Everyone has the basic human right to speak in the language(s) in which they feel most comfortable at a given time. The purpose of creating a dynamic and functional multilingual space is to make it possible for people to express themselves in whichever language they wish, and to be heard and understood by others in the room, regardless of whether they speak the same language.
Language is a critical element of the process of struggle toward a more just society. Too often in social justice movements, despite our best intentions, we recreate the same language dominance at play in the mainstream culture; in the United States and in much of the world, English plays this dominant role. antena is committed to creating spaces in which all languages are valued and accepted. Our work intends to encourage listening beyond the boundaries of what we already know, and to foster honest conversation that celebrates a vast multiplicity of languages and modes of expression.
As residents of the U.S. Southwest and West—territories that were once part of Mexico—we are also conscious of the two conflicting and competing historical, colonial languages of the region: Spanish and English. Further, we recognize the fact that the cities where we live and work are indigenous lands. In the past, hundreds, if not thousands of languages once existed here, and many indigenous languages still thrive more than 500 years after conquest. We work for all languages to be valued, heard, appreciated and honored.
Language is a powerful and intimate tool we can use to imagine and enact new ways of being in the world and relating to other people. For some monolingual speakers of English (or other dominant languages), a multilingual space might be the first time they have had the opportunity to listen live and in real time to a person who is expressing themselves in another language. For some speakers of non-dominant languages, a multilingual space might be the first time they have the opportunity to speak openly and publicly in their own language to people who do not share that language. Listening can lead to transformation: a multilingual space provides a setting for this transformation to take place.
In a multilingual space organized through language justice principles, interpretation is provided to anyone who is not proficient or comfortable in all the languages spoken in that space. We do not make interpreters available for those who don’t speak English; rather, we are there to facilitate cross-language conversation among any participants who do not share a language. When we say we are available to anyone who is not proficient in all the languages spoken in a room—rather than there to “help those who do not speak English”—we unsettle the systems that would privilege one language as dominant and marginalize others, and rather prioritize communication among all participants across a range of languages.