Maybe it comes from inside of me, or above, or in the genes, but language and communication just seems to be my ‘thing’. There wasn’t always a time I could express myself so freely and willingly, both on paper, on screen and with the spoken word. I would freeze at the thought, sweaty palms, and crippled with anxiety. But I will never lose the enjoyment of the power of words. Not over people, but to empower people, to give people inspiration and bring some light to others. And that is with my native language English. Once you’ve had that spark of sense-of-achievement, you want more and more, and it’s benefitting your brain, and outlook on life. Win, win.
With other languages, it wasn’t intentional. At least not until I realised at GCSE that languages (French and Spanish) were the subjects I loved the most, because I was gaining such a cultural perspective on the world, not just a linguistic one. I guess I’m blessed, in fact make that “I am honoured”, to have had both English teachers and language teachers who were dedicated, passionate and truly nutured the spark I had for expression and creativity through words. Without them, about 10 of them in total, I would not be at university studying French & Linguistics, I would probably have curled up into a ball and rocked back and forth crying about how I would never be able to deal with the pressure of even taking my GCSEs.
All the drama seems kind of silly now, but yet it’s not. It was and remains a life lesson, and anxiety continues to be a battle for me, but I am so abundant in the knowledge I have gained from others who so enchantingly imparted it with grace and determination.
If you haven’t ever read the blog posts I wrote while on my Year Abroad, or even if you have, you may gloss over the tinges of depressive states I went through, and go through. But one thing really did help me through, I love being able to speak to everyone and anyone, whether it is socially, or with academic purpose, or intentionally to bring about change. I like to think of myself as a 5ft activit warrior who uses words as her weapon. I’ve coined that phrase and I am no longer phased by others deeming it pretentious, because it is about time I grab onto what I love most and let it sweep me into the candyfloss skies until some light can shine back down on the world.
Ok, back to life, back to reality. In all truth, we don’t talk enough and we need to open up to each other. I will never understand, even at the mere age of twenty-one, how we cannot seem to have open, non-judgemental, non-confrontational conversations with one another.
I love differences, I celebrate differences and I willingly hold my hands up and say “look I don’t get your way of life” but I always ask to hear about it, because I want to understand and empathise. It isn’t about evangelising, or forcing my beliefs upon someone else, it’s about me speaking my truth, and them speaking their truth.
When this article landed in my email inbox, I sped to open it and read. It instantly struck a chord with me and I realised how much my own language-learning has helped me to express myself, explore myself and the world, play at different personas and moods, yet all the while deal with my mental state. While speaking another language allows you to escape the mental reality, it also forces you to just get on with life and open your mouth. Trust me, when you’ve a migraine and are in need of ibuprofen while in a foreign country, you have to buck up the courage and pronounce that same word in, in my case, a French accent and then sheepishly smile. There is no real room for anxiety, not in real life, practical language learning.
It Forces Your Brain to Shift Gears
Unlike the aforementioned voices who throw every weapon they have at you, the new voice in your head practicing your target language has to carefully think out what it wants to say, thus forcing you to practice mindfulness. This means that those destructive thought tracks have no room to catch traction and snowball.
You have to get real with yourself, and while everyday me forgets this on that very daily basis, be honest and deal with your issues, form your opinions, and express yourself to the max. People will love you or hate you, like you or dislike you, but their judgement is not going to affect you if you keeping riding through life with a focus, your gaze open and loving people unconditionally.