This week’s post is all about Bilingual London, a project we stumbled upon on Twitter and that shares quite a lot of common ground with our own experience (including making “to do” lists and wanting to help other bilingual families!). Aleksandra Trzmiel, the person behind Bilingual London, has kindly taken the time to tell us more about it. We hope you love the interview (and logo) as much as we do!
Tell us more about “who you are” and what Bilingual London is…
My name is Aleksandra Trzmiel. I’ve been living in London for 13 years. I was born in Poland, in Wroclaw. After graduating from university I decided to look for my first ‘real’ job in London. I already spoke English fluently then and I wanted to have a job that would allow me to speak English. London has been kind to me – four years ago I met here my future husband George, and a year ago we became parents to our son. We are now planning our bilingual wedding which will take place in May in Poland.
I started Bilingual London for two reasons: to help and support families raising bilingual children and to encourage Londoners to learn a foreign language. These are subjects very close to my heart. Although there are already blogs and pages dedicated to this subject, I felt I could bring something new by marrying the two subjects together and sharing not only relevant articles but also my personal experiences.
Please summarise your career…
I have a degree in Economics. I’ve been working for a membership organisation for the past 12 years mainly in the area of professional development. In 2016 I became a mum and I knew I wanted to raise my son as bilingual. I also felt that I needed to do something for me while on maternity leave. So I started studying Social Media Management with Digital Mums and started Bilingual London.
Tell us more about the languages you speak and what’s spoken in your family unit…
I speak Polish, English and German fluently. Polish is my mother tongue. I haven’t used German for a long time so will probably need to refresh it if I was going to use it again. I learnt English quite quickly at school and at private lessons which my parents sent me to, and I then mastered it on a student exchange program where I spent a year in America. And I speak a little bit of French – I stopped learning it at an intermediate level and never picked it up again.
I’m bringing up my son, who has just turned 1, to be bilingual. His dad is English and I’m Polish so even though I speak English I can’t imagine my son not speaking Polish. We live in London so the community language is English but I’m determined to keep up the Polish as our minority language. I know exactly why I want my son to be bilingual – I want him to have a relationship with my family (especially his grandparents) in Poland, I want him to have a deep connection with me and I feel it could be better achieved in Polish, and I want him to know where he comes from and you can only truly learn where you’re from if you speak the language.
What tips or advice have you got for other families (who may or may not be bilingual) who want their kids to grow up bilingually?
I’ve started the journey of raising my son as bilingual relatively recently, just over a year ago, but I’m already noticing what can make this journey a success. You need to know what your goal is – I know I’d like my son to not only converse in both Polish and English but also write and read in both languages. You need to be consistent in speaking and engaging in your minority language. It’s so easy to just speak English to my son. I then remember why I want him and need him to speak Polish too and I instantly switch. You need support from your partner and family. My partner is very supportive and although he can’t speak Polish, he wants our son to speak the language and he encourages bilingual upbringing. Without his support it would be difficult for me to carry on this journey.
What advantages have you experienced as a consequence of your bilingualism?
Bilingualism meant better job prospects for me. By knowing English and German I was able to choose where I wanted to live and what I wanted to do. As a result of being bilingual I met my future husband. It means I live in two cultures – I can read books in two languages, watch films without subtitles. It has also increased my self-esteem and confidence.
What, if any, disadvantages have you experienced as a result of your bilingualism and how have you overcome them?
I’m bilingual and my partner is not – he only speaks English. The disadvantage of that is that whenever we go to visit my family or friends who don’t speak English, I’m constantly translating. I don’t mind really but it can be tiring.
Which, if any, languages would you like to learn and why?
I would like to eventually master French. I stopped at immediate level but haven’t practised it for a while, so not sure what level I would be now. I’ve always loved the French culture, food, the sound of the language.
I’d also love to speak Spanish. It is the second language in the world in terms of number of people speaking it. I’ve never learnt it but I think I would be good at it.
What are your hobbies?
I like reading, cooking, learning new things, making to do lists, eating pasta and watching French movies.
What is your motto?
If it doesn’t kill you, it will make you stronger.
Who inspires you and why?
My grandma who sadly passed away last year has been a big inspiration in my life. She was bilingual in German and Polish, where German was her first language. She was the kindest person I’ve ever known and she taught me to never give up on my dreams.
If you’d like more information:
You can find my blog on Medium.
Thanks so much Aleksandra, we wish you all the best with Bilingual London, your wedding and your bilingual journey with your son.