Photo by Migratory Birds Team

Incomprehensible Voices

Man is a social animal and one of his many needs is to communicate with other people.  Language is the basic means by which this is done.

One of the biggest challenges faced by migrants when trying to communicate with other people and familiarise themselves with their new surroundings is not knowing the language of the country in which they find themselves.

When you abandon your homeland and your family, you are overcome by silence and isolation.  Things only get worse when you don’t speak the language of your new country and therefore find it difficult to communicate, to hear and be heard.

It is emotionally draining to need an intermediary every time you want to converse.

Learning a new language is difficult for older people.  According to one survey, 58% of those asked said that the biggest obstacle to getting ahead was having to learn a new language.

Refugees, especially illiterate ones, find it harder than most to learn a language and find a job, with detrimental effects.

Shopping, moving around town and other chores are essential things that need to be done everyday.  In the short term, they are all doable with the help of others but in the long term, one has to be able to deal with them oneself, and this requires learning the language.

Those who know English are better able to look after themselves and communicate with others.  Adolescents and young adults are the ones that really need to learn the language of their new home, yet, some of them are mocked by their fellow students because of their bad language skills, and heavily criticised by their teachers.  They consequently become totally frustrated with their inability to learn the language or follow other lessons, and this is very damaging.

People need to be able to communicate directly, because this is what makes them feel comfortable.  Indirect communication, via an interpreter, has the opposite effect.

This feeling is much worse in the case of refugees who find themselves alone in a strange land and are already experiencing fear, loneliness and maybe even depression.

It is therefore essential for us to do our best to learn the language.  Older people are best taught by their own children.  There are many language schools in the country but what we need most of all is plenty of self-confidence! 

Madinah Zafari

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