Saturday, December 3, 2011

Welcome to my blog about languages, multifaceted identities, and building bridges of understanding and communication between people of diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds! Here I hope to share my thoughts and personal experiences relating to multilingualism, multiculturalism, and multilocalism in this increasingly interconnected world society.

The first order of business is to give you, my readers, a bit of background about myself so that you can better understand the context of my viewpoints as expressed in my posts. I am an American woman with Colombian parents. My two native languages are Spanish and English, and I am also fluent in French, all three of which I read and write in. I have taught at the university level both in the United States and France in the subjects of anthropology, French, and English, and have additionally coached music ensembles at the primary- and secondary-school levels, as well as serving on a graduate committee for a masters student in orchestral studies. I play the violin professionally and am an amateur player of the four-stringed domra, a Russian-Ukrainian instrument of the lute family. I have played in two balalaika orchestras and one Irish folk band, have dabbled with bluegrass, and am a great lover of all manner of world music, hoping one day perhaps to play with a Middle Eastern music ensemble. My love of music is also expressed through singing (of the shower and karaoke kind, though I have sung at a wedding, too) and dancing – of the salsa and belly kind, mostly! I also currently serve as an interpreter-translator primarily for law enforcement, but have also worked in this capacity for the justice system, the medical field, and international science fairs.

I begin my blog, then, with an opinion on the value of multilingualism, not primarily for business or money-making, but for feeling more intimately connected with a much greater number of fellow human beings, for being able to embrace different cultural truths encapsulated in the very structures of the languages that carry them, for feeling more ALIVE and UNIVERSAL. Feeling like our identity is broader and more complex.

I believe many, if not most, people (at least in the countries that I have visited) intuitively understand this value and wish to either acquire fluency in another language themselves or create the proper circumstances for their children to do so, even better, natively. I have asked myself over the years why, if such a demand and desire exist, most public schools in the U.S. do not offer “foreign” languages until high school or middle school. Could something be done to change this? Ideally, these languages would be introduced in preschool or kindergarten and continued throughout a child’s schooling for a true bilingualism as seen in many countries around the world. And sometimes parents who could speak to their children in another language at home and therefore give them the gift of bilingualism (or more) do not choose to do so for fear that the children will not then properly learn the dominant language of the society. How wonderful it would be to create a far-reaching educational campaign to disabuse people of their false notions about multilingualism in children. How wonderful it would be to promote multilingualism across the board so that we are all learning each other’s languages and it is not ever a one-way street for immigrants and international business people. How wonderful if real money could be put into introducing languages at the primary school level or earlier.

Just some beginning thoughts. More to come later…


  1. Congrats on your first post! Most everyone would agree learning multiple languages is the way to go. But when schools are struggling with basic science and math. (Let alone music and art.) How can school administrators justify the cost? I think you are right that multilingualism should be introduced even before primary school.

  2. Thank you so much for your warm welcome, Stay In Focus! I believe you are right. The problem that we all need to brainstorm as a nation, as parents, and as responsible global citizens, is how do we fund the introduction of "foreign" languages in our preschools and elementary schools, and of course their continuation after that?

    More and more, people complain about the uselessness of placing so much emphasis on standardized testing that does not seem to actually help kids and young adults out in life after school. Languages, however, WOULD, undeniably. If we can budget so many millions of dollars for other causes, including testing standards, etc., it seems we should be able to divert even a bit of that funding towards something as imperative as producing competent global citizens who do not have to rely on the citizens of other countries to learn their language. International businesspeople whom I have spoken to agree that even when foreign partners speak English, they LOVE it when you at least try to speak THEIR language. This helps to bridge cultures and, more concretely, close business deals.

    So I suppose the real question is: How many parents would be interested enough in raising multilingual kids to rally together and actually lobby for it? Are we truly going to put our money where our mouth is, so to speak? Do we start small, at a local level, one school at a time? Do we appeal straight to the people at the top? What arguments do politicians and national school officials want or need to hear in order to feel motivated to make this a reality? That it will bring more money and opportunities to the U.S.? I welcome everybody's constructive comments on this subject and thank you for reading!