Winner of the 2014 Multilingualism in the Community Award

We are delighted to announce that the winner of our 2014 Multilingualism in the Community Award is the ‘Our Multilingual Village’ newsletter. Here, Yurimi Grigsby, the organiser of the project tells us more about the newsletter and how the idea came together.

Our Multilingual Village Newsletter Project

When I first arrived as a professor at Concordia University Chicago, I was astounded by the number of languages present in the area. The city of Chicago and the Chicagoland area is an area rich with ethnic, cultural, and linguistic diversity. Illinois schools have over 180,000 English language learners in its public schools, speaking 139 different non-English native languages. To exemplify the linguistic diversity that exists in this area, the top ten languages spoken are Spanish, Polish, Arabic, Urdu, Korean, Filipino (Tagalog), Cantonese (Chinese), Gujarati, Vietnamese, and Russian. Instead of seeing the education of the children from these backgrounds as a problem, my goal for Our Multilingual Village newsletter is to reframe the multilingual community as a linguistic asset and a critical resource in the 21st century world.

As a take on the phrase “global village,” the newsletters would spotlight the 10 largest language groups found in communities across the Chicago area. My hope is this newsletter project would continue to grow to include all 139 languages in the state and eventually those across the United States; in particular the endangered indigenous languages we may soon lose without concerted preservation efforts.

In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was made flesh. It was so in the beginning and it is so today. The language, the Word, carries within it the history, the culture, the traditions, the very life of a people, the flesh. Language is people. We cannot even conceive of a people without a language, or a language without a people. The two are one and the same. To know one is to know the other. – Sabine Ulibarri

This project has three goals: 1) to promote awareness and understanding of languages as rich, linguistic resources and a critical asset in the 21st century; 2) to promote pride in the heritage speakers and the communities where the languages live; and 3) to honor the complex and intricate processes involved in the act of the older generation passing on to the younger generations all the knowledge, wisdom, and worldviews encased within language, keeping it alive.

Time and again the evidence in educational research shows us how, when the social capital of a language is improved by non-standard speakers, the children improve academically. This makes sense when we think of language as being a part of ourselves and our identities as much as the flesh and blood that carries forth the words we speak.

Each issue will place a spotlight on each of the languages at a time, and will include information about the history, culture and the modern people who are its speakers and users. Each newsletter will also include a well-known proverb in the language, written in its original writing system (with Romanization and phonetic translation). With this project, I strive to place an emphasis on the importance and value of multilingual communities and linguistic diversity.

It is my hope that this project will inspire future initiatives that preserve the languages found in our communities and honor the people who speak them. I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank Multilingual Matters for their generosity and support for this endeavour. Now that this project can be fully realized, I will be able to create and distribute each newsletter at schools, community and cultural centers, and libraries to promote awareness for the linguistic diversity present right in our local communities. I would be able to express my gratitude for the assistance and cooperation of native speakers by giving back to the linguistic communities and sharing the products of the work.

A multilingual world is a healthy world!

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