Students say pushing past the discomfort of talking to others who don’t speak the same language builds unity, breaks down barriers

Written by: 
Elijah Hadley


Language plays a large part in the friends people make on campus, according to three BYU-Hawaii students. Making friends with someone who does not speak the same language fluently is more difficult because the student is put outside their comfort zone.

“As a church, we all should believe in being unified among our diversity,” said Inosi Kinikini, a sophomore from Fiji studying psychology. “That is what the apostles tell us. We all need to branch out and learn to be friendly with one another, regardless if we speak a different language than them. It is how we overcome discrimination and excluding people.”

Several students were asked what language meant to them and how important it is in developing friendships. They were also asked if sharing a common language is one of their deciding factors when choosing a friend.

Is language a deciding factor in making friends?

“I think language is as beneficial as it is [distancing]…,” said Annette Jisu-Shin, a freshman from New York majoring in psychology. “I think we all have our own inner language, and I think language is [completely] tied to culture. I feel like people are comfortable within the bounds of their own language and culture, especially since language is hard to translate.”

Another freshman, Logan Bitter, a biology major from California, said, “Common language often means common background. From studying Japanese, I’ve found that language and culture very much go hand in hand. People tend to stick to what they know, the familiar. People like them.”

Why same language speakers stick together?

Shin responded, “If they are coming from non-English speaking countries, discomfort will develop, and they can’t communicate as effectively with English as their second language. It’s like being a fish out of water. They’re naturally going to be drawn to people who understand what they are saying so they can be comfortable in a new environment.”

Bitter agreed by saying how at a school with this many international students, a language barrier is something most students will experience. Whether they come from the United States, Samoa, Fiji, Japan, or any other nation, all students will experience discomfort at first.

Bitter said, “Everyone’s the same. Everyone coming here is shy and awkward when they are in an uncomfortable situation. They seek for a way to be comfortable. We can all work together as a student body to build friendships.”

Bitter continued by sharing difficulties that come about when people of different backgrounds try to make a connection with one another and don’t fully understand each other. Discomfort comes from trying new things and going outside one’s comfort zone.

How to get past the discomfort

However, not knowing someone’s language does not prevent Kinikini from being friendly.

Kinikini just tries “to be friends with everybody. Here, at this school, we have a lot of different ethnic groups. Knowing another person’s language, or parts of it, makes me very happy.”

In the June 2018 Ensign, an article, “Creating a Culture of Inclusion,” lists 12 people’s suggestions on how to move beyond comfort zones and include others more. They include: Show up to support others. Simply walk together. Decide there is no reason not to love someone. There are no second-class citizens. Find the good in everyone. Serve the overlooked. Seek to become of one heart and one mind. Sing songs together. Understand all are trying to become better people. Think less “me” and more “we.” Build bridges between people. Learn about other cultures.

The article states, “Too often, though, we divide ourselves by education and economics, by culture and color. These divisions are a source of great sorrow to God...So how God’s joy must soar when we do see each other as brothers and sisters—even more when we try to create something resembling the familial unity He wants for His children.”


Date Published: 
Tuesday, October 16, 2018
Last Edited: 
Friday, October 19, 2018