Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"
Michelle Kaplan
"The New York Radio Girl"

Have you ever thought about how hard it can be to learn a new language?

Have you ever struggled to learn English in an entirely new country?

There are so many wonderful aspects to learning a new language, but you must keep the right mindset.

Today you’ll meet Sabreet Kang, Indian American author with a new book out “Generation Zero.”

She is here to help us talk about how to find freedom and comfort for living in a country that’s not your own.

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Some Background

There are always things to learn in a new culture or with a new language.

Sabreet has some very important messages, particularly if you are already living in an English speaking country or even if you want to live in this type of country.

You will learn how to be more comfortable and to be yourself in this type of environment.

Sabreet is an Indian American and her book talks about her experiences of living as an American if you want to be, and how to make this experience better.

Generation Zero is a term she came up with because it was hard for her to understand what generation of American she was.

So she created her own term to cover this, as this seems to cover this big trend.

When you come to anther country, you come in as generation zero and create a new foundation and a new identity.

There’s some great resilience to this and to creating this foundation in a brand new country.

A lot of people coming to live in an English speaking country have no real support network, and this can be very scary.

Many students are willing to take this risk and it will pay off tremendously in the long run.

It takes time to get there though, and so along the way you must find a way to feel comfort and to be confident as you are learning.

This won’t happen overnight, and you have to create your own journey.

You have to think of what’s important, why you are doing this, how to make this all work, and then ensure that this all comes together in the right way for you.

Three Things To Keep In Mind When In A New Culture

We are focusing on the positives, that is to say the things that students can think about and really meditate on when they are trying to “fit in” in a completely new culture.

Though it may seem overwhelming at first, if you can keep these things in mind then you can overcome any obstacles.

1) Think of who you are as a person: There is beauty in who you are as an individual. Think of your story and background, and how this contributes to your choice. Don’t let yourself think that you don’t belong to anything, because we all belong to anything. Everyone has their own unique story. Make a choice to celebrate your uniqueness! This is something that you decide upon, and it’s a beautiful and free state to live in. This is another reason why you don’t have to be defined by or limited by your culture. Celebrate your opportunity to be free and be unique in a new country. You don’t have to be defined, you can choose who you want to be in this new culture. Maybe you are in a hyphenated sort of identity where you are more than one thing.

You may have multiple doors to your identity, and that’s okay. Find comfort in this—for Sabreet she likes so many different aspects of the American culture and she sort of “shops” that store. But then she also celebrates certain aspects of her Indian heritage, and she shops those things too. You have the freedom and choice to accept or reject certain aspects of each culture that you want to stand behind.

You don’t have to accept every aspect of a culture, because you have the freedom to choose in this situation! Make a list of what your hyphenated identity is, and then pick the aspects that you like of each culture within that. You will find a community of people in America that want to know you and all that you are about—this is diversity of thought and freedom of differences and it’s a beautiful thing.

2) You can also make English your own: Think about English and as you are learning it, celebrate your differences here. You are learning English as a second language, and taking this on is big but a really great thing. It’s not always easy but you can’t let it hurt your confidence and set you back. This is a journey that is all your own! She was born here in the US and so she may have felt like English should have been native to her. Even though Sabreet was born here, her parents are from India and therefore this takes time to learn.

Growing up bilingually can be helpful but in the end you have to go easy on yourself. You must recognize that you may make mistakes but that’s part of the learning process. It’s okay if you don’t get something at first, and you must have realistic expectations for your learning. Taking on a new language is a wonderful and very rewarding thing, but you have to make it your own and recognize how difficult it may be at times. That doesn’t mean that you give up, but rather that you push hard and work through this to get to the lessons and make this your own.

3) Keep this in your children’s lives: Give children a choice to learn about their native language, as this will be huge. You are almost taking away one of their rights if you don’t speak the native language with them or at least give them the opportunity to learn. Don’t take that away from them just because you want to focus on this new language. Diversity is a wonderful thing, particularly here with languages. There are so many different ways to express something, and you want to give your children the background and the choice. Give them the choice to become what they want to become!

Don’t expect perfection from yourself or your children—connection not perfection as we say on AEE! There are so many different types of English, as there are even full on dialects that are so different and may seem incorrect if you only focus on a textbook. It all depends on the community and the dialect, and this may vary. The important thing is to connect—don’t be so hard on yourself that you take this away before it even begins. You might miss out on some great connection if you are focused on perfection.

If your children want to connect to you, it’s important to remember that there are multiple ways to express something. Language gives you the expression to really talk about your culture. There is comfort in knowing that we are collectively the same and yet different! This helps to tie you together as a family, and helps your children to find comfort in this. Children will always catch up, and so you have to remember that.

Don’t try to overcompensate because something isn’t going right according to one rule.

Don’t confine yourself to other people’s rules.

Don’t let other people’s expectations define your expectations of yourself!

You can find Sabreets book “Generation Zero: Reclaiming My Parents American Dream” anywhere you would find books such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Takeaway

There are so many great lessons to be learned here as you think about what it means to be generation zero.

When you are in a new country, have realistic expectations and don’t let other people define these for you.

There is a lot to learn, and there are many different ways to feel comfortable and confident in this new country or in this new language.

If you can remember these things and go easy on yourself, then you can make this a great experience and really take off in your learning of a new language.

Sabreet Kang Rajeev is a first-generation Indian American of Sikh descent. Sabreet is a full-time social-science researcher and holds an MA in sociology from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and BA in sociology from the University of Maryland, College Park. She is currently completing her doctorate at the University of Baltimore.

Throughout her life, Sabreet experienced the beauty and struggle of being part of a blue-collar immigrant family, and she is driven to raise awareness and empathy for a minority group of Indian Americans who do not historically come from educational or economic privilege. Generation Zero is her first book.

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