Estela’s moving story is a testimony to and a celebration of multilingualism.
She shares with us her complex and “unique” identity as the daughter of Japanese origin and second-generation immigrant growing up in Brazil. They remind her that her “only inheritance is education,” a message reinforced by observing them peruse higher education at night after long days of physically arduous work.
While she grew up in a Japanese-Brazilian community, as a child, she learned to speak only limited Japanese and now identifies fully as Brazilian. At college age, she pursued a unique opportunity to study abroad in Japan in a program conducted in English. Embarking on this educational, linguistic, and cultural journey, she begins a life-changing course. She describes how language became “an entry point into culture” and a “way to connect to people by understanding their viewpoint and language.” She speaks to her privilege of becoming multilingual through an alchemy of her exposures, “encouraging environments,” and natural curiosity.
She pursues graduate studies to better understand the process of language acquisition, and as she does so, she begins to see how many newly bilingual students experience prejudice and marginalization from both their peers and teachers. This sparks in her a “bright desire” for children to have a positive experience learning a new language and culture as they make their way into a new land. She reminds us of how language is so deeply interconnected in the experience of immigrant children and, in her parting words, reminds learners of new languages to “be brave” and “not be ashamed” as they make inevitable errors that come with the process of learning. Indeed, Estela’s philosophy of “approaching life with a learning heart” is a lovely reminder to us all.
Listen to Estela’s Moving Story here