Jason JunJason Jun

Bigger things to blame

23 July 2019

As a non-native speaker, it's easy to attribute every challenge I face to language barriers. Indeed, effective communication is critical, and without it, accomplishing tasks can be difficult. Yet, attributing everything to language can be more problematic than the language issues themselves.

Major barriers like language or cultural differences can obscure smaller, yet significant issues. For instance, if I don't succeed in a job interview, I might quickly blame my language skills when, in reality, numerous other factors could have been at play. It's difficult to focus on these less visible issues when a larger one dominates your attention—like how a mountain blocking the sun makes a tree's shadow vanish.

Typically, these smaller issues come to light once the larger barrier is removed, which can be disheartening. After overcoming a major hurdle, the last thing you want to encounter is a series of smaller ones. This is a common experience among immigrants, I believe. When you're on an unstable visa, other aspects of life—securing a job, starting a family, buying a house—take a backseat. It becomes easy to blame everything on visa issues and delay critical decisions.

Recognizing the true nature of the problem doesn't solve it, but it's a step forward. I feel I realized this too late, although I'm not sure I would have acted differently had I known sooner. Perhaps it's just hindsight.