God truly works in mysterious ways. My disability was my best friend all this time. It was a motivation from God to tell me never to give up and to develop my passion for languages.
I live in Canada and I’m a teacher by profession. I am a certified teacher of French and Spanish in Ontario. In my spare time, I translate religious lectures and write poems in French, Spanish, and English. Am I fluent in those languages? Yes, I am, Alhamdolillah (“All Praises be to God”). Languages are my passion and I love to communicate with people in their language. How many can I speak? I’ll just say more than five languages. But did I mention that I have a speech disability?
Who? What? When? How? Why? Where?
My name is Malihe and I grew up with a speech disability. Yes, I grew up with stuttering. A stuttering so bad that I could not even say “Mother” or “Salam” (“Peace”, “Hello”). Instead of being helped, I was laughed at. I was ridiculed both inside and outside of school and I don’t remember a day when I wasn’t laughed at by kids, elders, and everyone.
Every time I wanted to ask a question, my teachers received me with comments like, “Here we go again” and “Hurry up!”. Every time I wanted to share a joke when we would be telling jokes, I couldn’t tell if everyone was laughing at my jokes or at my stuttering. Every time I wanted to explain myself, I was told, “You’re lying, that’s why you’re stuttering”. All when I was only 6 years old.
In the middle of all the ridicule and mockery that I would receive as a child, my mother would look at me and only God knows what a mother feels when she sees her child in pain. My mother was my only safe haven. I hardly remember a night when I didn’t go to bed in tears. My beloved mother, may Allah bless her, would come to me and ask me, “What did you want to share? You can talk to me now”. Laughter after laughter, mockery after mockery, I’d drown in my own tears. I was called “porky pig” and “piglet”. I don’t remember a day when I wasn’t laughed at, and I don’t remember a night when I didn’t cry. I really don’t. Imagine you’re struggling to say your own name and the other person yells at you to speak faster. That was my normal.
I drowned in my tears so much that I could not take it anymore. I decided… ENOUGH! I cried before, I won’t cry anymore. I will talk and you will listen to me, even if it’ll take me 5 minutes to say a single word. I’m giving you my time to listen to what you have to say and you will listen to the “nonsense” I have to say even if takes me an hour.
Now I’m a polyglot who writes poetry about the Ahlulbayt (AS) (“Family of our Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him”) in various languages, and who translates religious lectures by respected Muslim scholars like Dr. Sayed Ammar Nakshawani and Dr. Sheikh Shomali in my spare time. Now I’m a language teacher who teaches one of Canada’s official languages to Canada’s future. I’m someone whose disability has become her way of earning a Halal income and I have only God to thank for all of this.
How did I become a Polyglot? When I was 7, I fell in love with the videogame “The Street Fighter”. The soundtrack from Vega’s stage was what made me fall in love with Spain and the Spanish language. I promised myself at 7 that one day I will learn that language and one day I’ll go to Spain. I came to Canada and the first class that I took in high school was Spanish. Then I did my Honours in Languages from Wilfrid Laurier University where I learned Spanish, French, Italian, and German. God put me the love for Spanish at just 7, which led me to love and learn other languages, too.
God truly works in mysterious ways. My disability was my best friend all this time. It was a motivation from God to tell me never to give up and to develop my passion for languages. God has a plan for everyone and everything. God had a plan for me and I understand why everything happened. All this time, it was God telling me, “Wait till you see what I have planned for you” when I was crying and I cannot be more grateful to Him and only Him.
If I knew that my disability would take me where I am now, I’d go through all of it again with a smile. Alhamdolillah (“All praises be to God”), “I saw nothing but beauty”. My life experiences have taught me that trials and tribulations are actually God telling us, “Wait till you see what I have planned for you, little one”. My disability has been one of the biggest blessings of my life and it was through my disability that I became a polyglot. I cannot be more excited for what awaits me next.
If you’re reading this, please don’t give up on your dreams. That which makes you cry, turn that into your biggest strength. Fight for your goal, even if you have to fight alone. God never abandons you, so don’t you abandon Him. I will end my article with a Spanish phrase:
“Si volviera a comenzar, no tendría tiempo de reparar” (If I were to start from the beginning, I would not have the time to heal).
My name is Malihe, this is my story, and I am so glad that I can write it in more than one language.
Malihe Elias lives in Kitchener, Ontario