How does immersion in languages and cultures removed from our family histories affect our connection to our own stories? Why do those of us who study, learn, and live language feel drawn to this and how does it reflect on identity?
The questions above are questions posed to herself and to us by my guest for Episode 10, Amanda Seewald.
These are the same questions I asked, if not as articulately, in my years growing up, as I moved through a monolingual household of a refugee immigrant farther from Croatia to studying first the Russian of my father’s university degree and then Spanish, French, Japanese, Italian, basically anything I could get my hands on, then traveling wherever I could, and finally begging my way into summers with my family in Dalmatia, Croatia. Without those languages, without those cultures, without that exploration, I could not have been the person I have been; could not have had the calling and career I have had; would not have had the solid connection I now have to my family, community, and world.
What about YOU? Where has your identity come from? How is your identity connected with that of your family, both current and past? If you do not know much about your family past, if you have been severed from it, what role does your language and culture play in your search for your identity and community?
From the time I was very young, I was magnetically drawn to language, culture, and community education. It is only now as an adult reflecting on a career spent building programs to grow language learners as well as serving the needs of students, whose families have journeyed from their own countries to have safety and opportunities for their families, that I am able to find the perspective to seriously consider what made me feel this way and how a disconnection to my family’s past may hold the secrets to why I find myself always in search of cultures and connections to people.
Without the steps we take and experiences we have across the many stages and facets of our lives, we may never find the clues to better understand what our passions and directions in life mean and why we choose the pathways we do. Ikigai, or one’s reason for being, is discovered by collecting hints of your past and present moments to guide each future decision.
Amanda Seewald is the owner of MARACAS Language Programs and Learning Kaleidoscope Educational Consulting. She is the author of the MARACAS curriculum and Easy Reader series. Amanda is President-elect for the Joint National Committee for Language – National Council for Languages and International Studies (JNCL-NCLIS). She is the 2020 NECTFL Nelson H. Brooks Award winner for Outstanding Leadership in the Profession.
She is a past President of the Foreign Language Educators of New Jersey (FLENJ) and the NJ State Representative for the National Network for Early Language Learning (NNELL). She has also served on the NECTFL board. Amanda also serves on the Board of Directors for the Pulsera Project. She is a speaker of Spanish, French, and Japanese.
Amanda has been teaching children, coaching educators, and developing curricula for over 20 years. Her expertise is in multilingual/multicultural curriculum and instruction, focused on early language learning as well as dual language immersion education. Amanda works with educators and schools across the country as well as in Europe to develop meaningful language programs founded in globally engaged curricula and strong interactive instruction. Amanda is a regular presenter at national, regional, and state conferences.
Resources provided and recommended by Amanda:
TeachSDG (Sustainable Development Goals)
JNCL-NCLIS National Advocacy Organization
To learn more about previous guests on It’s About Language or access other episodes of the podcast, visit It’s About Language or click on the Podcast tab above.