Hispanic Heritage Month: Celebrating Language and Communication

Happy Hispanic Heritage Month! From the food, culture, language and everything in between, we have a lot to celebrate. In this blog post, I’ll highlight language because the power behind it has the potential to influence the people, places and things around us.

I grew up in a Salvadoran household. Growing up bilingual wasn’t always easy, but it influenced me greatly. From a young age I learned to translate for my parents at places like the doctor’s office and gas station. I grew up with two languages that had completely different social spheres. At school I spoke English, and as soon as I got home, Spanish was the only tongue I knew — not because they didn’t want me speaking English, but because they didn’t want me to forget my roots.

There were times in class that I would forget a word in English and muster it in Spanish in hopes that I would recall it. Given this, I learned at an early age that communication was something to be proud of and something to fight for.

Being bilingual taught me more than just knowing words in two languages. It taught me the importance of speech, your message and your purpose.

Who are you trying to help? What are you trying to say? Why is it important?

You have the power to influence, persuade and engage with anyone through communication. Everyone comes from different walks of life, circumstances and knowledge, but you can reach them with the right messaging. That’s half the battle. The other half is having an open mind. Not everyone will have the same outlook, opinion or belief as you because their worldview has never met yours. So, next time you meet someone who is your polar opposite, have an open mind and be willing to listen to their ideas and opinions.

One of my favorite quotes says it best:

“Learning another language is not only learning different words for the same things but learning another way to think about things.” — Flora Lewis

Lewis was talking about language, but I applied it to messaging and interpretation. Now more than ever, we have the ability to learn, grow and share. Access to information is at our fingertips and with that comes a great responsibility to try and understand others. We must give people an equal opportunity to listen, speak and express what makes them unique.

My life experiences led me to develop a great appreciation for communication, message development and cultural competency. We all have a message to share, yet what happens when everyone is fighting to be heard? The message gets lost.

Benefits from giving others the space, time and chance to talk include:

  • Personal growth and development opportunities
  • Diverse relationships
  • Insight from other worldviews

Here are some important lessons I’ve learned along the way:

  • Be slow to speak, yet quick to listen.
  • Try to see things differently.
  • Be well informed.
  • Engage with people outside your background or niche.
  • Step outside of your comfort zone.

There is always a voice that is getting silenced, ignored or misinterpreted. The next time you’re in a crowded room, pay attention to who isn’t being heard and speak up for those without a voice.

How can you be a voice for the voiceless?