The Importance of Bridging
Terms such as bilingualism, multilingualism, and multiculturalism have engendered animated debates in the last few years. Both the scholarly community and media outlets have discussed at length the pros and cons of exposing children to different languages and cultures. While the general consensus is that multilingualism and multiculturalism represent a benefit rather than a drawback, two recent books presented opposite perspectives on these issues, reigniting a controversial discussion. In
... Pavlenko's The Bilingual Mind (2014) and John McWhorter's The Language Hoax (2014), the authors take opposite standpoints in discussing whether multilinguals demonstrate different personalities, or even different worldviews, when they speak their different languages. While discussing this point at length would exceed the scope of this article, it is relevant to note that the debate on multilingualism and multiculturalism has begun to acknowledge differences, even separate worldviews, within one and the same bilingual individual. In this sense, Multicultural and Multilingual Native Speakers (MMNSs), and particularly expatriate multilinguals who teach their native language and culture abroad (Multicultural and Multilingual Language Instructors or MMLIs), represent examples of both a complex interplay of different cultures within the same individual and an attempt to reconcile them. Having moved from the country where they were born and raised into a new and often foreign geographical and cultural environment, MMNSs inhabit a mediated space between two cultures. Further, as MMLIs, they expand and redefine that space by confronting and reassessing the relationship between two or more cultures in the language classroom setting. Thus MMLIs embody a fluid subject position. In light of this, they are ideal candidates to facilitate the "bridging" of cultural and linguistic differences in the classroom and to help students mediate between different worldviews in the wider context of a today's globalized and connected world. The word "bridging" recalls the idea of putting together two ends that don't naturally meet, creating a mediated space usually informed by, and devoted to, communication. A quick Google search shows that the term is mostly associated with "culture" and "cultural," thus highlighting the importance placed by the global online community on finding common ground between different sets of values. 1 The focus of this article is this act of "bridging" in the classroom; yet, in order to begin it is first necessary to define what is meant by 'bridging.' 1 Among other examples, the National Endowment for the Humanities-sponsored program "Bridging Cultures" states that: "during a time of rapid global change, the vitality of our twenty-first century democracy depends on a commitment to understanding the historical and cultural forces that have shaped and continue to shape our world. To that end, NEH has developed a special initiative, Bridging Cultures, which engages the power of the humanities to promote understanding and mutual respect for people with diverse histories, Zamboni The Importance of "Bridging"