As a new language-learning-crazy-mom who tries to expose her child to a maximum of languages, I made what would seem a bad decision: I chose a monolingual daycare for my baby. Yes I did. Even worse than that, I chose a monolingual day care in the majority language. Adios! Goodbye! Au revoir! plurilinguisme, le sort en est jeté, direz-vous. Well, I had my reasons and I haven’t lost hope in raising a wonderful multilingual child. Here is why. Continue reading
I grew up as a monolingual French speaker somewhere on Montreal’s south shore. I learned some English at school, but always thought I had no talent for languages. I thought it might even jeopardize my undergraduate studies and future career as an anthropologist. Then, I had to learn Spanish to get a practicum gig in Cuba. I knew very little about Cuba and even less about Spanish. Uno, dos, tres, una cerveza por favor, gracías (esti). Not even sure it was that good. Then… I fell in love. Not only with Spanish, but with languages. That was in 1999. I was 22 years old.
I was recently teaching an ESL class of intermediate-level adults when the topic of being bilingual/multilingual came up; we’d been listening to a news story about how being bilingual boosts brainpower and decreases the chance of memory problems later in life. When I asked my students if they felt bilingual, I was sorry to see only a few of the two dozen students raise their hands. And yet, when I asked them to tell me whether they used English every day for communicative tasks like doctor’s appointments and grocery shopping and parent-teacher interviews, they all said yes.
After the chaos of a summer filled with travelling, working, family visits and July 1st “déménagement”, I was grateful to barbecue with good friends in my new backyard. We
reconnected over food, stories and laughter, updating each other on our summer adventures. The stories were told in a variety of languages too, showing off the multilingual competencies of my friends. English seemed to be the common language, but at a few different moments throughout the evening, some groups formed to share and laugh in Arabic or Spanish, neither of which I speak or understand. I observed these small groups admiringly…but with the distinct feeling that I was an observer, an outsider.
The BILD Research Community is very pleased to welcome this week’s guest blogger, Sara Orwig. She is currently a PhD student at the School of Welsh in Cardiff, thanks to a scholarship from y Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol. Her PhD work bridges the study of literature and linguistics, and she is examining code switching in Welsh, French-Canadian and English literature. She recently visited Montreal as part of her research, thanks to a scholarship from the International Council for Canadian studies. Find out more about Sara on her LinkedIn profile or follow her on Twitter (@20fachgoch). Continue reading