge between you and others, she explains — people you might not otherwise truly know due to the language barrier. She says this knowledge humbles her and makes her even more passionate about learning languages.

Zioli Da Igreja credits her success throughout her studies to the support she received from the faculty members of Grinnell’s French department. Visiting Professor Claire Alexandre introduced her to the subject and inspired her to pursue a French major; other faculty members challenged her to deepen her understanding of the language. This support was critical to Zioli Da Igreja, whose time at Grinnell was complicated by the pandemic.

Learning from Challenges

“Due to COVID, it was difficult to make the most of my college experience. Still, I would not change my experience, because I believe that the struggles prepared me to the path I have set forth on now and built the foundations for me to endure the uncertainties of my future,” Zioli Da Igreja says.

“If I could go back in time to when I was starting college, I would just kindly remind myself that sometimes things need to go wrong so that they can go right.”

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