The challenges and advantages of being multilingual


Photo by Sofia Salas

Junior Lal Hima

Going day-by-day speaking several languages has not always been the easiest for junior Lal Hima. While most people call him Lal Chan, the name he is called depends on the language the person speaking to him is most familiar with.

Hima speaks over five languages. These languages include Mara, Mizo, Hakha, Malay, Zophei, Falam and English. While he is not perfect with speaking and understanding all of these languages, he still uses them when the situation permits.

The reasons for Hima’s abilities to speak so many languages varies, but some are more memorable for Hima than others. Languages like Zophy and Mara are spoken by Hima because of the people he is surrounded by everyday. His uncle that he lives with speaks Zophy, so that left Hima with no choice but to learn it.

“Even if you go in the public…(the people who spoke Mara) don’t care where you’re from,” Hima said. “They are just going to talk in their language.”

Being that Hima has spent different parts of his life in different parts of the world, he has spoken some languages longer than others. For example he has spoken Mizo since he could first speak, Zophy for 15 years, Hakha for 12 years, Falam for 10 years, Malay for six years, Mara for five years and English for only the last few years.  Although English is on the list, Hima does not feel like English should really count as one the languages he speaks because he can not speak it as well as some of the others.

According to Hima, some challenges have come with learning and being able to speak several languages. When Hima first went to Malaysia he was not nervous to speak what he thought was the correct way to speak Malaysian.

“I would just say what I want, in my way, what I think is right, and people would laugh at me and that is the hardest thing I have been through,” Hima said.

Even though not everything about being multilingual is great, Hima was able to find many advantageous aspects of being able to speak several languages.  

“I am able to fit with every different type of people that I’m with,” Hima said. “I can stay friendly and close to them. (Being able to speak several languages) helps me a lot with every way, when it comes to sports (and) when it comes to education.”