STORIES OF COMMUNITY RESILIENCE
Founder and author of Multilingual connections, Daisy Wu speaks with Ruhee Meghani about mastering communication, beyond learning a language.
Note; This transcript is automatically generated and may contain errors.
Imi: Hello, I’m Imi, you’re listening to Stories of Community Resilience. Today we have Daisy Wu – hello Daisy.
Daisy Wu: Hi Imi, Nice to meet you here. Thanks for having me.
Imi: So, Daisy. Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself?
Daisy Wu: I’m Daisy wu. I’m a Chinese immigrant in Melbourne, Australia. I’ve been here for just over eight years. I am now an award winning author and founder of Multilingual Connectors. This is where I teach non-native English speakers and immigrants like myself, to build meaningful connections across cultures without mastering the English language. So as far as as far as as far as I’ve introduced myself this way, you might assume that I’m so confident in connecting the English. It’s my second language. But what if I told you I still find it so difficult and challenging to build meaningful, genuine connections in another language? Do you wonder why?
Imi V: I’ve done both German and French, so I know how daunting it is to sort of get your mind into the German mind or the French mind than the native English mind. So taking your mind out of your native language into a language you learn later is very different. It’s actually been pretty much confirmed scientifically now that humans never lose their first or native language. Yet you grew up speaking one language and then you learnt another at a later date. It actually is a challenge upon your mind to ease off into that mindset. So what age did you begin to learn English?
Daisy Wu: I actually grew up learning English in the classroom, but mostly with my mouth shut. So until I was just under 18, I came to Melbourne. I grew up just being so jealous of the native speakers I will watch in the TV series and movies. Secretly dreaming, mimicking. So that was my outlook before coming to Melbourne in a genuine and authentic English dominant environment. So back then I thought I must master English like a native English speaker to be able to progress in my university degree and land a decent job here to fulfil my dreams. And fortunately, and unfortunately, I landed in a bridging course to get admitted to my bachelor’s degree. And that’s where I was classmates with predominantly Asian Chinese students speaking Mandarin as my first language. And even worse, here, my parents being so protective, wanted me to be under the wings of my aunt and uncle living in the Chinese suburb, namely Box Hill, if that’s familiar to you. So you can imagine my language environment was very horrible and I just, you know, was surrounded and pigeonholed. By those from the same culture. So I feel so deluded. I thought, no, that’s not it. That’s not the type of study abroad life I would dream of. Things got slightly better when I moved to my university degree from 2017 onwards. Long story short, through volunteering, I was able to diversify my network. I was able to get exposed to other native speakers from other parts of Asia and the entire world.
Daisy Wu: So that gave me more perspective as to how important English actually was. And fast forward to the pandemic. Back then, I was already speaking better English. I was also referred to my first job in the industry here, so I got everything I believe I had on the CV to be able to land a prestigious tier one job as a graduate, but what I didn’t realize was that there was still something missing in my ability to build real connection with people. So as far as employment was concerned, even though the pandemic was playing out and hitting the construction and building industry hard, I ended up interviewing with those dream jobs and dream firms. But eventually I wasn’t preferred over the other candidates. Despite speaking good English and despite having everything I feel make me entitled to the job. So eventually they picked the other candidate who I recognized, didn’t speak good English and didn’t have anything on the CV. So you can imagine how hurt I was. My ego was so hurt and I started questioning what was actually missing for me to revisit the initial outlook, that things will be better and life will be easier if and only if my English better. But that’s an illusion. It turns out to be so. That was the genesis of my story, and what motivated me to actually found Multilingual Connectors as my current coaching mentoring business to help people like me struggling.
Imi: Do you find that now that you are confident to an extent, in both languages, employers see you as actually more valuable because they can hire you knowing that you can communicate in both languages and they’ll see that is a very valuable skill. So they can help using you, or they can use you to help themselves build more connections with between places that, you know, speak Mandarin and place that speak English. You’re actually now more valuable that you have the both languages.
Daisy Wu: Yeah. And in fact, this is the this is not the first time I’ve come across this notion that the international or bilingual background is advantageous, although I personally have a slightly more nuanced way to interpret that. So rather than this enabling me automatically to work with people from different linguistic backgrounds, I also see there are also other so overlooked and undervalued qualities around being immigrants, which are our unique advantages. So let’s just cast the focus back onto the language itself. I know that it’s a common struggle or a common notion or belief amongst the non native speakers, that we must combine those advanced vocabularies and expressions to sound more authentic, to sound more like the native speakers. So that’s how people are trapped in the grounds of learning vocabularies every day. But it turns out that as far as I’ve lived in the English speaking international multicultural community for this many years and now really recognized the importance of plain and simple language, which is the average level of English amongst our multilingual and multicultural community. So in that light, I see those coming from a non-native speaking background are at a vantage point because our vocabulary is actually, as we see, limited. But it also gives us the great point to start with, to just maximize what we have instead of overcomplicating the language with so many different, you know, difficult jargons and expressions. So I think it actually makes our English, our non-native English, quote unquote, more accessible to communicate and make connection to each other in this community.
Imi: Yeah, I do feel that these days, the language that people speak in versus the full formal edition of English is very different. And it’s very interesting that a lot of cultures actually do have a distinction or a formal distinction between the more casual version of their languages versus the formal written or the professional version of their languages. And it’s very important to learn. I know German does this a lot, French does it French. France actually even has a place where a committee to actually control the language or, you know, formalize it. They have a special committee purely for this purpose, where they sort of define the official way to speak French. I think a lot people think it’s a very sort of colonial perspective or a very sort of gatekeeping sort of perspective of French. But I think it’s actually quite important to define the official way to speak it, to speak French and sort of incorporate new things, new nuances into a language. And I think that if you’re talking in a more casual setting versus you’re talking in a more formal setting, the language is you’re going to use are going to be very different. And. I think is actually important to people to learn the more formal way of speaking English, because that’s what’s going to get your head in business. You have to really know how to behave in a business setting. You have to know how to talk to people.
Imi: You have to know how to be polite. Etiquette is very important. And unfortunately, when you learn at university, you never, ever really, you know, go to an etiquette, you know, classes. And I have a lot of issues with etiquette due to having a disability. I’ve faced a lot of challenges when it comes to etiquette, and unfortunately, people don’t really understand how they impact me and in some cases don’t even care to acknowledge them. So, when it comes to talking in a formal setting. Pronunciation, you know, is a big challenge for me regardless. After accepting. I’m never gonna be able to do it properly. But I do have a degree in theatre, which means that I have a have a very strong amount of training in speech and performance and projection and use of language, which is really an interesting thing as people think that, you know, somebody with my disability or background would never consider doing that, but I’ve done it, and it’s actually been very valuable to me to learn, even as a non-native, even as a native English speaker or non-native German speaker to learn drama, to learn acting. To learn how to really speak and to speak in these sort of formal, formal settings. Because it really is just a skill that you put on a resume that is actually very transferable to a business setting, a sales setting, or anything of that sort.
Daisy Wu: Yeah, I agree with you. Recognizing language should be a tool for communication. It’s a means to the end, and I totally appreciate there are certain settings where we do have to pay more attention to how we command the language. For example, the professional. Yeah, it’s just about, knowing the audience and adapting to the situation, which we also have to factor in outside of the equation of actually using certain vocabulary and grammar. It’s there’s more than, I guess the, the accents or the accuracy to pay attention to. Reason why I also promote practicing and learning naturally or intentionally in an immersive environment. If I go back to the example that you quoted about university students facing potential language barrier, once they move into professional settings in the workplace for that particular population, I would really encourage them to do networking or to intentionally put themselves in the settings where they can connect to their future employers and network as a future employee, just to get a taste of the language of the environment, they’re going to be part of in the near future. Even though this is not something I see students commonly do these days, when they are already so occupied with their study. Not a lot of students are so intentional about networking, especially networking with the industry professionals they aspire to be part of. You know, it’s far more than just mimicking the language used, but also observing the etiquette. How they actually build the connections lead the conversation will be the skill they will learn and find beneficial in the future. So that’s hindsight for me as a back then international students to.
Imi: Yeah, because I went to uni as a domestic student and I did experience and I don’t really have the experience for international student, but I sort of knew a lot of international students who had come from abroad for a variety of different reasons to Monash University. And I found that I often struggled to really make a connection with them. But I would make connection through interest. And there was one international student who was very heavily involved in the theatre department and when she started, she had very no, almost no English. But we helped with using drama and using theatre to help her project voice to talk. To communicate. And over time she was she got those skills first. She was able to then bring in the grammar, the syntax of the language.
Daisy Wu: Yeah. And did you find that genuinely challenging to build connection with those from those outside of your native cultures?
Imi: I felt that with the classes that I did, they didn’t really interact with the native English speakers. They often formed their group projects themselves, and if there was one in a group project, they would they’d be felt quite isolated from us. They didn’t really talk to us and never really were in the group chats. They never really talked about it and they didn’t really do any of the work.
Daisy Wu: I’d like to assume that there’s so many other elements besides the language barrier or culture barrier that hinders connections. As you can see amongst your English speaking or the domestic classmates, you’re not really friends to each and every of them, which is impossible to aspire for. So it boils down from my experience, I myself, I had advanced once upon a time to the point where I feel language barrier is pretty much wasn’t front of mind any longer, but it just didn’t make them so much more significantly easier for me to really build a genuine connection with people and really find like minded friends similar to you once upon a time. It does build on an element of common interest, but more than that, I just feel there’s so many insights. There are so many things inside of us which people are not aware of. Normally we look out for what makes us different from each other externally, but internally we’re all human beings. We all crave for connections now. I would argue that if you want to be the right connection with the outside world, we have to look after what’s playing out in the inner world as well. What do you tell yourself as your self-image? And also when it comes to confidence, which is so much of a common issue amongst people, not just native speakers? We can’t outperform our self-image if we already go out there in the degree with the outlook that because I’m international or because I’m domestic, I’m unable to easily foster the connection with them, then this is going to be likely a self-fulfilling, self-fulfilling prophecy if you carry yourself that way. Yeah. And this is, by the way, part of the applicable common psychology I myself invested in, in mentoring on. Yeah. For me to again highlight mentor to be one of the most important categories of connection for us to have in our life at any phase.
Imi : So Daisy you have actually founded and run your own company?
Daisy Wu: Correct. That’s mentoring business called Multilingual Connectors, which I also named my book after. So this is an extension expression of my thought leadership building around building connections across cultures without mastering the language. So however people interpret that, I’ll have to expand on the working definition of multilingual in this name. So by the look of it, it might make you conjure, being able to command more than two languages based on the common definition. But should I remind you that besides, you know, so many languages people speak globally, there’s also the so-called nonverbal communication encompassing body language, eye contact, emotional language. And when it comes to building connection across cultural landscape, there’s also cultural intelligence as an integral element of connection. So these are what I see embodied under someone being multilingual. They have to be mastering most of these, besides the basic to intermediate command of English or the dominant language in whatever foreign environment they operate within. So as part of my mentoring program, I’ll teach people not exactly English as a traditional English teacher, but as far as the language is concerned, how they can work smarter for them to adapt to different situations, including those, as you mentioned, where they have to advance their professional expression and professional presentation.
Daisy Wu: But besides :language, there’s also an element of mindset and psychology, which are common terms. These are not really foreign concepts for people to put that into practice, into this context, I have my own methodology to guide them, to have sustainable and lasting changes. And the third element will be what I sum up as communication essentials, which are not really concerning the language, but just think about someone who’s got no language barriers. Does that mean things will be smooth sailing at all for him or her to build connections? You know, some of the hurdles will be how do you find time and find a space to connect with the right people at the right time? Which sounds so ideal. So these are the practical considerations I guide my mentees on for them to design and devise their own networking strategy at certain phases of time, and also for especially the immigrants, how they can maximize their advantages in the communication for them to be more of themselves instead of mimicking the domestic students or professionals.
Imi:And you’ve also written some books. Daisy, could you please tell us about those?
Daisy Wu: Yes, certainly. So my award winning book, Multilingual Connectors, is exactly built upon the three pillars I introduced before, namely a basic to intermediate command of a foreign language and accurate mastery of mind and psychology for them to master them themselves before they seek to master anything, and also in building connection, how they can leverage those communication essentials to work on and work in the right direction. So these are the three pillars I integrate into my book, which teaches the 12 game changing principles of building Cross-continental connections with our language mastery. So that’s something they can order and have more details about on my website.
Imi : Well, thank you very much, Daisy. It’s been absolutely a pleasure to interview you for Stories of Community Resilience, you truly have an amazing story to tell, and we’re very glad to have you on the show.
Daisy Wu:Thank you, Imi. I truly hope that this is a great supplement to one of your recent episodes on language barriers, and to provide this very fresh perspective for them to rethink the role of language, but also think beyond the language mostly. Thanks again for having me here.
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