At least two
“You can never understand one language until you understand at least two.” Author Geoffrey Willans made this observation about the importance of multilingualism. Languages connect us to others and define us as individuals. This month, we celebrate the International Day of Multilingualism. March 27th, 169 B.C. is the only date mentioned on the Rosetta Stone, the famously multilingual artifact which provided a missing link for scholars across three languages: Egyptian hieroglyphs, Demotic Egyptian and Ancient Greek. The Rosetta Stone is a reminder that the intersection of languages and cultures can illuminate bridges as well as barriers, and opportunities as well as oppression. It is currently on display in the British Museum. As a university-based research center, WIDA lives its commitment to both multilingualism and social justice every day, in the resources we develop and the support we provide. Below, some of our WIDA colleagues reflect on their personal connections between multilingualism and identity:
- Narek Sahakyan, WIDA associate researcher
- An ancient saying in Armenian goes «Քանի լեզու գիտես, այնքան մարդ ես» (Qani lezoo gites, ainqan mard es) which can be translated as “The more languages you know, the more human you are.” In Russian, they say “Новый язык - это новая жизнь” (Novyy yazyk - eta novaya zhizn), meaning “A new language is a new life.”
- Children in my native Armenia are exposed to foreign languages very early on, and I think it is a great thing! The best way I could describe being multilingual, perhaps despite of a lack of a good reference point, is that it feels like you are/have... more. More, in how and what you think, read, listen, speak, read, understand, feel, access, relate and live. It is also a treasure that keeps on giving (more) when you nurture and take care of it. That is why, despite being so far away from Armenia and Armenian, working at WIDA feels like home.
- Ruslana Westerlund, WIDA associate researcher
- While many people talk about multilingualism in a hyper positive way as an asset in our superdiverse world, I have experienced my multilingualism through gains and losses. The gains include my English skills which have opened doors for me to connect with a global community. The losses include the historical linguicism committed against the Ukrainian language, the recent revival of Ukraine’s national identity through language in which I can only participate as an observer and a bystander, and, finally, my waning Ukrainian language skills when communicating with my relatives in Ukraine. Grasping for words, and finding English in their place, makes me sad that sometimes I can’t communicate with the same precision in Ukrainian that I can do in English.
- Ahyoung Alicia Kim, WIDA researcher
- 여러 언어와 문화에 대한 관심을 통해, 타인에 대한 이해심이 더 생기고 동시에 생각의 폭이 넓어졌다.
- Interest in other languages and cultures has allowed me to be more open-minded of others and to think broadly.
- Sakine Gocer, WIDA psychometrician
- Benim için çok dilli olmak demek, birden fazla kültürü, duyguyu aynı anda yaşamak demek. Mesela, fark ettim ki heyecanla bir şeyden bahsederken kızgın olunca Kürtçe, üzgün olunca Türkçe ve mutlu olunca Ingilizce konuşuyorum. Bunların içinden kendimi nasıl seçebilirim bilmiyorum ama tüm bunların hepsi çok dilli olan benim.
- For me, being multilingual means experiencing multiple cultures and emotions at the same time. For example, I’ve noticed that when I get really worked up, I use Kurdish when I am angry, Turkish when I am sad, and English when I am happy. I don't know how to choose myself from these; it is my multilingual self.
- Samuel Aguirre, director of WIDA Español
- Being multilingual means having the privilegio de expresar my thoughts and my identidad drawing on all my languages.
At WIDA, we are committed to promoting multilingualism as a resource and offer our ongoing support for teachers of multilingual learners around the world.
Jon Nordmeyer, WIDA International Program director
*Ancient Greek: "fair thee well"