Being part of a community is essential to being human. Most people are involved in a number of different communities such as those related to neighborhood, school, family or religion. As a community, we come together to fellowship and to support something we value and share in common. Hence, the shared goal of pursuing bilingualism and multiculturalism also requires building a strong community, one that values cultural and linguistic diversity. The existence of such communities may not always be apparent in monolingual dominant and mostly segregated societies, but they do exist and they can be built. Below are several key benefits individuals receive from being in a bilingual and multicultural community.
Acceptance and Validation of Language and Cultural Heritage
A diverse bilingual and multicultural community (1) promotes acceptance of speaking a native or second language and (2) it brings validation that your language and cultural heritage matters. This validation and acceptance is extremely important for children from both minority and majority backgrounds. Children from a minority group need to feel as though they are part of a community that accepts them and values their attributes. Children from a majority group learn to recognize the value and self-worth that each brings to their community. Both groups are empowered to not only do and be their best but also to create a long lasting friendships based on trust and respect for diverse members within the community. As adults, we can follow-suit by supporting these values and becoming important role models through the construct of a diverse community.
Language Practice and Cultural Exchange
Finding an open community that fosters opportunities to practice and strengthen language and customs is important for becoming and/or remaining bilingual. It is common for communities to self segregate and only be open to those who share the culture and language. However, building a more open and diverse community that encourages others to come in and learn the native language and culture provides a strong bridge for mutual understanding and respect. Diverse communities should be open to both native speakers and language learners and should encourage everyone who wishes to engage in the language to do so without judgement
Affirmation on the Importance of Bilingualism and Multiculturalism
By opening yourself up to a diverse community that encourages language learning and mutual respect for a variety of cultures, you quickly appreciate the richness and perspective it adds to your own life and to the lives of your children. Such community engagement fosters not only mutual respect but also constructive collaboration and more effective communication regarding the needs and concerns of all community members.
How To Build a Diverse Community
Don’t Be Afraid to Befriend People From Different Backgrounds
The old proverb that to make friends you must show your self friendly still rings true today. By taking time to be friendly without judgement to those who share different language and cultural heritages, you open up the possibility to learn more about that person and lay the ground work to creating a true friendship founded on mutual respect. The key phrase here, however, is “without judgement” because most people engage with others from different backgrounds with some preconceived notion or stereotype. Recognizing this preconceived judgement is the first step. The second step is to circumvent this preconceived judgement by being truly interested in wanting to know who this person is, what he or she may like or dislike and what interests he or she may have.
Enroll in Educational Programs That Promote Linguistic and Ethnic Diversity
A great way to meet people who value language learning and diversity is by being involved in bilingual educational programs. Whether it be for yourself, your child or as a community volunteer, bilingual educational programs tend to bring together those who have a shared interest in language and cultural learning and who are open to meeting people of diverse backgrounds. (To learn more about what bilingual educational programs Austin has to offer, search Think Bilingual Austin’s online directory and/or attend one of our local events.)
Devise Meet-up Groups that Share Common Goals of Language Learning and Inclusion
Social media outlets have made it possible for like minded people to connect and get together both on-line and in person. Meet-up groups for language and cultural learning continue to grow and thrive as more and more people recognize both the value and need. If you cannot find a meet-up group in your area, try starting your own.
Subscribe to On-line Media Sources that Supports Diversity and Language Learning
Subscribe to on-line media sources such as Think Bilingual Austin, Bilingual Kids Rock and other like-minded sites that support and promote language learning and multiculturalism. Share important insights and information with others that you find helpful in supporting your bilingual and multicultural journey.