“The limits of my language mean the limits of my world
I recognized the importance of language and its connection to freedom when I was very young. At the tender age of 13 I traveled to Paris with my mom and I quickly recognized the limitations of not being able to communicate freely. My Russian and my poor English were not much use in Paris. We got around, ate well and saw all the important sights with relative ease but I felt there was more to this than meets the eye. Deep down I knew that I didn’t truly connect with this country and its people.
Over the next twenty years, I learned English and traveled extensively. There was a recognizable difference in the depth of my interactions and my experiences with cultures when I could communicate with people openly and be understood. I was invited into people’s homes, I met their family members, I got to stay with them and witness how they live. I was immersed, integrated, connected and openly welcomed.
The ability to communicate in multiple languages made my world much larger and filled it with infinite possibilities for adventure. I no longer felt like that young girl in France, unable to communicate or to provide for myself. I was able to create my own experiences, read books in the original language and connect with different cultures. I could listen to the pauses between words to feel what was not being said but could only be felt. Language is not a requirement to initiate a connection but it’s a magical ingredient that allows our connections to become deeper, more soulful and authentic.
Language is the way we connect to each other and different cultures. When we enhance our language repertoire and become masterful communicators, we gain instant access to literature, customs and people’s hearts. Language creates an opportunity to be curious, vulnerable and spontaneous because we can always ask for help and be helped.
It was easy for me to make friends in Bali because they speak decent English. One of my new friends graciously invited me to stay in his house for a few days so that I could experience traditional food and culture. None of the things I tried and saw in these few days were mentioned in any travel guide. A few weeks later I boarded a plane to East Timor to visit a new friend I met randomly at a surf camp. I hadn’t planned on visiting East Timor but this country with its people as well as the kindness of my friend took my breath away. Some of these memories are simply unforgettable. None of this would have been possible without my knowledge of a few languages and the ability to communicate.
My personal experience has taught me that language proficiency creates a path to freedom and unexpected adventures. Oh, the books you can read, the people you can meet, the connections you can create, and the mystical lands you can experience. All of these and more await you when you start learning a new language!
Natalia is a life coach, soul-centered writer and an advocate for healthy lifestyle based in Vancouver, Canada. She believes her purpose in life is to help her clients create valuable experiences that enrich their lives with vitality and laughter. You can learn more about Natalia and her work at achievetheimpossible.ca