Thursday, February 03, 2011

Beyond FINESEE: Corey Heller, Founder of Multilingual Living

In Call Me Okaasan, Corey Heller writes in her personal essay “I Am Mutti” about her choice to speak German with her children in her home though she hails from California and is raising her children in the U.S. with her German-born husband. Having experienced a year of immersion in the German culture and language, she found upon her return home that she was driven to retain those ties, and the arrival of her first child only served to convince her of the critical need to make this desire a reality. She writes that the German culture and language “are a part of me, intertwined together with my native English and my American language and culture. I don’t want to have to decide, to choose, to have to sever ties with either of them. I want to belong to both and I want to pass on this duality to my children because, if anything, it is who I am and will always be.”

In their quest to successfully nurture a multilingual family, Corey and her husband looked for resources to help them along the way. When they found little help, they launched the Bilingual/Bicultural Family Network in 2003, following that up with the Multilingual Living website and magazine a year later. Though the magazine is no longer in print, access to its back copies is offered on the comprehensive Multilingual Living site, which also features a very active discussion forum, expert columns, and book excerpts and reviews. As Corey puts it, Multilingual Living is designed to provide “a centralized location for discussion, conversation and connection for multilingual and multicultural families around the world” as well as “a place where parents raising children in more than one language and culture can find inspiration, tools, advice, wisdom and support.”

The Language of Identity
In her post “The Language of Identity,” Corey describes the impact living outside the U.S. made on her and her determination to continue experiencing more than one culture even after she’d returned home:

“A year in Ireland followed by a year in Germany had left their imprints on me. I had tasted the richness of belonging to different cultures, of speaking a new language and I couldn’t go back to being who I had been before. There were words and sentence structures, ways of being and socializing and foods that had come to define me. I knew then that I would never, ever, ever be fully content with any one language and limited by only one culture.”

She also explains her belief that children raised in a multilingual household learn more than just another language:

“Children who grow up in a monolingual society with more than one language are offered something extremely valuable. Experts agree that a child who has at his or her disposal words and concepts in two different languages will be more accustomed to understanding and accepting the innate complexities that exist in this world. They will more easily grasp the concept that just as there is more than one word for items and concepts, there is also more than one way to solve a problem, more than one way to view an issue, and more than one way to define themselves and others. But beyond the abilities these children will gain, they will have been given something so much more valuable: They will have been given the opportunity to live in two cultures and to make them both their own.

“For our bilingual children, bridging the gap between their two different worlds will come naturally and comfortably. ... Their perception of the world, their concept of diversity, their understanding of identities will, by default, far exceed my own.”

What a gift, indeed.


Anonymous Deborah Lawrenson said...

Joined you from the SheWrites site, but I thought I'd leave my visiting card here because it's the post that really speaks to me. I'm English but was immersed in French from an early age - now I'm a writer, still entranced by words, and live part of the year in France. And my blog - if you care to have a look - has inadvertantly become bi-lingual in the comments sections!

8:30 AM  
Blogger Sustenance Scout said...

Hello from Denver, Deborah! I just peeked at your blog and LOVE its look and tone. Will be back to visit again this weekend! K.

3:55 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home