Indeed, let’s ask — as my friend Marjorie Faulstich Orellana has asked — What if we start thinking more carefully about multilingual contexts? They exist all over Missouri, and yet many continue to think of Missouri as a monolingual, English-speaking space, where we have “bilingual kids” or “English Language Learners” that need to learn English. But we’re more than that. We are communities — large and small — that use a whole range of languages and language varieties to communicate and work with each other. More and more school districts are thinking: how can we work in these multilingual contexts and support the development of our multilingual kids? Check out the latest newsletter from the Missouri Dual Language Network (MODLAN) to see what’s up regarding language education and opportunities in our state: http://eepurl.com/bZ0Zc1 You might also “like us” (lots!) on our FaceBook page or visit our website. Hasta luego!
“The more one is in a position to make decisions for children, to speak on their behalf, the more one is able to silence their voices.” (Lee, 2001, p. 10)
For 18 months in the early 2000s, I ‘hung out’ with elementary-aged children from six Mexican immigrant families; we did homework together, played with younger siblings, drew pictures, and created imaginary games. (In formal research terms, I designed an ethnography and used participant observation techniques informed by the social science of childhoods and scholars like Allison James, Alan Prout, and Marjorie Faulstich Orellana.) I wanted to explore how young kids understood a new language education program being developed and implemented in their school district. I believed that children served as cultural brokers for their families, possibly shaping how their parents understood and made choices about the new program.
As I published the results of the study, however, I found that I relied heavily upon my conversations with adults, field notes from adult-centric interactions and meetings, and interview transcripts. I generally neglected most of the data that I collected with youth, and thus, inadvertently silenced their voices. I reflect upon the entire process and re-analyze data from youth to explore questions of ethics in doing research with children and young people. The results of my reflections are in this newly published piece, “From Relating to (Re)Presenting: Challenges and Lessons Learned from an Ethnographic Study with Young Children,” qix.sagepub.com/content/21/4/354.abstract. I welcome your ideas and feedback on this!
Educators, parents, and other community members around our state are thinking beyond monolingualism. On February 4, a group of us will convene at the University of Missouri to discuss what we need to move forward. “Like” us on FaceBook – https://www.facebook.com/moduallanguage – and post your ideas: How can we support and develop the multiple languages and cultures of our communities and our kids? Updates will be posted on Twitter, too, for those who prefer that social media forum – https://twitter.com/lisamdorner!
There is a lot of research that demonstrates English-only and anti-immigrant rhetoric negatively affects the development of bilingual education programs for children from U.S. immigrant families. We know relatively less, though, about the development of language education programs that strive to develop bilingualism in mixed groups of students (including those from U.S.-born, English-dominant homes), so I designed a study on the creation of Spanish, French, and Mandarin language immersion schools in the Midwest. At one of these schools, I found that community members, parents, and educators alike valued bilingualism and global access as rights and resources for all students — a surprising find in a rather ‘English-only’ context! However, parents also chose specialized language programs for reasons that had little to do with multilingualism or future international interactions; they chose their schools because they wanted safe, socializing spaces for their young children. In a new project, I’m exploring similar questions about the rhetoric and reasons behind new language education policies in Japan. Stay tuned!