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Bilingualism as Strength
January 30, 2017
Friday started with a bang. Kind of an explosion. The type that ruins your day before it's even begun. The mayor of Miami, Carlos Giménez, chose not to challenge Trump's administration and took the stand that Miami would not be a sanctuary city for refugees. This is wildly troubling given the multilingual, multicultural, and multiracial talent and experiences that reside and take place here.
Miami is blessed to have so many call it home. Most know it for its large Cuban population, most of whom consider it a safe haven from the oppressive Castro regime. However, it is also home to others from all over Latin America, Europe, Asia, and beyond. We speak in many tongues. We cook with a symphony of flavors. We dance to the rhythms of the day and night, including the clanking of pots and pans at La Carreta. We bask in the glory of the warmth of the sub-tropic sun and sweat and swim through the jello-thick humidity. We are brown, black, red, white, and yellow.
Amidst this diversity, we are so often united through language. Through the waxing and waning of trilled r's, interchangeable ch's and sh's, an ability to order cafecito regardless of what language--or languages--you speak, an occasional "pero like," and perhaps a "mèsi," we do life. We teach one another about our language, our culture, and our experiences. We begin a sentence in English y terminamos en español. Pero, like, they usually understand.
So let's look at the various languages we all bring as a strength. Stand strong and know that multilingualism is a benefit. That it boasts cognitive, cultural, social, and economic benefits. And it does so for people of all ages, from birth to the end. This means that babies have increased capacity to focus on a task. This also means that those who will experience dementia will not experience it until later than those who are not bi/multilingual.
Look at your neighbor. Look at your colleague. Look at that stranger. Listen to him. Listen to her. Listen to them. Talk to them. Ask about their story. Ask about their language. Enjoy it. And think about what strength it brings to Miami. I sure wish the Mayor would.