Having someone to look up to, someone whose advice and example we can follow, someone we can talk to, who is willing to listen, who’s walked in very similar shoes…that’s one kind of positive relationship we all need in our lives.
And being this person for someone else is one of the most valuable gift we can give.
The role of the mentor in sports, business, education and life in general is the cornerstone of the success of artists, athletes and entrepreneurs. It’s no different for bilingualism. Kids and adults who are bilingual, or want to become bilingual, need partners, guides and mentors. Mentors are involved in the process, they offer encouragement, they share their own stories, selflessly, and help us see we cannot just get to where they got, we can surpass them. They are happy for this, because, they want to see bilingualism spread and strengthen.
Finding a bilingual mentor:
Virtual: Our mentors don’t have to be physically where we are. Thanks to the internet and its ever growing channels to talk and see each other, from almost anywhere around the world, our mentor might end up being far away. But the power of talking and making a connection is what matters most.
School: Our mentors can come from teachers and fellow students. Your mentor might just be waiting for you to ask, to be given the opportunity. Mentors doesn’t have to have all the answers. They just need to be a few steps ahead and willing to share their experience and their lessons, willing to help us see our challenges, and our progress, from a new perspective, with empathy and without judgement.
Community: Our mentors may already be around us everyday. They might be our neighbors, part of the public services that keep our communities going. There might already be a group or a program. Look at that bulletin board, visit your public library, ask or express your interest. You might start something that others will benefit from.
Being a bilingual mentor:
Virtual: Reach out to people online. Write a blog, engage in a forum, open up. With so many tools to tell your story, and share your bilingual journey, why wouldn’t you do it? Join the conversation and get it going, add value to someone else’s life, and add more diversity to the bilingual community around the world.
School: Reach out to students and fellow teachers. If you are yourself bilingual, reach out to those students who are, and those who have the spark of curiosity, and forethought to realize how important it is to learn and practice a second language. Your fellow teachers might also be looking for a mentor to expand on their own knowledge. You’ll find satisfaction in the opportunity to collaborate and support each other.
Community: Reach out to your community. Post your bilingual skills and availability on that bulletin board, connect with your public librarian and bring people together, you will inevitably add something valuable to your local community.
Why do it? To give back, by reaching out, lending a hand, speaking up.