S2 E5: Language in Everyday Life – Dr. Isabelle Barth

For today’s episode, we have invited Dr. Isabelle Barth. Isabelle is originally from France, and works as a consultant in languages, plurilingual education and intercultural communication. Isabelle conducts research on family language policies, in particular how they affect families with mixed cultural backgrounds and migrant families. In addition to her research, she founded the Multilingual Café in 2010, to help families and professionals on their plurilingual and multicultural paths. 

With her research and policy experience, Isabelle is part of the Planting Languages, a European Erasmus + project involving five language policy organisations, Foyer VWZ, Association for promotion of Polish Language Abroad, Multilingual Café , Stichting Onderwijsadvies (in Dutch), and the University of Central Lancashire Cyprus, which focused on sustaining multilingual families and professionals by developing a Family Language Policy in order to ensure optimal language development and well-being. They have created several tools, available in Dutch, English, French, Greek and Polish, to support and inform parents, primary caregivers, and language professionals to stimulate language development from early childhood, by creating communication opportunities and stimulating the child’s appetite for learning languages.

Listen to the episode here!

Read the transcript here!

[Carine] Hello, and welcome back to another episode of much language such talk today you’re joined by me Carine and my wonderful and amazing co host Mariel! Hi, Mariel, how are you?

[Mariel] Hello. It’s been a while.

[Carine] Yeah, so I know you’ve been really busy with your PhD. So it’s gonna be a nice little break from things, isn’t it?

[Mariel] Yes, absolutely.

[Carine] Very excited for this chat. I think this conversation that we’re going to be having today actually holds very near and dear to both mine and Mariel’s hearts. We are both children of immigrants who grew up in the states who didn’t really grow up with the languages our parents speak. So we if we get a little emotional, please understand it hopefully won’t be too bad because we’re talking about really nice things. So today we’re joined by Dr. Isabelle Barth, a consultant in languages, plurilingual education and intercultural communication who is originally from France. Isabelle conducts research on family language policies, in particular how they affect families with mixed cultural backgrounds and migrant families. In addition to her research, she founded the multilingual cafe in 2010 to help families and professionals on their plurilingual and multicultural paths. With her research and policy experience, Isabel is part of Planting Languages, a European Erasmus+ project involving five language policy organisations: Foyer Association, Association for the Promotion of the Polish Language Abroad, Multilingual Café, Stitching Onderwijs Advies, and the University of Central Lancashire Cyprus, which focus on sustaining multilingual families and professionals by developing a family language policy in order to ensure optimal language development and wellbeing. They have created several tools available in Dutch, English, French, Greek and polish to support and inform parents, primary caregivers and language professionals to stimulate language development for early childhood by creating communication opportunities and stimulating the child’s appetite for learning languages.
Hi, Isabel, how are you? Thank you so much for joining us.

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[Isabelle] Hi, Carine. very delighted to be there.

[Carine] This is, I’m really excited for this. We had the chance to meet briefly before this. And we, I think for good, like half an hour, 40 minutes for just going on tangents about all of our opinions about language teaching and things like that. It was fun.

Yeah, it was a great, it was a great meeting. Yes, it was. Yeah.

[Mariel] So, Isabel, how did you become interested in languages?

[Isabelle] I think I’ve always been interested in languages. I was born in the north of France. No, I was born in the south of France, and then moved to the north of France to the Belgian border. And it was the Flemish part of Belgium. So we were moving between France and Belgium all the time. And then I had family in the Netherlands. So we were going to the Netherlands. So that was great. And then at school, I enjoyed it immensely. Even I can, I can still think about my first teacher, my first class in English when the teacher said: Tell me ‘Three’, ‘Tree’, ‘Three’, ‘Tree’, for 10 minutes. And it didn’t discourage me. I really enjoyed it. So language is part of my life. Always.

[Carine] Oh, wow. That’s amazing. So are your parents French as well? Or did your family like how did they all end up in Belgium and the Netherlands?

[Isabelle] No, it’s just like, it’s just family. It’s just a you know, does that my family name ‘Barth’ is German. And we were coming from the Alsace Lorraine, so family was divided between Germany and France after the war. My own parents moved, moved in France, to the north of France beside the Belgian border. So we could cross it on the bicycle. And walk through the border. So that was great fun. And then some of my family moved to Amsterdam, so we were visiting them so. But I was born in a French family speaking French all the time. Because the German part of the family was in Germany, and I’ve never met them. Unfortunate, but that was after the war.

[Carine]Did you pick up Dutch and Flemish then?

[Isabelle] Yeah, I’ve been learning German, French. Oh, obviously French (laughter) Dutch and German. Yes.

[Carine] Then when you got into like high school, and then into university, what did you study then?

[Isabelle] So I wanted to do catering. And then it for some reason, my father said, You should do something else. And anyway, I ended up doing languages. And I’m still there.

[Carine] Oh, wow. That’s amazing. How did you end up in language policy then?

[Isabelle] It was from one step to another. You know just like, I’ve been doing my studies and did the translation have a Master in translation as well. So I did a lot of things. And then eventually, whatever life brought me to marry a foreigner, I was like a, how am I going to bring up my children with two languages in an English speaking country?

[Carine] Because you’re living in Ireland now. Right?

[Isabelle] Exactly. And when I was told that English is enough to go around the world, you don’t need to speak French to your children, it is going to be a bother to them blah, blah, blah, and so on. So I said, No, that’s not true. And I want them to, I want them to be discussing with my family, and know their grandparents. And when they were small, I was like, Do you want to play with your cousins? Or do you want the translator between you and your cousins? No, no, we don’t want you to play with us.

[Carine] That’s really interesting. It was my cousins on both sides could speak English. But yeah, my aunts and uncles on my dad’s side, they don’t speak English. So I always had to, like, well, I could, my Hebrew isn’t great. But I so like, always kind of had to have someone with me at all times. But it sucks. Honestly, what if I want to have a private conversation? My dad has to be there? (laughter)

[Isabelle] Yes, exactly. So, so that, that was felt I had to, I had to fight a bit more with school, because, you know, obviously, the school were saying, Oh, he’s not going to do well, and so on. And so and so. And then having done languages, it was easy to, I went back into studying when I was a bit older than I used to be.

[Carine]That’s how time works.

[Isabelle] It works. And I did a master in, uhm, in languages called in French ‘Diffusion de Language’ , which is politics of languages blah, blah, blah, and loads of things and did studies researches on plurilingual education. That’s about it.

[Carine] That’s, that’s about it (laughter) That’s amazing, honestly, quite a range of things. Wow. Quite a journey.

[Mariel] Actually, I have a follow up question on that. How did you sort of, like did you end up convincing the school? You know, of your of your point of view? Did they eventually, like, agree with you or anything?

[Isabelle] No, the school never agreed with me. But I never let them be right if I can say so. (laughter) Because that, you know, they were, they were kind of with my children, for some reason. I just I put them in a Protestant school because in Ireland you have a choice between Catholic schools or Protestant schools. And the Catholic school says only boys only girls, and the protestant they have a mixed boys and girls. So I wanted them to be in a mixed school. Nothing to do with religion. Anyway. And then one of my child had a trouble with his chose and it was going to be repaired by the orthodontics. No, I could not do, no, but that was not major. You know, that was not, that was not big trouble. But as long as the orthodontic was not doing anything, the pronunciation whether in French or in English, or whatever language was not going to be correct. But obviously it was because a French, not because of English.

[Carine] Obviously, French was the problem there (sarcastic). Yeah.

[Isabelle] So that the teacher wanted me to go, to go and see a speech therapist, which I did, which was going to stress and the therapist said, There’s no problem on my side. You know, what he knows in English is fine. I can’t do the what the dentist is not doing now. So just wait, but the school could not wait. So they put him to a resource teacher. And then he was coming back. And he said to me, You know what the resource teacher took me out of the class doing the maths class, and he was doing computer games, which I have at home. I said, Oh, that’s fine. That’s very interesting. So anyway, so had to go back to the resource teacher saying, if it’s that, take him out of the classroom, religion class, although I have nothing against religion. Because otherwise, he would have to catch up with the mathematic which is double work, you know. So that was going on and on. And just,

[Carine] I find that really interesting that there’s internationally that issue in schools, that they take kids out of classes, and it’s just like, if his language was, like, developing fine, all you’re doing is yeah, as you were saying, it’s extra work for math now, why do we do this?

[Isabelle] Yeah. Sometimes, you know being Irish makes it more difficult. So sometimes the teacher we’re not, we’re not one of the, one person was saying to my husband, your wife doesn’t speak English properly. So what’s coming in the back and he was sitting in the back of this class. So when the teacher was saying, That’s not, you know, that’s not what I said, if it was there behind me. That’s exactly what Isabelle has been saying. So that was, and we are in Europe, you know, we are not in kind of a country where things should be, should be different. So he was in the back now said because he said, he said to me, you know what you’re doing and you know, you know, but the teacher was contradicting me, he was kind of jumping on the conversation, just or that and it’s just that it was kind of a nightmare for my child, but other children in the school who had Danish mother, Russian mother or whatever. They were put in the same situation. My son was lucky because I was fighting for him. The other ones unfortunately, they didn’t have parents who could do that. But right now. You know, I can tell you, he got he got his bachelor with first class honours.

[Mariel] Oh, wow!

[Carine] Well done.

[Isabelle] And, you know, with language and everything. So, being multilingual, you know, helps you to develop lots of things, but why should putting trouble and you know, pressure on the child when there is no need?

[Mariel] Absolutely.

[Carine] Exactly. 100%.

[Isabelle] So that’s why. That’s why you had to fight for multilingual education. I could not let other children have the same kind of, no support.

[Carine] I’m really surprised, though, that Ireland would have that because, you know, I know that there’s a push for people to learn Irish now. And so it’s just kind of like I don’t, I don’t mean, I don’t get it.

[Isabelle] I think it’s nice to learn Irish but you when you learn the language, you have to learn it in a lively way. Not like a dead language you know, you don’t learn tables are not that you know.

[Carine] Oh I love conjugation tables, my favourite (laughter)

[Isabelle] So you got, you know, if you have to chat with, just to learn words and to sing it. But if you ask him just like, do it like if you’re going to the post office and buy stamps, that’s fun, then you learn the language. Yeah. So that’s what’s happening. That’s the trouble they have this, it’s that making it like a dead language.

[Carine] I think a lot of language classes do that though, which is really frustrating, like, honestly, I can literally think back to the first time I had to see like, past tense, whatever, in Spanish, and I was just like, Okay, let me just write this word over and over again. No, thank you. Yeah.

[Isabelle] It’s no fun, but I guess it’s it’s also training of the teachers, you know, and if they want, I can say that I’m a trained teacher, so I have no trouble criticising, but you know, you don’t don’t just get out of your books, make it fun.

[Carine] Yes. 100%. I agree.

[Mariel] Yeah. If it’s alright, if we could move on to that next question. Let’s talk about Planting Languages. Because we have so much to cover today.

[Carine] Yeah. We could talk about everything else for ages as well.

[Mariel] Yeah, surely, I think I feel like a lot of this stuff is going to come up later in the conversation anyway. So yeah, let’s let’s talk about Planting Languages. How did the project begin? And who’s involved in it? What’s it all about?

[Isabelle] So Planting Languages is just, like it’s a project with between five partners. One is Foyer in Belgium, and it’s an organisation it will be usual organisation for migrant people and just people of different origins. And there’s loads of speech therapists working in there, but they also cultural and all that. So that’s a big huge organisation, they are the initiator of the project, and for that the coordinator, so it’s coordinated by this Belgian association. Then there’s another Association, Onderwijsadvies from the Netherlands. They’re also specialised in a speech therapy like Foyer. And in the Netherlands, there’s loads of foreigner. So there’s loads of children speaking other languages than Dutch at home, and the family wanted their children to learn Dutch because they are in the Dutch speaking country. So that’s, too, experts in speech therapy, Logopaedie, whatever word you want to use, that is two associations, there is a APPLA, the Association for the promotion of the Polish language abroad, who they are set up in a Edinburgh, not very far from where you are sitting there. And it began just like, you know, when all the Polish started to move outside of Poland when they opened to the EU, and move around, and then the Polish didn’t know what to do with their languages. And so they started that. Then there is us, the multilingual cafe, who is a nonprofit association, and the University of Central Lancashire in Cyprus. So there’s 4 to 5 different countries, and it all started in 2020 in fact, which is that I was I was going to conference in Belgium organised by Foyer, conference calls, at home where I was talking about my research and what I was doing with the families and how they are managing and then there…

[Mariel] It is really amazing to hear a story like that where you have just like one idea, and then it actually gets done, you have people who are invested, you have people who are you know, willing to put in the time and the resources for all of this. And speaking, speaking of that, so, you yourselves have created tools and resources for parents and professionals. So, what was the sort of decision making process on, on what went into that? What to include the tone the sources, how did you come up with all this stuff?

[Isabelle] So we have created five, six main tools which are in the which can be found on the, on the, on the website and which are all freely available for everybody to use. And I will explain to you, we created first booklet for the families, okay, and the booklet is created, there’s kind of an eight steps in that booklet, it’s just like, it’s the process of how to create a family language policy, how you’re going to organise the languages around in your family. And it’s to help the families when the children are still young, you know, not that when they are, when they can speak, and that, oh, I should have done it before. (laughter) So, so you, you can do it, like, you know, like, you have kind of a course, before you get married to think about everything, not everybody goes before you get married. (laughter) But you know, kind of a course to just to, to know how you’ll be managing all those languages, because it’s very important. Sometimes parents don’t think about it. And it’s once the child is there, that all of a sudden, they realise they wanted to do it, but they never discuss. And that would avoid, like, kind of a disagreement, to be nice.

[Carine] It’s a hard conversation, I think, as you’re saying, especially once you move abroad, and you don’t have that support community, especially, you may not even think about it until suddenly the kids are there. And you’re like, oh, who do we, what do we do? And then you ask, you know, your doctors and your teachers, and then they tell you one thing, when that’s not necessarily the best thing? Yeah.

[Isabelle] No, it’s not. So it’s so this booklet is in eight steps, and the five steps, which is like for us yourself, to reflect on what you think about your languages, the feelings you have the emotion that is given to you, because some people want to put languages away, because of the war history or whatever they have been going through, you know, grandfather, Korean parents, or whatever has been happening. So they don’t want to hear about it some of the family never heard about it, but they want to revive it in the language, their family. So it’s just time for reflecting. And then the last three steps just for a common decision of the parents together to what they are going to do. And knowing that things can change as the child will grow so that the last things relax, versus just don’t forget your child is going to grow to your child is going to meet other children, your child is going to go to school, and you’re going to meet adversities. So be prepared. You know. So it’s, it’s easily, it’s in five languages, and it’s an easy language. So because we were just looking to, to talk to families of lower socio-economical status, we’re not just kind of using high language or academic language, which puts it in a in a language that everybody can understand for everybody to have it and it’s free online. And you can fill it in online as well. To create the, to create those things. booklets, she says no, we have been asked, we have been interviewing families asking them what they missed in their way of having bilingual children. We just interviewed I don’t know, 20 families, each partners. So that’s a good luck. 100. Yeah, but but like that you end up 100 families, and just to know what they have been missing what they would have liked to have, what’s happening in their surroundings. So with all the information we got from them, we were able to create kind of a booklet saying, oh, that’s coming back again. And again, that’s what family would have liked to have. So it was it has been created with loads of research beforehand. And not just like, oh, that’s the way it should be.

[Carine] Yeah, I really like how you’re, it’s not just looked at what is the research that’s come out, you’ve actually asked the families and research what they want, I really liked this self reflection that you have in here. I think it’s really nice. Like, what are the, your expectations? What are you interested in and like keeping them a part of it instead of kind of having this… Like, I don’t know, clinical version of a language policy, where it’s like, teach children language, end of sentence, and you’re like, what does that mean? That’s really nice. I really like that.

[Mariel] Yeah, it really speaks to sort of like the, the, like the value that you place on families in this like that you’re respecting the values that they have, and whatever challenges that they’re having, and making sure that their input is valued, for lack of a better word, right?

[Isabelle] It was like what they wanted and what they, and also what they would have liked to have, which never, which they never had, which was also very important for us. So we can just put it in the in the booklet. So that was a and also the fact that we we went to all type of people, you know, we went to migrants, we went to refugees, we went to mixed families, all types of different families. So we could gather loads of different, and collect loads of different information, which was very important and not created for the top. I know what I know, and I’m giving to, you know, you give me you tell me what you need. And we’ll try to create something which is going to be as useful for as many people as possible. So with those interviews, we created that booklet. We’ve used path of DVD of the interviews to create videos so families can just listen to them to those videos to know what was happening. And just they can relate to, oh, that’s happening in my family as well. Oh, that’s interesting. You know, those type of interaction between the two. We created family, a small posters of family portrait, which is like when, you know, with a top of, you know, like a topic like vocabulary. And parents are always wondering, oh, my child doesn’t know as many words, matter, but like, you know, explaining how bilingual child or a multilingual child or a plurilingual child is developing his or her vocabulary in a different manner than a monolingual child. And then we create this having speech therapist, specialising in plurilingualism, we had a small kind of a song to remind parents how to go step by step, and not all of a sudden, a child is not going to happen to do everything all of a sudden,

[Carine] If they could, that would be amazing. Imagine you go home, and you’re like, Okay, we’re gonna do this now. Okay, good. We’ll never talk about it again.

[Isabelle] And then we had the small card for the child just to put in his pocket to say, look, I speak other languages, so he can show the card to his friends and to the teachers, school and everything. So we did. So we didn’t forget the child either, you know, saying Just look, look as, I can speak the school language, but also speak that at home, and I speak that language with my grandfather, and I speak that language with my uncle. And that’s the way I am. So it’s very important for everybody to do that. And the booklet is on, you can download it, and you can keep it in on the internet or on your phone. So you can even travel with it to show it to everybody, what you’re doing at home. And it’s important for people to, and we could take two families just to show and tell everybody, that’s what we are doing.

[Carine] I was just wondering, you’d mentioned specifically at the beginning about, it’s important for these specifically for parents that have young children, what do you, what is the age group there? Cause I’m just thinking about my own family, like, my cousin’s kid is four think, could I send it to him?

[Isabelle] Yeah, yeah, it’s just like young children from birth, or even before birth. You know, like, what are we thinking of it before the child is born? Up to five, you know, something like that? Because anyway, it’s never too late. But at the earliest to do this, the better. Just, access, but it’s absolutely never too late. You can become bilingual at any age. The only difference is, is that it’s natural, it’s a bit less natural, you know, but makes a lot but as long as makes no other just, yeah, five, six, you know?

[Carine] Yeah.

[Isabelle] Yeah, so, and we created also, the manual for the professional and the experts to explain to them out to use the booklet with a family, because we think that it’s nice for the family to fill in the booklet on its own, on their own in order for the parent. But if they have somebody to, they can ask question and interfere. So the manual is explaining how we have been processing to create it, and also what type of way it should be used and developed reflection and loads of resources for the professional, you know, to look at, you know, so they can, it’s not just us talking, but everybody in the community around which is where they can find the information. And on the website, you’ll find also the newsletters, the article we wrote and loads of other things. So that was a great job.

[Carine] Honestly, I wish I had all this, I wish I was, like I could go back and just be like, look at the things. That’s so nice. Speaking of the community, specifically, it on your website, you have this quote, which is “Multilingualism and raising children is generally seen as the responsibility and a commitment for each family individual. However, each individual linguistic context is becoming increasingly complex for parents and children.” So we’re, you know, while yes, we’re talking about the individual, obviously, an individual is part of a community. So what makes this you know, context more complex? What are the reasons that, like, overall, how, why do we need this, I guess, is the best way to say that even though I we’ve kind of answered that question.

[Isabelle] How, why do we need this? It’s complex, in the fact that very often is you have two languages in the family, you can have a mixed family with a mother language, father language, and then they move to another country. And then there’s a school language. So there’s three languages, how can you manage all those languages together, and more and more family have two or three languages because the father had two, the mother had one and they want to give the three of the so it’s how, I’m not going to say to mix up the languages but how to make them be there in the family life and also to get organised without stress.

[Carine] Without stress. What a concept.

[Isabelle] You know, that’s, that’s what is important. And just like, you know, what we were keeping seeing is just like parents are not teacher, you know? So they do not teach the languages to their children. They pass them on, like in a monolingual family, the parents are passing the language. You were not sitting with your parents saying, I’m going to teach you my language this morning. They pass it on naturally. So the idea of the booklet is, is to give it to the parents and just to get them prepared to pass those languages. To pass them or not to teach them to the children. Home is not the school.

[Mariel] It is not. Now I keep imagining just like me and Carinelike dragging our parents to the dining table like conjugating verbs in our respective languages. (laughter)

[Carine] Finnish has so many cases, I’d be like, okay, Mom, today, we’re gonna count on cases one through six… (laughter)

[Mariel] Yeah, calling back to like the experience back home because like, my parents speak, I think they speak five languages collectively between the two of them, you know, between that, like, how do you make an informed decision on what languages are, are, you know, important, especially in like, a complex situation like that. And, like, unfortunately, their decision was ultimately scrapped all of them except English, because of the complex situation they were in. So like, I really, I really respect the amount of weight that goes into considering the family, the, the professionals and the teachers and the parents, not all as teachers, but as people who are contributing to this language information. Right? That’s so cool.

[Isabelle] yeah, I just said the parents are educated. They, they are not teachers. And, and, you know, there’s a big difference between a teacher when you have to give those (inaudible) as parents, you cannot just get gets annoyed with a child because he doesn’t put the verb at the right place in the sentence.

[Carine] Exactly. Mariel and I have also talked about this, since we both worked as English teachers in Japan, just being a native speaker of a language doesn’t qualify you to be a teacher, and that language.

[Mariel] It does not. Yeah, and a lot of people think it does. And no, like, the first time someone’s just like, yeah, so what’s like the past perfect of this? I’m like, I don’t what does that mean? Yeah, it’s like, how am I supposed to teach you that? Like, no one ever taught me how to teach that?

[Isabelle] Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, no, no, it’s not, it’s nots so, so just like the the the reflection process that we have decided to do just to let the parents just try to reflect themselves, of how they can do the like, for example, I know family who has, I just give a story, I had no family who has three languages, and they wanted the children to have the three of them. So the mother had two, the father had one. So how were they going to manage, but that was very simple. The mother was speaking one language for two weeks, after two weeks, she was speaking back x. And this means for the children, she was changing languages. And this and the other one, and the other one was the same all the time. Locally, they were living in France. So they had, they had English, Spanish and French. So she was speaking Spanish for two weeks, French in the country, and at school, she was making pancakes and they miss, they were going to French. And then two weeks after she was making pancakes means they’re going back to Spanish. So…

[Carine] I love that.

[Isabelle] that was kind of that was kind of a clue for the children to know that they were going to change languages. She although she said he took it always take they are they’re gonna have to adapt to that. But then, now the languages, they have three languages, they don’t even think about it. You know what they are, they’re bigger now. And that that was fine. So but that’s, you need somebody to be there with the family to give them those little tricks to be able to manage all the languages. I won’t tell your story I’ve heard because it would be too long…

[Carine] That’s great. I actually I love that we, it the parents have basically put some psychology into this with this. It’s called priming, it was just like, Okay, pancakes. Figure out what language it is. That’s, that’s really great that, you also mentioned the whole thing of how it takes like a day and a half to kind of switch. And yeah, but there’s this whole thing with language dominance, the language that’s more dominant. It’s sometimes it can be harder to suppress it to be able to bring on to the the weaker language, and that period of time, but yeah, as you were saying, once you get the strength enough and all of them then you can just go nuts basically.

[Isabelle] Yeah, once you once you have put the kind of a routine in your family, it’s just like children, they like routine. So it’s more difficult for the parent at the beginning to seek about the routine. But once the routine is there, you know, they have a timetable in front of yourself and just put it on, just make pancakes.

[Carine] Just make pancakes.

[Mariel] Now that we’ve kind of moved on to food, and I’m starting to get a real craving for pancakes. So you mentioned that one of the partners in Planting Languages is Multilingual Cafe. And that’s what you’re a part of Isabelle. So if you could tell us more about multilingual cafe and what that’s all about, as I sit here and drool about breakfast food.

[Isabelle] So Multilingual Cafe, just like, it’s a nonprofit organisation, we work for the advancement and promotion of multilingualism. So it started in Ireland, which is that we were meeting, I was meeting families around coffee, in fact in a coffee shop to talk about what they can do to help their children to have those languages because there was obviously a family, it’s a grandparent saying, how can your child understand me when I’m talking to him in English when you spoke Polish at home? And, and they were saying what what would I say to my father in law because I don’t know what to tell him. And I was saying to tell him, just ask your child with the, ask him whether when he has asked the grandchild to do something. Does the grandchild do it? And in fact, it does. So the child understands. So it was the same, it was the same experiences like at school, they were saying, can they understand? And are we saying, if you ask the child to colour in green, is it colouring in, in, in red, and the teacher was saying no. So, where is the problem? So, so, multilingual Cafe just to go back to the question is a French based organisation with an address in the North of France at the Belgian border, I like Belgium. And just for advice for family, we train teachers, educators, carers, anybody who is working with children speaking more than one languages at home, we’re also involved in research- me. And that, the, the greatest thing is that we have been starting to open branches in different cities in France, and we’ll open one, next year in in the United States. Yeah, should I say it?

[Carine & Mariel] I mean, if you want to!

[Isabelle] I’ll be very big and say Michigan. So that’s big enough.

[Carine] Interesting, Michigan. I was gonna say the Panhandle but no, that’s Florida, isn’t it?

[Mariel] That’s Florida. It’s the little mitten. It’s mitten-shaped.

[Isabelle] Yeah. So we have branches and we have all the people who have an interest in opening branches, they’re more than open. Because it means we have we can spread the work we’re doing all over?

[Carine] What kind of events and things do, does multilingual Cafe put on? Like, how often do they meet?

[Isabelle]  Just, can I say the main branch? No, because I don’t like that. I have no choice. We just like, we do conferences, research, go meet, do counselling, meet families, whatever, you know, loads, everything that most of the people will be looking for and also training, you know, we offer trainings, online and and in physically, you know, face to face training for teachers and all that. And locally, the branches there, they can do. Can I say they can do what they want as long as they do the same thing than us?

[Carine] Yes. They have autonomy,

[Isabelle] Yeah, they’re autonomous. I’m not, we’re not, we don’t have the time to check what they’re doing. But they have to respect the domain name of Multilingual Cafe. And we have put, like, we have a very active one, you know, in Toulon, South of France. So we are just by the border there, the Spanish border.

[Carine] We like our borders.

[Mariel] Borders, that’s where that’s where the languaging happens. That’s where the you know, all that makes this important.

[Isabelle] Yeah, and they are very active and all that you know, families and all those and stuff like we are looking for, we’d be having others in other cities in France. So which is like very happy. And we the only thing it just that we are not in capital cities, where outside of the capital city, because people speaking other languages are not going just to big cities. They also go to small villages and small towns and that’s where we want to reach them, which is very important.

[Carine] Yes, that is great.

[Isabelle] And those are those are really, because back… Can I tell another story?

[Carine] Yes, of course.

[Isabelle] We met we met a family, the father, the father Spanish the mother’s Finnish and they live in Austria. So that’s, why not? And they live in a small town in Austria, not a big town, not the capital city. And the mother will say, just don’t know, if I don’t speak Aus…. I was going to say Austrian (laughs)m if I don’t speak German to my children, people are looking at me because I speak Finnish and the Finnish is kind of a different type of language. People who don’t know what it is they would guess for Spanish but not Finnish. And he said I have nothing here in my small town to help me with the Finnish with my children. And I’m very happy to have found Multilingual Cafe because they had me to try to find what is needed and they said and also to push me not give up Finnish and Spanish when living in Austria.

[Carine] If they’re close to Linz, let me know that’s where my cousin lives, they’re Finnish, though his wife is Austrian so at least you get a little bit of that in there.

[Isabelle] No they live at the Italian border.

[Carine] Yeah, definitely one of those languages that when you come across it, first of all, I think one of my favourite stories. This is a little bit off topic, but I one of my cousin’s was visiting me in the States and we decided to go see a movie. I think it was like a rated R movie or PG 13 movie, me and my sibling was kind of young. And so the person at the ticket counter asked for my cousin’s ID. They handed them his driver’s licence. And she looked at it and then looked at him and was like, Finland. Is that, is that a real place? I was just like, yeah. Yeah, Finnish…it’s a small country, there’s five 5.5 million people. And it’s one of the few language families that is quite isolated from the rest of Europe. So to have that resource just to like, be able to make the decisions that like, I’m not gonna speak German to my kid, because this is a huge part of my culture, and there aren’t that many people around. So you need that opportunity to speak that language to those kids, and then not have people wonder, if a lot of people also ask me Finland’s part of Europe, but get gets asked quite a bit as well. So it’s not just America that makes that mistake.

[Isabelle] Not necessarily America. Because I have a son who is in Kosovo right now. And every time he says Ireland, they put him in Iceland.

[Mariel & Carine]Yeah, that’s a little bit different/

[Isabelle] Yeah, so anyway, what you know, it’s just like, it’s a kind of a, you know, they don’t always, we don’t always learn geography at school, which is, you know, as important as language is, to know that it’s part of the culture. And if you have a bit more about geography, you know, that those people are speaking another language, and they cook a different way. And they eat a different way. Some people are eating with their fingers, and some people have knives and forks, and some people have sticks. And who cares?

[Carine] Yeah, I was actually going to ask because we were talking about, you know, the language complexity of the fact that like, languages might not be similar. They might be similar, but also the the cultural aspect in there. Do you have questions in the toolkit that specifically, you know, emphasise the fact that your language isn’t just a language? It’s a living thing, as well, it’s part of who you are.

[Isabelle] Yeah, it’s included in the booklet, you know, just like, it just, it’s important for the parents to give their language but also what is behind the language and the culture that they’re growing up with, and it’s very emotional, it’s part of the emotion and of what you have. And we have, we have an article on the, on the website about the emotions linked to the languages, you know, and it’s very important that, you know, this, like very simple things, just for the parents to talk with their children in things which are very important for them. And just like mother with a girl, with whatever, just growing as a girl, which changing, you know, physical life, and if a mother has to do it in language that she doesn’t master, it’s way more difficult. And it’s, and then there’s, they cannot, you know, the relationship with the daughter. It’s not that it’s not going to be there, but cannot be the same because she cannot explain everything the way she would like to do it. Because she doesn’t have to word in the other language. Yeah.

[Mariel] (laughs) because, okay. My mother, my mother, was she, she was a doctor in the Philippines, right? Before she moved to the United States, when she was about my age, she was about 30. Her native language is called Pangasinan. It’s a regional language in the Philippines. So she had three languages under her belt, also learning English when she moved over. And I mean, obviously, she’s amazing at all of these languages. But when it came to raising me, she just shoved a medical dictionary in my face., and an encyclopedia. And that’s how I learned to become a woman. Like, that’s, that’s it, like that… Like, obviously, there was a lot more into that. But I clearly remember like reading from a medical dictionary reading about the like, in this, reading about all this stuff in this really clinical way. You know..

[Carine] There’s nothing like puberty and like, you know, a dressing gown from the doctor’s office, and you’re like, cool thanks.

[Mariel] Right, exactly. It’s not like that with my mom. And I appreciate her for that. But of course, like, there’s a lack of this, like, you know, the affective and the emotional nature of all that stuff. Not that she wasn’t an emotional person. But that obviously, it’s going to be harder for her to connect to me in that way. You know.

[Isabelle] Yes, yeah. And that’s, that’s what’s creating problems, you know, in some, in some region of the world, or even in France, were just, you know, people arriving in France, after the war, or just, they were not, they were told not to speak Arabic. And then the, the mother was there, she, she was at home so she could not go, she was not going outside to try to learn French, and the children, they were told not to speak Arabic at home. So the two children, the parents could not connect with their children. It is very important, to, emotion is really bad. And that’s why it’s very important to to try and to think about it beforehand. Because once when you arrive at one stage and then you cannot explain what’s happening, or even for the death of somebody with this different culture, and all they are not the nice way of you know, but there’s a culture there, which is important to pass it on. And so languages and emotion, they are very much linked. So that’s why that’s what is also explained in the book that so… I forgot the question.

[Carine] That’s beautiful.

[Mariel] Honestly, I grand scheme of things, the question truly does not matter. What matters is the conversation that we’re having. And that, you know, this conversation will be given to other people. Right? So you kind of answered the next question already, which is what, what’s some of the feedback you’ve gotten?

[Isabelle] So, yeah, yeah, we got we got we got great feedback, because the parents were just like, they were very, because they were very happy, because with that booklet, they could sit and reflect and think, and just, and they could they have the information, which allows them to sit down, reflect and to say, what this means for me, what do I want, you know, and if they do it with a professional or an expert, they can ask question, which is going to give them more help. And, and sometimes they discover that the language is important for them, and why it is important for them, they discovered that it’s linked to what they want to do. And just the way, just the way you want to dress up the table, you know, where you want to put your plate, it’s very, it just as simple as that, you know, and where you want to cook and want to, what you want to give to your children. And just back in France, we have goûter (French: afternoon snack) , and why not having it in Ireland, when they don’t have it, you know, the 4 o’clock snack is important in France and, but doesn’t exist here. And in Ireland, they like their steak at five o’clock in the afternoon when we want chocolate and bread. So, you know, it’s it’s culture, but you have to talk about that just to, so there’s no kind of disagreement about things which are important and not important at the same times, why fighting about a steak or a piece of chocolate, when that’s not major. But if you talk about it beforehand, you can go you can overcome that. So that’s six. So that’s, that’s sometimes you know, it’s zero for the partners to understand the meaning of the languages for their partners to know why it is important and why they want to do that. So it’s, it’s not part of the emotions and the, what it means for you.

[Carine] I really love the dinner metaphor, because I think that’s a huge part of it. It’s just like, and it’s also about open communication. It’s that whole thing of ensuring that you talk about it. So you don’t have issues, it doesn’t mean that you’re going to be able to get through everything in one conversation if we could. World peace would have happened by now. But yeah, like in my house, I like I’m first generation American, my partner is very American, like stereotypically, like, you know, you can be like, Oh, well, I’m 10% from this country, 10% from this country, that kind of thing. And then our flatmate is German. And so we’ve got quite a range of cultural backgrounds at home. And it’s really interesting when it comes down to like, when do you eat your bread? What kind of bread do you eat? What time do you eat? Cause in my house, we ate dinner, what I thought was normal time at like eight o’clock, and everyone’s like, Oh, that’s so late. And everyone’s like, why don’t you know, having dinner at six o’clock? I’m like, Why would you eat dinner at six? It’s so early. But yeah, no, it is like, you don’t realise it might seem trivial to you this concept of just at talking about when dinner is happening, but it’s not. And I think having that conversation opens it up to make sure that you have that open communication for the trivial thing. So that way, when you get to the more difficult things, you’re ready for it. And that is so great to be able to give people that tool to be able to do that.

[Isabelle] Those little things make a big difference, you know, just like even what, what are you feeding your child. Like I know, in France, you would put your finger in a champagne glass and put it on the tongue of the baby, no way you can do that in Ireland. And I was I was I was kind of, you’re mad, you know, you’re going to be an alcoholic? No, it just keep looking taste. But you develop it in a different way. But you have to know that it’s done in the other country. Or when I was just having my children, my father brought flowers and Champagne at the maternity. And then the nurses were just like, oh, what’s happening? You’re not allowed to do that. But you do that over? But he was ready for that. So he kind of, you know, and I thought that was that. My father was ready for that too. Because you know, leaving at the border, blah, blah, blah, all the story. He was ready that they were going to react. So he had classes for them as well. So I prepared. Oh, it’s so nice. That is excellent. Yeah, but I just at the same time she know you have to be ready for those type of things. Otherwise, you know,

[Carine] I just got a question like, how what advice would you have for people who are trying to start this conversation? Because it’s not easy, right? And like, I know that, you know, when it came to the decision making when it came to me and my sister decision making that I’ve heard from other parents living here in Edinburgh, like it’s not, it’s, you know, there’s disagreements are going to happen. So, you know, how do you how do you encourage parents to sort of work with that or families to work with that?

[Isabelle] But it’s just, you have to talk. You just talk about little things, you know, just like the way you dress. District. Why’d you why’d you dress that way? The very, very, like trivial things that you were saying earlier, just like there’s no there’s no way. Or just like food? What? What do you need for breakfast? What do you eat that for breakfast? Why? Why? Why is porridge better than done? No question. I don’t know. You know, although I don’t eat grass every day.

[Carine] If I could I have I’m allergic to croissants, but if I could, I would eat them every meal.

[Mariel] I’m gonna be on Team porridge here, actually. No.

[Isabelle] And then, and then there’s certain little things just like talking about the grandparents and just like those, and then you come to everything, you know, like, like a marriage course. You know? It just like I know, I know, you’re not, you’re going to get married anyway, you’re going to have children, add that to your marriage course. You know, So that kind of thing. Because it’s so important, because I don’t, I don’t know whether everybody does it marriage course. I didn’t anyway, so that’s another story.

[Carine] It’s honestly not that common, especially in the States. I don’t think I know anyone who’s like gotten kind of training before getting married.

[Mariel] I’ve never heard of it before this conversation. So this is news to me.

[Carine] In some, like more religious groups, like they’ll do it. But theirs is different.

[Isabelle] Yeah, I didn’t do it. So that’s, but I know people, some people are doing it just to get ready for for, for marriage and their life together to avoid trouble afterwards. So they, were they would be talking about what should they be talking about? Just to know that life is not going to be easy? And then also about education. Not just languages, education. You know? Do you want to be liberal, to want to be strict? Are you going to let your children do what they want? Would you want them to do sports? Would you want them to? To cook? Would you want… Those type of things, they are part of everyday life. So languages should be part of the education you’re going to give to your children? So before you get married you talk about everything, just add the word language in your conversation.

[Carine] Yeah, why not? Oh, my God, actually, I feel like this is actually very… why can’t remember the word… transferable to everyday life, I feel like we should all be getting these kinds of communication classes, because that’s really what it comes down to. It comes down to communication, and listening, and being patient with that. Because once you can have that conversation, in one way, you can more easily have that conversations on other topics. So yeah.

[Isabelle] Exactly. Exactly. And just, you know, I don’t think you get married blind, you know, I suppose you everybody looks at the type of person you’re going to get married to, I want to be with that person all the rest of my life, to agree with him or her. So, and they’d like that person to be the father of my children the way I would like my children to be, you know, our there’s all these things and, and it’s and also the language. Is he open to language? Is he, is he or she open to language is another way of acting and moving, you know. You know, there’s all those things which have to be, to enter into the conversation. And that’s why Planting Languages is very good. Because the booklet we created was just, like, really, to make people reflect on all those different topics, not just, you know, the language in the everyday life.

[Carine] Yeah. I love that. I really love that.

[Isabelle] Oh, thank you.

[Carine] I would love it. If I could, like, you know, people who was I don’t, I mostly predominantly speak English now, which kind of bothers me, but that’s because the people around me don’t speak the same languages as me. And I would love it if I could start doing that. But it’s just, I have to start that conversation just being like, Hey, do you want to talk to me in this language? We can work on it together. Because yeah, that would be really nice.

[Isabelle] Yeah. Yeah. And also just, you know, those those children being born in different languages and culture at home, they’d be open to more, you know, languages and more difference of culture. And they will accept that you leave your shoes at the entrance of your house, or you can walk with your shoes all over the house. Those little things, you know, this culture when you leave your shoes at the entrance, and other cultures where you can walk all over the house with your shoes.

[Carine] I’m going to be very divisive. And I’m going to say you take your shoes off before you go in the house. I don’t that’s the correct way to do that.

[Isabelle] I come from a country where people enter the house with their shoes and they walk all over the house with their shoes.

[Carine] So weird. But yeah, no.

[Isabelle] Yeah. That’s so weird. Why?

[Carine] Exactly like my, my partner’s family they do that they wear their shoes in the house and like I will take off my shoes the second I get into their house and then I see someone like in the kitchen with their sneakers on, like, oh, and I know that’s just normal for them. But at the same time, like I grew up so instinctively with shoes are off in the house off, okay, okay.

[Isabelle] Yeah, yeah, it’s just, it’s part of what you have to talk about. because it’s, it’s part of the language, which is part of the language linked to the… No, it’s part of the culture linked to the language. Sorry.

[Carine] Exactly. Yeah. And I have thankfully, won that conversation in our house, we are shoes off household.

[Mariel] Interesting things because like, a lot of this stuff is not necessarily exclusive to language, like my partner and I, we come from different cultures, but we both are native English speakers, whatever connotations that may hold, right. And the whole shoes off in the house is something that I’ve had to establish with him. A lot of the food stuff is something that I’ve had to establish with him, right, and to have these conversations that are, you know, that come from the differences in our linguistic repertoire, even though we’re, we predominantly speak the same language, even though I’m not fluent in Pangasinan or Tagalog, or, you know, any of the parent…the languages my parents speak, so much of that cultural influence from these languages and from their like homeland has been passed down to me and the way that I see things, you know, so, so a lot of like this, this conversation that we’re having now, the conversations that you’re having in Multilingual Cafe and with Planting Languages are not unlike, like Carine said earlier, they are transferable.

[Isabelle] Yeah. Yeah. Because you grew up with the culture.. If only if you didn’t get all the languages, maybe only a few words here and there. It’s part of what you are.. Who you are.

[Mariel] Yeah, we got food words and swear words. Yeah. Thank you? (laughter)

[Carine] I can ask you where the bathroom is I got that for sure. I was also my favourite, I think when I was learning Japanese was there like, yeah, being able to ask where the bathroom is a great thing. But if you can’t understand the instructions to get to the bathroom, not really that useful. (laughter) Good point. Yes. Very good point. Yes, definitely can ask for food and say thank you, I can do that at least.

[Isabelle] Exactly.

[Carine] All right. Well, we’ve gone through mostly all of our questions. We have one last question, you would do such amazing work honestly, with a Multilingual Cafe and everything because yeah, as Mariel and I have been fawning over the fact that you actually put the individual into the process of realising how important their languages are, all about open communication, we love that.

[Mariel] And on top of that, you also put the individual in the context of the community that they are, that they are, you know, fostering the language in, which is so so important.

[Carine] It’s extremely important. Unfortunately, Planting Languages does officially come to an end in December 2021. What future projects do you have lined up? Are you planning on continuing this is how what are the steps now?

[Isabelle] So we are ending in December, we should start big events where everybody is allowed to come and welcome to come just to discover what we have been doing and just discover (inaudible), you know. So with Multilingual Cafe, having our having our event on the second and third of December, we’ll do it in a Caravan. So everybody’s welcome to come. Registration is still open, so be fine. I just need to you just need to register. And then Foyer is having even the event in December the week after. So you can go there if you prefer

[Carine] Every event.

[Isabelle] Onderwijsadvies is having them in January. So you know, there’s still a way to present and to show the the event. And Cyprus, which will have it next week. And the APPLA had it already, so you missed it. (laughter) Anyway, but then that what would we do, we’ll still be continuing consultations and training and everything. We’ll still be using the booklet and present it to everybody for them to use it. And we have a new project with a connection between the multilingual family and the school. So just to be able to bridge them because there could be some trouble sometimes there’s a really

[Carine] That’s a really hard situation for many parents. Yeah. So that’s very excited to hear that.

[Isabelle] That’s a hard job. Yeah. And it’s putting stress on the children when there’s no need. You know, can you imagine that still, they’re still the children in Europe who are punished because they don’t speak at school to school language in the yard. But that’s another story. We can talk about that another time, because it’s about next year. That’d be a long time. So and then we are going to have to partnerships, so which is great. And just to develop multilingualism to enter schools and everything and multiculturalism and we are going to launch Multilingual Sotry Writing Competition for primary school kids children.

[Mariel] That’s exciting.

[Carine] Oh my god. I love that I actually really wanted us to start doing that with Bilingualism Matters to have this children’s story competition and it never got off the ground. So that makes me so happy to hear that it’s happening!

[Isabelle] So we launched, we launched it at the event. So at our event in December, it’s going to be launched then, so it’s already so, So it’d be open to primary school children.

[Carine] Is it internationally or?

[Isabelle] Yes! Because because it’s going to be with a partnership in the in the US, but not in Michigan another state!

[Carine] Oh, oh, that’s so exciting. Oh my god, I love the stories that kids write. And the fact that they get to do it in multiple languages is so great. Oh, that, I’m really excited for that.

[Isabelle] So so it just will need people to read, just to kind of be a jury just to choose which one and then the children would have to have their story published.

[Carine] Oh, that’s perfect.

[Mariel] Amazing.

[Carine] I love it easy. Oh, my God, I’m gonna keep my eye out for that. And then I’m going to start posting it all over Edinburgh. That’s my plan. I love that.

[Isabelle] So so as it because that’s what we thought it was. It was very important for the children to be able to show who they are, the languages they speak, and how they can speak it. Even if there’s only two or three words in the story or just like, whatever. We are launching that that competition in December, so in two weeks time.

[Carine] Yeah, that’s coming up really soon. Yeah. Wow. So you have quite a lot on your plate coming up, which is great. You’re not slowing down.

[Isabelle] Yeah, yeah. There’s so many things, you know, so many things happening. So we’ll have to keep in touch.

[Carine] Yes, please. I would love to hear everything that’s going on. Please send us the links for everything so we can post it to the website.

[Isabelle] And also, I’ll tell you a Multilingual Cafe is going to change name as well. So

[Carine] gossip! (laughter) Can you announce the name now?

[Isabelle] I can. We are going to be called Association pour la promotion et la avancement du multilanguisme, because it’s in French of course.

[Carine] Yes. Gotta love being the Association for the promotion of languages.

[Isabelle] Promotion and advancement…

[Carine] Sorry, I have missed that one. Nice.

[Isabelle] Sorry, Association pour la promotion et la avancement du multilanguisme: APAM.

[Carine] Oh, I like that.

[Mariel] That’s cute.

[Carine] It kind of almost sounds like a, like an apple like a ‘pomme‘. And like that. That’s really cute.

[Isabelle] So it looks a bit more professional, less than a Cafe. But because we asked, that’s what we were doing mostly, you know, we’re still meeting people will still keep the name Multilingual Cafe because we’ve stayed with families around the coffee in the coffee shop. And we’ve seen have the blog of Multilingual Cafe. But the the association is changing them.

[Carine] That’s so exciting. Congratulations. I’m really excited for you.

[Isabelle] The new logo will be shown in December. You have to wait for that one anyway.

[Carine] I’m on the edge of my seat. I’m very excited to see that. Wow. Isabel, thank you so much for joining us about the projects you’re working on.

[Isabelle] You’re very welcome.

[Carine] This has been so great, honestly. And I’m very excited. I don’t even have children and I’m just like, I can’t wait to see where this goes.

[Isabelle] I can give you a booklet anyway. So you can…

[Carine] Oh my God, yes please. I will like literally like post it to the windows around my office being like, Look at this.

[Isabelle] talk about it with everybody. Tell everybody that you have having more than one language at home and just don’t care whether they agree with you or not. You are doing it. That’s your family. That’s your children. That’s your choice. They’re not going to tell you, you should wear a red dress rather than a blue. They’re going to let you wear the red dress

[Carine] My dad would tell me, yeah.. Thank you again so much for joining us this

[Isabelle] you’re welcome

[Carine] To everyone listening if you want to learn more about Isabelle, if you want to learn more about the Multilingual Cafe, if you want to learn more about planting languages and all the exciting and fun projects she has coming up including the children’s multilingual Stories Project, links will be in the, our webpage, you can find them all in the description and you’ll find everything there. If you have any questions you’ll be able to find contact information from their websites as well. So please do get in touch if you have more questions. This has been a great episode thank you so much for joining us as always guys, stay safe, stay healthy and

[Isabelle] Tot ziens! (Dutch for: See you soon)

[Mariel] またね (Mata ne, Japanese for See you)

[Carine] See you later.



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