For whom are we protecting the designated use of languages in two-way bilingual education (TWBE) programs?

After attending the Teaching English for Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) convention this past week in Atlanta, GA and noticing how much “we” tend to place an immense amount of value on a certain kind “English,” I started thinking about the TWBE context. A context that is dear to my bilingual and Latinx heart as a former TWBE teacher, a parent with children in TWBE programs, and as an academic who has spent a large part of my time invested in this “ideal” form of bilingual education.

In the TWBE community, scholars and parents argue for Spanish to have a protected space in the classroom. Don’t get me wrong — I much prefer Spanish time over English and do think we  need to place more value on Spanish than English (more to come below). A protective space for Spanish is a legit concern considering that English is overwhelmingly present – or, how I like to describe it, English is a huge tidal wave that sweeps everything and everyone with its powerful force. Here’s my issue with “protecting Spanish” or any other minoritized language in dual language classrooms, For whom are we protecting Spanish in TWBE programs? I cannot critique TWBE classrooms without personalizing my experience as a parent raising 3rd generation bilinguals (no small feat!) and as a heritage speaker of Spanish. My daughters, like many heritage speakers of Spanish, walked into their designated dual language program already bilingual. They are used to navigating multilingual spaces and are quite comfortable doing so. Speaking Spanish is like breathing air – an automatic response to being alive. Translanguaging is a way of being for them, it’s not a mystery to be explored and problematized. When we promote a designated time for Spanish or English (!!) we are drawing from the language practices and strategies that were designed for the White and monolingual English-speaking demographic. I think we should all follow Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes (AOC) advice at SXSW and create our own spaces of agency, a sort of FUBU language policies, that reflect our history and language practices.

A more urgent point is that English does not need a protective space in the elementary TWBE programs (at least not until the upper elementary years)! As a parent raising 3rd generation multilingual daughters, I literally threw English out the door, in the trash can, and sent all our English children’s books to Goodwill (don’t really recommend doing that). I have made a huge concerted effort to raise the status of OUR Spanish. I would even argue that I’ve been pretty successful at helping my daughters value their Latinidad and bilingualism, BUT this could not have happened (for many reasons) had I let English have a “protected” space in our lives. English does not need a single centimeter of space – it naturally will consume every facet of your child’s life in the U.S. context (and others internationally).

In my Latinx and bilingual world, the TWBE program would be “heavily marketed” to communities of color who speak a variety of English(es). What I (re)imagine is that a beautiful and linguistically diverse group of students would get to continue to grow up as heritage speakers of [insert minoritized language] while building bridges between communities of color. *Communities of Color [for a reimagined] Two-way Bilingual Education (COC-TWBE)

White supremacy is an intricate part of the institutions we navigate and an ingrained part of our (un)conscious ways of being that it is highly unlikely that my ideal Latinx and bilingual world will come into fruition unfortunately (or any time soon). Until then, I will continue to use my own positionality as a mamá raising language warriors and a Latinx expert in bilingual education to #speakup and #standup for and with communities of colors who seek a more equitable two-way immersion bilingual education program.

#gentrificationTWBE #FUBU #LatinxLanguagePolicies #bilingualeducation #multilingualVIDA #TWBE #PhDLatina #protectedspacesforCOC #notsameassegregation #onourterms #Spanishonourterms #SpanishRights #SpanishasResistence #reclaimingSpanish #sisepuede

For What and for Whom is our Research?

As someone who identifies as an academic that “researches” the very demographic that is currently being attacked at the border, my sense of obligation to #speakup, #standup, and #resist with and for immigrants has never been stronger.

I think Lourdes Ortega’s question (the title of this blog post), For what and for whom is our research?, is really poignant right now. I don’t think I could ethically write, speak, and create research about a certain demographic and not also do the hard work of an activist, advocate, or ally. I don’t even think I do enough as it is. I want to encourage my fellow colleagues (some of whom are really vocal and active as it is when it comes to supporting marginalized communities) to reflect and re-examine what and how we do what we do in academia.

I am taking a risk here by publicaly making this request or assertion because I am what is considered in academia a junior faculty member, but also in a marginalized position as a “visiting” or adjunct professor. We are living during times where these kind of questions/assertions/requests must be asked. I am willing to take that risk. Compared to others, I have very little to lose. #pueblounido #heavyheart #somossemillas #keepfamiliestogether

You can learn Spanish, but you will never get our culture.

Speaking Spanish for us does not begin at 7:45 am and end at 2:57 pm. Speaking Spanish for us is NOT “a lesson.” It’s not a “time period.” It’s not a temporary thing. Spanish isn’t something that happens out of coincidence. I wouldn’t even say that it’s how we “naturally” communicate.

Spanish for us is a right. Spanish for us is reclaiming what was practically lost. Spanish for us is life. It heals our identity and colonized past. Spanish is something we live, breathe, and are constantly trying to revive. Spanish is a memory that I am always and forever trying to hold on to in positive ways. Spanish is how we survive and pass down our Latinx culture.

You can learn Spanish, but you will never get our culture. You see, our culture isn’t something you can teach. It has to be a part of your everyday, your past and present, and in your blood.

This is what it is like when you live your life in a dual language program that has been gentrified. It can be like a constant reminder that “the colonizer” is ever present. So, what do we do? We hold on tight and speak Spanish proudly and loudly despite the dominance of English. #bilingualVIDA

I’m a Mamá Raising Language Warriors

Language warriors are “… Spanish-dominant bilingual students [who] not only support English-speaking peers’ learning Spanish but also advocate for their marginalized monolingual Spanish-dominant peers. This language warrior role revealed problem solving, mediating skills, and advocacy, but such attributes are rarely recognized by academic assessments” (DeNicolo, 2010, p. 234). Below is a glimpse of MY little language warrior:

A convo between my 7 year-old daughter and I about the upcoming Columbus holiday:

s: Mami, do we celebrate Columbus Day?
Me: Umm, well, it’s a holiday in the US, but I don’t like to celebrate it.
s: Would you rather celebrate the ones that died? The Native Americans?
Me: Of course! (Thinking, umm, how’d you know?)
S: Yeah, that’s what my teacher said, too. I think my whole school is gonna celebrate the Native Americans.

This is just one of many conversations we have about the social injustices people of color have and continue to experience in the U.S., but really it happens all over the world. Sabrina was seeing if her momma agreed with what was said at school about celebrating Native Americans as opposed to a white colonizer, Cristopher Columbus. I don’t think she doubted that I would not agree with her teacher, but I do think she was making sense of a social justice issue that matters especially to a marginalized community, Native Americans. It is conversations like these that I urge parents to have with their children, especially White parents. It is one of the first steps in deconstructing institutional racism.

I also recognize that the “opportunity” to discuss these sensitive and urgent issues also means I am coming from a place of privilege. We are not in fear for our lives. In fact, we live comfortable lives, our “white” skin, or the ability to pass as “white”, and our status in the U.S. protects us. For these reasons (and so many more) I have decided to raise a language warrior, an ally, and an activist. I feel that it is my responsibility as a Latinx mother to pass on this role. I continue to speak to my daughter about the ways her bilingualism is a privilege; one that we have worked so hard to nurture. Initially, we started down this bilingual journey because we our very proud of our Latinx heritage, but now that she is older, I emphasize how important it is to be advocates and allies for our Latinx brothers and sisters which also includes other people of color.

We are still working on what it sounds like and looks like to support English-speaking peers’ learning Spanish and advocate for marginalized monolingual Spanish-dominant peers.  This can be tricky to navigate because my daughter is in a two-way dual language program which has, over time, become more of a boutique  school where many of her peers come from upper middle-class, monolingual, and White backgrounds. In other words, Spanish-dominant peers are few and far between. I worry that she will do more translating to help her peers take on a language so close and dear to who she is as a Latina bilingual rather than having friends that look, sound, breathe, and live bilingual lives every minute of the day and not just during school hours.

 

 

 

 

Latinx Community Raising Bilingual Children

Ever since I decided to raise my daughters in a bilingual world I knew that I didn’t fit the profile of the many “how to raise a bilingual child”  books I was reading. First, the “one parent one language” (OPOL) method wasn’t a right fit because both my husband and I are bilingual. The “minority language at home”(M@LH) method also did not fit because it is simply not how we identify as bilinguals. I decided to draw from a second language acquisition theory referred to as input/output theory. My main goal was to expose my daughter to as much Spanish as possible. The only challenge was that my husband and I spoke to each other in English–not exactly the OPOL or MLH method. For us it looked more like–English  to each other, Spanish with our daughter– ~100% of the time. What ended up happening? The first 2 1/2 years of her life she was Spanish-dominant.

During this time I was also in graduate school pursuing a PhD in bilingual/bicultural education. It was through that experience that I began to change my approach as to how I, a bilingual Latina, born and raised in the U.S., chose to expose my daughter to her heritage language, Spanish. I went from saying, “Hablame en espanol” to “Habla los dos idiomas porque eres bilingue.” What I’m trying to say is that our approach was and is different. It is a reflection of how we “do being bilingual.” The  OPOL or ML@H methods are grounded in this idea that languages should never make contact, but in reality they do. These methods are ones that are supported by the dominant group in the U.S.–a group who recently has decided to try and raise bilingual kids, too. Don’t get me wrong, this is a good thing. This is, in many ways, a bilingual dream come true. The problem I have with it is that the ways my daughter and I “do being bilingual” as members of a Latinx community are not being supported in school sanctioned zones because monolingual English-speaking students need and expect full immersion in Spanish. The second issue is that dual language programs are on the rise and many more are using a lottery system  to accept individuals. This seems like a “fair” method, but in reality it’s not. Spanish is now a product that families want for their children while Latinx families have been trying to pass down their heritage language (many times) with great difficulty because of the power English has in the U.S. If it were up to me the Latinx community would get preference in dual language programs.

Had someone told me that what I learned about bilingual education, language acquisition, language policy, etc, would look and feel so much different in practice I probably would not have believed them. I see the problem with the “preferential” treatment, but when institutional racism and privilege exists drastic thoughts surface. Unfortunately, this idea of the Lartinx community getting preferential treatment in dual language programs will( likely) never be manifested because we have a system in place that privileges those in power.

For more about this topic please read Guadalupe’s Valdes’ cautionary note.

 

 

 

A Bilingual Journey of Spanish and English. Guest Post by Diana Sampedro

My name is Diana, I am a Spanish mum of a 6 year old girl, and we live in Spain. Her dad is Spanish, too. I love languages and speak English so I decided to raise my kid bilingual, even though I am not a “native” English speaker myself.

I think babies and kids have the natural capacity to simply repeat whatever you tell them, so I thought, why not try to give my daughter the chance to learn two languages in a natural and effortless way? Since I had the motivation I could find the tools I needed back then and the ones I could not find, I created them myself. I wrote a book about this. Baby English: Cómo conseguir que tu hijo sea bilingüe. Published by Vaughan system, 2016. I ´ll come back to it later.

I was living in the UK when I got pregnant. I used to attend to some mum-to-be groups and playgroups and I met some multilingual families. I started getting familiar with babies English vocabulary and I was amazed to see that some little kids could communicate in more than one language with their parents.

I decided to speak English to my daughter. She was born in Spain. But even when she was still in my belly I used to sing to her lullabies and talked to her in English, just to get used to both of us! I think this is really important when you talk to your child in a non native language, you both need time to get comfortable, and guess what, you will!

When my daughter was a baby, I used to write a blog about maternity and bilingual education. I posted vocabulary and ideas and personal experiences in my non-native bilingual journey with her.

But my baby was so little, she needed me, and blogging can be a huge commitment, so I decided to quit and focus more on her, and on having some family and some me-time

However, every day I had these doubts about vocabulary, Am I doing the right thing? Is this going to work?…and some years later I started to write about all of that and the solutions I was coming across with. You know, I love reading, I love writing.

THE BOOK: BABY ENGLISH: CÓMO CONSEGUIR QUE TU HIJO SEA BILINGÜE.

One day I told myself, why not writing a book? This could be the kind of book I was looking for before starting this bilingual project.

Because out there in the market you can find some very good books about bilingualism, but it was hard to find a book that actually helps couples who are not native speakers in one of the language they want to teach their kids. And I needed to know how to say for instance, “Mete la camiseta por dentro”, that is “Tuck your T-shirt in”, for example. O “Te echo una carrera”, “I´ll race you”, for example.

This book is perfect for Spanish speakers who want their kids being bilingual or very fluent in both Spanish and English

There are so many situations in a day with a child in different contexts and on the book you´ll find all these useful phrases, songs, games, both in English and Spanish and with an audio to check the right pronunciation. There are rhymes, games, tricks to improve your English for Spanish speakers, the evolution in the language of a bilingual kid…

There is also a chapter about reading in English and how to help children to get used to the English sounds.

BILINGUALISM

Everybody talks about bilingualism nowadays. There are some benefits about bilingualism that I can mention. I am not an academic so I cannot speak about the advantages of bilingualism in a scientific way but I have been reading more and more articles about benefits of being a bilingual.

What I can talk about it is the easiness you find when travelling, living in another country if you are able to speak more than your native language. You have a better and deeper access to other cultures, other interesting ways of living, thinking.

It also offers you the chance to see reality from a different perspective, and I guess that can have a good impact in the way you interact with the world. It gives you an open approach, a curiosity, a connection with your feelings in a wider way.

As I mentioned before, at the end of the day the main and most beautiful thing related to your children and you is to connect with them, to feel close and loved, through words, (languages), and actions.

Thanks Suzanne for the opportunity to share my experience and congrats on you blog.

If you want to contact me or know more about my story, please go to:

www.facebook.com/babyenglishdianasampedro

If you interested in purchasing Diana’s book, please go to:

http://www.casadellibro.com/libro-baby-english/9788416094769/2795572

https://www.amazon.es/gp/product/8416094764/ref=s9_simh_gw_g14_i1_r?pf_rd_m=A1AT7YVPFBWXBL&pf_rd_s=desktop-1&pf_rd_r=BXBPCT98Q39QVF398BAM&pf_rd_t=36701&pf_rd_p=6d8f0343-6251-45c8-9899-ea554850c331&pf_rd_i=desktop

I am happy to introduce our first guest post on the blog Interpretations of a Bilingual Life. Diana seems to have done an amazing job raising a bilingual child. I identified with her story because as a mother raising 2 bilingual daughters I have found myself feeling insecure about my Spanish because I never studied it in a school setting. Her and my personal experience are examples that there are multiple paths to bilingualism.

baby english portadaDiana y Diana

* If you are interested in writing a guest post for Interpretations of a Bilingual Life please feel free to email me at suzanne@mateus.com

3rd generation bilinguals: an anomaly?

Statistically speaking my daughters should not be speaking Spanish. It is a well known fact that most U.S. born individuals lose their parents or grandparents “native” language by the 3rd generation. First generation being the parents that immigrated to the U.S. and 2nd generation being the children born in the U.S. I have to admit we are likely an anomaly in the world of bilinguals in the U.S.A. It really should not come to a surprise that I have managed to raise one very bilingual 5 year old and a 2 year old well on her way to speaking 2 languages as well. After all, I am in the process of getting a Ph.D. in bilingual and bicultural education.

I am writing this post because I think there are distinct approaches in passing a heritage language to 2nd and/or 3rd generation immigrant children being raised in the U.S. As a parent I have certainly experienced what the process is like and as an academic, very well read in the literature of bilingualism, I am also very aware that we raise bilingual kids differently than parents who only speak one language and are seeking to have their child become bilingual.

In future posts, I hope to share a few of the strategies my husband and I learned along the way in our raising of 3rd generation bilinguals.

 

Multilingual Education: California Education for a Global Economy Initiative (California EdGE Initiative)/Senate Bill (SB) 1174

This post is about Senate Bill 1174 which would repeal and amend proposition 227 of 1998 in the state of California. Proposition 227 ended bilingual education services for students who did not speak English. The new bill would provide services for ALL students in the state of California that would put them on the path to becoming bilingual.

I’m in the middle of writing the findings chapters of my dissertation, so this post is not as developed as I would like. What I am going to do is list websites below that talk about the upcoming SB 1174 in order to help spread the word. My goal is to include a diverse set of website that offers different perspectives:

https://ballotpedia.org/California_Multilingual_Education_Act_%282016%29

http://www.cnn.com/2014/03/04/opinion/carter-bilingual-education/index.html

http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201320140SB1174

http://www.latimes.com/local/political/la-me-pc-calif-senate-panel-advances-bill-to-restore-bilingual-education-20140430-story.html

http://sd33.senate.ca.gov/news/2014-02-20-senator-lara-announces-bill-supporting-multilingual-education

http://moramodules.com/sb-1174-talking-points

Click to access sb_1174_bill_20140423_amended_sen_v98.pdf

Video about the bill by Senator Lara:

I will continue to add to the list.

The one aspect about this SB 1174 that I, as well as many other advocates of our heritage speakers of Spanish in the U.S.A., would like to point out is that the promotion of this senate bill fails to mention the cultural and linguistic benefits it can have for the population it was initially intended for.

#roughdraft

Multilingualism is like los manglares de Ecuador.

The mangrove forests are found in tropical places all around the world. One of the places they are found is in and around the surrounding areas of Guayaquil, Ecuador. According to World Wildlife:

“The world’s mangrove forests have been described as one of the most distinctive emersed tropical ecological systems on the planet (Fundación Natura 1995). The mangrove forests located in the province of Manabí (Ecuador) are small regions of coastal forest that shelter great biodiversity and play important ecological roles. Nonetheless, these ecosystems have suffered serious habitat changes and are critically endangered.”

When I first saw los manglares I was taken aback by their physical characteristics because unlike most trees the manglares (or mangroves), typically found in swamps, have their roots above ground. The roots form a dense network and to the naked eye it can look like there is no beginning and no end. If you try and follow where one root goes it will be impossible to see where it ends. Instead what you will see is one root after another kind of like a spider web. What I found fascinating about the manglares is that if you were to fly over them they appear to be traditional trees. From a birds eye perspective all you would see are the leaves and below would be what you imagine a “typical” tree look like. We lived across the street from a mangrove for a year and a half in Guayaquil’s prominent peninsula, Samborondon. During that year and a half I was writing my dissertation (still am!) and thinking about the way people use language. I would think about my dissertation (all the time) while cooking dinner, while bathing my daughters, at the park, in the shower, and at our weekly visit to El Parque Historico in Samborondon. The park had various attractions. It had a bridge that led visitors across the park to see tropical birds, spider monkeys, alligators, and even a children’s park. Along the way we would be constantly in conversation with one another about the animals, commenting on their behavior (or lack thereof). Many times the trail would be crowded with visitors depending on the day of the week. My favorite part was towards the end where the manglares were because just before that last section visitors had the option of exiting the trail. Many visitors chose to exit the trail because the section where the mangroves are located did not include animals to observe and comment on, there were simply trees. I loved that part of our walk because it was quiet. The mangroves offered a simple form of serenity. Each time I went by that section I admired the ways their roots intertwined for what seemed like forever. It was peaceful. And it was in that part of the trail where even for a brief moment I would think about my dissertation. It was where the manglares were located that I had an epiphany about bilingualism. It occurred to me that the mangroves or manglares are an ideal picture of how language works. On the outside languages can all look the same, in terms of structure and use, some may even say that most languages share the same roots (and many do!). For years researchers have been talking about language use in school settings in a binary fashion. As in students and teachers should use one language at a time, BUT in reality the ways bilinguals (students and teachers alike) use language is similar to the way los manglares de Ecuador interact with nature and quite frankly survive. Our linguistic resources are always in contact with one another. There is no beginning and there is no end with the way we use two or more languages. And what is more fascinating (to me!) is that this kind of dynamic bilingualism is only found in certain parts of the world. Like the mangroves, the climate, or context, in which individuals constantly draw from various linguistic resources simultaneously depends on (language) contact with other natural resources. For the mangroves this includes a swamp, for bilingualism it includes language contact. This analogy is a work in progress…..