Part of writing with respect is understanding that each person has a unique relationship with English. For some, being born into an English-speaking household enables them to comfortably identify as a native English speaker; for others, learning English alongside another language—or multiple languages—fosters intersectional identities. These complex experiences with language are not evident when we think about language use primarily in terms of a binary of correctness or incorrectness in Standard American English
; the world is a big place, and there are many paths to writing in English!
Gaining and maintaining fluency in multiple languages brings many benefits to us as individuals and to social groups. In groups, multilingualism offers cultural perspectives that help monolingual spaces gain much-needed diversity of thought. For individuals, fluency in multiple languages offers skills that are useful in daily life, the workplace, and many more places. Being proficient and preserving fluency in multiple languages over the course of one’s life is a feat to be celebrated, which is why we are choosing to talk about multilingualism.
In this chapter, we wish to focus on the uniqueness and assets of multilingualism. We define multilingualism as the use of more than one language, but acknowledge that this term is far more complex because language use encompasses such aspects of social identity as educational background, family history, and national origin.
Although there are many benefits to being multilingual, minoritized identities are often stigmatized. For example, people less proficient in English are often considered less competent academically. Later on in this chapter, we offer suggestions to help multilingual students navigate monolingual educational spaces and suggest ways for all members of our campus community to appreciate multilingualism as an asset. Whether you identify as multilingual or not, this chapter is for you.