Asli Akalin: "Berkeley is one of the best places to learn Chinese"

person looking at camera

Photo by Jen Siska; Banner design by Neil Freese

October 12, 2023

Tell us about yourself and what languages you speak. 

I studied economics and computer science in my undergrad at Berkeley and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in my graduate studies at Berkeley. I speak English, Turkish, Chinese, and Italian. And, I can speak Spanish and a little bit of German, though I’m definitely a beginner.

What languages did you study when you were at Berkeley? 

I was really interested in Chinese in undergrad and then in graduate school I took Italian for four years. 

What made you so interested in studying multiple languages? 

I have always liked studying languages. My whole family is also multilingual. Since I was in elementary school, I always liked learning languages. When I got to Berkeley, I was excited to start learning a language at the college level. I heard Berkeley's East Asian Languages and Cultures department was legendary and that Berkeley is one of the best places to learn Chinese so I jumped at this opportunity in my very first semester. I really wanted to start with something more challenging. I had also always wanted to learn Italian too, because I read Dante’s Inferno, and so I decided to commit to that language as well. 

How do you think language learning will help you in your career path now that you’ve graduated? 

Well, I work in the tech industry and because that is a global industry, even though it sits in the Bay Area, being multilingual is incredibly helpful and makes your portfolio that much more compelling. I’m able to communicate with people, colleagues, clients around the world and I think that is priceless. 

What advice would you give students interested in taking a language for the first time? 

I recommend that everyone who comes to Berkeley to take a language class. Pick your favorite language and just start. You wont regret it and it develops parts of your brain that you didn't know you had — there is so much benefit.