My son-in-law James is multilingual. We spoke at length about the process of learning new languages and how that connects to adding the language of the positive mental map to the conventional map. In our conversation about becoming bilingual he made an important observation about posturing, authenticity and bonding.
“When I walk in to any restaurant in the Republic of Georgia (where he was living at that time), they automatically know I’m not an native. So they are gearing up to try and use English. This may make them less approachable and that will influence our interactions because we are both feeling fear. Both of us are afraid the other will judge our ability to communicate. So I try to employ humor or I ask for help, or I do something to be vulnerable. If I am speaking authentically, it helps break down the language barrier.
If I am speaking their language to show off, which I’ve done, I’m simply speaking to impress the person I’m with. Whenever I do that, it’s not authentic and it results in greater distance and no connection. I’ve learned over and over the hard way that whenever I employ my foreign language for the purpose of impressing others, it hurts communication. When I lose the front and I’m authentic and vulnerable and open to learning and trying to connect, they relax, they open up, and they usually laugh. Fear can disappear. ”
-The Positive Organization, p. 49-51