By: Shelby Kruczek, Guest Blogger
Smiles, laughter, and math. What do these three things have in common? It is said that all three are universal languages that cross cultural, social, and linguistic divides around the world. Despite our differences, a contagious smile, the gift of laughter, and the infamous search for “x” can remind us of our shared humanity.
In the time it took you to read the paragraph above, seven people around the world were displaced from their homes¹. In the midst of the worst global displacement crisis in history, it is more important than ever to create local, welcoming environments for new neighbors. There are several ways to match your time, energy, and talents to meet the needs of refugees and immigrants in northern Virginia, Maryland, and Washington D.C.
Through these avenues, you may find a unique opportunity to invite a refugee into the social fabric of your life and community. The word “welcome” is an invitation, a greeting, with a warm, active connotation of hospitality. To welcome someone is to invite them into a shared space, whether a city, organization, social circle, event, or even a home. Showing compassion through welcoming and befriending a new neighbor is arguably another common language that we can all speak—if we try.
Based on the expertise of a handful of multilingual friends and coworkers, this is a short list of ways to say “welcome” in 15 languages. Note that some are English pronunciations and variations of greetings, or ways to say “hello.”
German: Wilkommen (“vil-kum-men”)
Hindi: Svaagat he
Uzbek: Xush Kelibsiz
Vietnamese: Chào mùng
Urdu: Khoosh amdeed
Arabic: Ahlan wa sahlan
Russian: Dobro pozhalovat
Korean: “Hoan young ham nee da”
Basic words or phrases in another language can go a long way and can sometimes even lead to instant connection with a stranger, in the shopping line at the grocery store or in the waiting area of the doctor’s office. Consider keeping a few of these words in your pocket for a rainy day—or simply a shared moment of cross-cultural inspiration.