I am so happy to have attended the discussion on bilingualism yesterday evening at Albertine — featuring a conversation between Dr. Fabrice Jaumont and Dr. Ellen Bialystok, and introduced by French Cultural Counselor Bénédicte de Montlaur, engaging speakers all.
Speaking before a full house on “The Brain and the Benefits of Bilingualism,” Dr. Bialystok spoke at length on the benefits of bilingualism, reminding us that so many of the world’s people speak one or more additional languages.
In addition to Dr. Bialystok’s insightful remarks and evident depth of feeling on the importance of languages, highlights of the evening included her preference for “monolingual disadvantage” rather than the often-used term “bilingual advantage,” and Dr. Jaumont’s perceptive comment that the monolingual disadvantage can be cured!
Feeling so fortunate to have the opportunity to be in the presence of a scholar whose writings have so often inspired me and who graciously and thoughtfully answered many, many questions from those present, I asked what advice she would offer to parents, educators, language advocates, and other language stakeholders. Her reply was — “confidence” — that we should be “confident” in making our case for languages in our schools and communities.
Every revolution begins with one person — an old, but true saying.
We are, indeed, fortunate, to have had the privilege of learning about the most current research on bilingualism from Dr. Bialystok, and for having in our metropolitan NYC area a leader and “bilingual revolutionary” in Dr. Fabrice Jaumont.
The conversation resonated with me both personally and professionally.
Growing up in a North Jersey community where bilingualism in Spanish and English was the norm, and later serving as my hometown’s first bilingual public library director, bilingualism has been a lifelong interest.
Living for some years in Québec, where bilingualism in French and English is part of the Canadian way, I was inspired by research and teaching at Université Laval and its Centre international de recherches sur le bilinguisme led by Dr. William Mackey, which drove my own graduate research on comparative stylistics in French and English under the direction of noted scholar and expert Jean-Louis Darbelnet.
Many thanks to the French Cultural Services and to French Cultural Counselor Bénédicte de Montlaur for having organized this event, and special thanks to Dr. Fabrice Jaumont and to Dr. Ellen Bialystock for this significant conversation.
Languages do matter!