January 24 was the day: the first Language Does More lecture of 2022! Unfortunately, the lecture took place online, but this did not make the topic any less interesting. Namely, we engaged in a conversation about fair opportunities with speaker Halleh Ghorashi. A professor of Diversity and Integration at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Halleh has been working on the topic of diversity and inclusion in the labour market for years. In October 2021, she won the Impact Award for her research on refugees and diversity.
So Halleh, also an ambassador for Language Does More, was the right person to take us through the topic of fair employment opportunities, matching our Fair Opportunities campaign.
Language perfection and its unfeasibility
Halleh tells a beautiful and inspiring story about inclusion in the workplace and the role of language in it. Halleh moved from Iran to the Netherlands at the age of 26. She too struggled with integration and language issues. Although her study results were good, she had little self-confidence. This echoes the story Lineke mentioned earlier. Because Hallah also felt insecure, but through a teacher who gave her a big compliment, she came out of the insecurity little by little. He helped her to believe in herself. A comment like this teacher gave her can really make a difference. Many people are focused on language perfection. This puts the focus on the language, and that its mastery is not yet good enough and will always need to improve.
People with a native language other than Dutch who settle here are expected to speak the language as well as people whose native language is Dutch. This is not possible, this language perfection is simply unachievable: the language is not learned from an early age. By striving for perfection anyway, these people do not get a fair chance, which can make them insecure. Language perfection gets in the way of language development. Instead of focusing on what is not yet going well, it is better to focus on what is. After all, communicating well does not require perfection in language!
In addition to the story about language perfection, Halleh tells us much more. She also touches on the importance of stories. For an equal relationship, it is very important and beautiful to tell each other stories about the present, about yourself, but also about the historical context in which you grew up. Stories create connections. After Halleh’s wonderful lecture, there is room for questions from viewers at home. And there were plenty! Interesting questions come in, such as: “How do you ensure an equal relationship when giving space to people and their development? Given that power dynamics often play a role. Your supervisor/teacher/manager can be very influential.” Halleh answers these and many other great questions with expertise. Many new insights!
After Halleh’s answering of the interesting questions from the home audience, Roy takes the floor one last time to say a final goodbye to Lineke. Then it’s time to close the Livestream and present flowers to the speakers. Although it was a wonderful lecture with many engaged viewers from home, we hope to see everyone again in person for the next lecture in six months!
If you haven’t seen the lecture but are curious about Halleh’s story and her answers to the questions asked, you can watch the entire lecture here:
This article previously appeared on the website of Taal Doet Meer.