This week is Accessibility to Me Week, Recite Me’s week-long event dedicated to opening up about the world of accessibility and inclusion from an individual perspective and taking action to create inclusive digital spaces. We caught up with Raissa, Marketing Executive from the US team to share her experience growing up in different countries and the challenges she faced with language barriers.
Could you tell us a bit about yourself, the countries have you lived in, and the languages you speak?
I was born in Kigali, Rwanda – a small country in East Africa. Due to my dad’s job, my family lived in different countries throughout my childhood. We lived in Australia, Kenya, Belgium, and Switzerland before finally settling in the United States when I was 11 years old.
I speak French, Kinyarwanda, and English fluently.
What has been your biggest challenge when moving internationally?
Due to the different countries we moved to, one of my biggest challenges was the language barrier. During the late 90s and early 2000s, Rwanda was a french-speaking country so I grew up speaking French as my first language and while Belgium and Switzerland are francophone countries, living in Australia was difficult since it is a primarily English-speaking country. While I was only 4 years old when we lived there, I remember not being able to understand anything that was being said to me at daycare or having any friends outside of my little brother.
The language barrier became even more prominent when my family made the move to the US and I had to start 5th grade without speaking or understanding English. It was quite challenging to not understand the language and although my teachers tried to help me adjust, it was a difficult two years learning the language.
How did you overcome any potential language barriers?
I watched a lot of English tv-shows and movies and would try to read a book a day to help me learn English more quickly. I would also make an effort to speak English out loud with my family to practice pronouncing words. Since I grew up around the ‘popular era’ of Facebook and YouTube, I would also watch a lot of YouTube videos in English to help me practice understanding the language.
What has been the best part of living in different locations worldwide?
The best part of living in different countries was the culture and people I met from all over the world. In each country my family lived in, we made an effort to really immerse ourselves in the culture to fully understand and enjoy our new (temporary) home. From walking through the markets in Nairobi, swimming in the Great Barrier Reef, and weekend trips from Brussels to Marseille, I was lucky to have amazing experiences and meet the most amazing people from all over the globe.