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I am a localization manager/translator and intercultural consultant living in Berlin (Germany), passionate about languages, cultures, diversity management, body art, dancing, self-empowerment, coaching, effective communication and, last but not least, vegan gluten-free food and good movies.

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I'm the only person responsible for its content and the views and opinions expressed here are solely mines.
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Thursday, September 13, 2018

That one "foreign" language that you can start learning or improving exactly where you are, right now, at no cost

Which foreign languages do you speak, if any?
Are you struggling or can you see some improvements?
Above all, what do you want to learn a foreign language for?

[A keyboard with ancient  hieroglyphics
One of Giuseppe Colarusso's useless objects:
Would you be able to communicate this way?]

Most people want to learn a foreign language in order to communicate with others, to improve their professional skill set, to interact in a pleasant way while traveling and/or being on holiday.
Some people find the whole process way too frustrating, they give up, they look for shortcuts and magic methods for "learning a language in a week", they keep saying "I am not good at languages" like a mantra.

And yet, they are forgetting an important aspect.

Speaking a foreign language is all about creating a connection - with a person, with a book, with a culture, with a place, with an experience, with a feeling, with a movie, with music, and so on.
It is about being "on", being available.

It is about sharing something. A language is a tool that makes it possible to talk to each other, to use a common set of words, expressions etc. so that, while using the same language, a "we" is created.

While using the same language, we see and recognize each other.
We are able to give meaning to something that for other people is meaningless.
We create a shared moment, no matter how volatile.

[Creating a new we while speaking a foreign language
can be as exciting as a gorgeous rollercoaster]

Lovely, you would say, but how about the foreign language you promised me through the title of this blog post?
Let me tell you a short story, first...

A day without a smile is a lost day.
Charles Spencer Chaplin [1889-1977]

"WAS?!?" 
The guy is staring at me, his eyes wide open, his voice is raspy, his manners very harsh.
With that "Was?" ("What", in German), he is not really posing a question. He is screaming, full of anger and resentment, while casually meeting and crossing me on his way in direction of an elevator at the subway station and carrying a stroller at the same time.

He is looking for trouble. He is looking for a fight.

He doesn't take his eyes off me the whole time, waiting for my reaction, and he looks very disappointed... when there is no reaction at all, on my side. Because this young man, no matter how angry and maybe drunk or under the influence, can still recognize that me ignoring him has nothing to do with fear and a lot to do with power, purpose, and self-control.

I am not afraid. I am just not interested.
As a way of life, I don't react to toxic behavior, I don't spend my energy on it, I don't reward it. 
I save my time, my focus and my attention to useful stuff and interesting people. The rest is just not worth it.

[It takes some cojones to be kind when others aren't.
So go first and be kind, for yourself]

The foreign language that you can start learning or improving exactly where you are, right now, at no cost, is kindness. Be kind to yourself. Be kind to the people around you. Be kind to strangers. 

Not everybody is going to get it, to appreciate it, to reciprocate it. Not even to notice it, sometimes. 
Like if you were speaking a foreign language they don't understand. 

Most people are not used to it. Some people can feel uncomfortable around you, because you are so nice. Old habits die hard, they say. And they are right.

For those used to deal with negative people or to be negative themselves, your kindness is going to be like a strange foreign language they are not fluent in.
It could happen that they are not going to be able to engage in a conversation with you, in that language. But it is up to you to keep using it anyway.

A couple of years ago, when I started my own Karma revolution, one statement was always on my mind in the difficult moments when I was tempted to push reset and go back to the old me, and it goes more or less like this:

Be nice to others not because they are, but because you are.

Everyone can set the bar for themselves and their own standards.
Just because the bar of some people is very low, it doesn't mean that you have to lower your own in response.

Don't compromise yourself. You are all you've got. There is no yesterday, no tomorrow, it's all the same day.
Janis Joplin [1943-1970]

[Which colors do you want your words
and your actions to have?
Image credit: Eric Kilby]

How about smiling at strangers on the street, even if they don't smile back or even manage to look away in order to avoid your smile?
How about practicing random acts of kindness, even if the people around you show some kind of entitlement to it or didn't even notice them?
How about keeping your cool even if someone is rude or brushes you off for no particular reason?

Like it's the case with speaking a foreign language, also while being kind to any kind, practice makes perfect.

Choosing kindness consistently, even if sometimes it looks like everybody else is a human version of Grumpy Cat, is not always easy and it takes practice. 
So be ready to treat yourself as well with the same kindness you would offer others, every time that things don't go exactly as you would love them to go. And then... keep practicing!

This one is for Dirk Patrick, that wants to learn many foreign languages and he's very fluent in kindness.

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