So This Is The World We Live In
The other day I was reading the back of my packet of breakfast cereal (a habit I've had since I could read) and noticed that the back of it is addressed to kids. A game, some fun suggestions, some ideas for a family day. One thing was striking: There were about 3 different references to "mum" and not a single one to "dad".
As a woman who grew up in a non-feminist environment (Mama, I hope this is ok to say..) I am more than aware of the world today. Women are still expected to be quiet. We're not as visible on the salary scales, the boards of directors, in most industries and anywhere that people are expected to speak up. Being a woman when I was growing up meant cleaning, cooking and being nurturing. It did NOT mean speaking up, and it certainly didn't mean speaking other languages.
And These Are The Hands We're Given
So looking at the world of language learning, what do we see? The same situation?
Well, yes and no. Here's the accusation:
The internet is full of "polyglots", guys showing their talents and performing for their different audiences. This is great, but can take on quite the characteristics of a (excuse the expression) boys' pissing contest. We all love languages, and we don't all love a show-off. I see very few women in that space - are they welcome?
And here's the defence:
There are many amazing female linguists in the world who should be highlighted and celebrated. As Sheryl Sandberg puts it in her impressive book Lean In: We have to SEE what what want to become in this world. No women of importance means fewer women who will be of importance. Pioneers are all fine, but after the pioneeresses there will be the true followers. So let's go. I'm in great company.
Judith Meyer is well known in the language learning space. She holds her own in the "polyglot" world, and has even created German learning apps. Judith's style is no-nonsense and focused on practical learning tips. She shares what works for her and lives a life dedicated to language learning. [please refer to Judith's most recent works in her comment below - ed.]
Ruth Elisabeth Thao writes about learning Vietnamese, but as with all language learning blogs you can actually use many of her insights for learning any language at all. For example, here's good advice on improving spelling.
Our next blogger, Jennie Wagner has been going for a long time. Jennie is an American who moved out to Europe at the start of her adventure. She has actually written about the invisibility of women in the language learning space, too! And as always it's so much more eloquent than I could ever hope to be. These days, Jennie is a bit quieter and I believe she's working on a PhD in Australia. What a world traveller!
Next up - Ellen Jovin, an energetic and dedicated self-identifying linguaphile. Ellen lives in New York, and is working on her 18th language - and here's what I love - because she wants to know her city's languages! So cool, so smart, and a prolific reviewer too. Plus, this is the best-designed language learning website I have ever seen!
Kirsten Winkler is not a learner of a dozen languages, but she has put her smarts to the task in the area of language blogging. Most learners will know her as the mastermind of Fair Languages and Deutsch Happen, and these days Kirsten's main work is in informing and reporting on EdTech - a true pioneer in the learning industry. I love Kirsten's independent attitude and the way she clearly follows a good story no matter where it's hiding. Find her work at Edukwest.
Jana Fadness has one of the cutest blogs around. She shares her art and music, her love of travel, her photos and her love of languages, and regularly posts bilingual articles in English and Japanese.
More Thai! It's such a popular language - man I need to put Thai on my list one day. Catherine Wentworth from Women Learning Thai (and some men too) runs an extremely informative and in-depth website about all things related to learning Thai and other languages too. I love her own description, which once again goes to show that a lot of people out there are keen to express how accessible language learning is.
For me personally, I write in order to represent who I am - a language learner, a language teacher, a person who is interested in the whole way people connect to each other. And yes, I'm also a woman and I will mention that whenever it's relevant! I have other interests too (this blog will reflect them more in the near future), but there's only one Kerstin out there. What I see from ladies around the internet is matter-of-fact advice paired with a lot of enthusiasm. The focus is on these things being practical, and there are many teachers out there who share their work. While women and men are both entrepreneurial in this space (which I love, and I am also participating in very happily through the Fluent Guide books), I have not seen declarations of having found the one answer, and also much fewer promises of how language can be learnt faster, harder, stronger. On the whole, could it be said that the female language bloggers out there prefer a slightly more sober, less achievement-focused style? No matter where you stand, it's obvious that we are not invisible!
Ladies, do you feel like women are represented enough on the internet? Do you think we are different from guys in how we learn languages?
Tell me and tell the world in the comments below, and don't forget that I'm here to help you