Your Daily Dose of Anti-Bilingualism: “We Speak English Here”

April 28, 2010 1 comment

Check out this commercial by the republican candidate who is running for governor in Alabama. According to him, he will not allow the testing in multiple languages in order to get a driver’s license:

Now, I’m definitely not a republican, but I am almost sure that there may exist some republicans out there who value and embrace multilingualism (??). If so, when are ya’ll going to start holding these types of anti-bilingual and anti-diversity republicans accountable for some of the ridiculous things that they say and do!

When will enough be enough? Until decent, non-racist republicans start to hold these right wing locos (i.e. nuts) accountable, then they will continue to advocate against bilingualism and multilingualism by instituting many of the discriminatory anti-bilingual and anti-bilingual education laws that they’ve been assaulting these country with for decades!

This candidate for governor states that the elimination of testing in multiple languages will save money for the state. But he also forgot to tell you about the billions of dollars in transportation funding received from the federal government that Alabama will not receive if he acts on his promise! You can read more about this situation here and here.

Don’t let these racists fool you! This is just another example of an intolerant bigot who is using language as a justification for publicly discriminating against people who speak languages other English. Language loving republicans need to stop this nonsense in your political party!

Online Help for Language Learners

April 28, 2010 1 comment

In European countries, most kids grow up learning a minimum of two or three languages, and sometimes as many as five or more. And while it’s true that Europe embodies a multitude of cultures and languages in close geographic proximity, making it prudent to promote the learning of multiple languages, one has to wonder if these kids are receiving an opportunity that will allow them a certain freedom and confidence that Americans, as a predominantly unilingual people, will never enjoy. Luckily, it’s never too late to improve.

Kids are hardwired to learn language early on, so they can pick up multiple languages almost effortlessly. Unfortunately, adults have somewhat more difficulty. However, there are a variety of resources available to adults who want to expand their linguistic palate, from community college to online courses to learn-at-home options like Rosetta Stone.  Of course, the best way to learn a language is through full immersion (Rio de Janeiro, here I come!). But if, like most of us, you are unable to take six months off work to focus on learning another language, there are other ways to get the support you need, namely online.

Websites like www.lingomatch.com are a great way to connect with people, like yourself, who are looking for a little help. As their tagline reads, “Real People. Real Language Conversation.” From grammar to pronunciation to learning to read right to left, you can post your inquiry online and find people around the world, often native speakers, who can help you with literally any linguistic dilemma. For your part, you can also help them.  English is a rapidly-spreading language, but it is also extremely difficult to learn as a second language. On Lingo Match, you may find that you give out just as much advice as you receive. However, you’re likely to get a lot more than you bargained for.

As the global population continues to grow at an escalating rate, people from all corners of the world are coming into contact, making it possible to share cultures and languages in a way unparalleled in our collective history. This makes it more important than ever to meet on common ground and come to some kind of mutual understanding. Learning another language is a great place to start. Connecting with communities of like-minded people across the globe, through websites designed to promote scholarly interaction, could not be more essential to our collective advancement. And all you need is a desire to learn and an internet connection. At the very least, you will open yourself up to meeting a wide array of people from distant locales and diverse backgrounds. That in itself will be worth your while.

Guest post by Sarah Harris, of Zen College Life, the premier directory for online colleges. Find out more information about an online nursing degree.

HispanicLa.com’s Supplement on Spanglish

April 27, 2010 2 comments
Categories: Bilingualism, Spanglish

And Still the Languages Kept On Dying

April 26, 2010 1 comment

Richard Littlebear discusses language endangerment and attempts at revitalization and maintenance:

‘Probably because of [a] tradition of failure, we latch onto anything that looks as though it will preserve our languages. As a result, we now have a litany of what we have viewed as the one item that will save our languages. This one item is usually replaced by another.

For instance, some of us said, ‘Let’s get our languages into written form’ and we did and still our Native American languages kept on dying.

Then we said, ‘Let’s make dictionaries for our languages’ and we did and still the languages kept on dying.

Then we said, ‘Let’s get linguists trained in our own languages’ and we did, and still the languages kept on dying.

Then we said, ‘Let’s train our own people who speak our languages to become linguists’ and we did and still the languages kept on dying.

Then we said, ‘Let’s apply for a federal bilingual education grant’ and we did and got a grant and still our languages kept on dying.

Then we said, ‘Let’s let the schools teach the languages’ and we did, and still the languages kept on dying.

Then we said, ‘Let’s develop culturally-relevant materials’ and we did and still our languages kept on dying.

Then we said, ‘Let’s use language masters to teach our language’ and we did, and still our languages kept on dying.

Then we said, ‘Let’s video-tape our elders speaking and doing cultural activities’ and we did and still our languages kept on dying.

Then we said, ‘Let’s put our native language speakers on CD-ROM’ and we did and still the languages kept on dying.

…In this litany, we have viewed each item as the one that will save our languages-and they haven’t.’

Source: Baker, Colin, 2006. Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism.

Categories: Bilingualism Quotes

Am I a Language Traitor??

As a white woman with advanced proficiency in Spanish, I have often been shunned by other white people throughout my life. I slightly remember feeling different than other white people when I was in high school, because I would often hang around with latinos and I was always interested in learning Spanish. Other students used to poke fun at me and say that I had an “identity crisis” and that I thought that I was Mexican. At the time I was very confused because I thought that bilingualism and multiculturalism were a positive thing, but many of my peers shunned me and made me feel as if there was something wrong with me.

Throughout college, I often found that it was difficult to relate to other white people who did not speak another language or had any sense of multiculturalism. I mainly hung out with latinos, but I had a few white friends who didn’t necessarily speak Spanish or another language, but they loved to travel and were very open minded. In college I didn’t sense so much that people were shunning me for speaking another language, because I was honestly too busy working, studying and attending classes. Yet I always carried with me that I was different than other white people in some way.

When I first was hired as a bilingual teacher, I could sense that many of the other white teachers were dissatisfied with me because I was a bilingual educator. They would often smirk if I talked about bilingualism or they would make slightly rude comments. Over time, some of them became extremely vicious towards me-many of them began to be much more vicious to me than they were to some of the other native Spanish-speaking teachers. I could never really understand what it was about my speaking Spanish and being a bilingual educator that was so unnerving to them.

In my current position, I have noticed (and I am not sure if this is really happening, or if it is something that I am imagining), but I have noticed that this same trend has continued in my current job as a bilingual coordinator. I sense that I make certain other people in the school district very upset because I am an advocate for bilingual programs and English language learners. I have spoken to some of my latino colleagues, and they have also noticed that the same people who are nice (but often patronizing) to them are just downright mean and vicious to me, often making subtle remarks about bilingualism.

The other day I was in a meeting and I approached two of my monolingual white colleagues. I asked them, “How do you say triptongos in English? I know that it’s not tripthongs. Is that a word in English? I don’t know what the English equivalent is”.

They both looked at me incredulously with an extremely dirty look on their face until finally one of them sneered at me with a disgusted sound in her voice, “How do you not know how to say something in English? Isn’t English your native language? That’s ridiculous!” She then turned her back on me.

I felt so hurt and humiliated at the time.  And sick and tired of often being treated this way by people. At the time I couldn’t help feeling ashamed that I felt hurt, because I know that this incident is nothing compared to the daily acts of racism that many people of color and language learners are subjected to on a frequent basis. But deep in my heart I also felt a sense of resistance and a fire that caused me to finally blurt out for the first time in my life, “I suppose that if you don’t know another language that you wouldn’t understand”.

I used to frequently discuss this dilemma with my father and he often told me that other monolingual white people probably treated me like this because they were jealous that they couldn’t speak another language. I guess so. But I’ve always suspected that there is something much more sinister going on with this dynamic. But then again, maybe I am just a big conspiracy theorist.

It wasn’t until I was in college when I brought this up to my African American adviser and he told me a story of a white pastor who had organized with the black community in the 1960s. He clearly recalled one occasion when a group of other white people on the sidelines attacked the white man and began screaming, “You race traitor! You ____ (insert offensive racial term) lover!” I can still hear it clearly in my mind when my professor turned to me and said, “You are a race traitor to these people. They despise you because you stand in solidarity with people of color. And they hate you for it”.

Or am I a language traitor in their eyes, challenging their monolingual dominance???

Is that what is going on here?? I just don’t know. And quite frankly, if this is what is actually occurring, then I don’t even know why I am letting it bother me because they are just a bunch of intolerant jerks.

The Essential Steps in Raising Multilingual Children

April 22, 2010 3 comments

As a parent, you may ask yourself about the possibility of attempting to raise your child multilingual. While many parents may not see the importance or significance of this, it can be a great benefit to the child in their future life. Children have the unique ability to absorb many things through their formative years. Even though it may seem complicated to have your child learn more than one language at a time, they are very capable of doing so and will impress you with how quickly they adapt.

Typically the rearing of a multilingual child is done by parents who speak more than one language themself. While this isn’t a necessity, it certainly gives a great starting off point for the child in question. Studies have shown that children need to be exposed to the secondary language at least 30% of their waking hours. This can be achieved in multiple ways such as, speaking to your children in the secondary language, arranging playgroups for them with children who speak the other language, and even immersing them in an alternate language school for a period of time.

Remember to always be realistic about your goals in teaching your child multiple languages. Children are very capable of absorbing up to four languages, but you must make sure that they gain enough exposure to each. Otherwise it will be a waste of time. Create a plan and stick with it, this will give your child the best possible chance of succeeding.

Most importantly, be patient with your children. Every child learns at their own pace, and teaching them multiple languages is no exception. They may occasionally mix up words and phrases, but it’s essential to never laugh and only offer positive encouragement. They will relate speaking and listening to having fun the more you make it fun for them. And while teaching your child to be multilingual may have its difficulties, its benefits far exceed whatever they are. By raising your child to be multilingual, you are giving them a gift they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.

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Categories: Uncategorized

Who is Qualified to Teach in a Bilingual Program?

April 17, 2010 2 comments

One of the followers on our facebook page, Angelica, recently asked the following question:

What is the difference between teaching in dual language immersion and regular bilingual ed? Honestly, are all bilingual educators who hold a bilingual credential qualified to teach in Dual language education? Just wondering.

Dear Angelica,

Thank you for asking such an important and complex question. There are a variety of bilingual program models that can be categorized under the umbrella of bilingual education. Such program models can be Dual Immersion, early-exit transitional bilingual, late-exit transitional bilingual, immersion education (as in the Canadian immersion type of program where students are taught two languages such as French and English), and many other instructional models.

I am assuming that when you say “regular bilingual ed”, you are referring to the typical early-exit transitional bilingual education program where students are provided instruction in Spanish, or another minority language, for a few years and are then subsequently transitioned into instruction that takes place all in English. The main aim of transitional bilingual education programs is proficiency and monolingualism in English, and students are only provided enough instruction in their primary language until they are proficient enough to receive instruction exclusively in English.

Dual Immersion, or dual language immersion, is different than the transitional bilingual education program. The main goals of Dual Immersion programs are bilingualism, academic proficiency in both languages, and cross-cultural competence. An additional difference is also that native English-speakers are also present in the Dual language immersion classroom in order to achieve bilingualism, biliteracy and cross-cultural competence.  In Dual Immersion programs, students continue to maintain and preserve their primary language as they learn a second language throughout elementary school and hopefully into middle school and high school.

In both types of bilingual education programs, teachers should be highly proficient in English and Spanish, or other languages that are taught in the particular program. They also should be highly skilled in second language acquisition as well as instructional strategies that are designed to promote second language acquisition. In addition, teachers in both programs should have a firm understanding of their particular bilingual education program model design as well as a sound theoretical understanding of literacy and biliteracy development.

Due to the presence of native English-speaking children in the program, it’s imperative that Dual Immersion teachers are also highly skilled in scaffolding instruction in Spanish, or another minority language, depending on the program. Dual Immersion teachers also require an advanced level of cultural competence and must be highly proficient in working with parents and students of various racial, ethnic, cultural and linguistic groups.

The possession of a bilingual teaching authorization (e.g., a BCLAD credential in California) does NOT necessarily mean that a teacher is qualified to teach in either a transitional bilingual education or a Dual Immersion program. A bilingual teaching authorization does not  signify that teachers are prepared for the knowledge and skill that is required of bilingual educators regarding biliteracy development, second language acquisition, and cross-cultural competence–much in the same way that an ESL or CLAD teaching authorization does not signify that a teacher is highly competent in teaching English Language Development in an English classroom.

Having taught in a transitional bilingual education program does NOT qualify most teachers to teach in a Dual Immersion setting, either. Transitional bilingual education teachers are often exposed to only one linguistic group, such as having all native Spanish-speakers, and are typically not accustomed to working with parents of various cultural and linguistic groups. Transitional bilingual education teachers also often take for granted that their students understand everything that is said when teaching in Spanish, and are unaccustomed to having second language learners in the classroom during Spanish instruction.

It is my philosophy that teachers in both transitional bilingual education programs and Dual Immersion settings should have the same levels of expertise regarding second language acquisition and biliteracy development, with Dual Immersion educators having a more nuanced ability of cross-cultural competence. Unfortunately, this is not the case because many transitional bilingual education programs are often viewed politically as remedial programs and therefore teachers are not provided the staff development and resources needed that is the same caliber of many Dual Immersion programs. Similarly, many Dual Immersion educators also unfortunately lack the cross-cultural awareness and understanding that is required to work with diverse students and parents.

For additional information on the critical components of quality bilingual education programs, you might find the following posts to be helpful:

Critical Components of Effective Bilingual Programs

A Parent’s Guide to the Critical Components of Effective Bilingual Programs

I hope this answered your question! If not, please feel free to ask additional questions!!

Take care,

Melanie

Categories: Bilingual Ed 101
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