She Learned ASL To Advocate for Others

Some say money is no object. Well, Kimatha says language is no barrier. She has learned Spanish and ASL (American Sign Language) to be able to communicate and advocate for others. Read on for Kimatha’s language learning journey and her tips for learning Spanish and ASL.

BGLL: Thank you so much for sharing your language learning journey with us. Tell us about yourself.

Kimatha: My name is Kimatha Greer and I’m from Detroit, MI. I’m African American and Native American. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a Master’s degree in Social Work. Currently, I am a psychiatric care specialist and a social worker. In between both achievements, I have given trainings to staff and parents on how to problem solve with at risk/troubled youth and children with autism. 

In addition to these two jobs, I also have a YouTube channel highlighting natural hair care and most importantly mental health in the African American and underserved communities. 

BGLL: What kind of services do you provide as a psychiatric care specialist, social worker and a mental health YouTuber?

Kimatha: As a psychiatric care specialist/social worker, services are provided based on the child’s needs. My clients can suffer from depression, autism, and even schizophrenia. My job is to educate parents on how to work with their child and plan accordingly. 

Having my YouTube channel helps me bring more awareness to mental health, it’s importance, and other valuable information. Sadly, underserved communities are not given this education nor the resources.

BGLL: Which languages do you know?

Kimatha: As of now, I am proud to say that I know Spanish. Spanish has been a part of my life for years. During my first career job as a family specialist, it became even more important. In Nashville, Tennessee, the Hispanic/Latin culture is very prominent. The day I couldn’t help a client because of a language barrier, was the day I started to go even harder with my Spanish language learning. Breaking pass this language barrier has allowed me to help even more people. 

I am also learning ASL (American Sign Language). Being able to advocate for people is my passion. When I worked at Amazon during graduate school, there were a lot of deaf/hard of hearing workers (who I’m still friends with today). There were no interpreters available to help communicate daily job duties which I believed was unfair. My passion and my belief in fairness pushed me to learn. Again, no language will ever become a barrier for me when it comes to helping someone. 

BGLL: Were you able to take advantage of any opportunities due to your languages?

Learning and knowing Spanish has opened a lot of doors. In fact, I was able to travel with the peace corps to Ecuador to teach English as a foreign language because of my previous Spanish language knowledge. Many job opportunities have opened up for me as well. For example, I was offered a position to work with Hispanic/Latino youth in southwest Detroit as a mental health specialist. 

BGLL: How did you learn ASL?

Kimatha: ASL (American sign language) is still in process. Years ago, while I was working at AT&T, there was a young lady who would come in my store every month to pay her bill. She was deaf and I would write her letters every time she came to our store. Eventually she would teach me easy phrases like “Hello” or “How are you?”. Her friendship meant so much to me and I wanted to speak to her in her language. This motivated me to want to learn ASL. 

BGLL: What was your hardest struggle with language and how did you overcome it?

Kimatha: My hardest struggle with language was being consistent, because I couldn’t picture myself speaking another language. One day, I told myself I’ll be consistent and see what happens. If I have to make a fool of myself in public, I’ll keep going. 

BGLL: Did you ever feel shy to speak? How did you overcome that?

Kimatha: In the beginning, I was very shy. As humans we always worry about other people’s perception. How will they see me? Am I trying too hard? Will they laugh at me? 

When I moved to Ecuador, my shyness broke free. Spending my time around people who were also learning a different language made me a lot more comfortable. In addition, while working with my students, I couldn’t tell them not to be shy when I was shy myself. When I realized how bad I wanted my students to succeed, I would speak Spanish in front of them all the time, mistakes and all. I wanted to show my students that I was learning, too, and it’s ok to make mistakes. That’s how we become better. 

BGLL: Which of your foreign language is your favorite and why?

Kimatha: Both Spanish and ASL are my favorites. Connecting with people through language is so beautiful to me. However, these languages, for me, have a story. The purpose manifested from the encounters that I’ve had in my life. It’s not just because I thought they sound cool or looked cool, but because I came across people who meant something to me, people I want to fight for. 

BGLL: What are 3 tips you can offer those who are trying to learn another language?

Kimatha: DON’T STOP, find a language partner and do something pertaining to your language everyday (watching a movie, read a book, talk to a friend).

BGLL:  How can we keep up with you on social (social media)?

Kimatha: You can find me on Instagram at @natural.kimistry, my YouTube channel Kim Greer and on Facebook as LaShay Greer.
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