I believe one of the biggest setbacks I had when I was thinking of starting a business in a foreign country was that… I wasn’t speaking the language. Well, at least not to perfection. I always had this inside of me, I wanted to speak the “music” within a foreign language, not just mimic it. Apparently, this phenomenon is called “the chameleon effect” and it happens to people who are good at empathising with others.
According to a 2010 study lead by a research group at the University in California, Riverside, this “chameleon effect” is actually in our nature. It describes the human’s instinct to belong and relate.
Knowing this didn’t make me feel better, to be honest, because I still felt it as being a stumbling block.
“What if I say something stupid?”
“What if people won’t get me?”
“What if I forget certain words?”
“What if they’d think I am not ready?”
“What if I make a fool of myself?”
“What if I won’t look professional?”
These were all thoughts that ran through my head every single day. And because I was only injecting these limiting beliefs into my brain, I just couldn’t think outside the box. I couldn’t see the high ground.
The biggest challenge was that I needed to launch my business on a market where you HAD to speak and write impeccable English. There was no other way.
You see, I write personalised books for kids and families and while my business worked like clockwork in my home country’s industry, I was still nervous at the thought of starting it all over again in the UK.
So, it wasn’t an easy choice.
BUT these were just limiting beliefs, nothing more. Because I knew I can handle my English – I had a degree, I have been an editor for all sorts of online magazines, I have even graduated my Master’s degree in English – yet I still didn’t consider myself as being well prepared.
And then, one day I met this lovely lady, a foreigner herself, from Poland. She had such a beautiful accent – you could immediately tell she wasn’t from around here, yet it was something so pleasant and authentic in her voice, that it made me completely fall in love with her inflexion. She has been living in the UK for nearly 20 years and you could still tell that she wasn’t native AND that gave me hope.
Because you see, I had this voice inside my head that was constantly reminding me that I am not from around here, that people will notice and they will back out.
Absolute nonsense, I know, because actually native people usually appreciate when somebody tries to learn their language. I read about it and I even had endless conversations with people from all over the world on this topic and this is a general belief. It might be slightly different with English, though, since it’s an international language, but still.
And so, I challenged that voice of mine. I kindly asked it what it was afraid of. I asked for the REAL reason, the skin-deep one. And when I finally deeply listened to that voice of mine, I kindly asked it to be silent.
The next day I did this, I applied for a grant, got accepted and met my business mentor soon afterwards. That ONE question set me free and I invite you to do the same.
If not speaking the language like a native is your number 1 hurdle, please allow this time for yourself. Go ahead and write down this question
“What am I actually afraid of?”
And go deep, remove those internal layers like peeling an onion, see what’s at the core of everything.
And then ask yourself:
“What’s the worst that could happen if I follow my dreams and get visible?”
And if that worst-case scenario is actually not that frightening (I mean, moving to a new country was the real deal, right?), go ahead and do it!
It makes me laugh now, but at the first networking event I ever attended (where I was the only foreigner btw), I started my speech by saying “Sorry, I am multilingual and I might just say something silly.”
Do you know what happened? Everybody was super supportive and I made some amazing connections that I would have never made in different circumstances.
The best part?
I got to face my biggest fear!
And that felt so liberating!
So, tell me about your own experience with being multilingual, how did it all start?
Until next time,