This is an all ears English podcast, Episode 1541, Three Tips for Thriving in a New Country with Sigbrit Kong.
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Today, you'll meet Sabrite Kong ReGive, an Indian American author with a new book out called Generation Zero. Find out her advice for finding freedom and comfort when living in a country that's not your own.
Hello, all ears, English fans, I am very excited to be hosting today, you don't often hear me, Jessica, taking it on all by myself. But you know what? I'm not by myself because I have one of the most amazing guests we've ever had on all ears English.
Sabrite. Welcome to the show.
I am really excited to be here and I'm flattered. So, guys, Sabrite is here with some very, very important messages for you guys. If you are already living in an English speaking country or you want to live in an English speaking country, listen up today. Maybe listen two or three times, take notes. All right? This will help you feel better, feel more comfortable, be yourself in a comfortable way, no matter where you are.
So, Sebri, why am I asking you to talk about this?
Because, you know, an Indian American and I wrote a book, it's called Generation Zero. It really is talking about the experiences of being hyphenated identity and just what it means to be. An American, if you want to be one, right? Yeah, what define that for yourself? I think that's what we're discovering today. Right. Can you define what this means for our students generation zero?
So it's like generation zero is a term that I came up with because it's really hard for me to understand, like if I'm a first generation or a second generation immigrant or Indian American or anything. I looked it up in Webster's Dictionary, the Census Bureau. I mean, it's very complicated. They're universal definitions. I'm like, well, I'm going to create my own and it's going to be called generation zero. And they're the only the biggest reason is it's like when you come to a different country, you actually come with zero, whether it's capital, whether it's no social community or something like that.
Pick up and just go. And with that zero, you make a foundation of a new identity, of a new culture, of a new community. And there's some great resilience to that.
This is so huge because I think a lot of our students listening probably come from cultures that are have a lot closer familial ties than we do in America.
So I've spoken to many students who have immigrated to Canada, for example. And what's difficult, that they don't have that social network. And I know in your book you have some amazing stories about how your family, how your father lost a very direct social network. I don't want to spoil the story because I want everyone to read your book, but that is very scary. And that's something that inspires me about our students, is they're willing to take this risk.
So let's get into the positives. What are three things that our students can think about and really sort of meditate on when they are trying to fit in? Well, we'll explain that or not fit in in a completely new culture. So what is the first thing we should talk about today?
I think the first thing we should really talk about is just how unique you are as a person like you, immigration story, where you're going. You know, there's such beauty in being this unique individual with this unique experience, relocating to a different country because you choose to do it because of different things. But, you know, in these you know, whether you want to become like you're moving to Canada, you're trying to be an American or whatever it is, it's like sometimes we eradicate our choice of like we want to be.
And it's because we feel like we don't belong to anything like whether it be in Canada, whether it be in America, identify myself as an Indian American. I'm like, well, I'm definitely not Indian enough. So I'm not American enough either. I guess I'm just a chameleon, like I'm just as weird Ellsbury talking about my experiences. But really the point is, it's like there's this choice that you can make for yourself to celebrate your uniqueness and you don't have to eradicate it.
Yes, I love it, guys.
You know, to my mind, what is Sabri talked about, this being a beautiful state to exist in, and I completely agree because it is free. This is another reason, not the primary reason, but definitely part of students wanting to live in Canada or the states are a different country is they don't have to be restricted by their cultural expectations. Like if you're from a very conservative culture, maybe you're like, oh, I don't know, I don't like this.
It is tying me down. Celebrate the beautiful opportunity to be free of that in another country. And you know what? Yeah, this is totally scary because it's up to you. But here's the thing. You can't choose who you want to be, right?
You don't have to be defined. So that Sabrit like if you don't feel like you're an Indian, you don't feel like you're an American. Right. A lot of people listening will be in that hyphenated identity like that. How did you find comfort? How did you accept that? Yes, this is a beautiful place to be.
It really it takes a long time to get there. But I think the first way that I really try to understand it and conceptualize it as like I have two different doors of my identity, so I'm just going to use a shopping metaphor because I love shopping for us. Now, I'm all about Amazon, I guess. But God, I know, you know, you open up these two different doors, like, I would open up the American door, I would take my shopping cart and I'm like, what?
How am I American here? I really like pizza. I really like to learn about other cultures. I really like to do all these other things. And I would put those, you know, things that really resonated with me into my heart. And I would come out of that door. I'm like, all right, well, and I'm shopping at the store and I. Go to the next door, like going into the Indian door, like, hey, you know, I'm a Sikh individual.
I like the freedom that I have different things about being an Indian. I would pick up those those things I put on my shopping credit and actually leave. So the biggest thing about this is that you don't always like if you have one culture or one identity being shoved down your throat, I have to accept the good and the bad. Here you have the freedom and the choice to really reject. Like, I am not going to be all about, you know, a certain thing because like, for example, like in the Indian culture, like men are celebrated more than women.
I'm like, well, I'm a huge feminist.
I really don't care what they have to say. No one. No for that. No. So not going in my car. So it's just like, you know, freedom to choose is very important.
And that makes you you guys I students, I would love for you to take this literally, like actually make a list, like make a list, say, OK, what is my hyphenated identity, what are the things I can celebrate and what, what reflects me and what I want to be. And like make list.
Like what about this culture. Do I want to keep what about this culture. That's a great place to start. I think.
I think it's a great place and even make a list of things that you dislike like are just I totally hate this about this culture to hate that I want to work on incorporating this into the American culture, like acceptance, tolerance. You have the freedom to choose those things. It's a great beauty. But the thing is that people will make you feel like you need to confide into like one like identity or one kind of thing. Just reject that because, you know, celebrating your choices is the whole point of being an American or, you know, going to Canada or any other country that you've decided to go to with your choices are celebrated.
Definitely. I mean, but America has been called a melting pot for a long time. And I know there are some people that make you feel that that is not wanted, but that is definitely not all of us. And I promise you guys, you are already here or you're going to come here or Canada, you can definitely find a community of people that want to know you and where you come from. We don't want you to be like us because that's boring.
I want to know someone exciting and interesting. So, like, keep that other exoticness because I want to know that. Exactly.
Diversity of thought. Celebrate your differences and just celebrate your culture. Do not eradicate it.
Yes, I love it. Guys, there is so much for you to think about today. If you are parents coming over with kids or you're coming by yourself, there's a lot to reflect on. OK, I told Sabrit before we started recording, I really have to rein myself in because I could talk about any one of these points for so long. But let's move on to point to. All right, so what does the second sort of lesson for our students today?
I think the second lesson that is super important is you can also make English your own. Yes, you love it. So it's like thinking about the English language if you're learning English as a second language and stuff like that, and you have like another like native language that you practice, you know, again, please celebrate your differences there, because it's like if you think about it from like a scientific standpoint, you actually study your brain. There's articles about this.
Yeah, speaking several languages is a sign of being brilliant. Definitely. And I know sometimes if you're in school, I know personally I can speak from experience. I would get back a report or like an article. It's completely red. And I'm like, oh my God, what did I do? Like, why are these commas not where they're supposed to be? And, you know, I would be discouraged because I felt like I didn't understand English well enough.
I didn't know how to write it. I don't know how to speak it. And it kind of like hurt my confidence and know being this American that doesn't know English is kind of like it's your purpose in life.
So I want to I want to pause here real fast because I want to make it clear for our students what situation you were in. I'm not sure if we defined this clearly enough at the beginning, but your your parents were from India, right? They came over. But Sebrit, you are born here. And so for you to be born here and then feel like this language that should be native because it's this country's language to feel like you weren't good at that language.
Guys, let me she is the celebrated author now. OK, so it's it's a process that it's worthwhile. And I want to say also that because I did my master's in applied linguistics and yes, scientifically, your brains are more flexible in a number of ways if you grow up bilingually. Right. So another reason to keep that in your life and. That brings us to our third point, right? Keep that in your children's life. So what do you think about that?
I definitely think like one of the. Giving our children the choice to know about their native language, speak their native language with them, is everything OK? If I think about my children, if I don't speak the language that I know with them, I'm already taking away one of their rights. And it's so important because it's like regardless of if they speak it or not or if they want to speak it or write about it or whatever, least to have the opportunity to learn and be bilingual from such a young perspective.
I don't take that away from them. Just because you want to confide to the status quo of like can we're only going to speak English. I have some aunts and uncles and I have like family that it's just so sad. You go and all you speak English and I'm like, we have so much like diversity. And I mean, we can talk about it in different ways. But let's not fall into the English trap of like erasing like language because, you know, even in language, there's so many different ways for you to express the color yellow, literally.
So having that giving your your children that choice, because I know, like the pressure to make them the most perfect immigrant child could be so intense, but give them their choices to become what they want to become even in languages. Yeah.
And don't expect perfection from yourself or your children. Connection, not perfection. As we always say. I'm all ears English, but also, like Sabri said, guys, there are so many different types of English. I mean, even in America, there are full on dialects that that the rules are grammatically incorrect. Yeah, that's a teacher but I'm talking to this person, I'm like, oh my gosh, subject verb agreement. That's not what we say. You know, like he be doing something like, oh!Guys, that is acceptable in that community.
I mean, that's great, that's fine. That's fine. The important thing is to connect and to know that you are worthy of connection. Right. Like, don't be so hard on yourself that you take that option away. Right. Don't stop it before it begins. You'll be like, oh my gosh, my English is not perfect. I cannot talk to this person. You know what? You just missed a friend. You just missed the one that could help you feel better in the world.
And like, the biggest thing is, just like I was saying, is just like something that sometimes there's just things in that language that you can only express how to say it in that language. Yeah. Thinking about your children, like if they really want to connect to you, whether it's like Cuban-American in America, whatever, you're sitting there and you're trying to talk to them in this language and they don't really understand, like how to say, I love you in this language.
I mean, you just lost, like, so much like just coming to a different country. It's just like language gives you the expression to really talk about your culture. Yeah. You have you have to you have to hold it.
Do you feel like Sebrit that having the first language as your home language, not English. Right. Do you feel like that created a bond between you and your parents that would have been missing otherwise if they had only tried to speak English with you?
I totally, totally agree, because it's like it gives you comfort in knowing that we're collectively the same, but different. Like even the way that I speak Punjabi is very different than my parents. But at least it was something that we can talk about with each other. Like if we're going to the grocery store, we don't understand something like this person is so and so.
Yeah, sometimes we do talk about other people maybe too close to the line or something like that. But the point is, it's like it connects you as a family when you go outside in your circle. Yes, I love it so much.
Yeah. And I know there's parents out there that maybe are experiencing this right now that they their their child maybe the teacher said, oh, they're we're going to have to put them in a different English class because their language skills are not the same as other people. Great. You know what? That does not matter like this. They will catch up guys in the short term. Sure. There's a bigger gap. That's fine. They'll make it up and then they could become a famous author when they grow up.
Like Sabrit says, it's all possible. It's all it's all possible. And it's just like don't overcompensate just because of something may not be going well according to some standard some rule that honestly sometimes is trash.
I think, you know, if I could summarize all of these messages today, it would be like don't confine yourself to other people's rules. Don't let other people's expectations define your expectations of yourself. Right. I think that's kind of the lesson. I was so inspired by reading your book.
Sabirt, and I really hope that our students will seek this out, Sabrit where can our students find your book so they can find it on Amazon, Barnes Noble's wherever books are sold, but sort of Generation zero, reclaiming my parents' American dream and you'll find it.
It is so fascinating. I am going through it on my Kindle right now. Guys can definitely come back to the blog, come back to all ears, English dot com. Look up this episode and comment on your thoughts about our lessons today, guys. And also tell us, if you've read this book, leave us. Leave a review of Sabirt's book on the blog, guys. All right.
It's a great thank you so much for agreeing to come on the show today. Thank you so much for having me. Take care. Bye.
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