|Dear Multilingual Living Friends,
Greetings from the Sierra Nevada mountains in California!
As I write this, I am sitting under the oak trees at my childhood home in Nevada City, California. This is the first time that I have visited since my mother’s death a few years back. Things have changed here but my mother would have loved the changes as much as I do, especially the expansive garden right off the side deck. Fresh berries for breakfast, plump red tomatoes ready for our lunchtime sandwiches and ripe zucchini for dinner. Sunflowers shade us from the warm afternoon sun while mint, sage and basil share their pungent aromas.
Our drive here was as varied as always: cool mountain breezes at Crater Lake followed by sweltering valley heat and then a foggy shoreline at Bodega Bay Head. Transitions and variations overlapping one another.
My children took all of this in stride. They are accustomed to such road trips – we take one every other year. Yet, as they get older, language takes on a more prominent role. My children stretch their language muscles, making conscious decisions about which language to use when and with whom. Language is power and my children know this fully and completely. They have become masters of the languages which they possess and wield this power with conscious effort and precision.
As I share in Multilingual Road Trip! When Languages Collide, I appeal to my children with empathy and dialog when we visit monolingual family and friends. I remind my children that their languages are powerful entities that at times may be misunderstood. Choosing to speak German at the table when English-speaking family members are around is just fine, but family may end up feeling a little left out. My family delight in hearing my children speak German but they also would love to hear how my children experience the world around themselves in their own (English) words (rather than my translations).
Language really, truly is power. We often forget that we possess something that can impact others on a very deep level. We need not change who we are. We simply need to remember to respect our unique strength and to wield it wisely and lovingly. With multilingualism comes the weight of linguistic responsibility.
Many Warm Summer Wishes from California,
Founder, Multilingual Living