Walaa Abuelmagd

Can Language Learning Decrease Racism?

Racism arouses a lot of heart and brain emotions, never the least among immigrants. It may bring up episodes in one’s life or in the lives of those around her/him. At least one in five immigrants in Norway report discrimination, according to a recent report from the authorities.

The most frightening and threatening is the act of ignorance we counter in our daily lives. Intolerance is nothing but a sign of inadequate education, lack of awareness and prejudicial opinions formed in the absence of evidence. To learn the language of the host country can often be on top of the list of barriers that skilled immigrants face when they move abroad. And rightly so: Language forms the base of your socio-cultural inclusion, your career, and your whole experience understanding a new culture and society.

In my presentation, I present here my thoughts and own experiences with learning a new language in a new country and how it helped me to thrive abroad, both emotionally and professionally.

Ask the speaker a question


  • Hannah_0996 says:

    A wonderful and inspiring presentation Walaa! Your story shows that a desire to achieve something along with the necessary will power can open doors for anyone!

  • EstherB says:

    I really enjoyed that, your achievement is wonderful. I often see videos on YouTube of people saying “just try a few words, don’t worry about making mistakes, everyone will be delighted that you know any of their language at all”. But that is a blindness of their privilege. Immigrants and minority language speakers are more often than not treated very badly for not speaking the language well- which is so discouraging after a while they stop learning it. I think in any case its much harder to learn when you have to (Notnchoose to) and are facing the Other difficulties you describe. I fully intended to learn Japanese when I went there but it proved much harder than I thought.

  • Will Morton says:

    Great video about your experiences as an immigrant! Thank you for sharing. Here in the U.S. this is a hot topic.

    I’m curious: what learning method(s) did you use to learn Norwegian in 90 days?

  • Kim says:

    Loved the presentation Walaa. While I’m not an immigrant myself, I live in South Africa and the topic of socio-cultural inclusion and language is obviously still very pertinent here. I fully agree that learning a new language (we have eleven official ones here to pick from) can help foster interracial relationships and eliminate prejudice.

  • Dimitris says:

    Hei Walaa,

    Så fint at du deler erfaringen din med Polyglott Konferensen. Det er inspirerende.

  • Yevgeniya says:

    This was a very encouraging indeed, Walaa! A an immigrant twice (U.S. and then Canada — Quebec) who had 2 be functional in 2 languages that are not my own, I vouch for every word you said. Don’t give up — it is all worth it!

  • Nikki444 says:

    Congratulations on the presentation. Short and sweet presentation. It was magnificent that you learned Norwegian in 90 days. Good job on the presentation.

  • PaulW says:

    Norwegian in 90 days? You must have been Norwegian in a past life? Racism is a big topic in America and as a foreign language nerd I of course wonder how it relates to the topic. I think that studying a foreign language, especially to a B2 level, helps broaden your horizons a lot so I think it does help against racism in general. It’s not the be all end all though. I tried moving to Japan and I think just my appearance brought challenges. I didn’t try to get a job at a store dealing with customers in part because I think many customers would be scared or intimidated of me and therefore not want to shop at the store.

  • LoboBobo says:

    Very nice presentation, Walaa!

  • Alesia says:

    When I moved to France and was really struggling to communicate with immigration officials, I realized what an advantage it is for immigrants from the colonies who already speak the language. Unfortunately, they face a lot of other struggles though.

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