We did it! We published the Multilingual is Normal book, an anthology of sixty voices, talking about talking, in just one month from launch on 10th July to publication day on 10th August 2020!
This was my first foray into book publishing, and I learned absolutely loads about the process of pulling a printed work together. It was wonderful to get such a positive response to the call for submissions in July, and straightaway I could see that we would have far more than the 30 snippets I had originally hoped to achieve. In the end, we created an anthology with 223 pages of wordy wisdom and woe!
Reading through the submissions, which people sent from all over the world, was an incredibly moving experience. As you might know, I'm from a very un-multilingual bit of English countryside and was late to the multilingualism party. And it turns out, I'm not the only latecomer! Several contributors felt similarly shy about declaring their love for multilingualism, having grown up 'just speaking English'. That's what I love about this book though. It really shows the sheer variety of ways that languages can come to us, and we can come to languages. Being born in the English-speaking sticks doesn't stop you from falling in love with a language (or two, or three!)
'There is personal pain in these stories at all that is lost when languages are lost, but it is often very funny. Cate has skillfully curated a beautiful anthology which celebrates the ways in which multilingualism widens our personal worlds and draws people together. Linguists will enjoy this, but if you talk, then this book is for you!' 5* Amazon review
Some submissions were hilarious. Like the time a trainee teacher in Spain kept accidentally swearing in Catalan (very blasphemously) at parents during parents' evening, when he thought he was just saying 'ummm' in the colloquial, local way he'd pick up in a bar (probably that was a clue!) A quick, mortifying chat from his head of department soon put him right.
Some submissions were utterly inspiring. Several contributors really are incredible polyglots, speaking more than ten languages... incroyable! Once you learn a couple, it's easier to learn more, and why stop? The youngest contributor, 16 at the time of publishing, is well on her way to polyglot prowess already. It's great to hear about teenagers who love languages too, as there is so much press about children not enjoying languages that I don't think we celebrate the ones who do love speaking in tongues often enough.
Some submissions were incredibly sad. Languages lost, relationships not forged, cultural ties broken. The final piece is a real call-to-action to pass languages on to the next generation. We don't often talk about the disadvantages of *not* being bilingual, but the piece by our multilingual ambassador Ronni Ozpolat deals with this tricky topic beautifully.
The overall message is one of hope and excitement about learning languages and the diverse ways that we can fall into this. It really is not only about sitting down at school and working through a verb table. Although it can be. We've also learned our languages in dodgy taxis in the middle of the night, on the playground, during a fire drill, with our children, or with our lovers.
You can read Multilingual is Normal as a paperback (available from Amazon here) or as an eBook downloaded from Kindle, Apple Books, or Barnes and Noble. If you run a school or multilingual library, or an EAL department, and would like a FREE copy, please get in touch with me. I have twenty copies to give away to a good multilingual cause! Drop me a line on [email protected] and explain why you'd like a free copy.
20% of profits from the first year of sales of Multilingual is Normal will be donated to research charity Bilingualism Matters, as voted for by the contributors. Merci à tous for getting involved. I think I shall enjoy making volume two in 2021!
Here is a little excerpt from the first contribution, by Heike Krüsemann. I find her words hugely inspiring. What about you? Would love to hear what you think in the community or an Amazon review. Let's give languages our voice.