Four years ago, Polish-born Ania Jakubek arrived in Japan without knowing a word of Japanese.
But that didn't stop Ania, then nine-years-old, from figuring out how to communicate with her fellow students in fairly short order.
"Within two months she could argue, not just talk, with her Japanese friends," says her mother Beata from their Orléans home.
In fact, Ania's grasp of her new language was so good, she became the family's tour guide during their two-year stay in Japan. At the time, Japanese was Ania's third language, after Polish (her native tongue) and English, which she picked up in Boston at the tender age of four-and-a-half.
Since moving to Orléans with her family three years ago, Ania has taken it upon herself to master a fourth language - French.
As she has done previously, the 13-year-old has gone from not knowing a word in the new language to reaching a level of aptitude that recently won her a third straight French public speaking award.
A Grade 8 student at Vincent Massey Public School, Ania recently came in first place in the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board's annual French public speaking contest. It's the third year in a row the talented teen has taken home the top prize in the extended French category.
Her secret? Listen and learn.
"I think I can learn languages easily," says Ania. "But I always tell myself that if I want to communicate with someone I have to listen and I have to work at it."
The gifted student originally attended school in Orléans but transferred to Vincent Massey to attend the school's extended French gifted program.
Ania is also a gifted writer who draws extensively on her experiences overseas to create her speeches.
Her grasp of the language is impressive, says Vincent Massey teacher Julie Bordeleau.
"She has an aptitude for languages but she also works hard at it. She's keen and wants to do well and always wants to better herself," says Bordeleau.
With her gift for language, you would think the teenager would be interested in becoming a translator, but right now she's thinking of a more high-profile career path.
"I might want to do that as a second job," she says. "What I really want to do is to be a television anchor because I love public speaking."
Ania says she wants to attend university at Harvard. And if her
television career doesn't pan out, she says she might like to become a