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!
Missouri Values Immigrants!
Immigration remains a politically contentious issue around the United States. In a study colleagues and I recently published, we explored the attitudes of Missouri residents towards immigration and immigrants residing in the state. While the immigrant population has increased 172% since 1980, foreign-born residents remain relatively few in number, comprising a mere 4% of the state’s population. Small population size notwithstanding, state legislators have submitted numerous bills limiting the rights of the immigrant population over the past several years. Nonetheless, our findings in this research suggest that most Missourians actually hold positive views of the contributions that immigrants make in the state. Drawing on data collected in a representative telephone survey of Missouri residents over the age of 18 (n=800), we found that most Missouri residents perceived immigrants as sharing their values on important issues. See more at: http://www.macrothink.org/journal/index.php/ijssr/article/view/5365/4513 (Sandoval, Dorner, & Devonshire, 2014)
“¿Cómo se dice?” How do you say?
At one-way language immersion schools, most students speak only English at home, but they soon speak their new target language—and other new discourses—at school. By discourse, I mean that kids create not only new ways of speaking, but also new ways of being and interacting! Angela Layton and I created a study in one Spanish immersion school to examine: How did first-grade students appropriate multiple languages and discourses during classroom activities? In turn, how did they support each other and their teachers in creating new discourses?
In our study, we found (like others have) that students supported each others’ learning of Spanish. Whole-class, teacher-led routines provided scripted opportunities for students to practice their new language and to translate for each other. We also found that students practiced other school “ways of being” in these spaces, like “how to behave well.” What was most interesting to us, however, was how students played with language and created discourses during small-group work. For instance, they showed a deep understanding about the structure of language, as they taught “pig Latin” to their assistant teacher. They also considered the connection between language and identity, as they thought about how each of them would be viewed by the greater society if they spoke Spanish outside of school. Their dialogues suggested that they knew that Mexican-American students could be discriminated against for speaking Spanish, while the rest of them would be praised for being bilingual.
In our paper, we consider the implications of this study for language immersion classrooms and policies. Download the paper for free from Linguistics and Education until March 26, 2014!