Multilingualism

As a part of being an international student, multilingualism has been an aspect forever present in my life. My first encounter with another language aside from my mother tongue (Spanish) was in kindergarten, which is when I first started learning English. My skills in the English language were quite behind, until I moved to Thailand, and was forced to adopt it as one of my first languages. I was initially in an ESL class, and thanks to my teachers I became quite excited and active during class. After 2 years, my English level was high enough and I was allowed to join a new language class, which was my first time learning French. After this experience, I embraced my ability and knowledge in these languages and used it occasionally. I stood out in my English classes once I moved back to Mexico, and helped an American student get around in 7th grade.

I moved to Switzerland, and thus began a new experience with English. I learned present-day slang and new expressions that allowed me to fully adopt English as one of my first languages. I also continued learning French, which ended up providing me with knowledge that I was able to use during my time in Switzerland, and towards the end, I was even able to hold a reasonable conversation with people my age that were part of my American football team.

My most recent experience was my transition to Japan. This has been the hardest language I have encountered yet. Initially I found it terribly complicated to understand anything, but through personal experiences, such as nights out by myself, and interaction with “hafus” (which is what those who are half-japanese half-anything else are called here) I began learning some of the language. I have also had the opportunity to use all of my language knowledge when helping out tourists visiting Japan, as well as forming connections with people.

As I have mentioned in a previous post, Nelson Mandela once said: “If you speak to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” I personally abide by this quite a lot, and do my best to speak to people in a language close to them. I enjoy meeting new people and making them feel comfortable by speaking to them in a familiar language. By living in this way, I have made an effort to learn as much of the Japanese language as possible.

After my initial experience with new languages, I found it easier to adapt and acquire new language skills. During my process of learning French, Japanese and Italian I made an attempt to contact people who spoke that language as their mother tongue. I made some meaningful connections through these languages and still keep in contact with some of these people. Most of these communications happened over text and even developed my abilities to communicate to the point where I knew some slang and common terms in these languages. These past three years I have continued using multilingualism and will mix these languages daily. I have also used them in social media to understand and find humor in “memes” written in “Frenchglish”.

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