2.8
March 1, 2014

10 things Multilingual People Must Know. ~ Adri Kyser

 

red lips

After living in the United States for almost 19 years, I still find myself learning how to speak, communicate and think in English.

I find it amusing that there are times when I can switch between languages with ease, and other times I get stuck. I was born and raised in Venezuela, and for almost half of my life, I spoke only Spanish…until I moved to the United States, got married, and made this beautiful country my home. I had my share of struggles trying to speak a different language. Even though I had studied English in school, you can imagine my surprise when I could only understand half of what people were saying to me.

Back in 1995, I had a few negative experiences interacting with people and dealing with the language barrier. Some lost their patience trying to understand me, others were just plain rude to me, and others made fun of my accent and the way I spoke. I vividly remember one remark that hurt me deeply:

“These immigrants should learn how to speak before they come here.”

For nearly 3 months, I only spoke to my family and no one else. I did not want to get hurt again. I was very self-conscious of my accent, mispronunciations, and mistakes. Thankfully, times have changed and our culture has become more diverse with people from all over the world as our neighbors.

I was inspired to write this article because I know there are many people like me that once struggled to communicate and lost their voices in fear of being rejected or made fun of. What helped me overcome my fear of speaking and making mistakes was the fact that I can speak two languages—and no one can take that away from me.

Here are few things that I hope can help you find your voice with confidence and improve your communication skills:

  1. Ask others to correct you when you make mistakes…despite the fact that they think the way you pronounce or speak is cute. I will never forget when I was talking to my husband and I said f***us instead of focus. In my head, I was saying focus, but I was pronouncing it f***us. I am so glad he took the time to teach me how to pronounce that particular word.
  1. Know that you will make mistakes and mispronounce things. That is okay. No one cares. Most people will be compassionate and will figure out what you are trying to say. If not, you don’t need those people around anyways. Claim your power and don’t let others make you feel small. Only when I was able to claim my power and own the fact that I was doing my best was I able to relax and embrace my accent; then, I saw a real shift in my communication skills.

  1. Embrace your accent. Many people find it exotic, charming and cute. I never thought I would be teaching yoga to strangers in a language that is not my mother tongue, yet my students really enjoy how I speak. What changed? My attitude! I am proud of where I am, where I came from, and my accent. It is what makes me unique!

  1. Give yourself the freedom to laugh at your mistakes. Sometimes it is really funny to hear what comes out of my mouth. Seriously, can you imagine me talking to someone and saying f***us instead of focus? Ha!

  1. In today’s world, it is a must to speak more than one language to get better jobs, open new doors, and connect with other cultures. So embrace that you speak more than one language, because it is a gift!

  1. When you hear others speak and they make mistakes or have a heavy accent, you are able to see a mirror image of yourself! This commonality will help you realize that you have a remarkable skill and you really sound better than you thought you did.

  1. Realize that not everything can be translated and have the same meaning. If you are going to tell a joke from your home country, make sure you find the equivalent meaning so it makes sense and does not get lost in translation…been there, done that, and wow. Take my advice!

  1. Practice, practice, practice! I don’t mean sit in front of a computer with a microphone and repeat what it says word for word. There is nothing wrong with that, but I learned the most from speaking to people than I ever did from books. I not only learned to speak more fluently, but I also learned lots of slang, so I wasn’t clueless when everyone else spoke with these less-than-proper phrases. Besides, Siri still does not understand me half of the time!

  1. I noticed that the more I spoke Spanish, the more difficult it was to keep my English-speaking state of mind. So I really dove into speaking primarily English and reducing my Spanish-speaking time. I listened to music, watched TV and read lots of books only in English.

  1. Trust that the best way to communicate is from your heart. Love does not know languages. Be yourself, be open, relax, and enjoy the conversation.

    Love elephant and want to go steady?

    Sign up for our (curated) daily and weekly newsletters!

    Editor: Jenna Penielle Lyons

    Photo: elephant archives

You must be logged in to post a comment. Create an account.

Lisa Ware Mar 2, 2014 5:40pm

I really enjoy this perspective. Adri has a way of communicating that is refreshing and concise with her own Venezuelan Flair!

boomeresq Mar 2, 2014 3:11pm

Monolingualism is soooo yesterday. When I was in college, I spent a semester (in 1974!) studying at a university in Spanish in Bogota, Colombia, and best of all, living with a Colombian family. By the time I left, I was dreaming in Spanish. I have a good (i.e. non-Gringo) accent because I was first exposed to Spanish at age 9 when we lived in Mexico, but I hold myself back because I want to use perfect vocabulary and grammar (is it por or para?, ser or estar?, subjunctive?, preterite or imperfect?) Perhaps it is no surprise that I speak most fluently if I am a little intoxicated.

Holly Mar 1, 2014 4:49pm

Adri, I want to hug you for this article. I feel this way everyday. I’m trying so hard to learn Spanish (half my yoga classes are to Spanish speakers). I went a year with my students before one of them corrected “pedo Abaho” to “perro Abaho”. We still laugh about it. I have been met with hostility and glares and rudeness when I try to speak Spanish. I too have recoiled to speaking only around my family and “safe people” in my life. Because of your experience, I am going to try to branch out more. You have an incredible gift to offer as a mentor, understanding. I am so grateful for you.

Read Elephant’s Best Articles of the Week here.
Readers voted with your hearts, comments, views, and shares:
Click here to see which Writers & Issues Won.

Adri Kyser

Adri is an International Vinyasa and Prana Flow yoga teacher and Power Pilates instructor with many years of experience. Thanks to her extensive studies and continuous training, she has created a unique approach to the way she teaches yoga. Her welcoming and caring approach will inspire yogis on and off the mat. Adri’s mission is to help her students awaken and reconnect with their Inner Beauty, helping them live their lives to their fullest potential. Adri travels the globe leading master classes and teacher trainings, and has been featured in online and printed ads for Athleta, Ahnu Shoes, and Manduka. Her work has also been featured in Elephant Journal, Yoganonymous, and Origin Magazine. You can also take some of her amazing classes at YogaVives.com and LearnItLive.com. Adri is passionate about helping others and became an ambassador for Yogagivesback.org, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness and funds in order to alleviate poverty in India. Through the “Sister Aid” program, YGB seeks to fund education, vocational training on a personal basis, and micro credit programs as a way to get direct help to those in serious need. You can find Adri sharing her passion for yoga and inspiring others by leading workshops, teacher trainings and retreats. For more information please visit www.innerbeautyyoga.com