How to validate Idahoans… (and others too)

Guest Blog by Chris-

My little brother plays on the high school tennis team in Boise, Idaho. I recently went to one of his matches and as I was standing there watching I overheard two girls behind me speaking a language that was not English! My first reaction was “that sounds like Bosnian.” (Some time before this, I had spent 10 days in Bosnia and a week in Croatia and learned some Bosnian before those trips) I wasn’t positive though, so I didn’t address them.

The next day, at another match I asked my mom where those girls were from and she said that they were from Bosnia! I went to my little brother and told him to say to one of the girls “sta ima” which means “whats up?” in Bosnian. After practicing a couple times he was confident to say it. As one of the girls walked by he asked her “Sta ima?” and her reaction was priceless!

“Wh wh…where did you, how do you, how do you know that?” so surprised, she could barely gets the words out of her mouth.

Her face lit up like a menorah. It was such a beautiful thing to behold, that little reaction. With two words, her language, culture, and heritage were validated by someone in the middle of Boise, Idaho. It is as if you are saying to them “Your language is worth me taking the time to learn and remember.”

I learned Spanish several years ago during my travels to South America and I’m currently learning Chinese in China. Just today, in China, I was in a taxi with a couple of guys from Spain. We had only just met, but it was so great to hear their reactions when I began to ask them questions in Spanish.

Once again- validation.

Not everyone has the desire to travel like I do, and some that do don’t necessarily have the resources. But most people have a handful of other cultures and languages within a few mile radius of them, and that gives us a great opportunity.

What culture or language are you curious about?

What language have you always wanted to learn?

Maybe you’ve been deflated and discouraged like many others by the way many of our education systems teach foreign language. The point of learning another language is not simply to be able to get around Paris on vacation but to develop friendship with people that you will meet during your lifetime. So who can you befriend and how can you start learning their language?

For example, I have an Egyptian friend named Hany, from Cairo. In order for me to get to know him better, we would sit down for lunch once a week and I would ask him how to say certain phrases in Arabic. In the process of learning Arabic, I was also able to learn about him and his culture. I absolutely loved it, and he actually didn’t mind either.

Here is a method that you might be willing to try:

Find someone from another culture. Offer to buy them a meal once a week or twice a month in exchange for an hour of language and culture lessons (which can happen during that meal). Find out how to ask “how do you say ______?” in their language, and go nuts. (Tip: Bring a little notebook or this brilliant pen.)

People love when others take an interest in where they are from, and it probably helps them feel less homesick too. Plus, its a lot cheaper than a semester at a university or a trip overseas.

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3 Responses to “How to validate Idahoans… (and others too)”

  1. Good work! I enjoyed reading this post.

  2. thanks chris! i agree, language is huge for building bridges and validating people (how do you think i wooed my dutch wife ;-)

  3. Loved your post chris!

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