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 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.’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,


Categories: Bilingual Ed 101

Will Repetition Cure Anti-Bilingualism? I Didn’t Think So

April 15, 2010 9 comments

I usually don’t tend to blog about situations related to my current job. When and if I do blog about something related to my current position, I typically will speak in general terms and not be too specific about the details. My rationale for this is: 1) I really want to draw a fine line between my life and my blog, and don’t want anything that I say to ever be misconstrued as representing the school district; 2) I feel that as an administrator, it is my job to work with school administrators and teachers in order to implement quality bilingual programs, and this sometimes requires much patience when working with people who are not knowledgeable about bilingual education; and, 3) I feel that when working with administrators and teachers that I owe them the professional courtesy of confidentiality with our discussions.

Today something happened that just pushed me over the edge and just decided that I just had to blog about it. All day long I have been debating whether I should blog about it, but then I have come to the conclusion that I have had enough patience with a certain situation over the past couple of months and I have finally expended all patience that I might have left.

It all started a couple of months ago when a vice principal at a school called me in order to discuss his bilingual program. I listened patiently as he bashed the program for fifteen minutes on the telephone. I was trying to have patience with him, because during my first year teaching he was actually my mentor and I felt that I owed him the professional courtesy to hear him out.

“These teachers are so stubborn in sticking to their bilingual schedule and their fifty percent of Spanish during the day in third grade. How can I get them to understand that they need to add more English if the kids are going to learn English?” he asked.

I patiently went through a thorough explanation about the fact that it is not the amount of English, but the quality of instruction that is most important. I discussed that there are some bilingual programs with more Spanish in our district that outscore programs that have less Spanish. I also pointed out that there are bilingual programs in our district and throughout the nation that outscore English-only classes. I offered to come out to the site and observe some of the bilingual classes, and later meet with bilingual teachers in order to tailor staff development specifically to meet their needs.

I thought that we had such a productive conversation. Yet over the past couple of months we have had three additional conversations about the same exact topic. It’s even been brought to my attention that a couple of times that he has gone behind my back to my boss and has had similar conversations about the bilingual program.

This morning was the day that I went to finally go and visit the site. I walked into his office and met with him as well as the principal and the repetitive questions once again reared their ugly heads.

“If we are going to have them proficient in English, how are they going to do it without adding more English? How can we get them to add more English?” he asked.

I once again explained everything that I have already explained to him on numerous occasions and then I finally just said, “You are NOT going to get them to do only English. It is the district expectation that this program will be implemented in this particular way. If there are components that are not present in your program in order to have a quality program, then we need to address them-and adding more English is not going to address any underlying issue that are causing you to have an ineffective bilingual program”.

We went on to discuss additional information about the program and he said, “Yesterday I called all the teachers into the room and I told them that they are causing the test scores to go down in our school. I will not stand for them pulling everyone else down. I told them that if they can’t step up to the plate that they will be moved out of this school”.

I asked him if he had any data on him that I could look at, because it has been my experience that some administrators make blanket statements about their bilingual programs without even having any data to back up their claims. He of course didn’t have any data on hand. You can bet your bottom dollar that I will be investigating this claim with a fine toothed comb.

At one point in our conversation, he mentioned that the bilingual fourth grade teacher had the highest test scores in the entire school. “So, the bilingual program must not be that ineffective,” I stated. “This is often what we see in the research-that students in bilingual programs begin to outperform students in English programs in the upper elementary years”.

He of course was not accepting that explanation. He just simply explained to me that the teacher was a great teacher.

I patiently walked through the classrooms and observed the teachers, jotting down notes as to what I would like to discuss with them when I meet with them at a later date. And then I set my dates and exited the building.

Yet there has been a nagging feeling all day long in the back of my head, a nagging sensation that it is not fair to the bilingual teachers to be placed in a situation where an administrator is telling them that they are pulling down all the test scores in the entire school. It’s not fair that bilingual teachers need help, and they are given no help, assistance, or guidance from the administrator who is supposed to be leading them. I’m tired of many bilingual educators being scapegoats for leaders who aren’t fulfilling their responsibility to implement a high quality, effective bilingual program.

Something tells me that no matter how much I will try with this man that he will do nothing but turn around and try to sabotage my efforts. But I still owe it to the students and the teachers to do everything in my power to try to support them in any way that I can to try to enhance the quality of their program. Wish me luck!

Categories: Bilingual Education

Why Am I Staying in Taiwan? Because I Am More Me Here.

April 14, 2010 2 comments

Here is the ritual greeting that takes place in Taipei when I pay the fare to the taxi driver, order a latte at a Starbucks, or pay the bill in a restaurant.

How much is it? 多少錢?

NT$100. Are you Japanese / Overseas Chinese / Korean? 100圓。你是日本人/華僑/韓國人?

I am from Japan. 我來自日本。

You speak Chinese really well. 你國語講的很好。

Thank you. 謝謝,不會。

How long have you been here? 你待多久?

5 years. 五年了。

That’s awesome! 怎麼厲害!

If I am talking with a person over 40 years old, this question pops up.

Why did you choose Taiwan? 你為什麼選擇臺灣?

Because… 因為

And then I always pause. Each time, an internal voice whispers I still don’t know, followed by But I love being here, that’s for sure. I say things like “Because Taiwan is a great country with great people and great food” (which is all true, by the way). I get nervous thinking the person in front of me might suspect I am merely trying to please her, which makes my response even more robotic and suspicious.

I can list things that make Taiwan/Taipei great. Inexpensive yet tasty food. Relaxed atmosphere. Mild-mannered people. Near-flawless public transportation. Unbelievably cheap and sophisticated medical care.  A modern city with accessible nature in its backyard.

But none of them hits the bull’s eye. I had access to all of them back in Japan, except for the inexpensive food and relaxed atmosphere. Food prices never affected me much. So is it the ability to relax more? No, a critical factor is still missing.

One weekend, while riding on a train and looking at the streaming landscape, I got it. The clue has been there all along, right in my view, like in these photos.

There is nothing photogenic or remarkable about these scenes, to be fair. Miniature balcony jungle flourishes inside an old apartment. A golden temple shines brightly inside an office building. A makeshift playground replicating Gulliver in Lilliput lies in front of a memorial hall. If there is any theme in them, it is that there is no theme at all—what we see is only the co-existence of unrelated objects. Yes, they are what makes Taipei, Taipei.

Wait, hadn’t I experienced it in Japan, a place more famous than Taiwan for accepting weirdness? Well in Japan, every foreign object must go through a “transforming” stage before lining up in the stores or being introduced in a media outlet, its cuteness exaggerated and any threatening element de-emphasized. In other words, foreign stuff must be assimilated and sanitized. That’s why Japanese cultural items are always, er, Japanese. Might be peculiar at times, but always safe.

In Taiwan, things exist more as they are, not falling into sameness under the “Taiwanese” label. That same principle applies to people, or expatriates in this case. Looking back on my five-year experience living here, one of the most remarkable things is that I’ve never had to compromise my identity to be like someone else. I do not say I could always do what I wanted to. But no one forced me to behave like someone I am not, either. In fact, I already wrote about that experience in expat+HAREM.

The Taiwanese view me as “Laowai”, a foreigner. Not Japanese, more like Overseas Chinese. I act the way that feels right to me, and the Taiwanese view me the way that feels right for them, and we both feel fine about not understanding each other’s point of view.

I am like those odd objects in the photos. I am alien to the local culture, and also part of it. Folks, now I have the answer to the original question; why I have been sticking to Taiwan—and the whole story, which has taken me five years to figure out, has taken you three minutes to read.

P.S. It is time for me to take a nap at lunchtime in the office—an important part of the Taiwanese business culture—and I safely close my eyes and bend my neck toward the ceiling (opening my mouth is optional), against the proper manner of burying one’s head into the arms, like my colleague sitting next to me.

About the Author: Isao Kato is a nomad Japanese technical writer living in Taiwan, melting technology and communication in the Asian pot.

Categories: Uncategorized

Attention Bilingual Parents: Student Needs Assistance

April 13, 2010 2 comments

Yesterday a student who is writing a paper about bilingualism posted in our comments section that she needs assistance from people who are raising bilingual children. She is requesting assistance with the following questions:

1. What is the language spoken in your country of residence?
2. How many children do you have? Where were your children born?
3. What language/s do you speak? What language/s does your husband speak?
4. Do you believe in and encourage your children to speak more than one language? Why or why not?
5. Have you tried different methods to teach your children to be multilingual? Which ones?
6. Which method do you think worked better?
7. Many parents just give up because it takes too much work or they do not get support from their friends or husbands/ wives. Did you, at any point, think about giving up?
8. What advice would you give other bilingual parents who might not know how to help their children learn the home language?

If you have a little free time, it would really help her out! Please take the time to answer these questions in the comment section!! Apart from the paper, it would be really interesting to also learn more about you!!


Categories: Bilingualism