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...
As I write this in a café whilst on a post-Christmas holiday in Paris, I’m listening to my three children play with the words on the menu – making observations about how café is the same in English, and crêpes has a funny hat on, and isn’t panini Italian? Cue discussion about accents and loan words. They’re a curious bunch, my three little linguists.
Early in my motherhood journey, I was trying to speak only French to my eldest (now 9). It was hard. There is lots to master in the first few months of parenting, and learning swathes of new vocabulary in French was a step too far for my sleep-deprived brain. You see, my French was that of an Oxford literature graduate who taught business English. Babies, as it turns out, are more into biberons than Balzac or budgets.
I also had this odd feeling of not really being ‘me’ when I spoke only French to my new baby. My mothering instinctively needed to be done in the language I’d...
Some days you just get up, get dressed and just about keep things ticking over. Other days you get up and organise the first ever International Day of Multilingualism in collaboration with world-renowned academics and language professionals.
It's pretty exciting that Babel Babies is involved in this venture, and here is everything you need to know to be involved in this worldwide movement, from the comfort of your own home.
When is it?
Wednesday 27th March
What is it?
A day to celebrate the incredible linguistic diversity of our planet. We talk about diversity in ecosystems and animal kingdoms, but do we stop and reflect on the incredible diversity of our languages? Not so much. And recently there has been a steep decline in take-up of languages at GCSE in the UK, which is incredibly worrying.
More positively, however, this has sparked lots of discussion on Twitter about why languages are wonderful and important, and the neuroscientist Thomas Bak, from Edinburgh University,...
Language learning in schools has hit an all-time low, with a decrease of 30-50% in GCSE languages take-up in some parts of the UK since 2013. It was really quite depressing to read these stats from the BBC News analysis today.
Having mulled it over, however, I think it shows that the UK is ripe for a totally new and different approach to how we think about and teach languages. Take-up of GCSE languages is low, with French and German in a serious downward trend. There is a lot of focus in the Government's literature to entice students about how languages are good for careers and creating a skilled workforce, and there was another very motivational article on the BBC about how learning languages has changed people's lives (with four inspiring examples of careers based on having learned languages). But are employability skills really what motivates young people to learn a language?
It certainly wasn't what got my tongue wagging in French. It was wanting to talk to people I liked and...
So here's a thought: when has Britain ever been anything other than multilingual to the max? Our ancestors spoke Old Norse, and then Old German, and then French for six hundred years... and English has remnants of all of these languages and more in its current form.
And yet the media is full of how immigrants should speak only English to help them fit in. Next time you hear this, give them a quick history lesson: English already *is* multilingual.
Our eggs are Norwegian, our lights are German, our conversation is still at least 30% French (not to mention our wine!), our pyjamas are Persian, via Urdu, and our pizzas...well, can you guess how much of our nation's favourite food choices are Italian?! So when you are sitting eating pizza fiorentina with the lights down low, watching Danish thrillers on Netflix in your pyjamas, you're indebted to our incredible history and all of the languages and cultural practices that have travelled to our shores with centuries of trade and people and...