Wednesday 13 October 2010

Being multilingual


The aim of this blog is to discuss what it means to be multilingual. Multilinguals are those of us who use several languages in our daily lives.

I am one of them. As a parent, an educator and a researcher, I have come to notice that multilingualism is often misunderstood, and often correlated with either over-ability or disability. Myths, paradoxes and misconceptions about multilingualism have consequences at home, in school and in clinic.

I have also noticed that the languages used by multilinguals are the usual focus of attention. My focus is the people, because languages do not exist independently of their users. Multilingualism is not about what several languages can do to people, it is about what people can do with several languages.

If you ever wondered about multilingualism, whether you are monolingual or multilingual, whether you acquired your languages from birth or later in life, this blog is for you.

© MCF 2010

Next post: Not being monolingual. Saturday 16th October 2010.


  1. This is so interesting, I am looking forward to hearing more about your experience, and quite envious of your skills with multiple languages!

  2. Hi, Madalena, I saw this one coming! :-) And it is so welcome to see you going online with your expertise and knowledge. I will be linking your blog to mine and spreading the news as much as I can.

    Great start.

    Greetings from London.

  3. Thank you so much for your support, Flloyd and Cuban! It feels great to know you're there.

  4. Madalena,

    You have quite the talent for ever so eloquently delivering your wealth of knowledge on multilingual living and its implications that escape us mere mortals :)

    I am always fascinated by the depth of your insights and your seasoned perspective that sheds light on the facts of the matter, shattering stereotypes and our emotionally bound and highly personal misconceptions surrounding being multilingual.

    Being multilingual is a blessing and a burden at times as it is an intrinsic part of our being and identity, but one that comes with certain expectations that can be hard for monolinguals to understand.

    I will stay tuned to savor every morsel of your wisdom!


  5. Hey Madalena - Liz Ellis forwarded me your blog url. Looking forward to reading your posts! If you want to share your site around a bit, can I suggest a wibiya bar? I think the site is - it just makes it easy to link it all together and get it all out there!

    best of luck!

  6. Hi Madelena,

    Thanks for letting me know about your blog.

    I found the statement "multilingualism is often misunderstood, and often correlated with either over-ability or disability" particularly interesting.

    Will look out for your next post this Sat :)


  7. Welcome aboard, Fernanda. Um abração! You too, Emma-Jean, thanks for the tip!
    And Veronica, the statement you highlighted also makes me think very hard. Why is there misunderstanding? How did the correlation come to be? This is what I want to think 'aloud' about in this blog, with all of you.

  8. Hi Magdalena,

    I just discovered your blog. I myself became multilingual later in life, and still remember how this affected how I think and behave, so I am excited to see a blog devoted to this. I myself wrote a post once about this (back in 2007!), but it was mostly from a personal point of view. Still, you may find it interesting, so here's the link:
    It would be great if we could compare our experiences of being multilingual!

  9. Hi Christophe,
I read your blog post, very engaging! Not least that our experiences as multilinguals are so similar, yours, mine and, I believe, my other readers’. About your examples, gezelligheid, connerie, and translations, you must have read my mind: check out my next post “Languages come in flavours”, due in less than two hours, to see what I mean.
I’ll look forward to more thoughts (in whichever language...) from you.


  10. Dear Madalena
    I discovered you and your interest in multilingualism on the 2nd or 3rd floor of Waterstone’s Bookshop in Gower street, London. I was looking for books on Bi/multilingualism to do some reading for a PhD I’m about to start. I then bought your book “Multilinguals are …”. I like the way you write about “us multilinguals” – you make it sound like fun. Besides our passion for the subject, we have any one other thing in common, Portuguese. My Portuguese parents immigrated to South Africa, and in that multicultural society with Portuguese at home, I became multilingual. I have since moved to France, work for a British organization and married an Egyptian. Life is wonderfully colourful. I look forward to reading your blog. From the Rainbow Nation in one person!

  11. Hi, Rainbow Person!
    So nice to have another Portuguese connection on this blog. I have to confess I thought my life was colourful before you told us about yours....
    You got me really curious: what will your research be about? Feel free to write to me personally about this, I’m always keen to find out what multilinguals are doing with multilingualism.
    Volte sempre, Nayr!


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