On Bilingualism: A Discussion with Taliah Pollack (Gothenburg Book Fair 2022)

On Bilingualism: A Discussion with Taliah Pollack (Gothenburg Book Fair 2022)

The Gothenburg Book Fair 2022 has finally arrived! pionier press meets up with author Taliah Pollack (»Äggskal/Coaja de ou«, Swedish-Romanian, 2021), to discuss the importance of bilingualism and bilingual publishing.

At age eleven, Taliah moved to Israel with her family. Being a stranger to both the language and the culture, she fell behind in school and struggled with feelings of exclusion. In class, she pretended to understand what the teachers were saying; in reality, she sat writing stories to herself. Her frustration at not being able to express herself because of the language barrier made her an unhappy introvert. Her »Swedishness« was just one more thing that made her stand out, and it became something to be ashamed of.

Taliah Pollack (left), Arina Stoenescu (right). Photo: Malin Bohman.

»There was a TV show trending in Israel at the time«, Taliah remembers. »In it, Swedish girls were being sexualized. It made me a target of bullying.« She was the new girl and the immigrant girl, who simply wanted to fit in. Today, she stresses the importance of mother tongue education: it is a basic human need to be seen and accepted for who you are, and your native language is an important part of your identity.

When pionier press met Taliah for the first time, in Lund in 2016, she had never heard of bilingual publishing before, but the concept really resonated with her. »Bilingual reading offers a new perspective on the same story«, she says. Different languages and cultures were no longer put in conflict between one another, but in contact. Where they coexist next to each other on the page, there is no sense of superiority/inferiority or otherness. To wrap up the discussion, Taliah and Arina read aloud from »Äggskal/Coaja de ou«, a bilingual children's book about not only understanding but welcoming our differences.

Thank you to the Romanian Cultural Institute for hosting our talk at EUNIC's booth »Café Europa«!

Taliah Pollack (left), Arina Stoenescu (center), Bogdan
Popescu (director of the Romanian Cultural Institute, right).
Photo: Malin Bohman.
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