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Billy Handy sets the standard

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Billy Handy, an MATC liberal arts student, aspires to go into foreign services to travel the world and be an interpreter learning many other cultures. Off to a great start, Handy explained the journey that helped him learn five different languages by the young age of 18.

“At an early age I became fascinated with hearing people talk. Being from a culture where so many dialects were used I made it my mission to be able to communicate in as many languages as possible,” said Handy.

His  mother spoke Dutch, which exposed him to the language daily.  His grandmother was Puerto Rican and Cuban. Ultimately her family spoke Spanish.

Handy saw that neither his siblings nor cousins knew the language and took it upon himself to learn Spanish and represent his family. He lives strongly by the quote, “If not me then who?” The inside influence was great and lead him to explore more languages. His quest to learn French was quite different.

“I already knew some French and then my family took a trip to France. While in France I met a guy. With the knowledge I already had, it made it easy to communicate, but he taught me that there are many types of French dialects. You can speak French in any French-speaking area but your dialect will show where you’re from.”

At around the age of 4, Handy recalls having a German teacher. This teacher taught him the basics along with the English language.

As he grew with the language he began to notice similarities in Dutch and English, but it took him until high school to begin actually using the language. “In my spare time I used apps like Tandem and Duolingo that taught me things like verb conjugations. I learned about five words a day. I would find something that is similar to them to help me relate them to everyday life. When choosing a new language, I advise people to understand that it will be difficult but find something and apply it to things you like,” said Handy to those thinking about learning new languages.

“Marquette’s price was too high and the class size at UWM was so large that I felt MATC was the best choice. I plan to attend Morehouse in Atlanta, Ga. I just want to set the standard for my family,” Handy said. “My parents did not go to college, so I plan to get my Ph.D., enrich others and make my family and city proud. While in high school I was the first African American finalist for the U.S. Senate Youth Program, this was a big thing. I chose not to play on the fact that I was African American. I actually lost to a Ukraine refugee and I later found out that the win was for a full scholarship, but from this experience I gained respect and saw that he had more drive. This is when I decided that I wanted to be a voice to others,” he continued. “Just because you are this or that doesn’t mean you can’t do this.”

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The student news site of Milwaukee Area Technical College
Billy Handy sets the standard