Episode 61 – Heritage Doorways

Episode 61 - Heritage Doorways
It's About Language, with Norah Jones
It's About Language, with Norah Jones
Episode 61 - Heritage Doorways
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“When you have someone in front of you, they have a little bag on their back and that’s their heritage. It’s the language they speak, it’s their culture. And let’s just make sure when we are in a space with them, we let them come in with their bag. We don’t ask them to leave that bag at the door, because if we do that, then they are not complete, and your encounter is not complete and is not as rich as it could be.”

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In Episode 60, the first of the four heritage language podcast series, we focused on the role and importance of heritage languages as part of our national language landscape, and ways that we can work together to recognize the multilingualism of our society, work toward equity and justice for every language speaker here, and become truly global citizens. The panelists, who have rich and extensive experience working in this arena, describe a number of approaches that we can take to achieve this.

In this, the second of the four in the series, we talk with founders and leaders of community-based heritage language schools, who think and work enthusiastically with students, parents, and teachers in these schools to ensure that students are engaged and involved and recognize the gift of their heritage language as a vital part of their identity, self-worth, and learning and career potential. The panelists have implemented exciting and powerful activities and connections in their schools, and it is an inspiration to hear them share about the power of these experiences for individuals, institutions, and communities.

Just to pull this powerful series all together for you:

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, Joy Peyton, Dick Brecht, Maria Carreira, and Fabrice Jaumont.

This week: 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? Please check out the powerful
biographies, resources, and publications associated with my panelists for this
second podcast, Joy Peyton, Neila Baumiliene, Ashok Ojha, and Agnes Tounkara.

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? Guest panelists will be Linda Egnatz, Amanda Seewald, and Celia Zamora.

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? Guest panelists will be Gisi Cannizzaro, Antonella Cortese, Ken Cruickshank, and Renata Emilsson Peskova.

As I have previously noted, 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.

Enjoy the podcast.


Click to listen:

Episode 61 – Heritage Doorways

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Transcript

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 and 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. Welcome to the second of four podcasts focused on heritage languages in the lives of individuals, communities, societies, and nations.

Norah Jones:

In the first podcast, we focused on the equitable multilingual society that is available through acknowledging heritage languages. This podcast, we’re going to take a look at identity, national identity and international identity. We’re going to be taking a look at the tensions involved in honoring heritage language and history, and also playing a role in becoming part of a primarily monolingual society, what those pressures are. And then taking a look at the pathways to exploring and accepting one’s own identity as a heritage speaker and the opportunities in future that come about precisely because one is a multilingual heritage and dominant language speaker.

Norah Jones:

My guests today are Neila Baumiliene. She’s executive director of the New York city bureau at the Kazickas Family Foundation and former managing director of the Alexandra Kazickas Lithuanian school. Ashok Ojha, who is president of the Yuva Hindi Sansthan and the Hindi Sangam Foundation. And Agnes Tounkara, she’s program officer for the French Heritage Language Program at the FACE foundation. All of this information you can find in their biographies, but I know that the first and most important thing is that you’re going to thoroughly enjoy this conversation with these three panelists and with my co moderator Joy Peyton, senior fellow for the Center for Applied Linguistics and the coalition leadership for the Coalition of Community-Based Heritage language schools.

Joy Peyton:

Thank you. Thank you very much, Norah. Oh, I just wanted to say that Neila, Ashok and Agnes are all language representatives working with the coalition and language representatives connect with and document community based schools that teach the language that they work with. They work with us to bring all these schools together, to join them in collaboration and community. They lead workshops at our annual conference. They lead webinars and many other things. Each of them does different things. The reason I wanted you to speak with them about this topic on engaging students in learning their language and keeping them engaged across the years into high school and beyond is that they are all super passionate about this and they have so much to share. And I think what’s going to happen is that we’re going to learn so much and we’re going to wish that we could just be together for a week, that we had just had a retreat. But we are very grateful for this time that you all have given us. Thank you for being here.

Norah Jones:

Joy, a beautiful introduction. And I think we should all go on retreat, indeed. I would like to start with, again, reviewing that when we are talking about heritage languages, we’re talking about languages that come up through the life and culture experience of young people, adults, very young ones, teens, people of all ages that have a background in language. And so I would like to open this questioning by saying what happens in the sense of identity and self worth of individuals, when they reflect that they have a heritage language in say the country like the United States, where English is the considered to be the main language of communication nationally, who would like to start?

Ashok Ojha:

Thank you, Norah. And first of all, I want to thank Joy for this opportunity to select me as one of the panelists to be present here on the podcast conducted by Norah Jones. This is my first meeting, but I have seen your sample podcasts on your website. And it has been so impressive because I believe that the heritage language activity that includes teaching and promoting advocacy cannot go forward without strong passion that I already see in Norah Jones, while you talk about the languages and its importance. I’m glad you started this episode with the catchword of identity. That was very important for me as a language teacher and advocate. And I was in the beginning trying to say that these two organizations that I’m heading, Yuva Hindi Sansthan, fully dedicated to teach the language, the heritage language of Hindi. While the other one, Hindi Sangam Foundation is fully dedicated to promote and advocate the teaching of Hindi language.

Ashok Ojha:

Sometimes the mix up happened in the past, and you will agree with me that that is welcome because Hindi Sangam Foundation got engaged in teaching because that is our final goal, teach more and more young people, young I emphasize students going to elementary, middle, and high school because that is the area where we can build a foundation of language learning. So I have been working with these two organizations to meet these two objectives. The life of these organizations are not very long. I mean, we are starting in 2010 and I realized that I can’t attract more people in language learning without convincing the community folks about the importance of the language learning. And that is where they use the importance of identity came into force because I am a teacher. I go to the local school as a substitute, of course, my choice. I’m a certified teacher for the social studies, but I go to school as a substitute just to observe how the mainstream teaching is done and what role, the language, and especially the heritage language place.

Ashok Ojha:

I wanted the younger generation of Indian Americans, not older, the younger generation who are born and being raised in this country to know that Hindi represents their identity. And of course the language and culture goes side by side. If they’re proud about their language and culture, they can really protect their identity, their personality in front of their friends, classmates, and the community in a very strong way. And I can illustrate that later on, if you will give me time. And that is why I say that knowledge, learning of heritage language and the culture, because it goes together, is basically to reinforce your identity of your heritage, your roots. And that is how I promote and navigate in my community, which is yet to realize the importance of course, all language are important, but importance of one lingua franca, that can be an identity of one nation, one heritage.

Norah Jones:

Thank you very much. And that coming back to remember. Agnes, what were you going to share with us today?

Agnes Tounkara:

It’s such an important question, Norah, this question of identity and I’m thinking about the students we serve in New York, for example, these students come from Francophone Africa and Haiti and French is one of their heritage language. And I’m saying one because those kids are multilingual. They usually speak an African language at home and they go to school and they speak French. And when they arrive in this country where they’re asked to master another language, which is English, our program actually provide a space where they can connect together and share the thing that they have in common. And it’s a way of telling them that where you come from and what you’re bringing in the classroom here in the United States is important. And we give them a space where they can share that and connect, which is with each other.

Agnes Tounkara:

Another example is for our program in Maine, where we serve a completely different population, but where this question of identity is also very important. In Maine, you have Franco American with the Canadian background who are not given the possibility to learn because some of them have completely lost the use of French or maintain their French. And there also the message with this program is to tell them, your identity matter and you can actually bring that in the classroom. So two different public, but the same team, which is what you have to say and who you are is important, and we want to hear it in the classroom.

Norah Jones:

Who you are, and what you have to say. Thank you so much, Agnes. How about you, Neila? Tell us some of your thoughts, please.

Neila Baumiliene:

Thank you. First thoughts about identity and Lithuanian language and heritage schools. I would say that for us identity is very much related to duty and pride being Lithuanian. And because Lithuania is such a small country that has been, and still is in the crossroads of so many other geopolitical events even now, or forever. We always had to put a lot of thought and fight and work to maintain Lithuanian language and to maintain freedom. So for us identity, when we’re outside Lithuania or in the diaspora, it’s very much related to our duty to maintain language and our duty to fight for freedom, to keep our country alive, which is very small and to be very proud of who we are.

Norah Jones:

Thank you, beautifully expressed. I appreciate it. Joy.

Joy Peyton:

Oh yes. Thank you all three. I just want to say that I have seen each of these beautiful people work on building a sense of identity in very different ways, which is another reason why I wanted them to come here. I was on a call once that Ashok asked me to join. It was a Zoom call and Ashok, it was with, I think it was middle school and high school students. And they were meeting with professionals who use Hindi in either their community or in their work. And the question was, for the professionals to tell the students how they use the language and why it’s important to them. And so I thought that was part of building identity. Oh, I’m part of this community where adults are using the language in very interesting and powerful ways. The professionals there were many different walks of life. And that was very interesting.

Joy Peyton:

And then Agnes mentioned about the students who actually speak another several languages possibly in addition to French. And I think what I observed is that they sometimes come here without really knowing who am I and what is this? And once again, they bring the French school in New York City. They have access to lots of interesting people, and there are beautiful pictures of authors and ambassadors and all kinds of people spending time with the students, giving them awards and letting them know that you do have an identity with the language French and it’s useful and you know this language. That was one thing that Agnes has told me right away, that we sometimes have to remind them that they actually know this language because they feel a little bit down in the New York City context.

Joy Peyton:

And then Neila just talked about the importance of the language. And Neila, you wrote Norah and me such a beautiful email that we’re going to keep and treasure forever about how in a time of disruption, frustration, maybe even fear, feeling separated that students come together and they speak their language and they’re in community. They have identity with that language and that community. And that gives them a sense of comfort and power.

Norah Jones:

Agnes?

Agnes Tounkara:

I just want to add to complete a little bit what Joy is saying. It’s so true for our students in New York who are coming from, like I said, Francophone Africa and Haiti, so who are black students. The language piece is critical in defining who they are, because as you know, in the U.S, unfortunately, if I may say race sometime prevails, and these students, before they are black, they are from a community. They are from an ethnic group. They are from a village, they are from a family. And although French is a colonial language and it’s not their first language, it is the bridge to all of those aspects of their culture. So making our program actually put the focus on language and not on race. And it’s huge because it’s so more complex and so more richer than just the race as an aspect of their identity. And I think it’s very important. And it is for me as a black person growing up in Africa and living in the U.S now.

Norah Jones:

Well, as a matter of fact, Agnes, going down this pathway a little bit, that desire in this particular case, to make sure that the students first understand the cultural and linguistic community in which they were born and raised as humans, and to be able to use the heritage experience to resist in this case, the racial label. I’m actually going, therefore, based on that beautiful insight into a direction of when you have, for example, Neila right now, the identity of Lithuanian experience, the potential for danger is pulling students back into, it sounds like you will correct me, I hope if I’m doing this in incorrectly, pulling them back into an understanding of their identity first as humans as part of a community and not separating out so much. Ashok, I turn to you and I look, and I say, when you’re talking about having students walk back from feeling isolated and coming into community, what are some of the stories that you tell?

Ashok Ojha:

Yes, Norah, I must tell you and the listeners to know that I’m in this country, I’m a U.S citizen, I consider myself an American with very strong Indian upbringing. So I have the experience of the native culture total, because I worked as a journalist until the age of 44 when I moved to U.S.A. And then even though I was working in various situations, various position for livelihood, my main internal desire was to observe how the so-called American society works. In due course, I found that there is nothing like American society. I mean, if when you call American society, we should think about all the ethnicity, all the ethnic culture that move together, that has to be some way to make sure that kids of different ethnicity, different background are made to be aware of their own history.

Norah Jones:

Yes, I can see where that definitely plays a role, especially as you say, in sort of the homogenization of education. Neila, when you take a look at the Lithuanian experience and what you have worked in with, with the school and with the foundation, what are some of the aspects of the potential loss of the Lithuanian identity for students here? Or are there stories again about the students in the community in understanding their identity that you can share with us today?

Neila Baumiliene:

I think I would like to add couple things to Ashok’s speech. As I listen, and as I grow older and I guess mature more and understand more Lithuanian diaspora here, especially a Lithuanian American diaspora. I started understanding that multilingualism or heritage language learning is really a privilege. And it really becomes such a big gift for a few while we try to accommodate that everybody and bring together everybody, but people are so busy in this society for so many reasons that to teach your child in America, a foreign language is like, I don’t know, to teach this child horseback riding or to be an equestrian, or just to really play piano very beautifully. It is a privilege, it’s a very expensive and time consuming thing to do.

Norah Jones:

Well, that’s interesting that you put it that way. So I’m actually going to run with that a little bit Neila, okay, for the group as a whole, of course. If this is something that I’ll go ahead and say it as kind of like rare and more elite, like playing the piano or becoming an equestrian, what are the losses to the individual? What are the losses to the family? What are the losses to the community and what are losses to the nation in the world by heritage language not being kept as part of sort of a standard behavior?

Neila Baumiliene:

I think it’s probably two things. It’s who I am. So it’s my past and where I’m going, my future and in the middle here, trying to always, I mean, so human to ask yourself where I’m from, what I’m doing here, what’s my past, what’s my heritage, and then where I’m going and what’s my future, because I think that languages open so many doors and it just gives you more opportunities in life. For my family personally, for us as Lithuanians, we never even thought that we could live with one language. We always, from the little children that we were, we started Russian, though it was under Soviet regime, but we started Russian in second grade, we started, of course Lithuanian was our native language, and then we started third language in the fifth grade. And then we would pick up on the fourth language by the high school. So, when I came to the United States, when I was an adult, I suddenly realized that people are not multilingual. So for us, once disaster, once the freedom was taken away or when economic hardship started for us, it was a tool of survival. For me, a language is like driving. What would I do if I wouldn’t know how to drive, it’s just this just a very, very basic tool to be able to use foreign languages, as simple as that.

Norah Jones:

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:

Okay. So Agnes, any particular comments then about the impact of these experiences?

Agnes Tounkara:

Yeah, I think about two very vivid examples I have. I’m going to start with my personal family. So I’m from Senegal. I speak Wolof which is the national language. My dad is from a certain part of the country where they speak Serere, which is the language of one ethnic group. And my mom is from another ethnic group. So French became the common language and became the language I grew up speaking. It’s not necessarily the case for the majority of Senegalese, but for some people in Africa, it is the case. So I consider it one of my heritage language and my children who are born here in the U.S speak English first, but I’m speaking French to them. And the first reason is that so they’re able to speak to like grandparents.

Agnes Tounkara:

I cannot imagine them not being able to understand their grandparents, hearing my dad who loves telling stories about his people and them not being able to understand that. So that’s critical. Another thing that comes to mind is, and it’s also linked to Senegal. When I go back to Senegal, I’m at the airport and there is a huge community of Senegalese people in New York. And there is all these Senegalese. And I see the little kids sometimes speaking English to their parents. And sometimes it’s the only language they speak because the parents made the choice to tell them to speak English because they were afraid they would not integrate. So I’m thinking that these kids are going to go back to their, what I call their country, and they won’t be able to connect the same way with their people. So they are losing who they are.

Agnes Tounkara:

So for me, that’s one of the first thing. The second thing I see in our classrooms, you are talking about this fear and this risk of retreating to your own people. No, in our case, and that’s one of the beauty of French in my classroom, you have students from Haiti, West Africa, and when I say Senegal, Congo, Mali, and they understand each other because of the French. So the community is larger than just their country and it’s opening them to the world and not closing them. So for me, those are two important things. And I could talk about career in the future, but I think we going to get to that. Right?

Norah Jones:

So what I would like to ask now is indeed the pathways to career, to professionalism, or however that you would like to define the use of heritage language in the future, especially of young people who are in heritage language school.

Ashok Ojha:

Thank you, Norah. My personal observation is this. Look at the various profession that directly connects to the community and health is one of them. The social relation, you can call it politics, directly touches the people. In these areas, it is for us to excuse me, to use our heritage language. For example, we recently had to a municipal election. We always have it like the primary and the final. And one of the candidates who belonged to the Indian American community, he became the mayor. He’s the mayor, a young man born and brought up in this country. And I believe that he considers himself a proud product of the Indian American community. In all his attitude approach, he’s an American, but when it comes to work, we use English. Why? Because the community suffers from a complex. They want to be more American than Indian American.

Ashok Ojha:

And that is a big problem. Whenever I go to places like my pharmacy, the gas station, or department store, I find people of my community. I try to initiate the communication in my language. And here is the thing you don’t know, who really is inclined to use your language, most of them. So my pharmacist talked to me in Hindi. My department store cashier, when I initiate, she’ll start in Hindi. So the question is who will start first and how much. It all depends, even the school district board has members from my community, but I have heard them very clearly saying that we are in America, so we have to behave like Americans. What is behaving like Americans is to ignore your own heritage and culture?

Joy Peyton:

Ashok, is that why you brought those career people in with those students so that because those people were talking about how they use Hindi. In fact, I think you did the conversation in Hindi?

Ashok Ojha:

Joy, there is work remaining to be done. Because when I ask a physician to talk to a doctor, talk to the patients in Hindi, we have to find that the doctor doesn’t suffer from any kind of complex. He’s free to use the language. And secondly, I have seen with my own eyes, how the patients have tried because the patient was not able to speak English and the nurse was not able to speak in, I mean, communicate in her language that is Indian Punjabi, but we have to create an environment where these people are encouraged to use the language. There are many examples in the businesses, in the other areas where the language can play an important role to make those professions stronger, which is not happening.

Norah Jones:

Agnes, what do you hear here, when you have in New York City, in particular with the young people that you have already spoken about, what are some of those pathways that you see? What is the approach that you have?

Agnes Tounkara:

The first thing really that I tell them is that speaking more than one language is an asset in itself, just because when you speak more than one language, your brain is wired differently. And these are soft skills that companies are looking for. The fact that you can think in two different systems, even if it’s just linguistic system, it means you have the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. There’s the compassion, the intercultural competence, and those skills are very valuable. And they tend to underestimate that. We usually have the class and I ask them their name, how many languages they speak? And sometimes I’ll say two, and I know there is English and French. And then there is these other languages they speak and they say, okay, I speak French and I speak a little bit of English.

Agnes Tounkara:

I’m like, aren’t you from Senegal? Don’t you speak Wolof? They said, yes. I like, why aren’t you telling me that, it’s an asset. You speak three languages. It’s a superpower. So I think that’s really the first thing that they don’t realize just the intellectual abilities that being multilingual give them, and then the cultural competencies and those key skills are valuable. So that’s the first thing. And then, we are in New York City and I tell them, as an employer, when I’m looking at a resume, living in a city like this, when I have someone who speak more than one language and a monolingual candidate, of course I’m going to go to the bilingual candidate. And that speaks to them.

Agnes Tounkara:

A lot of the students, when they come in our program, and they don’t have to it’s on a voluntary basis, it’s because they think it can help on the job market. These students arrive very late in the U.S. They’re in high school, they want to go to college, so they want to make it an asset. And that’s actually our mission, making French an asset for new Americans. And for these young high schoolers, it’s sometimes the most important aspect because they’re very pragmatic. They want to go to college, they want to get a job. They want to make it in this country. And once we convince them and make them realize that they have an asset, then our job is almost done.

Norah Jones:

That asset, that’s superpower. I love that statement about the superpower. It’s just such an important aspect. How about for you Neila with your experiences?

Neila Baumiliene:

Thank you for sharing Ashok and Agnes. We as Lithuanians, we were very, very lucky that the heritage language schools here in the United States, because being refugees after the Second World War, when people fled a little bit, probably the same way now, Ukrainians flee danger and just scatter around the world. What Lithuanians did in Germany, once they settled in the camps, in the displaced persons’ camps, they established their education system. So they not only, they established kindergartens and schools for the children, but they also established universities. The university’s teachers, the art schools, engineering circles and groups, and they were very, very organized. And once they had to leave these camps and especially those that were able to come to the United States, starting at 47, they already created the whole system of the heritage language schools and the teachers courses and books, textbooks, and so on, so forth, and also later established the summer camps.

Neila Baumiliene:

And until the time that Lithuania was finally regained its independence, which we’re celebrating tomorrow in 1990, March 11th, it’s our Lithuanian independence of the reinstatement of Lithuania. So we have two days of the independence. So until nineties or 2000, when Lithuanian diaspora realized here in America, that not only they need Saturday schools and the camps, but they also need to have internships. So nowadays we have two internship programs. And this current one, which is in its fifth year, I guess this summer was created, founded and still sponsored by the Kazickas Family Foundation I work for. That gives an opportunity for the Lithuanian heritage school students and university students of Lithuanian heritage, some of them sometimes don’t speak the language, to go to Lithuania for the summer for six weeks and have professional opportunity in different enterprises.

Neila Baumiliene:

And as it turns out, we have headquarters, big headquarters, like one of the seven offices outside New York city, NASDAQ offices are in Vilnius. So our students with Lithuanian heritage, it’s much easier for them to get an internship and put NASDAQ on their resume than it would be to compete with the whole of America and to get the internship let’s say in New York City. We also have Western union big offices that also offers internships. We also the different ministries, ministry of health, ministry of foreign affairs also offer these internships. And it’s a very competitive way to get into that program. It’s called Bring Together Lithuania, but also it opens a lot of opportunities on what we learned is that not only Lithuanian firms and government establishments, they like these as Agnes put it very nicely people who understand different systems, whose brain is working much more differently than a regular young person from the Lithuanian society. And it’s like two way street. Our students also, they have this amazing opportunity to not only have different experience, but also to put these internships and these big names on their resume. Thank you.

Norah Jones:

That’s great. Fantastic. Joy, do you have any reflections when you hear these companions of ours, speak about these options, opportunities and the different takes that they have on the possibilities and careers for young people?

Joy Peyton:

Oh, I was just thinking that there are so many different things that people are doing, like Neila, Agnes and Ashok that they described in such different ways. And it would be so wonderful to document them. I mean, we’re hearing them now, but to document them, this is what we are doing. This is why, this is how the students think before they come in about themselves, which Agnes made a very clear story. This is what they think about themselves and their language. And this is what we’re doing with students at this age, with this purpose. And this is the difference that it’s making. I just think we’re hearing a couple stories and they’re very powerful. And are we going to be able to keep them and learn from them and build on them and get them to generate other stories?

Norah Jones:

As a matter of fact, I would love to play a little bit with what you just said, that gathering together of stories, of approaches, the hope that has come from each of you, having a different community experience, having a different heritage collection experience, absolutely priceless because people feel, I think very isolated in this country with regard to heritage experiences and thus your coalition Joy, absolutely critical. And I would ask you Joy, you even on behalf of taking a look at that coalition is, are there places potentially with your site of the community based heritage language schools, to be able to capture these stories, or do you already have such a place?

Joy Peyton:

We don’t, but actually there are two thoughts that I’ve been having and they’re getting stronger even now that you’re asking this question and I’ll probably be so regretful that I mentioned these because yeah, when am I going to do this? But there are two things, I put down in our strategic plan for this year, one is to do program profiles. We do them with the Chinese early language immersion network, every month we put a school on the website and they’re called program profiles and outline everything that school is doing. That’s one thing I’m thinking would be wonderful to do with all the coalition schools, have one a month.

Joy Peyton:

And another thing I did, I just wrote it down the other day is to do something called telling our stories and tell a powerful story, and then we could start to group them. I think it’d be better for people to tell stories that they think are powerful, no matter what the topic or the approach, and then start to group them under approaches, like how do we help students go along the pathway to higher education and careers? What stories do we have. Anyway, those are two thoughts. I have. Just say, do you think guys think that’s a good idea or stupid? Agnes [crosstalk 00:43:03]

Agnes Tounkara:

No, you know how I feel Joy and this made me think of the conference that we’re having once a year. So once a year, all these representative from how many members, how many representative do we have? How many language do we have represented in the coalition?

Joy Peyton:

Yeah.

Neila Baumiliene:

38, I think at least now, probably more.

Joy Peyton:

Yeah. It’s about yeah, 40 something. Yeah.

Agnes Tounkara:

Yeah. So I mean, and it’s amazing because we come together so many different cultures, it could seem like a very heterogenous group, but we all have this desire to maintain the language and the culture for our children and the future generation. And it’s very frustrating because we don’t have a lot of times and we hear all these experiences and all these stories and I’m listening to Neila with the work she’s doing in the professional world. And, I want to ask her questions and I want to get inspired by that. So yeah, no, the coalition, I think it’s amazing that we have this space to share these experiences and meet, and we don’t have enough time and enough opportunities. So I love these ideas, Joy. Yes. Sorry, idea out of the bag.

Joy Peyton:

Good. Yeah, thanks Agnes.

Norah Jones:

That’s great. I’ve got two thumbs up over here. And one of the things that I really would encourage you because what’s happening right here in this podcast today is again, not only the sharing of those of you that know each other, but again, those different stories. And this is probably an eye opener for many. And if there was a location where we could send people to say, here are the kinds of examples of stories. I also believe that storytelling would enable advocates, specifically formal advocates like JNCL-NCLIS, for example, also state and local advocates to recognize that the stories of heritage learners have patterns, but also vary. I honestly believe that this would help to create a sense of both the diversity and also the unity of the heritage experience. So I hope you will strongly consider that. You heard it here on this podcast today. So here’s my last question for each of you. I would like you to each take one more look out at this audience. What’s the last thing that you would like to make sure that this listening audience hears from you today? And I’m going to call on you, Agnes, to get started if you would, so that we can begin that process.

Agnes Tounkara:

I’m going back to this image that I love and I can’t remember where I read it. And it’s true of us as human being when we encounter somebody else, wherever it is and whoever that is, that is true for teachers with the students they’re dealing with. It is true with administrator in their school. When you have someone in front of you, they have a little bag on their back and that’s their heritage. It’s the language they speak, it’s their culture. And let’s just make sure when we are in a space with them, we let them come in with their bag. We don’t ask them to leave that bag at the door, because if we do that, then they are not complete and your encounter is not complete and is not as rich as it could be.

Agnes Tounkara:

So that’s really my image for heritage language because these students, I’m coming back to my New York students, these, who from the outside are black students. They enter in the classroom, but they speak many languages. They have very rich cultures, but they’re in the classroom and they’re English learners, multilingual learners. But does it say who they are? I’m not sure. Let’s ask them. Let’s make sure we see them and understanding what language they speak is one of the doorway to understanding where they are and really letting them in and accepting them in their society and reaching ourselves because it’s a two way street, they’re bringing something as well, and we are learning from them. So that would be my appeal.

Norah Jones:

Thank you so much. Wow. What an appeal. Thank you, Agnes, so much. Neila?

Neila Baumiliene:

Thank you. My appeal would be invest in a heritage or second or foreign language, make sure your child, your sibling, your friend, your parent, and you take time to learn a language and you will never regret it.

Norah Jones:

Thank you so much.

Ashok Ojha:

Well, for me, as a language teacher and promoter of the heritage culture, my experience shows that I can reach out to people, my community folks all over, because this is high tech and my students come from South Carolina, Tennessee, all over. What I’m not confident is to teach the language. Teaching language is not simple. We cannot just teach. We have to do it in a formal way. My teachers must be fully trained about the language of course, and the culture. It’s not always visible. And how can we do that? We have to do it with the active support of, of course, the United States government, the community and the heritage government, the Indian government, how we do it. There is a long process. I have been working with organizing agencies in India. We have not found a very easy way to do it, but we are working, we are trying. This year in October, I am coordinating an international Hindi conference, but we still have to find a pathway to get enough trained teachers who can provide the input in a very accurate, authentic manner about the language and the culture. This is what keeps me engaged all the time.

Norah Jones:

Joy, what about you? What would you like to add my friend?

Joy Peyton:

Yeah, I just, I want to thank you Norah, for giving visibility and recognition to this group of people who are really passionate about giving students a sense of identity, which has been talked about, a sense of power, a sense of possibility, a sense of community, a sense of purpose. What I’m passionate about is giving visibility and recognition to these individuals and groups that are doing this work.

Norah Jones:

Thank you for that Joy. And you are being thanked I know by the group here for the wonderful leadership that you provide. It has been a great pleasure to welcome all of you today. Thank you for expressing the individuality of your experience, as well as the commonality of your experience and doing it in ways that are passionate and so respectful of the individuals and their identity and Agnes, honestly, I’m going to remember that backpack and not ask anyone to leave it at the doorway. Thank you again, each of you for being here, thank you for honoring me with your presence. And I wish you the very best of fortune as you continue your leadership in this area, and so many others in your community and the world.

Joy Peyton:

And thank you Norah for this opportunity.

Neila Baumiliene:

Thank you. Thank you everyone. Thank you, Norah.

Norah Jones:

Thank you so much for listening to this podcast. Next week, we’ll be focusing on advocating for heritage languages with my guests, Linda Egnatz of the Global Seal of Biliteracy, Amanda Seewald of JNCL-NCLIS, Celia Chamon Zamora of ACTFL, and of course my co moderator Joy Peyton. Please go to my website, fluency.consulting, to learn more about the podcasts, more about my guests, more about opportunities for sponsorships so we can reach out to the world and potentially opportunities for me to come and work with or talk to your team, organization. Look forward to seeing you next week.

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