Being bilingual – developing a soft skill for a growth mindset

- February 27, 2024 4 MIN READ
bilingual concept- chinese man in a suit has english words coming out of one ear and chinese characters coming out of the other


Imagine you’re at the top of your craft (of course you are, you wouldn’t be a soloist if you weren’t!) You’ve poured thousands of hours into honing your expertise and making a name for yourself as one of the best practitioners of that skill in the country – perhaps the world.

Then, you decide to start from scratch, like a five-year-old entering school for the first time. You fall from the very top of the tree to somewhere among the roots.

That’s what it’s like learning a new language.

Yet it opens – quite literally – a whole entire world of opportunity.

It did for Prosper Turavinga, owner of Live Long Digital, a digital marketing agency and host of the Online Prosperity Show. Born and raised in Zimbabwe, where hopes and aspirations are in short supply, learning English set him on a whole new path.

“I had an Australian maths teacher who told us about Australia, so it got me to pay attention,” he says. “Mathematics is a kind of language, so I started with that. The two years she was my teacher, my English improved because I would take the extra time to learn. I started writing letters to Australia. It broadened my horizons. I would go home to my village and tell friends, ‘Do you know there’s kangaroos out there?’ Nah, they’d say. We have zebras and lions and that’s our world. Language opens you up to new opportunities you didn’t even consider before. It made me look forward because my mind was no longer capped at what Zimbabwe had in store for me, which was not very much at all.”

It not only opens doors for personal improvement but helps forge links and bonds with people you otherwise wouldn’t encounter.

Indonesian-born yet German-resident (and English speaker!) Bayu Prihandito, owner and life coach at Life Architecture, says even an attempt to bridge a language gap goes a long way in building trust and deepening an understanding of how people in other cultures think and ultimately act.

“Imagine that I’m the CEO of a global company,” Bayu says. “I’m overseeing projects in Asia and I have German scientists in that project, for example. Now I have a guy who comes from Indonesia who speaks English, who understands how German people think because Germans think differently than Indonesians. Indonesians think differently than Australians – I’m not saying what is better, what is worse, but just by the fact of the environment and everything we think differently.

“In this case, I can build that bridge between Asia and Europe so to speak, and the thinking and the culture and the language, so the communication can get better. So, there is less miscommunication, there is less time that’s needed to finish the project and so on. Everyone wins.”

It also means you can sell ice to Inuits, the indigenous people inhabiting the Arctic Circle. But what does that mean? We tend to think it’s trying to sell something that’s naturally abundant to those who already have more than enough of it. Looking at it from the Inuit point of view, ice is not simply “ice.”

“They have 72 words for ice in the Inuit language,” Prosper says. “There’s ice they use to melt and drink. Ice they use for building their igloos. Ice they use to fashion as weapons. It’s all different ice for different purposes. We just see ‘ice’. You awaken an entirely different side to your brain learning a different language. It’s not just for communicating to other people. It’s to learn different ways of thinking.”

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Though avenues for learning a second (or third or fourth in the cases of our subjects) are as easy and abundant as ever (apps, books, online courses, YouTube tutorials, etc.), there’s one aspect holding so many of us back – the fact we’re going to be on the bottom rung all over again.

“So many people don’t want to start afresh,” Prosper says. “They don’t want to be a rookie. They will have to learn the hard way. When they got to a position where they’re happy with what they’ve accomplished, they don’t want to go back again and start something new. So that’s the reason why so many people don’t learn about their health, their wealth, their relationships. Our brains are just designed to take the path of least resistance. If my neighbour speaks English, if my other neighbour speaks English, why else would I want to go past that sort of comfort zone that I have?”

Bayu agrees. Learning a language is a catalyst for developing a growth mindset.

“It comes back again to see it on a mental level. What is your goal? Why do you want to learn this language? Is it to impress someone? Is it or is it for yourself or is it because to learn the language you need a lot of qualities. The core quality is that you need the discipline because you need to speak and learn it again and again and again. You need to be courageous because you are showing yourself with all your mistakes, you are not perfect after all. The third one is the open-mindedness to get feedback from people. And trust me, they give feedback on what mistakes you make. You need to be humble to start from zero.

“Some will see it as being too hard. Others will see it as an adventure.”

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  • Andrew Caska

    Caska IP Patent Attorneys

    'Flying Solo opened up so many doors for us - I honestly don't know where I'd be without it"