Episode 60 – Becoming an Equitable, Multilingual Society

Becoming an Equitable, Multilingual Society
It's About Language, with Norah Jones
It's About Language, with Norah Jones
Episode 60 - Becoming an Equitable, Multilingual Society
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“This mutual understanding, this tolerance, this is the best way to generate more peace in our societies, and God knows we need it right now. So this is how it should be valued. There’s an identity and an economic and cultural value, but then also this is the best way to generate a more peaceful society, and we should just put that upfront when we talk about languages.

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This month, I’m trying something new to It’s About Language: a month on a single broad language topic of importance and impact, first, and second, the use throughout of panelists from around the United States and world who have all provided leadership, insight, and impact in their area of expertise.

This month, April 2022, I’m focusing on heritage languages.

For the purposes of these four podcasts, we define heritage languages as languages other than the dominant and/or official language for a nation. In the U.S., for example, we are looking at languages other than English. Around the world, heritage languages are those used by members of indigenous, colonial, immigrant, and/or refugee groups. These heritage language users may be first, second, third generation or beyond in their connection to the heritage language in question. Heritage language users can be of any age. Their control of their heritage language can vary across a wide spectrum, from superior academic fluency in written and oral skills, to fluent oral participation in daily life without literacy, to halting use of language either written or spoken — and every permutation in between, as we expect when considering human beings in real life.

These podcasts will focus on four major areas of interest, concern, and action with regard to heritage languages. These four weeks / panels are designed to address key issues of interest and concern to those familiar with heritage language issues, while also introducing key concepts, situations, populations, and needs to those who are not familiar with heritage language experiences or populations.

These discussions are designed to give all of us a vital opportunity to connect, learn, and engage with this critical component of life in the United States and the world.

My appreciation to Joy Peyton knows no bounds. I contacted Joy with this concept, and she, with her leadership roles in heritage languages, immediately thought of the key concepts and organizational and educational leaders who, in turn, agreed to share their expertise as panelists. Please check out Joy’s biography and extensive resources and suggestions for pathways to learning and participating more in this critical area of individual and societal well-being.

So, here are the four weeks on this one heritage language focus:

Week 1: Becoming an Equitable, Multilingual Society – What is a “multilingual society”? About whom are we speaking when we focus on “heritage speakers”? How can we respect, value, and learn from the multilingual individuals and communities who live and work among us? Please check out the powerful biographies, resources, and publications associated with my panelists for this first podcast, Dick Brecht, Maria Carreira, and Fabrice Jaumont.

Week 2: Heritage Doorways: Language, Identity, and Careers – What is language identity? How do heritage languages impact their various type of speakers? What different values does the heritage language bring to the lives of individuals, communities, children, teenagers, and adults? What opportunities are appropriate for heritage speakers, and why? What potential blockages are there for heritage speakers to achieve the level of accessibility and impact as those using the dominant language of the society?

Week 3: Advocating for Heritage Languages – How can we promote and facilitate the visibility of heritage languages, their speakers, and their schools? How can such languages, individuals, and communities become a vital part of a national language landscape?

Week 4: International Collaborations – How are leaders in a variety of countries, the United States and around the world, working with and promoting heritage languages? What are best practices and success stories that can be shared across cultures and countries? How can collaboration in support of heritage languages be institutionalized for maximum positive impact?

Perhaps the most succinct reason for this “podcast month” is we’re all in this together.

Please enjoy and profit from — and share — this important podcast series.


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Episode 60 – Becoming an Equitable, Multilingual Society

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If you've never done #cliftonstrengths, yourself or with your team, don't wait any longer.  Norah Jones of FLUENCY CONSULTING is the one and only to do it! It's all about your super powers: finding & using them to affect positive change in the world. What's not to love?!

Elizabeth Mack
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You have an immense talent to draw the best from your participants. 

Richard Brecht

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Want to hear more? Access previous episodes, and get to know the wonderful people I talk with through the It’s About Language page, or by clicking on the Podcast tab above. You can also find this week’s episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter.

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Transcript

Norah Jones:

Welcome to this first of four podcasts on heritage languages. Today we’re going to take a look at, what is a multilingual society? What are the benefits and pressures? What are the societal and personal implications for youth and adults on opportunities to use and to grow their indigenous and heritage language? It’s my pleasure to welcome as my co-moderator, Joy Peyton, Senior Fellow for the Center for Applied Linguistics and the coalition leadership of the Coalition of Community-Based Heritage Language Schools. We welcome to our panel, Dick Brecht, co-founder and chief language officer for Jeenie, and co-director of the American Councils for International Education Research Center.

Norah Jones:

Maria Carreira, professor at California State University, Long Beach, co-director of the National Heritage Language Resource Center, and founder of the Heritage Language Exchange. And Fabrice Jaumont, president of the Center for the Advancement of Languages, Education, and Communities. I invite you to go to my website, fluency.consulting, to find out more about each of our panelists today, to see what resources they have provided for you, and to take a look at their publications and opportunities that they share. Welcome to the podcast.

Norah Jones:

Hi, I’m Norah Jones. Welcome to It’s About Language. So what is language all about? Well, it’s about learning and sharing, opening doors in education, work and life. Language is about creating communities and creating boundaries. It’s all about the mystery of what makes us human. So our conversations will explore that mystery and the impact of what makes us human. It’s about language in life. It’s about language at work. It’s about language for fun. Welcome to the podcast.

Norah Jones:

It is so wonderful to have the four of you here. And thank you again for addressing the topic of becoming an equitable multilingual society through heritage languages. I would like to start by allowing the listeners that are not necessarily familiar with what heritage languages imply, what they consist of, to begin with a definition. So Joy, how about with your role, could you start by providing a definition of heritage languages? And I always invite, of course, our panelists to add whatever it is that comes to their hearts and minds as we continue.

Joy Peyton:

Yes, sure. There are heritage languages spoken in every country around the world and different countries think of them in different ways and sometimes have different names for them. But in the United States, heritage languages are languages other than English that are spoken and used by Native Americans, immigrants and refugee individuals and communities. So there are approximately 430 languages spoken in the United States, 177 of these are indigenous. I couldn’t list them all if I tried, and I’ll bet nobody here could just off the bat. This is a lot of languages. Do we even know about all of them? Do we know where they are? Do we know who speaks them? But Joshua Fishman pointed out in our first conference in the 1990s, that these languages have significant relevance to the individuals and the communities that use them. And that’s important to note, that they are highly relevant to these individuals and to these communities.

Joy Peyton:

And then Guadalupe Valdes pointed out at our same first heritage language conference, that Dick and Maria and Donna Christian, Scott McGinnis and I worked on together, where Joshua Fishman spoke, Guadalupe Valdes spoke, and she added that the heritage language speaker has some level of proficiency in the language when they come to school. So that’s important to note that when they come to school, they are often called English language learners, but they’re actually speakers of another language and could be highly proficient in that language, both orally and in writing. So I just want to add that many of the hundreds of heritage languages that are spoken in the United States are not taught and not thought about in public, private and charter schools. They are pretty hidden in our school system, but they are taught in thousands of community-based heritage language schools across the country.

Joy Peyton:

So in the 1960s, Joshua Fishman identified over 1,800 schools. He did another survey in the 1980s where identified over 6,500 of these schools. And we in the coalition are seeking to document all of these schools. So if you are out there listening to this and you know about or work in a community-based heritage language school, please come to our website, it’s in the resources section. Sign up for a newsletter, document your school. So that’s, I hope, a quick enough summary of what heritage language is in the United States.

Norah Jones:

With great enthusiasm as well. Who else has something to add?

Maria Carreira:

Very briefly, I just want to add that the United States is home to over 67 million people who speak a language other than English at home. So we are not a small population by any means. We are a highly multilingual society.

Norah Jones:

Thank you, Maria. Fabrice.

Fabrice Jaumont:

Yes. I’d like to say one thing. When I think about heritage language, I think about my daughters and the fact that it’s something close to my heart, and the fact that I want them to be my daughters and remain my daughters. It’s a strong, deep feeling, which I’m sure is shared by many, many heritage language speakers, that you want this bond to be sustained between generations. Heritage is also the heart. Having our children speak our tongue, our parents’ tongue and remaining our children. And that’s a very raw feeling, but I know it’s shared by many parents.

Dick Brecht:

I’ll just add, just to give a perspective. Most people in this country think that America is just an English speaking country. In fact, America is a multilingual country in its core. The indigenous people, the Native Americans, are obviously present and ignored, but you understand we are a nation of immigrants and heritage communities are immigrant communities originally, whether they’re several generations ago or just refugees coming into this country now like the Afghans. We are a multilingual country and the heritage communities and the Native American communities are the most obvious demonstrations that English is not the only language of the United States.

Norah Jones:

Already a multilingual society, whether or not it is perceived, acknowledged or not. Joy.

Joy Peyton:

Building on what Fabrice said, I wanted to add, because that’s so important that he is raising his daughters as bilingual, multilingual individuals. If we don’t speak another language, we can connect with people who do. Bring them into our lives, into the lives of our children.

Maria Carreira:

And also to follow up on what Fabrice said, I’m going to give the perspective of the heritage speaker. I arrived in the United States at age 11. And Fabrice you spoke as a parent, as a father, I’m going to speak as a child. I cannot imagine ever speaking anything but Spanish to my mother and my father. And Spanish is just a part of me as much as my right hand is a part of me, right? So your daughters will grow up to think of French and English as who they are. And no matter how much we try to suppress other languages or how busy we get in life with the business of doing other things, it’s there. There is no way to negate that for people who are heritage speakers, such as myself.

Dick Brecht:

So as you understand, my grandparents came from Italy. My grandfather when he was 12 years old, he sent for his wife when he was 16. And so my grandparents spoke nothing but Italian. My mother could understand it, could never speak it, and I did not have one word of it. If you don’t take advantage, if you don’t have advantage of this, you have been deprived of one of the greatest assets a human being can have, that is two languages or more. And so I’ll speak for most of the communities, and that’s why the community schools are so critically important in order to not let happen to our children and grandchildren what happened to my generation.

Maria Carreira:

But you know, different people have different immigration histories, right? And so I’m talking about people such as myself. It is in our very fiber to be bilingual and bicultural, and nobody can take that away, right? These are issues that I’m constantly dealing with, not only as I relate to other people, but as I relate to myself, my inner life. So I understand. And that’s the thing about heritage language, is with the language speakers, is that we have different histories and our trajectories impact whether we speak the language or not, or how well we speak it.

Norah Jones:

Joy.

Joy Peyton:

Yes. And I would like to add, thank you for saying that Maria. Since you and Fabrice are both very strong heritage language speakers, that I was so amazed when I first met Fabrice and his colleagues in New York City with the French Language Program in New York City, because they are working with people to show them that their language has value. You hear from the people from Africa who speak French and maybe two, three other languages, you actually speak all these languages. You can build these languages, you can learn in these languages, you can develop these languages, and this has value. And they are working with other people to show them this very value that you, Maria and Fabrice already know for yourselves.

Norah Jones:

That’s beautifully said. And what I would like to do for just a moment is reflect back what you have spoken about so far, which has brought in fact that identity experience yourselves, your children, the parents and grandparents. There was a very important statement early on, there’s such relevance of such languages to both the individual and the community. So we’ve heard, thank you, the passion of the individual expression. Broaden it up now a little bit to the community and the impact of heritage languages on the community when we’re talking about a multilingual society. But let’s talk about, maybe begin to bring in that equity piece. So impact on community, please. Who’d like to go first? Dick.

Dick Brecht:

Well, I would love to, very honestly, because the project we have called America’s Language Initiative is to seek out programs, which across the country, in the formal education system or in the heritage communities or the Native American communities, where they are bringing in learners who have been deprived of this. I am one of them. I lost something, Maria, that you have, is precious. I was never given that gift and I vowed for my whole life now to make sure I’m not going to let that happen to anyone else if I can stop it. And so this America’s Language Initiative was just that, is to say, what we’re doing now is this nation is a bilingual nation.

ç:

Social justice demands that these people who’ve had languages in their history, or who want to acquire languages that they want now, have a right to these languages. That social justice in the United States because these languages are critical for equal justice, healthcare and legal opportunities and so on, not to mention employment. And most of all, bilingualism in educational advantages. If we don’t give them, if these communities do not provide these to all of their learners, those learners are deprived of the right that they deserve as residents and citizens of this country to be multilingual and enjoy all those other benefits. So this is critical for the community, but it’s critical for this country too, because you can’t advocate liberal democracy abroad if you don’t have liberal democracy at home where everyone has a right to the languages of their ancestry and has a right to acquire languages and the benefits of bilingualism. I’ll stop, I’m on a podium now, and I’ll stop there.

Fabrice Jaumont:

I echo what Dick said, it’s just so passionately said that I don’t know if I can top it up, but there’s definitely a link between community building and development and economic development. And as far as I can tell with the francophone community, and Joy mentioned the French Heritage Language Program with kids coming from West Africa or the Caribbean, and we are trying to give them this notion that their French is an asset, not only to get to college, to get good jobs and have successful careers, but it’s also a way to be part of a French speaking community and network and make the most of the resources that are out there. New York is a bit special with all the consulates, the embassies of the UN. French is everywhere and there is a bunch of opportunities for whoever is capable of speaking in that language. So that’s our community, what comes to mind as far as heritage language. It becomes an opportunity as far as this is well sustained, an opportunity to find jobs, to have a happy life and to be connected with your linguistic peers basically.

Maria Carreira:

This idea of giving heritage speakers, especially children, an understanding that they can do a lot with language is very, very important, because what most heritage speakers face is that they get criticized by the native speakers for not being good enough in the heritage language. They get criticized by the English native speakers for not being somehow legitimate speakers of English. When they walk into a classroom setting, oftentimes they’re criticized by the instructor because they are not like second language learners. Second language learners are very good learners. They know the routines of language learning. They know the vocabulary, the grammar, vocabulary of language learning. So in a way they’re better language learners for second language teaching. And so heritage language speakers face criticism from everywhere. And it shouldn’t be surprising that we walked around with this huge feeling of inferiority. Every time we compare ourselves to every other population of speakers, we tell ourselves that we’re coming up short.

Norah Jones:

Ooh, that was a powerful statement right there. Thank you so much for listening to this podcast today. Please join me in sharing with those in education, business and organizational leadership, the opportunities that come from knowing and celebrating human language. I invite you to become a sponsor of this podcast. Please see my website, fluency.consulting, for more information and to connect up with me about sponsorship.

Norah Jones:

One of the words that I certainly wanted to bring in front of this group for your insights is the idea of language being somehow subtractive versus additive, and this is an academic approach to which you just alluded so beautifully. The academic approach is to sit in a classroom, to prove oneself by assessments and other types of things having been promulgated by society. Whereas a young person that comes in with two or more languages that have been learned in the household as part of a living experience, is something that doesn’t resonate directly with the language learning paradigm we have had for a couple of hundred years here in this country. Again, the idea that another language somehow subtracts from English skill, rather than adding to the life toolbox of the individual. Those are just some reflections that I would love comments on or arguments with as you see fit. Joy.

Joy Peyton:

Surendra Gambhir who works with Hindi once said, “Where English grows, nothing else grows,” because he was struggling so much to get kids to want to learn Hindi. And they’re going, “No, why would I want to do that? I want to learn English.” But I wanted to say that every person here is working very hard to make visible the importance of the language. So first I’ll mention Ashok Ojha, who also works with Hindi. One thing he did, and I joined him for it, I don’t know how many times he’s done it. I only joined him once. He brought a whole bunch of kids and parents together with people who are using Hindi at high levels in some component of their lives to talk about what am I doing? And what’s the benefit of this?

Joy Peyton:

Fabrice and his team in New York City, they bring ambassadors. Fabrice said we have rich resources in New York City. They bring in ambassadors, business people, high level people, into the school to talk about what are we doing with French? And why is this important to us? Maria is working with teachers to say the kind of message that you’re saying, which is how can we value these languages? And Dick is now having schools document themselves. What are we doing? And what is this bringing to the students who participate in this? So did I answer your question? I hope so.

Dick Brecht:

Could I just add, it’s wonderful. Thank you. I make it very clear, research now, cognitive research, which is changing everything in how we understand the brain and learning and everything else, the research is so clear now. The cognitive advantages of bilingualism, they are incredible, then they affect your education. It’s not only about jobs. Indeed, if you’re multilingual, the jobs are coming now and I’ll speak for Jeenie. We’re hiring interpreters from all over the world who are multilingual, and they can earn money on the side. It’s a gig economy, just like say Uber drivers can earn it. People who are multilingual can earn money on Jeenie just as interpreters.

Dick Brecht:

So jobs are important, but go back to what is real critical. Multilingualism is a cognitive ability that increases all of your cognitive abilities across the board. You become more creative. You’re a better problem solver. And those are not just claims, those are documented results of laboratory and real life experiments across the world. And now even more importantly, it’s now become a health issue and an economic issue. There is now strong evidence, I’m associated with different research programs that show that countries, say in Scandinavia, are afraid of the healthcare cost of reduced cognition, and dementia has huge healthcare costs. And there is evidence that if you know a language, if you’re bilingual, the dementia symptoms of dementia are put off by five years. Think of the money, billions of dollars now is saved in healthcare.

Dick Brecht:

And by the way, there’s also evidence, which is really great, that if you are learning the language and you’re 70, I’m 82 years old, if you’re learning a language now, that also has benefits, cognitive benefits, it’s never too late. So it isn’t a matter of gee, it’s nice to have. It’s identity, it’s how you feel about yourself, it’s employment, but it’s also the cognitive advantages in healthcare and education are incredible.

Maria Carreira:

I want to add something to what Fabrice and Joy are doing about or mentioned about profiling high status heritage language speakers, or speakers of, let’s call it the target language, because these individuals may not necessarily be heritage language speakers of that language. They may be native speakers. That’s wonderful, and I’ve done that a lot too. But I think it’s also important to highlight the small contributions of humble members of the community. So many of my students at California State University are first generation students. They’re poor.

Maria Carreira:

I have so many students whose parents are gardeners and house cleaners, and I don’t want them to think that the only type of people that count or their source of pride should be these high level people. To be sure those are impressive people, and I want my students to know about those people because they frequently hear very negative messages about U.S. Latinos and the Spanish language. But at the same time, I want them to say, I want to speak Spanish because my mother, and I don’t care what she does for a living, my mother is wonderful and my mother deserves this. And this connects me to that love that she has given me, my father too, throughout my life.

Norah Jones:

Beautifully said, thank you. Fabrice.

Fabrice Jaumont:

Yes, I’ll continue on this line. There’s something important in the United States, which you don’t find in other countries and I think it’s good to be comparative to some extent. It is this interest for dual language education, which has boomed throughout the United States. And dual language education whereby you have two linguistic groups in the same classroom, learning from each other, as well as learning from the teacher or teachers, when two teachers are teaching, this is more than languages. This is not even just about language, this is about understanding each other, about respecting each other.

Fabrice Jaumont:

This mutual understanding, this tolerance, this is the best way to generate more peace in our societies, and God knows we need it right now. So this is how it should be valued. And Dick is right, there’s a health matter, which has never been considered. This should be generalized throughout the society because we can live longer with this. There’s an identity and in economic and cultural value, but then also this is the best way to generate a more peaceful society, and we should just put that upfront when we talk about languages.

Dick Brecht:

It’s diversity and inclusion and access. Now, what we’re asking for is to recognize that this country is a multilingual, multicultural country. Yes, English is a dominant language, but if you only have one language, you are being cheated out of all of the advantages that are available in bilingualism. But let me say also the language education field is changing, coming to Maria’s point. We now are learning, the target doesn’t have to be an educated native speaker to have a valuable… We’re talking about what we call translanguaging, recognizing different aspects of communication in your native language and mixing different languages and so on. The whole profession now is learning to say grammar is important for literacy and for adult learning, but you know what? Usage. The way we learned our first language, that’s what dual language immersion can do. Using the language and using the language connected to the real world.

Dick Brecht:

So you don’t have to recall a vocabulary item, you can recall what the smell of tea is in a Russian kitchen and know the word chai and so on, because you’re in an environment and you’re learning the way young people learn. And we’re recognizing the fact that young people have to be taught literacy. They don’t acquire literacy. And so what we’re doing in our whole language field is finally, I think, coming around to the notion that natural language acquisition and an immersion, and in our heritage communities, there is the leading example in Native American of how that works. It’s a revolution in this country and it’s most welcome.

Norah Jones:

A revolution, and a welcome one. Joy.

Joy Peyton:

And Dick mentioned literacy, thank you Dick. And that just got me into something I’m so excited about now, which is giving children, giving students the opportunity to read in their language and having books in the language and having interesting books in the language. And there’s now an online hub of places that have these books, like Bloom, for example, has thousands of books in many, many different languages. Most of them are for children, some are for adults. But it’s inspiring people now to write books for children and write books for adults so that they can actually engage in the written language and become really, really excited about. And it’s exciting for the people themselves, because whoever asked this person to write a book and communities coming together and telling their stories and writing them down.

Norah Jones:

That’s wonderfully said.

Fabrice Jaumont:

It’s something that I have pursued with CALEC, and CALEC is a nonprofit publishing organization with a focus on multilingual books and translated books and books from authors in various linguistic communities. And I really think books are a great way to transmit the language, particularly with the young children. And I’m so excited to see more and more authors coming out. Maybe it’s an effect of the pandemic. Well, maybe there are good sides to that pandemic after all, but we see it at our level that more and more authors are coming up with great ideas, great books. So this is definitely something to consider.

Norah Jones:

Thank you, Fabrice. Maria.

Maria Carreira:

I want to mention something that Dick said, he talked about the community learning. We need to interact in ways that are authentic to the community. And here I want to add that we need to get more heritage speakers involved in the educational field, teaching heritage languages. We know there’s a shortage, a serious shortage of language teachers. Well, we need to recruit from our heritage communities. These are individuals who know what it feels like. The search for identity, these feelings of insecurity, the joys that come from using the language in family and community. And so we need these individuals, not just to become teachers, but to inform the future direction of the field.

Norah Jones:

Thank you. That was beautifully said. How do you think that the heritage language education specifically can help to turn around an American society, which still seems to undervalue language in general in its educational institutions and specifically the heritage language experiences and skills of persons of all ages, youth to adults? How is it that all that knowledge and all that data is not bringing people in in droves to study and to support language? How is heritage helping to turn that tide?

Dick Brecht:

Let me say that this is not going to happen. The native devout, native English speakers in this country are going to be devout native speakers and take it to the grave and God bless them. I’m telling you though, that the demographics of this country, you cannot solve the demographics. We are an immigrant country. We deserve every immigrant we can possibly get to come into the country, whether the Southern borders or coming into New York or San Francisco or whatever. And if you look at the demographic, the way the country is changing, look now at all the signals in our society, you can’t go any place without having Spanish coming at you from different directions now, our second language, okay? And I think that’s the wedge that is ultimately going to crack open this English only culture we have, and it’s doing it now.

Dick Brecht:

And businesses now, we have statistics showing that 80%, 90% of the businesses are appreciating the fact that business profits increase with multilingual employees. We’re learning every place you go, in a restaurant or any place in education and so on, you have to pay attention to language and so on. So it’s not going to happen, it’s going to take another half a century before this country will be recognized like everyone else and every other country in the world with its 7,000 languages and so on as a multilingual country. There’s no magic sauce other than bringing in more immigrants, bringing in more education, giving them access to the language and watch them overwhelm this country’s English, not replacing it, but making it equal with other languages.

Norah Jones:

Additive, not replacement. Thank you, Dick.

Dick Brecht:

You bet.

Maria Carreira:

I want to add that not all languages are judged in the same way. Frequently, individuals who learn a second language and a language of prestige and, or a language that’s considered difficult, those people are praised to high heaven. But then when you have somebody who speaks a language, having learned it at home, and maybe they studied it some more, that is never recognized as being all that valuable, particularly if it’s the language of the minoritized group that has little clout in society or prestige.

Maria Carreira:

Let me just tell you from personal experience a couple of things. I minored in French and Italian in college. It’s kind of strange, isn’t it? That here I love Spanish and I never took a single course in college in Spanish. Why is that? Well, I mean, I don’t think I did this consciously, but of course I grew up in Chicago where everybody wanted to be Italian. And so I thought, oh my goodness, I can be cool if I learn Italian, right? And I love French. I’ve always loved French literature. And so there is that pressure that some of these languages that are not highly valued in society are put down. At the same time, the prestige languages, or languages that are associated with money and economic opportunities for the nation, are kind of promoted. And so people who speak a language that’s not as prestigious, or maybe a language that doesn’t have so many speakers, sometimes feel like, well, why bother? Nobody is ever going to see that I can speak another language.

Norah Jones:

Well, thank you Maria. And that was passionately said. Fabrice.

Fabrice Jaumont:

Yeah. I’d like to respond because I wrote a book called The Bilingual Revolution, which is really about nine different linguistic communities that fought for the creation of dual language education. And some of them were big linguistic groups, some were smaller groups. The battle was the same. And to some extent it gives me hope that when parents and educators work together as a bottom up approach, they can turn our school system around and they can demand the creation of a program that is important for their community, for themselves. And that’s how in New York you see programs in Albanian, dual language program in Albanian, in Urdu, in Hebrew, in Polish, in French, Chinese, and of course the big linguistic groups. Even in Arabic where there’s so much tension around the Arabic programs.

Fabrice Jaumont:

And I can talk hours and hours about that with the French context. And if I talk about Arabic in France, there are no Arabic dual language programs in France, and I don’t know if there will be Arabic dual language programs in France 20 years from now. But at least here in Brooklyn and in other places, there’s one in Texas, there is an Arabic dual language program despite the tension and the bad images that are circulated around them. And even right now, the Russian families I’ve helped in Brooklyn and New York, I really pray for them because what are they going to do with all this tension coming out of the news regarding Russia? Are they going to be hiding? Are they going to be rejected by school authorities because they’re asking for Russian dual language education?

Norah Jones:

That’s such an important question and I know that deep in the hearts of everyone here, and I hope a lot of the listeners is indeed the idea that somehow the language that is in the news is to be suspect if it’s learned versus running to learn it. The post-Sputnik era of adding the language to understand versus being concerned that somehow the language equaled a political stance. Thank you, Fabrice. Joy.

Joy Peyton:

Yeah. I would like to tell a story about a couple of languages that are pretty marginalized. One is I met a young woman at a foreign language conference, and by the time I met her, it was about the third day of the conference. We sat down to have coffee and she started crying and she said, “You’re the first person at this conference who has been willing to talk to me. I have been walking around telling people, I speak Bulgarian and I have a Bulgarian school and I’d love to connect with you.” And people looked at her like, what? And this is called a foreign language conference. They’re like, “What? What are you talking about Bulgarian in school?” And then they just start talking about whatever they’re talking about.

Joy Peyton:

But she has now connected with all the Bulgarian schools in the United States. I think there are 40 some and created an overarching organization. She’s now getting the students in the schools to earn the Seal of Biliteracy and the Global Seal. To be recognized, to connect with public schools, to be recognized by them. And so here’s an example of a person who is just, as Maria and Fabrice said, not a recognized language, who just said, “Hey, we’re going to do this,” and moved forward.

Norah Jones:

Dick.

Dick Brecht:

If you have a chance, these two languages, if you have two languages, the world needs that and so do you. And so there are such intimate relationships between those two languages and the society we live in. And those of us here, Fabrice and Maria, and of course Joy, this is what we live for. We live to bring the value that these people have out to them and to the people around them, because there is probably no greater gift a parent can give to a child than another language besides the language that they’re going to be living in for the rest of their lives.

Norah Jones:

There’s no greater gift than the hope that you just spoke about, which comes through that language. I’m going to invite each of the four of you now, you have provided so many important insights. Seriously, we could speak about this for hours and I know that our listeners would gain every moment that they listened. But in order to make it, so that we can pull it together, each of you think, what is the last thing that I want to make sure that the listeners to this podcast hear from me today? Who’d like to go first?

Maria Carreira:

Okay. So what I’m going to say is going to sound crazy, but I’m only going to speak as a U.S. Latino. Okay? We are invisible in many ways. I said that may sound crazy because there’re so many Spanish speakers in this country. But I just gave a talk this weekend about that, where I analyze documents that come out about the language. The TCM channel, the Turner Movie Classics, TMC, when it’s Latino heritage month, there are no Latino movies, right? So there’s a lot of stuff you can go down the line and document this paradox, which is that there are so many of us in this country, 43 million Spanish speakers today, and yet we are really not seen.

Maria Carreira:

I work in a university where the largest group of speakers, or the largest ethnicity is Latinos, and yet nobody ever talks about what can we do for our Latino students. We need to be seen, if there were some way to make us more visible in society. So many of us, and again not just Latinos, but so many ethnic types are contributing on a daily basis to this country, and also face challenges by virtue of their linguistic background, their life experiences, et cetera. I wish there were a way for people, mainstream people, to become more aware of our life histories, as well as how we contribute to American society.

Norah Jones:

Thank you, Maria. Dick.

Dick Brecht:

Guess if I leave, I have one message. It is that, how should I say this? Over 70% of the world’s population speaks more than one language. Bilingualism, multilingualism is a human trait. It is not an exception to be multilingual, it is a fact of every human being. In the United States, we have what I call America’s languages. They are the indigenous languages. They are the colonial languages. They are the immigrant languages and refugee languages. They are the foreign languages or world languages. They are sign languages. These are all America’s languages because Americans are human beings too. And human beings are naturally multilingual. And if we understand that, we’ll understand diversity, inclusion and access so much better than we do now in this country.

Norah Jones:

Thank you, Dick.

Fabrice Jaumont:

I think there are two names I want to mention here. We are transitioning out of monolingualism into a bilingual century and I think there is hope in that. And I wish that more countries could follow the lead of the United States in that realm. Because again, many, many monolingual countries, including mine, have a way to go still and they are not there yet. So again, let’s be optimistic. We are in this bilingual century.

Norah Jones:

Thank you, Fabrice. Joy.

Joy Peyton:

Yeah. I just want to say that community leaders, the leaders in the communities that we’ve been talking about, all these hundreds of languages, are seeking to make their languages visible and accessible by creating community-based schools, and I’m passionate about these schools. These schools, like dual language programs and dual language schools, can make significant contributions to the language learning enterprise in this country if they are recognized, if there’s collaboration between them and public, private and charter schools and universities. So let’s learn about them, connect with them and work with them and have them be part of our reality.

Norah Jones:

Thank you. Maria, you have a comment, please.

Maria Carreira:

Yes. I want to say something to parents who are often frustrated when their children don’t want to use the language. And I know from experience what that is like, but I also know from experience that if you love them in that language, and you go about your life living in that language, when they grow up, they will pursue further study and development of that language. If you hang in there and you’re patient and you understand that it’s a normal part of growing up to reject some of this stuff, eventually they will come back.

Norah Jones:

I’m glad you tapped into that. Fabrice, I bet you have a comment indeed.

Fabrice Jaumont:

Yes, I can relate to this story and I’m so happy. I started by saying I have two daughters in dual language programs and now I’m so happy that they’re telling me that for high school, they want a dual language program. So it’s not that they’re rejecting, they want this to happen. So I have to hurry and create a high school program with a French dual language [crosstalk 00:48:37]-

Joy Peyton:

I want to say Fabrice knows how to do that. He helps people create these schools.

Norah Jones:

I also would like to note on behalf of thanking all four of you today, that what you have done is you have brought not only up the stresses and strains, the history and sometimes the embarrassment of the nature of heritage language considerations in this country, but have provided a positive focus for the future. A sense of optimism, not only for heritage languages continuing and growing, but for the positive, powerful influence on our country. And I am appreciative that this group, this wonderful group of four today, Dick, Joy, Fabrice, Maria, that you have brought about that sense of the humanity of languages, however they are learned, wherever they are learned, whenever they are learned, but in a special way, the power of heritage languages to create an equitable society. It’s already a multilingual one, we just have to live into it. I thank each of you for being here today.

Dick Brecht:

Thank you very much.

Maria Carreira:

Thank you, Norah.

Dick Brecht:

Thank you for having us.

Joy Peyton:

It was a great opportunity.

Norah Jones:

Thank you again for listening to this podcast today. I’m excited to bring you next week, the second of the four heritage language podcast, this time about doorways to identity and careers. With Neila Baumiliene, with The Kazickas Family Foundation, with Lithuanian schools. Ashok Ojha, president of the Yuva Hindi Sansthan. And Agnes Tounkara, program officer at the French Heritage Language Program. And please go to my website, fluency.consulting, to learn more about my guests. Connect up with me there about speaking to, or working with an institution or group, and to learn about how sponsorship can address your goals too. Until next time.

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