By: Ashanti, Class 11
What does it mean to be multilingual? In the dictionary, it is defined as having the ability to speak and understand more than one language. I assume that most people in our school are bilingual, speaking the English and Indonesian language fluently or at least having the ability to understand both. Some may even speak an additional language, like I, for if you do, you certainly deserve recognition for it because I greatly struggle with the expectations put on me for possessing that ability.
It has been repeatedly shown through research and investigations that being multilingual has a myriad of benefits including having better chances at getting a job or opening up more social and cultural opportunities. Having more than one language on your resume can really make you stand out to an employer, as companies are becoming increasingly diverse and want to hire more culturally versatile employees. Opening up more social and cultural opportunities is self-explanatory, seeing as you will be less likely to face language barriers than individuals who can only speak one language. Let’s not forget the ultimate perk of being multilingual, which is to be able to talk about confidential things in a language that others can’t understand.
I’m certain you have all been in a situation where you were speaking English, for example, and you’re having trouble articulating your thoughts in just English, so you use an Indonesian word because you can’t find the English version of it. In our bilingual environment, this situation wouldn’t exactly be classed as a problem. Since we can all understand both languages, there is no language barrier that separates us. However, encountering this situation when in another country or a community that cannot speak one of the two languages, this makes it hard to be able to communicate effectively.
As a student that can speak a modest amount of three languages decently fluent, the expectation of studying the three languages with an equal amount of attention and effort has been put upon me. Having been in Ibu Amulya’s English class is sufficient pressure to have the ability to do well in the exams is put upon me. English is prominently my strongest suit, with my two remaining languages falling behind due to the lack of exposure to them. Even though English is my best language, I feel like I could be doing much better. With that in mind, I am supposed to also do great in my other two languages to make both of my parents proud.
Growing up multilingual is difficult, especially when you tend to be an overachiever that tries to avoid disappointing anyone. In a bilingual household, it is especially hard as sometimes one language may prevail over the other. Having one language as a norm may make it difficult to switch to another language at the appropriate times and it could be greatly frustrating. Putting these frustrations aside, I recognise that being multilingual is entirely worth all its hardships. Being multilingual is a privilege, it means to have the ability to communicate effectively in a variety of ways and effortlessly adapt to different cultures. It means that we can embrace cross-cultural disputes neutrally. Most importantly, being multilingual means to be accepting of cultures different from our own.