In late August of 2015, Laura Blackmore hit upon an idea that was to be later picked up by Disney and be applauded across Melbourne. The Monash student was studying her Masters in translation while living at Berwick campus when she had a vision of starting a blog dedicated to showcasing what she most loved about Melbourne – it’s linguistic and cultural diversity. Laura, the Language and Cultural Ambassador for Disney Australia and New Zealand’s ‘Dream Big, Princess’ campaign, recounts the beginnings of her Facebook page, Multilinguals Of Melbourne (affectionately nicknamed MoM).
“I had the idea and then thought, ‘how can I do this?’. I went to tell my roommates and they were sleeping so I had to go to bed thinking about every detail – I don’t think I slept at all that night!”
Multilinguals of Melbourne promotes language and cultural diversity by sharing the stories of everyday people who learn, speak and breathe multiple languages. The stories and accompanying photos Laura publishes to her wildly successful Instagram, Facebook and blog have been likened to those of Humans of New York founder’s Brandon Stanton. And for good reason.
Laura’s approach to sharing the experiences of multilinguals is firmly focused on the authentic, often unmentioned realities of living in a multicultural city through the lens of individuals who speak, live and breathe multiple languages. At the time of print, Multilinguals of Melbourne has represented over 20 nationalities and 37 languages, with Laura’s posts reaching a peak of 12, 000 view shortly after its recent one year anniversary.
MoM’s stories are equally challenging, touching and eye-opening. When asked if she ever prompts interviewees or knows what she’ll ask someone about, Laura admits she never goes into a meeting with any angle. “It’s always varied, I can never pick how a conversation will go… So I never have questions prepared. I’d rather let someone share openly and MoM be a space for that.”
MoM’s first subjects were Laura’s multilingual roommates (who shared 10 languages between them) and later expanded to include numerous members of Monash language clubs, ACYA, Monash Radio and Mango Languages. Laura herself has been asked to speak at yLead’s Social Impact conference and was recently featured in Disney’s ‘Dream Big, Princess’ campaign as one of three Australian women who are inspirations to their community. “What I love about this project is how it creates a community. People I’ve interviewed are my friends or have become my friends through sharing their stories.”
The beauty in the Multilinguals Of Melbourne initiative it’s open-hearted inclusiveness. Laura’s own disillusionment with the academic pressure and competition in learning languages at university strengths her resolve to never ask the individuals she interviews to need to meet a standard of fluency to fit the multilingual criteria. Anyone who speaks, studies or learns more than one language, regardless of if they’ve been speaking it for one day or ten years, can be interviewed. “My own language-learning journey was strained but that’s why I’m so passionate now.”
What officially constitutes a language or culture is often defined by politics. In allowing interviewees to speak out about their culture, MoM infuses a realism and understanding that has made Melbournians of all backgrounds sit back and take note. So what’s next? According to Laura the next step for MoM is a print magazine but in the meantime, Multilinguals Of Melbourne will continue to grow as Laura’s success attracts more individuals hoping to share their experiences. While you’d be forgiven for believing Australia only has one official language, Laura Blackmore’s, Multilinguals of Melbourne is setting the record straight and righting misconceptions of Melbourne as a city with only one language and culture, one interview at a time.
If you speak or are learning more than one language and would like to share your story, you can contact Laura Blackmore via the Multilinguals of Melbourne Facebook page at http://facebook.com/multilingualsofmelbourne