That’s one of the first questions my students asked me yesterday.
They know, as you probably know too, that I recently started my master in Applied Linguistics. Last Tuesday, France 2 broadcasted a documentary about languages and immigration, so they thought of me. The whole idea of that documentary was bilingualism and biculturalism: exactly what I am studying right now. The conversation was extremely pleasant, and we all had something to add on to it.
One of my students totally blossomed during that conversation, and explained her whole life story. Prepare to be blown, because I was, and I totally admire her.
She was born in Bulgaria, from Armenian parents. She learnt Armenian at home, but her childcare center was run in Bulgarian, so she picked up some Bulgarian. By the age of 4, she was able to speak with ease these two languages, but her family moved to France.
In addition, she learned French at school, continued to speak Armenian at home but stopped, little by little, to speak Bulgarian. Her two older sisters though, they continued to speak to each other in Bulgarian, just to annoy her! She totally forgot Bulgarian, and French became her dominant language, as she had to work in that language. She continued to speak to her parents in Armenian, and to write to her family back there in their language, by her own will (her sisters gave up at some point). She is now forced to check her vocabulary on a dictionary, as she lost her parents, and so reduced considerably her practice.
As you can guess, she added English to that mix, when she was around forty, because she was interested by the language itself. She practices once a week in my class, and told me yesterday that she spoke better English now than Armenian! Her level is English being a strong B2, she could totally live in England as well (and before Brexit, she was thinking about it!)
She is 68 years old, and managed to function in four different languages. If that’s not inspiring…