I am multilingual. A perspective on the bilingualism debate.

There are a lot of different ideas about what “being bilingual” means. Some people think you can only claim to be bilingual if you grew up with two languages. Others link bilingualism to fluency in both languages. And this is where we run into yet another problem: What does “being fluent in a language” mean? Are you fluent if you can speak and read and dream in another language without an accent? If you’re able to communicate in another language in just about any situation? (And now please raise hands if you can do that in your native language … Seriously, take a moment to think about it: Would you be able to communicate without problems with scientists, academic people, teenagers, native speakers from a different dialect area, IT specialists, and so on? Or would you stumble across unknown words and strange phrases from vocabulary fields and varieties you’re not familiar with?) And what if you grew up with two languages but “lost” one of them as you got older? Are you still bilingual if you’re effectively unable to remember your second language?

For a long time, I let those people intimidate me. I let them decide for me not to call myself bilingual although I was able to communicate well in German and English. I let them make me think I didn’t have a right to claim I was bilingual. You see, I grew up with just one native language. I didn’t start learning English until I was eight or nine years old, and even then, it was just a few words and songs. My proper English lessons didn’t start until I was ten years old–far too old for those easy-acquisition processes we use as infants to trigger. I still speak English with an accent (most people call me out on my German accent, yet I’ve also been told I sound Scottish, so…huh?). Guess what? All this doesn’t alter the fact that I’m fluent in English. I’m able to communicate fluently in most situations. I’m able to read fiction and non-fiction. I’m able to write coherent texts in a variety of registers (in fact, I wrote my first academic paper at university in English, and I’ve published children’s and YA books in English). I’m even able to code-switch at the spur of a moment, without thinking–most of the times. Are there still things I could improve on? Certainly. Are there still areas where my vocabulary is insufficient? Definitely. So what makes me think I’m fluent?

First of all, there are definitely areas where my German vocabulary is insufficient, and German is my native language. There are still things in German I don’t know, or could improve on. Does that make me any less fluent in my native language? No, it doesn’t. So why should the bar be higher in a foreign language?

Secondly, I am able to communicate. And that’s the main goal of language; that’s what language is all about. I may not be able to handle every conceivable situation equally well, but I am able to communicate my feelings, my intentions, and my opinions.

So why am I saying I am multilingual? Well, that’s easy: Because I can communicate in more than two languages. Mind you, I’m not claiming to be fluent in all those languages, but I am able to read books, write (business) letters, and given some time to adjust, I’ll even be able to hold more or less fluent (yet probably not eloquent or correct) conversations again.

You don’t have to be perfect in a language to count it. I’d wager no one is 100% perfect in any language, not even our native languages. If you’re able to communicate in any given language, count it. So, how many of you out there can rightfully say they’re bilingual or multilingual as well? 🙂

 

The Lone Hero

„They said, ‚The hero’s just across that mountain ridge.‘ Now I’m here, and no one in sight,” Poppy muttered under her breath. White fog formed in front of her face every time she exhaled, and she rubbed her hands together to keep them from freezing. Her hammer lay in the snow to her feet.

In the west, the sun was slowly setting over the mountains, sending an orange hue across the scenery. When Poppy looked around, she couldn’t help but feel a sense of serenity wash over her. I may not have found the hero here, but this certainly is beautiful. She took a deep breath of fresh, crisp air, and then picked up her hammer again. “Time to get moving if I don’t want to be caught up here all night.”

As she plunged her way through hip-deep snow, she kept her eyes open for a cave or any sign of a home of sorts. The moon rose and illuminated the snow-covered peaks just enough to keep going, but still there was no place to rest in sight. Her legs started to hurt from the cold, and still she moved on, eyes fixed on the ground to prevent slipping.

###

Braum was feeling restless that night. His poro lay by the fire, contently snoring, but he somehow couldn’t sleep. Something was in the air, and he couldn’t figure out what it was. At last, he pushed himself up and left the house. The snow was crunchy under his shoes and the full moon cast an eerie light over the mountains. He scanned the area. There! Was that a wolf he was seeing? He rubbed his eyes. No, it was too tall for a wolf. Slowly, he approached the figure. When he had almost reached it, the silhouette suddenly slumped down and disappeared in the snow. Braum ran towards the spot and knelt down, his hands carefully lifting up—a yordle? And a huge hammer?

###

Poppy woke up to the sounds of a crackling fire. She felt warm, too warm, and her head was throbbing.

“Ugh…where am I?”

She slowly opened her eyes and cast a look around. It looked like a simple log cabin with a jolly fire burning in the hearth. Then she turned her head, and jumped.

“What–!”

Steps came closer, and a booming voice said, “Oh good, you’re awake! Good morning, young yordle. How are you?”

Poppy blinked a few times and then just stared, mouth agape, at the huge man in front of her. He wore a big smile on his face, half covered by a huge moustache. The creature that had scared her that much jumped towards him and rubbed its head against his leg.

“I…my head hurts. Where am I? Who are you?”

“I am Braum, and you are on my farm in the mountains. I found you outside in the snow last night. Oh, and this is my poro. Don’t worry, it’s not dangerous, but it loves to cuddle.”

“I…saw light, and tried to get there, but it was so cold…and my legs hurt. Thanks for saving me, Braum. I’m Poppy.” She looked around and frowned. “Um…where’s my hammer?”

“That huge thing? Oh, don’t worry, it’s over there at the wall.” He watched her with a curious look in his eyes. “Say, Poppy, can you really wield that hammer? Isn’t it a bit…big for you?”

She laughed. “Oh, I’m just the Keeper of the Hammer. I only keep it until I find the true hero it belongs to. You don’t know of a hero around here somewhere, do you?”

###

Braum’s heart leapt at the sound of her laugh. This young yordle was delightful.

“I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I don’t know of any hero around here. It’s just me and my poro, and the villagers down below. Simple mountain folks, so to speak. But you must be starving. Let me cook you breakfast and tea while you just lay back down and rest.”

He turned to the fire and started tea water, then turned to the stove to fry some eggs. For some reason, this morning, he felt like whistling while cooking, and the sun seemed just a tad warmer and brighter than usual.

###

Poppy laid back and watched Braum while he prepared breakfast for her. Even though he was a giant of a man, he possessed some gentle, caring quality that appealed to her, probably more than she cared to admit. When was the last time someone cooked me breakfast? She felt her heart ache with longing. Longing of a home, of somewhere to belong, of someone to be with. I can’t…I have to find the hero first. It’s my duty. With a sigh, she closed her eyes and drifted back to sleep.

###

When breakfast was ready, he brought it up to her makeshift bed. The sight of her peaceful face, and of his poro cuddled up in the crook of her arm, made him smile. He put the plate and mug down and gently shook her awake.

“Poppy? Breakfast is ready.”

She yawned and stretched, and when she sat up and saw the plate, she gave him a wide smile that made him feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

The poro stayed on her lap while she ate, and afterwards they sat together and talked for hours. The more he learnt about her, the more he dreaded the moment she would leave, and the more he hoped that she would just stay for a while longer.

###

When the sun set that afternoon, Poppy grew sad. She knew she should be on her way to find the hero instead of sitting here talking to Braum, but part of her didn’t want to leave. Not yet. Not before she had the chance to get to know Braum better. Finally, when the sun was gone, she gathered all her courage and began, “Maybe I could…”, just as Braum started, “Maybe you could…”

They stared at each other for a moment and then burst out laughing.

“You first,” Braum eventually said.

###

“Maybe I could…I mean, I have been thinking…with all the snow, and me being so small…maybe I could stay here till spring?”

Braum’s heart leapt with joy at that question, and he responded, “Well, of course, that’s a great idea! Poro and I have plenty of room for you, and we would enjoy the company.”

While he sat there with a big smile plastered on his face, watching her eyes light up, he secretly wondered when he should tell her that the snow never melted this high up in the Freljord Mountains…

Differences in Acquiring Foreign Languages between Mono- and Bilingual Learners (a paper)

At the end of my second semester, I wrote a paper about Differences in Acquiring Foreign Languages between Mono- and Bilingual Learners for my module about first and second language acquisition. It was the written exam for said module, and since I finally got my grade for this paper (1.3, with a 1.0 being the best possible grade in German university grading), I feel confident in sharing it with the world.

So if you’re interested in this topic, feel free to download and read it. If you feel others might be interested in it, feel free to share it with them (or, even better, link to this blog post 🙂 ). All I ask for is that my paper won’t be used for any commercial purpose, and that it won’t be changed in any way. Thus, I’m putting it up here under a CC-BY-NC-ND licence.

I encourage academic discussion, and I am aware of the fact that some aspects of style and form could be improved, so please keep any comments about this paper civil and constructive, and keep in mind that this is a paper written by a second-year university student, not an acclaimed professor with years of experience in writing papers under his belt.

Hausarbeit Frau Gagarina SoSe15_Theresa Travelstead

Interview with the Dragon Queen

Hi Nikki. You are sometimes called “The Dragon Queen”. Can you tell us how you came to have this nickname?

When The Dragon’s Rocketship was born someone started saying I was the Queen instead of just the owner. I don’t recall who said it first but someone called me The Dragon Queen and since then I have loved it! I mean who doesn’t like dragons and want to be royalty?

That’s cool! So, what is The Dragon’s Rocketship, and how can our readers board it?

The Dragon’s Rocketship is a Facebook group that was created on February 6th, 2014. It was a place that was created to provide a home for fantasy and science fiction lovers, geeks, writers, readers, and what not, where rules everyone was welcome to share practically anything that interested them. You can join at https://www.facebook.com/groups/thedragonsrocketship/

But that’s not all. Just recently, you created The Dragon’s Rocketship Publishing. Tell us something about it 🙂

Yes, as of February 1st this year The Dragon’s Rocketship Publishing, LLC was born. Authors of novels, short stories, or anthologies that are science fiction, fantasy, thriller, mystery, or horror (or any sub-genre included in those) are allowed to submit their stories. We wanted a place that could help authors grow, instead of just providing a blanket rejection letter or no response at all. The only way for authors to grow is to know why they weren’t accepted and how to improve.

This sounds like a great and very author-friendly concept. Are you already all set up, or is there something fans can help you with?

We have almost everything set up, we have the website: http://tdrpublishing.com, we have the subcontractors, the contracts, the lawyer. The problem is all of that came out of my business partner, Mandi, and my pockets. Unfortunately there are still more funds that need to be met in order to make sure that The Dragon’s Rocketship Publishing is the best it can possibly be. We started an Indiegogo Campaign to help raise some of the money https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-dragon-s-rocketship-publishing-llc/x/10545885#/

So where will the money go? Do you have concrete plans for using the raised money?

The money will help with the cost of Universal ISBNs per book, website costs, a new printer to help print out all the contracts, submissions, paperwork required, the annual LLC filing fee, an accountant for tax season, marketing for the authors, and hopefully much more.

Great, thanks. Okay, let’s come to the really important question: Is there any swag available for The Dragon’s Rocketship fans?

Right now we have two options where people can buy neat items AND help TDR Publishing raise money for our Indiegogo.

The first is Society6: https://society6.com/product/the-dragons-rocketship_print#1=45

The second is Redbubble: http://www.redbubble.com/people/svenja/works/21011886-the-dragons-rocketship

It’s not nearly as much money as just hitting “Donate”, but this way people get the instant gratification of buying something instead of waiting.

And I have to say, I love my new TDR coffee mug! Thanks for this interview, Nikki. Is there anything else you would like to tell our readers?

We have a Charity anthology going on right now, so even if you’re not ready to publish a novel, please check out the anthology that we are doing to raise money for The Doves Program, a program against Domestic Violence. All the details can be found on http://tdrpublishing.com

Thanks a lot, Your Majesty!