#HonorYourself, #HonorOthers, #HonorThePlanet, these principles permeate the works of singer-songwriter and author Haikaa. From Brazil, Japan and the US, Haikaa promotes the celebration of diversity as a catalyst for change through music and writing. You can find her on her website, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.
- Tell us a little about yourself.
Hello, first of all, it’s great to be here talking to you. I’m a singer-songwriter and author and I write and sing about love in its many forms. I have lived in three different countries – Brazil, Japan, US – and one of my passions is to celebrate diversity. I think that’s one form of love. I’m a language nerd too so combining music and languages is another way in which I express love. And I have many, many songs about love, self-love, romantic love, universal love because I think it’s a wonderful way to share this feeling.
- What languages do you speak and at what level?
I don’t have the precise terminology to define my level of proficiency but I’ll try to explain as best as I can. I speak Portuguese and English fluently. And by that I mean that I could write songs or books in either language. I also speak Japanese and I feel confident about my vocabulary level in certain topics like music and culture. I just started studying Spanish last year but I also think I can have a conversation in this language in topics that interest me.
- When and how did you begin learning each language?
I have a different story for each language. The one theme that they have in common is that my ability to learn the language came from my love to communicate, to talk, to sing. I was born in Brazil so that’s just how I learned Portuguese. Since the age of seven, I went to English language school and I never learned anything. I only began to speak English when I started studying in an American school at the age of eleven. At first, I cried every day but I think in six months I was already able to attend all classes normally. My mother is Japanese and she always spoke and sang in that language. I also went to Japanese language school and I was a horrible student. It was only as an adult that I became more interested and started studying online with music and interviews with Japanese artists. With regards to Spanish, I started learning with one of my best friends in high school. The reason may seem silly but it’s the kind of thing that really stimulates learning. I was in Japan at that time and nobody spoke Spanish so speaking in that language gave us our own private code. After that, I listened to a lot of music in Spanish like Shakira, Maná, Luis Miguel and I was always trying to memorize the lyrics. In Los Angeles, a lot of people speak Spanish too and I use every opportunity to practice it.
- How often do you use each language?
I read, write and speak Portuguese and English every day. I speak Japanese at least once a week and I try to read news in Spanish every day.
- How was to record “Work of Art Global Song”? How long did it take to complete this project?
The “Work of Art Global Project” was a musical celebration of self-acceptance and diversity. True self-acceptance – not pride – is something that I believe is very difficult to achieve. However, it is essential if we hope to accept others as they are and to be comfortable with diversity.
Producing the song “Work of Art” in multiple languages began with finding people around the world who shared this view on the importance of self-acceptance and the celebration of differences. Then each of the lyricists transformed the original song into a version of their own, filtered through their personal experiences and cultural context.
It took about two years and more than 40 collaborators around the world to write the versions, work on the pronunciation and then record.
- Do you think that music helps people to learn languages?
Absolutely, it’s my favorite way of studying. Obviously, one cannot hope to learn a language only by listening to music and other forms of study must also be incorporated. However, music is a great way to learn pronunciation, new vocabulary and expressions. It is also a pleasant way to incorporate language learning into your day-to-day activity so that language becomes a part of your life.
- How did you sing in languages you don’t speak?
In order to record “Work of Art Global Song”, I used pop music in each of the languages as my first study tool. For example, if I wanted to study the Greek version, I would look for Greek pop-songs on YouTube that I liked. Then I would look up the lyrics and try to sing along. The other part of the preparation was done on Skype with a language coach in each of the languages.
- What do you miss most about Brazil?
Well, to be honest, I LOVE food and usually what I miss the most about any place is the food and the smells. As a child, I always went with my mother to the Farmer’s Market every Friday. I complained about walking, carrying bags of fruit, but I loved eating pastel (a type of spring-roll) at the end. And the interesting thing about Brazil is that because of all the different people who make is up, everything is so multicultural. In the case of pastel, for instance, most Brazilians associate it with Japanese people but there is no pastel in Japan. And again, this is why I believe diversity is so enriching.
- What are your next projects?
I’m very happy because I just released a video of my single “Other Side of The World”. This video is part of a campaign I launched three months ago called #LiveLove no matter what as an invitation for people to do precisely that, to live love, to breathe love, to speak of love, to sing of love. How do you choose to #LiveLove? In my case, I #LiveLove through music, languages, dancing , singing, exercising, writing, cooking, taking care of my family, you know, there are infinite ways to do that. I believe the universal language of love can echo through our world creating waves of warmth, happiness, pleasure, beauty and positivity.
I’m also launching a digital Atlas called #HelloMahalo where we’re mapping out projects around the world that promote diversity. The expected launch date is around the end of August 2016.
- Share any thoughts/tips you’d like with the readers.
Learning languages is a wonderful way to #LiveLove. There’s a general belief that only people who have lots of money can learn how to speak other languages. I would say that only people who have lots of love have the discipline, the focus, the willingness and the magic to overcome all the obstacles of language learning. Cheers to all polyglot nerds!