What students are saying about anti-LGBTQ legislation, multilingualism and the wonders of nature
Growing up in a multilingual family has definitely affected me and my surroundings, which other kids who are not multilingual don’t experience. English is not really my first language. I learned to speak Gujarati from the day I was born, and was constantly immersed in the language growing up…
I like being bilingual. I like being able to speak in a different language with my family when I don’t feel comfortable speaking in English. It’s a sense of security that I don’t feel other non-multilinguals will understand. Also, I can communicate much more freely with my older parents who don’t speak or understand English. Language is the bridge that connects me, a first generation kid in America, to my family and it constantly helps me learn more and more about them and vice versa every day.
— Rahi, Block 2 Hoggard High School in Wilmington, North Carolina
Greater expressive possibilities
There are often times when the right word does not come to mind in one language but in the other. For example, if I’m extremely embarrassed, to the point that it’s impossible to describe how I feel in English, the only words I can think of are “Jjok palyuh”, which in Korean translates to “My face is sold” …
After being in the American school system for nearly 11 years, English has become like second nature to me, and the real testament to that is the fact that my thoughts are in English. Although I speak Korean with my parents, I see the world through the lens of an English speaker. Like the family in the article, my family sometimes speaks in one language but uses a word or two from another language in the same sentence because it’s easier. And that’s what makes bilingualism so incredible. Oral language is an art; it flows from the tongue and moves like music. Our mind is the brush, speaking through the canvas, and through another language emerges a whole new color palette.
— Teak, Hoggard High School in Wilmington, North Carolina
The Challenges of Knowing Multiple Languages
Being multilingual has many disadvantages and challenges. Whenever I’m with my mom and we have a conversation in Spanish, a lot of people look at us weirdly, or talk about us and make rude remarks. Some of the challenges include sometimes I forget to switch back to English or lots of people trying to teach me to speak Spanish. Many foreigners, when they discover that I am a polyglot, ask me where I am from or what I know of my heritage. They also ask me why I’m white if my mother is from Cuba, and sometimes it’s very overwhelming to face everyone asking me about it.
— Kilee, Hanover-Horton High School
My parents are from Bangladesh, so Bengali was the first language I learned. Yes, it’s good to be bilingual knowing how to speak two different languages, especially my mother tongue, but learning English as a second language made me face difficulties throughout my early childhood. When I was going to kindergarten, I always mixed my words with Bengali and it made it difficult for me to learn English and to speak with other children and my teacher. They finally put me in ESL from K-3 even though I didn’t really know what it was like to be in that class so young. Looking back, I wish I had learned English first, which would have helped me overcome the hurdles of my English and grammar struggles, and then slowly learned Bengali as I got older.
— Emily, Hoggard High School in Wilmington NC
Adopt multilingualism in schools
I think it is extremely important to know another language, and students should start learning them earlier. It is incomprehensible that pupils are not even offered a foreign language course or even an extracurricular option in primary school. When you present children who are seriously learning a language at the age of 12, are they really going to be fluent? Maybe yes, maybe no, but at the end of the day, it’s much harder to speak a language fluently if you learn it with an almost fully developed brain revolving around different concerns and goals. I love learning Italian and plan to be fluent, but wish I had started learning it in 1st or 2nd grade so I am now mostly immersed in the language. Learning a language at school can be extremely useful in terms of life skills, but with the way the education system deals with it, few students will take their global language course seriously.
— Christina, WT Clarke High School, Westbury