Inspired by a great job opportunity, my parents decided to leave friends and family and move me and my older brother from Venezuela to the USA. I was 5-years-old when we moved to Maryland. It was a tough choice, but the right decision. When we arrived in the US, my parents determined that if my brother and I spoke English at home and they responded to us in Spanish, we would learn English faster while not losing our native tongue. It was certainly an interesting approach—one that made people do a double take whenever my family spoke in public.
As a child, mastering the English language and assimilating to American culture was top priority for me. I was a Venezuelan first-grader in a mostly white school environment who was not ready to embrace my Hispanic heritage, nor my hard-to-pronounce name. Add to that getting pulled out the classroom in front of all my young classmates to attend English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes, I often felt like an outlier. I realize now that as trying as it was for me as a young ESOL student who just wanted to fit in, this experience helped me develop and value an important communication skill — understanding your audience.
In writing, knowing your audience shapes the way you deliver messages. Writing business proposals for potential clients typically requires the use of a formal, persuasive tone of voice. At the other end of the spectrum, texting your friends requires far less formality. In advertising, car commercials—which largely try to build credibility and reason —are catered to adults, while toy commercials—which use excitement—are aimed at children. Understanding your audience is vital in determining what content you will use; thus, researching your audience and understanding their desires will help you target your message.
Growing up bilingual has allowed me to be more empathetic toward various audiences. Knowing the feelings of frustration and fear when not being understood can grant you a new perspective on humanity. When I first arrived in the US, I had a difficult time connecting with my audience (my classmates) because I was not familiar with their culture. When I did my research (such as watching the same cartoons as my classmates), it was easier to connect with my audience.
Understanding who your audience is and what they like can be half the battle when creating better and more digestible messaging. I strongly believe that the more you open yourself to different languages and cultures, the better you will communicate–in any setting.