This month, we’re reading a poem called Bilingual Blues by Gustavo Pérez Firmat. The poem is about navigating the world as a bilingual and interweaves both English and Spanish. It’s the first time Towards Awareness has a reading which is half in Spanish, a language that many of our members do not speak.

There is often a certain fear that comes with not understanding a language. A common question when discussing using multiple languages in English as a Second Language (ESL) classes is: If we let everyone leverage their first language, won’t we misunderstand one another? In the real world, however, there are many exchanges that lack a mutual language. In these situations, people who do not share the same language communicate through gestures, context, common expressions, and many other forms of creative expression.

During the meeting, we’re going to talk about what was clear or unclear about the poem, and what it felt like to have a reading we might not have fully understood. Then, we’ll turn to what the poem is really about: feeling lost in a monolingual world and finding ourselves filled with contradictions and multitudes.

We’ll end the meeting with a discussion on creating art with multiple languages, which like the poem Alma Flor Ada recites and explains in the video above, showcase the strengths of bilingualism.

Discussion Questions

  • Do you consider yourself bilingual? Why or why not?
  • Is being bilingual a part of your identity in any way?
  • How do you feel when you do not understand something in another language?

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