A Few Things We Believe

People are built to be bilingual.

Just as we humans have the capacity for language, we have the capacity for more than one language. That we are built to be bilingual is demonstrated in the ability of children to learn two or more languages simultaneously with ease, by the fact that most of the world’s people are bilingual, and by recent findings on the mental health benefits of bilingualism.

Bilingual societies are stronger.

While the ability to speak one another’s languages is no formula for peace (as civil wars readily testify), the process of learning the language of another group is inherently pacifying.

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America’s linguistic capital is one of our great assets.

In the United States, we have 76 million people who speak a language other than English at home.

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We know how to raise bilingual children.

From birth, children’s brains are wired for language learning. If Mom speaks one language, Dad another and everyone else a third, children will sort it out and in a few years be able to converse in all three.

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Adults can learn another language later in life.

Adults can also learn languages, and in some ways, better than can children.

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Most American immigrants now want their children to be bilingual.

We now know that children who are supported in their heritage language skills match or exceed students who are denied the learning of their heritage languages.

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The highest and best use of technology is not to eliminate the need for language learning, but to facilitate it.

If speaking naturally from actual knowledge of the same language is like hugging, speaking through machine translation is like waving from across the street.

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The Team

Steve's profile

Steve Leveen

Founder, America the Bilingual project
Host, America the Bilingual podcast
Author, America’s Bilingual Century
Tags: entrepreneur, deep believer, recovering monolingual

What to know about him: Steve is the man behind America the Bilingual, a project he is pursuing with the same passion that he did in founding (with his wife) a retail company called Levenger. Its focus on “tools for serious readers” led to Steve’s board appointment to the National Book Foundation. It also provided the springboard for Steve’s first book, The Little Guide to Your Well-Read Life, which the New York Times called “a practical handbook distilled into easy-to-digest prose.” Perhaps not surprisingly, it was this pursuit of a well-read life that led him to bilingualism.

Several years ago, as part of his longtime support of the Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County, Florida, Steve tutored adult Latinos in English. That experience provided part of the impetus in his progression from champion of literacy to advocate for biliteracy.


Bilingual MomentPalomitas de Maiz en Walmart:   “So I’m walking around in a bilingual Walmart in Carson City, Nevada, enjoying reading the Spanish signs…”

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Mim's profile

Mim Harrison

Editorial, Brand and Publishing Director, America the Bilingual project
Tags: writer, book publisher, word nerd

What to know about her: Mim is the author of three books on the English language and three micro-biographies of John F. Kennedy, Jacqueline Kennedy and Eleanor Roosevelt (both women were multilingual). She has published specialty books for the Smithsonian, the Library of Congress, the Folger Shakespeare Library and other leading cultural institutions that have included books in Spanish, Italian and Latin. She also edited and produced Steve’s first two books.


Bilingual MomentI Was Completely Bethumped:   “The year I lived in northern England, with its figgy-pudding-rich dialects, I spent the first couple months…”

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Fernando profile

Fernando Hernández

Editor, America the Bilingual podcast
Tags: storyteller, independent producer, champion of sustainable mobility

What to know about him: Fernando’s life work began well before he graduated in 2008 from the Western Institute for Technology and Higher Education in his hometown of Guadalajara, Mexico, with a communications degree. By then he had already started a media observatory blog that monitored the agendas of print and electronic media; created TV segments for broadcast during the 2006 Germany World Cup; founded the first internet radio station at his university; and co-founded the NGO Ciudad para Todos (A City for All), which champions pedestrian-scale urban environments. Since then, he has collaborated with close to a dozen media outlets, become an award-winning storyteller, and is an ongoing contributor to NPR’s Latino USA.


Bilingual MomentThe Bridge of Sound:   “In my parents’ library in Guadalajara, there was a box containing a self-guided course on how to learn English…”

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Alli Torban

Data Visualizer, America the Bilingual Project
Tags: data artist, avid listener, tessellation obsessed

What to know about her: “Data turned useful” is how Alli describes her work. It calls to mind the saying about how seeing is remembering. In Alli’s work, it’s also a case of seeing being the catalyst for engaging.

Provided, of course, that what you see is itself engaging.

“You want to be meeting your audience at their level of expertise and interest in your message,” Alli explains, “and using the right visualization tools to reveal patterns they would otherwise not see.” Alli’s tools come with their own intriguing language. Tessellations. Choropleths. Bee swarms, which is what this image from her work for America’s Bilingual Century shows.

She and Steve turned a number of the facts he presents in his book, such as why Americans are more bilingual than most of us know, into a set of animated graphics like this one.


Bilingual MomentWe were both trying to say words in each other’s language:  “I realized you don’t have to know a lot of the language to have meaningful moments…”

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Caroline Doughty

Social Media Maestro, America the Bilingual Project

Tags: explorer, enterpriser, chief engagement officer

What to know about her: First, know that she has one of those glorious English accents (or what all of us who are not English would call an accent), which makes her a natural for the audiobook narration that she does. Although U.S. born, Caroline grew up in England and studied literature at the
University of Warwick (fyi for American ears: that second “w” is silent).


Bilingual Moment“What’s ‘sukee’?”: “When I was 15, my family welcomed a French girl my age into our home in England for several months. Naturally, we became friends, and I was happy to coach her in her English. ‘Why don’t you come home with me to France and meet my family?’ she suggested when school ended.

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Carlos profile

Carlos Plaza

Art Director, America the Bilingual project
Tags: fine-arts photographer, digital-image multimedia guru, surfer

What to know about him: Graphic designer, art director, creative director: these titles and a few more have been Carlos’s, who is currently the creative director of the Carlos Plaza Design Studio in Hollywood, Florida. He is a graduate of the Design Institute of Caracas and the former publisher and art director of that City’s Estilo Magazine. Carlos lived in a number of Latin American and European cities before landing in South Florida. He has put his artistic stamp on the collateral of many companies here—magazines and media groups, cruise ship lines, a high-end retailer. One of Carlos’s longest tenures has been with American Media (AMI) Specialty Publications, where he was both creative and art director.


Bilingual MomentThe Devil’s Avocado:    “When I was hired as the design director of Boca Raton Magazine in 1994, I was at one of my first staff meetings and trying to settle an argument…”

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Beckie profile

Beckie Bray Rankin

Associate Producer, America the Bilingual podcast
Tags: educator, adventurer, swing dancer (including a 13-country European tour)

What to know about her: Beckie has been devoted to teaching French ever since she graduated from Boston University in 2007 with a B.S. in Modern Foreign Language Education and a B.A. in French Language and Literature. (She also holds an MAEd. in Foreign Language Education for French from Wake Forest University.) Beckie spent a year in Côte d’Ivoire designing and implementing the pilot of a French immersion program for JourneyCorps humanitarian volunteers. She currently teaches French at Lexington High School in Massachusetts.


Bilingual MomentI Can Do This: “Growing up, languages were important to my family…”

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Daruma Team

The Daruma Tech Team

Rob Kennedy, Susan Erickson, Rick Griswold, Jen Cavagnaro, Martha Leon, Bruno Guimaraes, Mija Kennedy
Tags: tech gurus, website wizards, suppliers of donuts

What to know about them: Founded in 2013, Daruma Tech is headquartered in south Florida, the third largest Spanish-speaking area of the United States. The staff frequently works with clients who need to reach a multilingual audience, developing multi-language websites and mobile apps.


Bilingual MomentThe French Have a Soft Spot for Bicyclists:   “I was able to use my student French when bicycling through France and French North Africa. Although my French was terrible…”

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Chet with his tongue out in the passenger seat


Road-Trip Advisor to the Founder
Tags: rescued from the Underhound Railroad shelter in Maine, mellow, manic, multicultural (aka mutt)

What to know about him: In training to be a fully barklingual dog. Chet is Steve’s master (oh, wait – it’s the other way around). Says Steve: “So far Chet disobeys me equally in Spanish and English.”

Barklingual MomentAbajo.  Thinks Chet: “This is what my master says when he wants me to lie down. I go along with it because I get a treat.”

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