One of my first steps when I got here in Belgium was to enroll in a Dutch course. Since it is the country’s second official language, it seemed like something I had to do.
But I was not overly excited. Nobody in my family speaks Dutch, despite the fact that they all live in Belgium, and have been here for several years now. The words are too different from our safely known Portuguese, even a little alien. I was afraid of it because it seemed something that would always be out of reach. Something that could potentially humiliate me, hurt my sense of pride or confidence.
Seems like something you know?
You’re right. I was prejudiced.
So I enrolled in the course and went to the class feeling like the kid that’s about to be bullied in school.
And – what a surprise! It took only a few minutes – ok, maybe half an hour; let’s be honest, maybe a few days – to realize that it was not THAT different from what I already knew. I got excited, bought all the exercise books I could find (basic level, of course) and worked as much as I could to learn it.
I passed the basic level and am on my way to the next, and the language that seemed unapproachable and completely weird now makes sense. It’s not threatening, it’s not even alien. It has become almost familiar enough now to make me feel safe whenever I see it or hear it.
And all it took was the courage to learn more about it. Do you have small prejudices too? It’s ok; everyone does. If you recognize some in you, take the time to know more about it. If you still don’t like it, it’s fine, but at least you have a concrete reason and not some irrational excuse. If you do like it, then you just killed another small prejudice 😉