Four languages and beyond: Schoen experiences culture past physical borders


Camila Flores and Kaylee Aguilar

Coppell High School sophomore Jessica Schoen experiences various diverse cultures in her life. Schoen is fluent in German, Swedish, Spanish and English and is currently learning French.

Sarah Woo, Staff Writer

From living in Germany to Sweden to Costa Rica, Coppell High School sophomore Jessica Chaska Chuquichampi Schoen has experienced more than the typical high school student.


At just age 16, Schoen is fluent in four languages (German, Swedish, Spanish and English). Her unique exposure to languages, however, has not ceased. As she is currently learning her fifth language (French), Schoen incorporates her distinct cultural encounters with her linguistic opportunities into multiple aspects of her life, including her education and hobbies.


Schoen learned German as her native language when she lived in Germany for six years. She later learned Swedish when she lived in Sweden for four years before learning Spanish from her father and living in Costa Rica for almost two years. Lastly, she learned English when she moved to Miami for two years and finally moved to Coppell before she joined eighth grade.


“Jessica has had all these different experiences and seen all kinds of culture,” Kerstin Schoen, Jessica’s mother, said. “She has gained knowledge that, for many people, is not ever possible to gain in their lifetime. Since she has always been well-integrated into every country she lived in, she has learned very quickly and easily. When she went to school in Costa Rica, she learned more than just mathematics; she learned everything about the language, history and culture.”


People and their culture also play a significant role in affecting Schoen’s perceptions of each country’s society.


“It’s very interesting to see how different the communities are in each country,” Schoen said. “There are obviously huge differences in the environment; in Sweden it’s always cold and snowing, and in Costa Rica it’s always hot and raining. But the people and how they act are really different too. People in Europe, for example, are more interested in people’s lives – they ask a lot of questions and want to find out everything about you. Here [in North America], people seem to be a little less interested – they just want to know the basics and guess about the rest.”


Here in Coppell, one way Schoen demonstrates her skills from her special background is within the walls of CHS. Schoen reaches exceptional standards linguistically, effectively connecting with her teachers with ease.


“I have never had a student be at this level linguistically,” AP/IB French and Spanish teacher Michael Egan said.  “She already has an advantage in this course because she can clearly see patterns between languages. It’s also fun to have her in my class because, although she doesn’t realize it, I use her as my own quiz; whenever I need to refresh or practice my German, she’s always there to check up on me.”


Similarly, Schoen bonds with fellow classmates when reminiscing on experiences from foreign countries, such as Sweden.


“The only language Jessica and I share is English, but we talk and connect over Europe a lot,” CHS junior Liam Bjorkvall said. “Since we’re both from Europe, we have this little competition over who’s more Swedish by seeing who can last longer in cold weather.”


“Without cultural education, we would lack perspective of knowing how other people live. Just because it’s different, doesn’t mean it’s wrong.””

— AP/IB French and Spanish teacher Michael Egan


As Schoen overcomes these cultural boundaries, the importance of language learning and cultural education appear strikingly throughout her individual experiences.


“A lot of people’s identities are related to their languages without them realizing – and language and culture go hand-in-hand,” Egan said. “Without cultural education, we would lack perspective of knowing how other people live. Just because it’s different, doesn’t mean it’s wrong.”


Along with being extremely versatile in terms of language and culture, Schoen also holds her secret weapons to success: engineering and dancing. These passions, along with her bright personality, play key roles in Schoen’s lifelong successes that have not been lost along her cultural adventures.


“As a person, she is very open and accepting,” Kerstin Schoen said. “I want to see her use all her skills in whatever area she goes toward. She sees that things can be done differently, and that there’s not only one way to do things, which she can definitely apply to her future.”


Follow Sarah on twitter @syw6338