If you trot down Armitage west of its intersection with Milwaukee, you’ll come upon a side street with a funny name: Bingham Avenue. An unassuming building occupies the corner, and you’ll have to walk around it to find the entrance, garnished with a nondescript black balcony bearing the Multilingual Connections logo.
The New Digs
I rang the bell, got quickly buzzed in, and then climbed a mysteriously long staircase. A fantastically modern and multifunctional space is located upstairs—colorful and modular and equipped perfectly for the community-focused organization for language learning. I hooked a quick left, and friendly greetings from the staff near their offices washed me over.
This space is new for Multilingual Connections (@M_Connections), who moved from 2934 N. Milwaukee Ave. to 2518 W. Armitage Ave. in June. So far, they seem to have settled in quite well. Everything is organized, chic and constructed to facilitate all types of language programs, from one-on-one tutoring to classroom-style presentations to food events for the kids. The space is also well-suited for small community gatherings with its lofty ceilings, open layout, kitchenette and lunch room.
Jill Bishop, who has her doctorate in linguistic anthropology, is president. She has a permanent smile and knows her company—and community—sensationally well. She offered me a glass of chilled water (much needed considering the 90+ degree heat that day), and we sat down to talk about how Multilingual Connections connects the diverse population of Logan Square with itself and the rest of Chicago. She put a personal touch on things, sharing with me how her history ties in with the neighborhood and Chicago at large.
Bishop has been a Logan Square resident for more than ten years. She has fond memories of her children at local restaurants and cafés, some of which don’t exist anymore. She also has firsthand experience in understanding how language and culture are inextricably intertwined, and that plays out in the mission statement and purpose of Multilingual Connections. If she had her way, all kids these days would grow up learning two languages, making them more capable and worldly in our diversifying culture.
Serving the Community
Bishop let me in on what Multilingual Connections does for Logan Square. First and foremost, they provide residents with the opportunity to either begin learning a new language, or to brush up on an old or disused one. Second, they offer translation and transcription services—for jobs and companies large and small—in Logan Square, not to mention all of Chicago.
What sets Multilingual Connections apart, however, is their breadth—more than fifty languages. In short, if you need something language-related, they’ll have the right person for the job.
Building on Bishop’s philosophy that language and culture are always in mesh, Multilingual Connections keeps a focus on kids. They combine language learning with culture learning. This means, for example, taking the kids out to authentic Puerto Rican and Mexican restaurants throughout Chicago to show them how other cultures eat and live. It’s all about building connections, both personal and mental.
What It All Means
The conversation I had with Bishop was peppered with moments about how language is a constructive, building force in our community. It allows us to connect with others whom we might subtly prejudge, or whom we might be afraid to interact with. More than that, knowing a second language allows us to feel firsthand that our neighborhood—and our city—is really a collection of many different cultures, all living together, yet each preserving some of its distinctive characteristics.
So if you’re in Logan Square, why not take the opportunity to help out, take part, or even pick up a few new words in another language? We’re lucky to be neighbors with Multilingual Connections!
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