The Language Advantage of foreigners

     From my own experience, I am coming to a conclusion that foreign language is one of the best tools to boost self confidence, especially in speech. Resigning on intuition-based learning of the language, which comes through childhood to form your mother tongue holds some distinctive advantages.
  1. If you learn the language from movies, series, books, you become the characters.
    That is the case of most foreigners learning English. Our vocabulary expands in directions guided by our favourites protagonists, our accents imitate favourite actors and actresses. As they have introduced as to particular phrases first, any time we use them, we can ‘become’ those people, which leverages self esteem to a completely different level.
  2. No emotional load.
    Assuming studying the language as more mature individual, foreigners are lucky to skip the awkward early teenage phase of the language. When word sex raises awkward giggle (generally anything sexually related taboo subject that causes kids to be uncomfortable), when first swearwords are scolded by parents. ‘Internationals’ are likely to operate freely in the new language just as they wish, with no memory-based background of emotions behind words. There is no undercover feeling of stupidity or some words feeling weird, awkward. Those are the people who speak their mind in most straightforward way.
  3. It forces you to become accurate in speech.
    There is a phase every foreigner encounters when studying a language; you can’t fully express yourself as in your mother tongue. It seems like there are not enough words for you; like the words you choose are close, but not exactly what you mean. As you break through this stage you suddenly find yourself accurate, specific, relevant. You are able to extract the essence of words and random statements. Risk of becoming judgemental involved as you start to interpret meaning of what one is saying. As most of your vocabulary you have learnt comes straight from books and dictionaries you have been checking multiple times, eloquence is inevitable. You have come across too many fully-fledged academic definitions so to not assess meaning of words on a daily basis.
  4. Swearing can be unpredictable.
    As a foreigner, I did not have a chance to meet with an ’emotional scale’ of swearing. There was nobody to scold me as a teenager for the very first ‘fuck’ coming out my mouth, and my teachers in this topic were random actors and singers. I do not know which swearwords are mild, which are common, which sound childish or stupid, which sound like from previous century and, of course- what combination of them all would be the absolute worst.
  5. You may experience the ‘pendulum moment’.
    One of the most interesting experiences I have had was something I like to call a ‘pendulum moment’. It is the switch, when you find yourself in some kind of a hinterland between two languages, unsure which one suits you better. When you feel equally comfortable in both of them.
    In my international high school class we used to blend Polish and English as it suited as. It felt as if we had doubled the number of options to express what we want to say. However, switching completely to a different language- your pendulum moment- can be the best personal investment in yourself, as you breach the transitional phase of struggling with a language.
  6. Idioglossia
    Pertaining to mentioned earlier blending of two languages, idioglossia is a language invented and spoken by several individuals, which often forms in international settings, created by foreigners as an attempt to make up for unknown phrases, idioms, words. Suddenly, some words are not good enough, and you may find yourself inventing new ones. It results in most interesting language alterations, hilarious mistakes, incorporation of generic Latin-rooted words, not even knowing or caring whether it is grammatically correct. It requires much intuition in guessing the whole range of meanings and feeling behind particular words, and creativity in blending them with other ones, sourcing from any languages we know. It’s like writing Finnegans Wake in real life, and most entertaining experience.
  7. You are slightly different in other languages.
    Whether it’s the difference in words used, or what exact definitions of them you know- you reason differently in other languages than in your own. Your logic can be either distorted, forcing you to skillfully navigate through meanings you are decoding, or can be more objective, free from emotional bias present in your mother tongue. One way or another, it is surely a challenge worth experiencing.
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How interest gives rise to trust, how authentic trust gives control

“The mistake ninety-nine percent of humanity made, as far as Fats could see, were being ashamed of what they were, lying about it, trying to be somebody else. Honesty was Fats’ currency, his weapon and defense. It frightened people when you were honest; it shocked them. Other people, Fats had discovered, were mired in embarrasment and pretense, terrified that their truths might leak out, but Fats was attracted by rawness, by everything that was ugly but honest, by the dirty things about which the likes of his father felt humiliated and disgusted. Fats thought a lot about messiahs and pariahs; about men labeled mad or criminal; noble misfits shunned by the sleepy masses.”  – J.K. Rowling, The Casual Vacancy

“It is the nature, and the advantage, of strong people that they can bring out the crucial questions and form a clear opinion about them” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

           Ability to ‘extract’ the essence out of any statement, conversation or question. It requires you to see beyond the superficial level, so to dig into the core meaning, the exact place where your opinions should be formed. It all comes down to effectively paying attention and using what you’ve heard. It is the insider knowledge of the listener.
              Combined with observance, basic knowledge of body language, and some level of emotional maturity, you are armed with a perfect control tool. I may actually know exactly what you mean, but choose to pretend otherwise so to give you a free hand in deciding in which direction our conversation is going.
            This ‘control span’ ensures that you are rarely surprised in life, rather consciously exploring what constitutes the very first knot of trust and how distinctive threads are formed in the web of interpersonal relations.
                  And the first knot? You like any person who shows you some portion of attention; those who are not needy nor desperate, so when they pay attention to you, you actually know that this attention matters. It seems to be something special. They ask well-thought questions, often ask why, and often seek explanation of your choices. Seems like they have chosen you on the basis of who you are, not because they planned to become friends with just anyone.

 

Improvisation is the confidence now.

      Sincere, straightforward, cracking jokes about themselves, escaping social dilemmas with their disarming honesty. I like to believe it’s this kind of confidence that attracts people to each other. Because no matter how stupid things you say or do, doing it in a confident way ensures their interpretation as surprising, funny. Confidence strikes right through it.
     I definitely value confident people, in lieu of that unattractive neediness and overrated modesty. I like those self-investing in themselves, constantly changing. I like how diverse they are. It’s the chameleon nature, not only adaptability. The only people that interest me are the mad ones. The ones that are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles, exploding like spiders across the stars, by Jack Kerouac.
     The madness is the change, improvisation, and the courage itself to improvise.
     Exactly those people (despite being narcissistic assholes from time to time) are, in general, so much better than those boring us to death. It’s nothing worse than spending time with boredom. Some people can constantly challenge you, sometimes overwhelm- but if you fight back, you enter the most engaging field. The very best training for your self esteem you could find. You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with, as Jim Rohn said. So, when there’s not much to be found around those never crossing any line, it’s hard to develop. Especially when they fear other people’s judgement. Do not weigh your options for too long. Start with the first step, you may just get the rush so to improvise in the process. The more you do it, the better you get at it. The better you get, the more confident you become.
     Never chase people. Chase your dreams, and people will follow. Only then you are well aware of who you are, not afraid to leave whenever you want. Tell yourself “You can always go home” (thank you, Matthew Hussey) and leave any place that you do not wish to be in. Spending time by yourself, only with your thoughts can either crush you under a “loner” heading, or leverage your maturity and boost creativity.
     Perception of a loner is created entirely by yourself, relative. What others see is your Halo Effect. Your actions and (more importantly) the way you do it is the ‘halo’ around you (thank you, Edward Thorndike, for clarifying that, now I can come to my own point). It’s in the way you do it. The message you send by eating by yourself, sitting alone at a table, spending your time in solitude can be just anything, so make it good. Be confident about it.
 Also, in regard for fake it till you make it (thank you, Amy Cuddy), this is just where your confidence is born.

“Banal” is not that banal.

     I tend to use this word quite a lot, and here is why I love it so much.
     First of all, and paradoxically, the word itself is not so obvious as its meaning:
banal calls a synonym “obvious” first for Polish, but “common” first for Romanians. At least the one that I got to chat about it with. And on the other hand, “trivial” calls for word “ordinary” first for Polish, and “ordinary” for Romanian as well.
     So Romanian people get it, saying “banal“. Italian people say “banale“, Polish people saying “banalny“, Dutch say “banaal“, Germans say “banal” as well.
All of those people, speaking Latin-founded languages get the exact meaning of this word, given that they got to know it by experience. Even the way this word sounds when you say it. Requires minimum movement of the mouth, as if even saying it would bore you just as much as whatever you are describing with it.
     Semantic meaning of this word, i.e. the array of a word’s synonyms and meanings, which I like to extend to metaphors, would be utterly flat. Plain, predictable, obvious, not surprising by any fluctuation or change of pace.
     The letters used in that word seem round and mild, sort of melting in your mouth when you say it. This word crawls lazily out of your mouth. It is nothing like any sharp, specific word, let’s say, ‘knife‘. Saying knife is fast, dynamic, ending with that characteristic whiz on letter ‘f’ which reminds you of the sound that an actual knife makes when swung fast in air.
     Even the way we write ‘knife‘, or ‘knives‘ looks much more edged than ‘banal‘. Letters kiv are outright and critical. If you write them vigorously, they might even tear paper underneath. With banal, you are able to effortlessly swirl your pen alongside the letters, not even elevating your hand.
     It’s interesting to think how differently must those words sound in Arabic, or Chinese. Do they intonate their words in a similar way as well? Is word ‘boring’ boring as well, in a way you can prolong syllable ‘o’ or say the entire word with not even separating your teeth?
That is why I like ‘banal ‘ as an example, to wonder whether ‘latin-dynamic’ words are dynamic in other languages as well.

Talk is Cheap

          While growing up, moving from one place to another, going through various groups of people and getting to know huge amount of diversity among them, I have come to a point at which I start to realize what I really value in people, what I want, why I want it and – most importantly how to express it all.
            I do not want to chit-chat about meaningless first-hand topics, just to kill the silence. That talk is cheap. I want a conversation that is layered; the one that holds allegories and second meaning that you and the other person catch with a subtle laugh, look at each other, smile, intonation.
            I am tired of being the driving force of a conversation; I don’t want just a passive listener, one who laughs at my jokes, one who agrees – I want an equal interaction, created on many levels, able to dig into topics discussed days ago just to mention them as an allegory to something completely else discussed now. I want it so to transform a usual conversation into having thousand discussions at one time, filled with inside jokes, coded double meanings of words used, that one knows only if they have paid attention before. I yearn for that responsiveness, apparently so rarely found. The kind of responsiveness capable of intriguing strangers, raising creativity and laughter in most mundane and casual conversations. 
            I want to speak about random topics all at once, and then connect them all with one quote at the end, surprising not only the listener, but also myself with how it all suddenly makes sense. To speak about something and use it as a bridge to a next topic, which leads and feeds to something completely else, only to discover that we already have perfectly accurate comment on this subject, mentioned days ago in another context when we yet did not know it that we will use it again, but we are able to dig into our memory so to bring previous conversation to the surface. To pick up topics from events happening all around us, as we stand outside for a chat, social smoke, drink, or walk together. Situations and things you see around, incorporated as topics into the subjects you are already discussing make the best anecdotes. It is about linking it all; what you know, what you remember, what you’ve studied, what you see around, what you dream of. Suddenly everything you do merges together, grows in meaning because you actively pay attention to it. Because by doing so, you are capable of creating most witty, intelligent, funny, meaningful links and additions to a most mundane talk. You are able to turn any moment into an adventure, a caricature, into just anything that you want it to be. Suddenly, a conversation about anything becomes most inspiring. Most boring subjects are engaging, just by the way you carry the talk, by the additions you choose and the approach towards it you express.
                    Suddenly, some words are not quite accurate to express what you think, and you may find yourself inventing new ones, building your own idioglossia of meanings, signs and allegories. Your language becomes malleable as the conversation is demanding and challenging.
             Whether it’s my experience, maturity, or simply boredom, no discussion is entertaining unless it involves an opinion or real meaning. Besides, this is exactly what definition of ‘discussion’ itself assumes. I like opinionated people. I like those who put themselves high up. It is this confidence that allows to disagree and bring something meaningful into a conversation, instead of relying on one person to guide whole talk. Instead of a small talk. Talking, but not really saying anything. Just a noise to fill up blank spaces in a conversation, cause you were unable to pick up previous subject and lead it further. Why? Because of not paying attention? Not being that interested in what people say, or simply being unable to come up with something creative to say, even though being thrown all easy open subjects into your face.
            Conversation should go under “Art” heading. Two that create it can either build a masterpiece, or a wall between them. And once you start to understand what a real dialogue is, you’ll never want to go back to those that bring nothing into your life. You’ll grow demanding, skeptical, wishing for every conversation to be an opportunity leading to some next point. Wishing for it to leave you thoughtful, moved, unable to stay still, unable to fall asleep. These are those that you do not simply forget, those that serve you as a bridge to the next topic, those that you can combine all in few sentences of your next talk.