Ebany: Can you please tell me your name?
Miri: My name is Miriam Weingarten.
Ebany: And is it ok for your name to appear on the site or would you prefer a nickname?
Miri: I don't mind. I'm usually Miri rather than Miriam.
Ebany: Ok, I'll put you down as Miri. And what languages do you speak Miri?
Miri: Um, well I'm fully bilingual in Hebrew and English, and I also speak German and some Arabic. Spoken Arabic.
Ebany: And your parents? What do your parents speak?
Miri: My parents' mother tongue is English, and they are now very proficient in Hebrew.
Ebany: And your profession? You can-
Miri: Um, originally? Human rights campaigner, now also working in law.
Ebany: Can you tell me a little bit about your background in terms of moving around?
Miri: Yeah, so I suppose it starts with my parents because they migrated from the UK to Israel-Palestine and so I was born in Israel-Palestine immediately after they arrived, um and as I grew up, I grew up bilingual in the sense that I spoke English at home and the language of society around me was Hebrew. Um I moved to Germany for a few years, for three years in 2004 and that's where I gained my knowledge in German, through actually learning but also being immersed in German society. Then I went back for a couple of years to Israel-Palestine and then um, in 2009 I moved here to the UK. So, where of course, the language of society is English.
Ebany: So I think you have actually answered how moving around changed your linguistic repertoir. And do the languages you speak tie in to your sense, into your identity or how you perceive yourself?
Miri: With regard to English definitely, uh the English language is part of the definers of my identity and as I was growing up as a child of immigrants in Israel-Palestine, English is what gave me my sense of identity of difference and I love this language very much. I love the literature. It connects to my relationship to my parents, my family, so with English definitely. It's not very complicated and I'm happy to be living now in an English speaking environment. With Hebrew it's more conflicted because Hebrew is a language that was renewed for political reasons and, and I don't identify with those political reasons, with the nationalist project that is the base of Hebrew. Nonetheless it's one of my identities or one of my ways of expression and I am more Israeli than I would usually admit. I think it's changed over time recently in the sense that with parenting, I'm also passing it on as a language. And so that's an additional identity.
Ebany: And um, what made you choose to pass on the language as a parent?
Miri: Well I think for children, having more than one language is good. Good for their openess, for their ability to think and for their ability to be with people. And, uh, my son has the ability to have a second language, he has received a second language from his father who speaks another European language, err German, which I also speak a bit as I said, but I think the fact that it's a non-European language is very important. For the ability to perceive of non-European languages, to conceive of them and uh, I don't have any other non-European languages in which I'm really proficient so that's one reason. Um, my Arabic is not really good enough to pass on. Uhh and another reason is to do with my parents I think. They are observant Jews and that language is important. Not so much as a national project but as a religious language, and although I'm not religious, I do want my son to have this heritage, this connection to my parents' religion.
Ebany: One last question. Um, at the moment we're in London and it's a very cosmopolitan, multilingual city. How- do in fact the languages that you speak make you feel like you fit in at all, does- Is there an interaction between the languages that you speak and the city that you live in?
Miri: I suppose so because my English is- although English is my mother tongue in the sense that I grew up with it at home, um I don't think it's exactly the same English, as, as English people's English. People who grow up monolingual with English, and um I'm often very conscious of that here in London because I think I know English, but you know the cultural background to the language is sometimes missing for me. And I think the fact that I'm in London helps me because a lot of people have acquired the language in slightly different ways from usual and are not monolingual and so I feel much more comfortable in my particular history for being in a city that is so diverse. With the Hebrew, I think the conflicts I have with Hebrew are much more to do with myself than with the city. The city, it's accepting in a way of everything. I feel comfortable talking to my son in the street in this foreign language that maybe somebody might identify, maybe not because I see that done very very often. Parents of my son's friends are also multilingual with multiple histories and backgrounds.
Ebany: Ok, thank you very much.
Miri: You're welcome. Thank you.