For Laura Blackmore, founder of the Multilinguals of Melbourne blog, living in a multicultural city like Melbourne means being given access to the world. To live in Melbourne, after all, is to see different people, experience different cultures, and hear different languages in the city almost everywhere you go.
Originally from South Coast, New South Wales, the Masters in Translation student never dreamed that language would some day end up impacting her life. As a teenager, she was required to study the Indonesian language at secondary school, but didn’t understand or acknowledge the importance of it then.
“I didn’t persist in [learning it] because I didn’t know and see the value in it. I couldn’t see the importance of having to speak Indonesian than to know English or Mathematics and all I wanted to do was to surf all day,” she admitted.
A trip to the north of Spain as an exchange student changed all that. It was here that she discovered her love of learning language. She took an two week intensive in Spanish to try and communicate with locals and get by in the country.
“It was very hard for me at first, as I went through ups and downs learning a new language and I think that’s what happens when you are learning a new language,” she said.
She enjoyed her Spanish exchange trip so much that she wanted to travel again, this time to Mexico where she could brush up on her Spanish. She cited this exchange, as well as her previous one to Spain, has being pivotal in her developing interest in languages.
“Ever since I went on exchange, my world opened up a lot. Coming from the coast, I wasn’t really exposed to the [outside] world. So, when I started to learn a different language that’s when I dove deep into where people are from, their languages, and I became more interested it,” she said.
As her interest in language grew, so too did her ambitions.
Laura wanted to make a difference in the world and took initiative by creating a platform for people to tell their stories, talk about who they are, their cultures and, most importantly, share their languages.
“One night I was just thinking and had the idea of creating [something] inspired by Humans of New York but with a language and culture twist in it and [I wanted to] have their photos by their quotes. I wanted to tell my housemates but they were all asleep, so I had to wait until the next day to tell them,” she said.
Multilinguals of Melbourne — which currently exists as a blog that runs across several social media channels — was the result of Laura’s ambitions and since its inception in August 2015, she has interviewed more than 60 people with 40 different languages featured.
Laura started her journey by interviewing the people around her; friends and tutors who also saw the importance of language in a multicultural society. As the blog grew, her focus for Multilinguals of Melbourne remained the same: sharing snapshots of the lives that multilinguals lead and for Laura to build relationships with her interviewees.
What Laura ultimately hopes to achieve with Multilinguals of Melbourne, is to create a stronger sense of community so that people in Melbourne are more aware of others’ cultural value.
“Living in an English dominant country like Australia, some people might feel uncomfortable to speak another language,” she said.
She wants to help people speak up and wants to provide them with the means to share their stories. It is a genuine effort on her part and she has worked entirely on her own to keep her dream alive.
“Getting into this journey has not always been a smooth sailing one, but then I remind myself again why do I want to start this in the first place,” she said.
Laura encourages all multilinguals who wish to share their life journey to contribute to her Multilinguals of Melbourne project. She can be contacted at the Multilinguals of Melbourne Facebook page. To see the rest of her Multilinguals of Melbourne project, visit its Instagram page or the official Multilinguals of Melbourne blog.