"Where are you from, Isabel?" I asked.
"Well, my mother is Spanish and my father is French," Isabel answered in perfect West Coast English.
"What language do you speak at home?"
"I speak Spanish to my mother, French to my father, and English to my little brother."
Isabel is not a refugee or an immigrant living in a ghetto. Her father is a diplomat, and her family lives in a beautiful home in Geneva, Switzerland. Isabel and her brother attend the Ecole Internationale de Génève, the International School of Geneva, a bilingual school with four campuses and a student population of 2,500.
And then there are Mirwais Zekrya, Nandan Sampatkumar, and Omar Odeh, who played on the volleyball team I coached at the International School of Geneva when I worked there. Mirwais's father is from Afghanistan and his mom is from El Salvador, though he has never lived in either country. His English combines elements of British and American sounds to form what seems to be an international English accent. Nandan's father is an Indian Hindu; his mother is Danish and blonde, though she wears the red dot on her forehead. Nandan's English is like Mirwais's, and between the two of them, they speak Afghani, Spanish, Hindi, Danish, and French. Omar has Palestinian parents who met in Kuwait. Omar and his sister were born in Canada, and they speak English (along with Arabic and French) as if they have lived in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles all their lives, though they have never been there.
What do these kids and families have in common? They all speak English, though not necessarily as their mother tongue. Their parents work in multinational businesses, diplomacy, relief and development, journalism, university education, missions, ...1
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