The Nelson Mandela tactic


Before I start, I must ask to you some questions:

  • Do you love/Are you interested in languages?
  • Do you love making friends?
  • Are you interested in other cultures?
  • Would you like to say something in other languages even if you don’t speak it?
  • Would you like to make the day to a stranger?

If you answered “yes” to at least three questions, then this entry is made specifically for you; otherwise, you may skip it and go to other topics.

Maybe one of the inspirations not only for polyglots, but also for the whole humanity is the former president of the Republic of South Africa, Nelson Mandela. Most of you know some of his examplar life: to lead a convulsional country with racial problems and to unify it. But for polyglots, he left an unmissable quote:

If you talk to a man in a language he understands, this goes to his brain; if you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.

So, I was inspired by this lovely man and then a great idea came to me. There was an international competition and I was working there as a volunteer, where I saw a beautiful Slovakian girl. And then I thought: It must be wonderful if I say something in Slovakian, even if I don’t speak it.

What does this tactic consist in?

When I came home, I searched some phrases in Slovakian, as well as a funny story in Czech (BTW, Czech and Slovakian are such similar languages, and after years of being part of the country of Czechoslovakia, they understand each other very well). This is a little example about how does this tactic work. Shortly, these are the instructions if you want to perform this tactic:

  • First of all, find an international event. Most preferable if it’s in your city or next to (however, you won’t mind if you go there).
  • Find which countries have confirmed already their attendance.
  • Search some excerpts of literature in the languages spoken there. Jokes, poems, songs, sayings, basic phrases… it doesn’t matter. If you have problems reading, you may print the alphabet besides it with IPA. If you already speak that language, it’s OK to practice what you have learned too.
  • Print them altogether.
  • And then comes the funniest part: you must read the excerpt to the people form every country.
  • Enjoy flabbergasting every person in the competition.

So, the next day, I took with myself those texts hoping to find this Slovak beauty. But I wanted to test my new tactic before. Fortunately, there were some Slovak adults… and I read it to them. The result was pretty good: they took a video reading this story. I just knew that this tactic would be pure dynamite. I looked for this girl (her name was Lenka, if you’re reading this, I miss you and know that you were my inspiration). She was sick and she wasn’t competing. So, without saying anything previously, I started to read it. I knew I wasn’t reading properly, but seeing her face with a big smile although she was sick was priceless. It gave me the enough strength to go through the competition. BTW, I was talking about RoboCup in Mexico City in 2012. Then, I had another similar experience there: there was a numerous Iranian delegation, and they treated me as a brother (insofar I have a good relationship with them) just because I wrote them the Arabic alphabet.

Second competition: Homeless World Cup 2012 in Mexico City

I had the honour of being the most multilingual folk in all the competiton (counting teamguides, as I was one of them). Even thought I had to be with my team, Ukraine, I didn’t miss the chance to read all the teams (48 countries in total) something in their language: from a poem in Shona to a Zimbabwean guy playing for Wales, to a text about a teacher in Guarani to the Paraguayan female team, including to tell a joke in Bahasa Indonesia to the Indonesian team. I must recognize that I felt that with me, faith in humanity is restored. Why? Just because I deep my relationships with people making an effort of assimilate myself to their culture, and because I show them that in a far far country like Mexico there’s something who cares about their culture (who normally it’s understimated because of globalization).

Third exprience: Chiense Bridge 2013 (in China)

As you read my previous entry, I had the chance to represent Mexico in a world contest of Chinese language with guys from almost 80 countries. And then I remember what I did in the past two events, so I did an extensive research about which countries were going to take part. In addition, it’s normal that in such contests, many guys take with themselves souvenirs to give them as a present to their most beloved friends. I had not enough money, so apart from a humble gift my mother (RIP) made, I decided to apply this tactic. Although I didn’t include all the countries, I printed material of 90% of them.

My strategy was like this: first of all, I managed a low profile (relatively speaking, because my personality shone enough to be highlighted) telling who I was and where I came from. I carried with myself a flag. Then, I did a tremedous effort by showing off myself with a lucha libre mask, making fun of myself and showing off myself. After all of that, I went through the third stage: to do the Nelson Mandela tactic. I had a little problem: there were some girls from South East Asia, and I didn’t knew how to read in that script, so I asked for help to them just saying: “I found a beautiful text, but I just can’t read. Would you help me?”.

I will point the most remarkable reactions:

  • An Austrian girl (formidable polyglot) and me sang Yerushalayim shel zahav while the Israelian guy filmed us.
  • I was recorded by a Kyrgyz girl because I read to her an excerpt from Manas Epos, the most important piece in Kyrgyz literature.
  • I proved a Georgian girl that she was wrong about consider her country, Georgia, as irrelevant. I won’t forget his surprised face when she heared me speaking some basic phrases and tongue twisters in Georgian. I felt like Messi when he scored a hat-trick.
  • Uncountable portraits of myself from other guys because I read them a poem in Tajik, or sang a national song in Polish called Mury, not leaving aside that I sang songs from Eurovision.
  • Gazes of curiosity from all the European guys just because I knew some of their culture, and a Romanian guy told me: “You are one of the guys I won’t miss in a long time”.

I kept to the final the deepest impression I saw ever in my whole life. I was sitting at a table of the South Eastern Asian girls, rocking with reads in Korean, Japanese and Bahasa Indonesia. There was a Vietnamese girl who managed really well Chinese and she was pretty (I knew later that she’s a model). When she saw what I was doing, she said: “Read Vietnamese”. I said: “Wait a minute”. Then, after having read in Bahasa, I just read the Vietnamese poem. I was so concentrated while trying to read as properly as I could. When I looked again after having read, I saw joyful tears flowing in her beautiful face. Then she said: “I feel moved”. I almost cried of happiness. 3 minutes later I thanked God for making it possible. If there’s something that I can say about this memorable event, is that I wouldn’t have thought that I could touch a heart in a magnificent way. I have no words for it.

Last experience: Domino World Championship in Mexico City

Last week I had the chance of working as an interpreter of Russian, becuase apart of Russia team, there were 6 guys from a country called Abkhazia. The problem is Abkhazia is only recognized by four countries: Russia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Nicaragua. All of the other countries say that Abkhazia is still part of Georgia. There hadn’t been problems in that competition, but pressure from Georgian embassy made that Foreign Affairs Ministry of Mexico ordered the Organization Comitee not allowing Abkhazians to show the name nor their flag. It was too sad, because in solidarity with them, all flags were not shown. But then I retook this tactic and I read 8 verses in Abkhazian (BTW, hardest pronunciation ever). They gave me an applause (I bet nobody did something like that before), a bottle of wine and some more stuff, as well as the chance of being interviewed for Abkhazian TV.

I must say that with this, I show my appreciation, love, kindness, respect and curiosity towards other cultures. I must say that if my parents hadn’t culture in me such values, I wouldn’t have done something like this. I think that this way I reppresent Mexico, because I come from a culture who loves each and every country in the world, and is eager to learn from them.

So, that’s it. I know I had abandoned for a while this blog, but I promise that I’ll continue writing. Please, don’t hesitate leaving a comment. I’d appreciate it.



Introduce tus datos o haz clic en un icono para iniciar sesión:

Logo de

Estás comentando usando tu cuenta de Cerrar sesión /  Cambiar )

Google+ photo

Estás comentando usando tu cuenta de Google+. Cerrar sesión /  Cambiar )

Imagen de Twitter

Estás comentando usando tu cuenta de Twitter. Cerrar sesión /  Cambiar )

Foto de Facebook

Estás comentando usando tu cuenta de Facebook. Cerrar sesión /  Cambiar )

Conectando a %s