On January 31, 2000, my family and I immigrated to Vancouver, Canada from South Korea. At this time, Korea was going through a messy recession due to the 1997 Asian financial crisis, so Canada was a safe haven for us.
I was seven years old when we first arrived, and I didn’t know a word of English, except for three words:
All of which I learned through playing a game called StarCraft, with my brother and his friends at the PC Cafe’s in Korea (remember those?)
As my first day of school crept closer, my parents were worried that I wouldn’t get along with the kids in school, since I’ve never even met anyone who’s not of Korean descent.
But being only seven years old, I was too young to realize or even care how “different” the other kids were from me. It was striking for my family to see me playing with kids from every type of color and culture — black, white, latino, etc. — but the only difference I noticed was that the kids spoke a different language. It was the only thing standing in between us.
My first best friend was a fellow student named Elliot, or “yellow-haired boy”, according to my dad. As Elliot helped me improve my English, it became even more clear that there was nothing different about me than the other kids.
We all competed for the first spot at the monkey bars, we all had disgusting lunches that were soggy by the time we opened them, and we all spoke the same language.
I share this story because even though multiculturalism is nothing new today, it was a profound topic for many just a few decades ago.
With every new decade, comes a new era.
The 80’s was defined as the Rock & Roll Era. It brought us iconic bands like AC/DC and Guns N’ Roses that changed the music industry forever.
The 2000’s was defined as the Internet Era. Globalization hit an ultimate high and communication around the world became cheaper than ever.
The 2020’s will be defined as the Multilingual Era.
In fact, it has already begun.
Children today are surrounded by more diverse cultures than ever before.
Unlike past generations before us, they’re color blind, as the color of one’s skin no longer determines who they should play with.
And this is a huge step forward for society. But it’s only the first step.
Today, we can reach people on the other side of the world with the tap of a button. While technology has brought us together, we’re still a divided world.
What’s the point of having communication tools to reach someone in Spain, if we can’t communicate with them?
In order to truly feel connected, we must be able to communicate in each other’s languages. And while it’s unrealistic to expect every person to speak five languages, it does mean you should start preparing now.
No one expects you to speak their language fluently, but the intention alone can mean the difference between a long-term bond and a stranger.
There are great companies today that can make that process easier for you:
a. Duolingo — Gamified app for learning basic words in another language.
b. Rype — Unlimited one-on-one Spanish lessons online. Netflix for private language lessons.
c. Polyglot Club — In person meet ups for language conversation practice.
If you want to know how to learn a new language in 90 days, check out this free course to get started.
Hope to see you on the fluent side.