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Archive for March, 2009

Dual Immersion Must-Reads

March 31, 2009 4 comments

I think that I have pretty much established that I am a bilingual education fanatic. I am feeling so happy, because in a matter of just a few days I have managed to meet some really great bilingual and multilingual advocates online! I feel such a sense of community and I am really looking forward to coming home each day and blogging about multilingual topics galore!! 

Lately I have been mulling over whether or not I should return to the doctoral program. I studied for two years in the program and about one and a half years ago I took a leave of absence from the program. I won’t get into all the details, but to make a very long story short, I just find it very difficult to be in institutions that don’t value diversity. I keep asking myself lately though if I should return to school and finish my studies. I was initially very interested in bilingual education, specifically Dual Immersion programs. My area of emphasis was on the education of African American students in the dual language setting, as well as issues of power and inequality that can be manifested in Dual Immersion programs.

Last week I came upon a really great blog called Spanglishbaby.com. They did a number of articles on Dual Immersion programs and if you are not familiar with the program then you should mosey on over there and check it out. In a nutshell, language majority speakers (i.e., native English-speakers) and language minority students (i.e., Spanish or another target language) are integrated in Dual Immersion programs and are taught through two languages. There are a number of program model designs for the Dual Immersion model.

Anyhow, I personally work with Dual Immersion programs in my professional capacity, and I have the Dual Immersion bug. The articles over at Spanglishbaby brought back a memory that there are many “must do” readings on my list regarding Dual Immersion. So, in keeping with my manic and obsessive compulsive self, I am going to challenge myself to a read-a-thon regarding everything dual and immersion. 

My first goal is that July I want to have read every single article, book or resource on the Center for Applied Linguistic’s dual language bibliography. I don’t honestly think it will be that difficult to read everything because I have already read a lot of what is on the bibliography.

My second goal to read the entire Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition immersion bibliography (i.e., “one way immersion” where language majority speakers are immersed in a program that teaches the minority language and may not be integrated with native speakers of the target language). I’d like to have that bibliography finished by July as well.

It all sounds so simple, like not much reading, but I have tons of reading that I need to do for other projects. I am creating an English Learner Professional Development institute training that I want to submit to the state to be approved as a provider of staff development. I’m also going to be working on writing a grant for a “three-way immersion program”, where the emphasis will be Spanish, English and Mandarin and students are learning all three languages. I’m sure that my readings will help me for the grant. Maybe it will help me decide if I want to continue my doctoral studies as well. 

I’ll update soon with the first book that I have just started reading. I just don’t happen to have the title on me at the moment. I’m really going to enjoy reading all of the works on the bibliographies and then blogging about some of my ideas regarding the readings.

A must-read for anyone who is interested in Dual Immersion programs, bilingual education, and/or second language acquisition and English language development should read Colin Baker’s Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism!

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Part II-Beginning Origins of The Unapologetic Polyglot: High School Years and Identity Crisis Dilemmas

March 29, 2009 2 comments

As I begin this blog, I figured that it would be helpful to explain who I am and what makes me tick before I go into one of my manic rants about something that has happened in my life. I’m dying to get to the ranting and venting posts, but I think it is useful to take a step back and dig deep into who I am. Besides, the flashbacks to my past have been somewhat helpful to me in understanding myself, to a certain degree.

A couple of days ago, I blogged about my elementary school years. You can read about it here, and probably should read about it first before you read this post about my high school years.

As I mentioned in my origins post, my mother sent me to live with my father in a predominately immigrant dominant community when I was in the eighth grade. I came home to live with my mother when I was in the ninth grade. It was in the ninth grade during my first year of high school when I took my first formal Spanish class. I don’t remember very clearly my high school years, but what I do remember was my Spanish class on the first day of school. The teacher exposed us to the alphabet in English by giving us the Spanish alphabet with a cheat sheet regarding the Spanish pronunciation. For example, next to the letter “b” had “bay” written as the way to pronounce the word. My Spanish professor was a white man who through the mormon church had lived in Peru for a number of years.

I really loved my Spanish class and had the same teacher for almost three years. In the middle of my eleventh grade class, my Spanish teacher moved me into an honor’s Spanish class with another teacher. My teacher was from Mexico, and the entire class was taught in Spanish (much differently than my first Spanish teacher). It was primarily literature-based. I was a bit in culture shock, because I had never been in a class that was conducted all in Spanish, but I quickly got over that. 

In my senior year, I was placed in an advanced placement Spanish class with the same teacher from Mexico. I was the only native English-speaker in the advanced placement class, so they placed me in a Spanish literature class for native-Spanish speakers who were recent arrivals to the United States. I can remember clearly the day that I was laughed at for speaking Spanish, a day that caused much shame and embarrassment for years. Until my senior year of high school, I had always been praised for quick acquisition of Spanish as well as my accent while speaking in Spanish (people always claimed that I didn’t have the typical “gringa” accent common to many native English-speaking Spanish learners). One day in particular our class was conducting a grammar exercise that went along with the Don Quixote in a round-robin type setting where each person was called on one by one to answer a question. I was asked to conjugate the verb “traer” into a past tense verb. I stated, “Traje” and all of the other native Spanish-speaking students on the other side of the classroom began laughing. I was very confused, because I was almost positive that “traer” was an irregular verb and was conjugated in the way in which I had answered. One of the other students laughed and erroneously said, “No, it’s ‘trai'”. The teacher quickly corrected the student and mentioned that my conjugation was correct, but I still felt a deep sense of embarrassment, although I was correct.

After that day, I never spoke Spanish again in front of native Spanish-speakers (very close friends excluded) until years later when I was in college. I can only imagine how damaging something like this could be to someone who is learning English as well. I would assume it would be even more psychologically damaging due to the power dynamics of being an immigrant and learning English. 

Keeping consistent with my elementary and middle school years, I continued to have mainly Latino and African American friends and continued my chases after all the cute Latino boys. The more proficient I became in Spanish, the more culturally alienated I felt as a teenager and I began to slip into a depression. My mother constantly would yell at me because she claimed that I spoke “like a Mexican”. At the time I couldn’t comprehend exactly what she was telling me, but she would get very angry and tell me that I had an accent when I spoke in English. She would become especially angry when I would make comments like, “I’m going to get down for a minute” (i.e., “I’m going to get out of the car for a minute”). It was incomprehensible to me what on Earth she was talking about for years, until one day I was sitting in a workshop on Chicano English. I’ll blog about my epiphany during that workshop at a later time, but it became clear after the fact that I had picked up many local speech habits of some of my English-speaking Latina/o friends. 

My mother also began to become very uncomfortable with me having so many Latina/o friends when I was in high school. She began to question me as to why I only wanted to hang out with “the Mexicans”. “Do you feel bad about yourself?” she would frequently ask. “Don’t you feel that you deserve any better? Does it make you feel superior that you have friends that are beneath you? Is that why you hang out with all these Mexicans-to make you feel better?” she would also inquire. “You must have really low self esteem. You don’t even love yourself”, she frequently cajoled. 

I became very confused and alienated because I didn’t understand why she was insinuating that there was something wrong with me for having the friends that I had. I couldn’t comprehend why she was telling me that I only had my Latina/o friends because I wanted to make myself feel better than them. I instinctively knew that that what she was telling me was wrong, but I didn’t have the capacity at the time to recognize and name the construct of racism. Instead, I began to internalize that there was something wrong with me.

During my high school years, I also began to feel culturally isolated from my friends. I struggled with the fact that although I felt as if I were part of the group, I still felt that I was outside of the group. There would be times when I wouldn’t understand everything completely when people were talking in Spanish, especially jokes and social language and I was afraid to admit that I didn’t understand. I saw the disconnect between my native-born English-speaking Latina friends and My recent immigrant friends, and I felt torn between them as they were polarized from one another. My friends would sometimes bash “white girls” who dated some of the other guys, but they would tell me, “Oh, but you are different. I don’t even notice you are white”.

“But you’re different. I don’t even think of you as white”. That comment has been said to me over and over and over again throughout my life. Until just recently I have fully come to terms with the fact that it is a compliment, but at the time of my high school years it made me feel ashamed because I was white. Talk about going through a major identity crisis that lasted throughout my twenties.

I’m a bilingual education and language fanatic, and one of the themes that lately that I have been mulling over is the interconnectedness of language with identity. This is something that I plan on discussing in a future post, discussing how becoming bilingual has completely changed my identity. I often wonder if students in Dual Immersion programs, where native English-speakers and native Spanish-speakers are mixed together to learn two languages, go through the same sort of identity crisis as they develop into proficient bilingual students. {Sidenote: Dual programs can also teach other languages besides just English and Spanish as I just mentioned}. If so, what types of support systems do they need from teachers and parents that will enable them to come to acceptance with their identity issues.

In my particular case in high school, I became culturally alienated and thought that there was something wrong with me being bilingual and different from other white people. When it was also paired with my realization that I was different than my Latina/o friends, I became alienated and depressed. I carried around this identity crisis for years until I came to accept my difference in my twenties. I’m sure that if I would have had a supportive mother at the time who did not make me feel as if there was something bad about being culturally and linguistically different than other people, it probably wouldn’t have been so damaging to my identity development. 

Next I will blog about my college years and the years when I first began my career as a bilingual educator, and how my identity crisis eventually worked itself out. Thanks for following along!

Covert Racism or Trendy Use of K?

Language can send powerful messages regarding power, privilege and the social structure in given locations. Ever since I read Elana Shohamy’s book “Linguistic Landscapes: Expanding the Scenery”, I have been extremely interested in the ways in which language and images are presented in public places. 

Yesterday I went to my cousin’s house in a certain inland city, which has in my opinion been a more or less rural, conservative area until the past five years or so. I have always been a bit uncomfortable in the town because there is not much diversity. Well, there are many Latinos in the town, but it seems that the town is relatively segregated because many of the places in town are populated by white people and I’ve yet to figure out where the Latino part of town is. Yesterday my cousin invited me to breakfast and I drove over to her city of residence.

We drove around looking for a place to eat and she told me that there was a well-known restaurant that has good pancakes and bakery items. As soon as I got out of the car, I noticed the sign on top of the restaurant:
kopper-kettle5

This sign made me feel very uncomfortable because of all the k’s in the title. The first thing I said to my cousin was, “Don’t you think it’s strange that there are so many k’s in that title”? She definitely agreed. I was very perplexed as to whether the k’s were used intentionally as a subtle form of white supremacy (KKK) or if it was an unintentional use of spelling in an effort to be trendy.

When we got into the restaurant, I read on the menu that the restaurant had been around for about twenty years or so. A quick look around the restaurant revealed that all the customers were white, but the cooks in the kitchen were Latino. On the front wall there were pictures of a pretty baby contest, and there were at least two pictures of African American babies. So, I figured maybe they weren’t a bunch of white supremacists after all because if they were they wouldn’t have any Latinos working in the building. Over the past day though I have been asking myself, “Who started this restaurant twenty years ago? What is the real purpose that they used so many k’s in the title? Was it intentional or unintentional?” It reminds me though of the ways in which white supremacist groups spell certain words (e.g., I have seen California spelled as “Kalifornia”). 

All I know is that just looking at the sign brings a very uncomfortable feeling to me and I never want to go back to the place. Even the k’s in the sign seem to be larger and stand out more so than other letters. I’m not saying that the current owner is a white hooded, cross burning member of the klan, but just looking at the sign makes me very, very uncomfortable and I am slightly offended. Am I overexaggerating??

The Beginning Origins of The Unapologetic Polyglot

March 28, 2009 6 comments

I’ve got tons of things that I need to get off my chest, but before I begin blogging about them I think that it is important for me to write a little about myself and what makes me tick.

I am a white woman who is now a proficient bilingual. I suppose that I could say that I was raised by a somewhat racist single mother in a relatively conservative area of California. I remember there being a few Latino and African American students at my elementary school level. As far as I can remember, I always gravitated towards having Latina/o and African American friends in elementary school and beyond.

The first time that I confronted my mother’s blatant racism was when I was approximately in the third or fourth grade or so. I had a friend at school who was half African American and half Chinese and I asked my mother if she could come and spend the night with me on the weekend. I had been speaking about her at home, and my mother was aware that her mother owned the local Chinese food restaurant. My mother told me that I could have her spend the night. One day, my mother came to pick me up from school and I said, “Look, there is my friend Yvette” and she was horrified.

“You didn’t tell me that she was black”, my mother growled. “She can’t spend the night at our house”.

“Why not?” I asked.

“Because blacks are greasy and she will mess up your sheets. Blacks put grease in their hair and their skin is very greasy”.

Something about that comment did not sit well with me, although I was very young. I instinctively knew that there was something that was not right about what she was telling me, and I felt very bad about it.

“Then can I go and spend the night at her house?” I asked.

“No. I don’t want you around her dad. Black men fuck and rape their daughters”, she exclaimed. I tried to reason with her that I did not think that Yvette’s dad was a bad person, and my mother continued to tell me all of the horrible things that black men did to their daughters, and more importantly…what black men (supposedly) did to white girls. 

Doesn’t this sound like it’s right out of a To Kill the Mockingbird type story??

Anyhow, Yvette never did come and stay the night at my house and I never went to hers. But I carried around a very hurt feeling because I knew that what my mother was telling me was not true. 

Let’s flash forward to middle school and one of my second significant experiences with my racial identity. By the time I was in middle school, I had already become a connoisseur of Latino males. I once again gravitated towards having Latina friends and chasing after the Latino boys. It was in the seventh grade that I began to have Spanish-speaking Latina friends and I tried desperately to pick up the language. I can remember clearly that I had a crush on two cute Latino boys, one being named Allen. I’m not sure exactly how it came about, but somehow he found out about my crush and told one of my friends that he didn’t like “white girls”. I can remember being perplexed at the time because for so long I had been hanging around with black and latino friends that it was the first time that someone other than my mother pointed out the differences between me and other people. 

Some time in the eighth grade, I became a little rebel and decided that I wanted to run away from school. My mother decided to send me to live with my father (who happens to not be a racist) and I was bussed to school in a relatively Latino and immigrant dominant community. It seemed so natural to me to be immersed in that environment and that was the time in my life when my lifelong love affair with the Spanish language began. I had a friend on the corner named Elizabeth who taught me how to speak a little Spanish and I began to voraciously watch Spanish novelas on television in an effort to learn Spanish. I can remember trying to mimic the intonations of the language the people were speaking on the television, even though I didn’t understand a word of what they were saying. My father had a relatively olive skinned complexion due to his Italian heritage, and I began to lie to some people (mostly the boys) and tell them that I was half Latina. As I write this I suppose it may have had to do with the rejection that I had faced the year before when I was turned down by my middle school crush. I even began to lie to some English speaking people, pretending that I spoke Spanish when I was on the telephone with them and “babbling” words with the a Spanish intonation pattern.

By the time that I returned home to my mother’s house at the end of the eighth grade, my racial and cultural identity had changed drastically. This is something that I would like to come back to in another post to delve into and explore a bit further. In another post I would like to blog about my experiences in high school during the years when I became fluent in Spanish, and later discuss my college years and beyond as I have evolved into a biliterate and multicultural woman.

I suppose that I am inclined to discuss a little about the origins of the development of my racial and linguistic identity because it really guides the way I live my life. Today I wanted to blog about a situation that occurred during a forum on the achievement gap as I was sitting with a group of other white educators. I wanted to express my frustration regarding me feeling as if I live in a completely parallel universe from people who look like me, but I think that I need to explain a little about my background before I get to that discussion.

Well, I do hope you are enjoying my story so far-if and when I get any readers!

You can continue reading my story about my high school years here.

Off to the Trenches!!

I’m off to the trenches to fight the battle yet another day. Today I am feeling particularly worn down and I just hope I can make it during the day. I’m really excited about the possibility of using this blog as an avenue to vent and blow off some of the stress and frustration that I feel on a frequent basis. Sometimes it is hard being in an advocacy role.

Categories: Uncategorized

Hello to All!

Hello all, this is my first post! I’ll start off by introducing myself, although I’m pretty sure that at the moment my thoughts as expressed on the blog will more than likely be read by few people. This blog is going to be a place where I am going to share my private thoughts about multilingualism, bilingual/multilingual education, and other topics over which I am obsessed.  This will be a refuge for me to blow off some steam, a place where I can explore issues that I am interested in and hopefully offer an alternative discourse to the field of multilingual education. 

Multilingual education has been my lifelong passion. I eat, drink and breathe bilingual education. My interests include late-exit maintenance bilingual education, Dual Immersion/dual language education, English as a second language, racism, and everything pertaining to the education of English learners. 

Lately I have become concerned because it seems that our bilingual programs in California continue to dwindle for reasons outside of our control. What has become particularly alarming to me is the lack of consciousness of bilingual educators, the lack of understanding of the struggles that we have faced as we have historically fought for the right for children to be educated in a multilingual manner. My blog is my small attempt to put out an alternative discourse to the mainstream talk of bilingual education as it is portrayed in the media and large advocacy organizations.

I would consider myself to be a radical educator dedicated to issues of equity and social justice. I firmly believe that all students, both English learners and native English-speaking children, have the right to become bilingual or multilingual. I also believe that students who are not involved in bilingual education programs have the right to a quality education, something of which they are deprived more often than not. Although I am an uncompromising bilingual/multilingual education advocate, I will also go to the end of the world for English learners who are enrolled in English programs. 

So here it is-my small attempt to make a little difference in the life of children. If my blog helps at least one person, then I will be happy. If you don’t like my ideas, then don’t read my blog. I reserve the right to engage in my constitutional right to express my opinion, and no one will silence me.