Most of my adult life has been spent trying to grow understanding between people of different backgrounds. From nationality, to race, to class, to gender, I’ve always encouraged people to step at least an inch outside of their comfort zone. However, when it comes to language, I tend to get squeamish. Sure, I encourage everyone else to learn a new language, but as for myself, I prefer to hide under a rock.
So when CDF hosted CASIE’s SpeakEasy on February 5, I planned to handle logistics and hide in the corner. Then Samia Mohamed walked in. If you’ve ever met Samia, you’ll will remember her warmth and openness. She speaks more than 5 languages and is learning new ones probably as I type. As Samia opened the session, she went around to each person one-on-one to introduce herself in her native Somali. She waited patiently while each person responded appropriately.
Despite my strategic placement near the doorway, she walked up to me and introduced herself. As a communications person, I tend to like words, but when I don’t know the words, my insides get all crinkly. Yet, she invited me in. I eventually joined the other 15 or so people participating.
Since the rules for SpeakEasy are no English, Samia had to embrace her creative side. And she did. I was reminded of the simple things that connect us as she spread her arms wide and flew around the room so we could understand how to say where we were born. When another participant didn’t have any children, but wanted to share her two canine companions, she ‘woofed’, leading Samia to meow to find out if anyone had cats.
I left the lesson with a warmth in my heart, reminded that language is a barrier we use as an excuse to not make friends. They say a smile says the same thing in any language. I hope that when I meet someone who doesn’t speak my language that I can fly around a room, hop up and down, or just give them a hug. We all have the power to communicate within us regardless of what language we speak.
Thank you, Samia, for reminding me of this. Thank you, CASIE, for sharing the joys of language learning with the Atlanta area.