Friday, March 25, 2011

Valuing Cultural and Linguistic Diversity

It is important for culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) students to be able to preserve their languages because this enables them to acquire their second language; however, it’s also important for them to be able to identify themselves, this way, they have a sense of belonging.  CLD students, who are given a chance to learn their English by being able to use their native language, helps them acquire the language much faster, because of the ability to transfer prior knowledge of literacy skills to their second language. These students deserve a chance to learn English in an educated manner as well as a chance to continue to develop their first language. Providing this opportunity to CLD students will help them to not only retain their first language but it will help them identify themselves. Identity, is vital, to be a productive and successful individuals.
CLD students’ languages that are not considered “big” languages are at risk at being lost. Raymond (1998) discusses this concern in her article by sharing about the life of Marie Smith- Jones, a native Alaskan of the Eyak culture, and the last one of this group, as well as the only one who speaks this native language. She is an activist who works with linguists to help teach others about languages and cultures that are at risk of being endangered.  
Marie Smith-Jones spoke of her regrets for not teaching her children her native language. She stated “[…] I could just kick myself for not teaching my children the language” (p. 14).  She chose not to teach her native language to her children because she was not allowed to speak the language in school, only English was allowed to be spoken. She explained how other tribal members chose to not teach their children their native language as well.
Many indigenous languages, among other languages, are at risk for being lost. According to Raymond’s (1998) research, the number of spoken indigenous languages continues to decrease because of the “spread of English and other “big” languages” (14).  In An estimation of 40-50 percent of the world’s languages will vanish in the next century due to the growth of English and other “big” languages. 

CLD students will be robbed of their identity (i.e., Marie Smith-Jones) and be placed in a position where they don’t have an opportunity to learn their native language or continue to develop their native language. They will look back, just like Smith-Jones, and reflect on why they couldn’t have preserved their native language and have been able to teach it to their children. Although these children may learn the dominant language of the community or the country, without an accent and become acculturated, they will not have had the chance to experience their ancestor’s culture to the same degree that their ancestors had. Language is part of culture and being able to speak the culture’s language provokes feelings of practicing the accepted "social-norm" of the specific culture.  
Culturally and linguistically diverse children have so much to offer to this country if their languages were to be valued and preserved. Students should be allowed to practice their native languages at school and should be encouraged to continue to speak them at home, this way, they are not forgotten or become extinct. Diversity is good and it should be valued. The whole world is diversified and to believe that only a few languages should be preserved should not be the norm. Joan Raymond (1998) explains that individuals who believe that the dominant language of the community or country should only be spoken, are usually monolinguals, usually, the dominant language.
We can see that languages and cultures continue to be lost and forgotten throughout time. We should learn from people who have experienced such great loss in their lives and desire to make a difference. By accepting diversity in languages and cultures, we will communicate to others that all humans are important. Every culture and language is unique and important and they should be valued. The individuals who come to a school setting with cultural and linguistic diversity should not be expected to put their diversity aside, instead, they should be encouraged to continue to be who they are, and this will help them to accept their new culture and language in a more positive manner. This will enable them to be successful individuals in society.

The following video shows an example of indigenous individuals who see the importance of their native language(s) and make efforts to try and revitalise their mother tongue. The preservation of languages is necessary for culturally and linguistically diverse individuals.

Joan Raymond. (1998, September) Say what? Preserving endangered languages. Newsweek, 132(11), 14. Retrieved February 3, 2011, from ABI/INFORM Global. (Document ID: 33747483).

Additional Reading on this Topic:
 Racing Against Extinction: Saving Native Languages   

Friday, March 4, 2011

Second Language Learners

No Child Left Behind? Say It in Spanish

The Hispanic population in the metropolitan region  is decreasing because many of these families are choosing to move into towns and suburbs of this region, for example, "Dover, New Jersey."  Many of these families are immigrant parents who want a better education for their children and this is why they are choosing to move to smaller towns in hopes for a better education for their children and for survival needs such as: work opportunities and for housing reasons (Fessenden, 2007).
 School districts, in these regions, have to think about how to better assist minority children in their educational needs. The need to implement special services is to be considered if they want their students to perform well academically and in standardization testing.  Some of these metropolitan school districts have already implemented bilingual programs. There are four out of five school districts that have already implemented special services for minority students.  The No Child Left Behind Act mandates that all children should have an equal opportunity in their education; therefore, the need for minority students to perform well in standardization testing is very essential (Fessenden, 2007). 
In order for these culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) students to have their needs met academically, special services in bilingual education should be considered.  In the year of 2006, New Jersey had 478 out of 595 school districts that had implemented bilingual programs due to the high increase in the Hispanic population (Fessenden, 2007).
CLD students need special programs that are in bilingual and/or in English Second Language instruction. The NCLBA mandates for all school districts to be a part of standardization testing and therefore, these language minority children need these services to help them to be ready.
From all the research that I have done, over English language learners, it supports the continued development of the students' first language; to continue to develop their native language, this way, they are able to acquire their second language quickly. Helping CLD diverse students, to be prepared in their education, will not only benefit them as individuals, but they will be able to do well in society in the future. They will be literate and linguistically competent to perform in any college and/or in the workforce.
I think it’s great to see school districts taking the initiative to help CLD students. The cost may be a lot but in the long run, it will be well worth it. Our country is investing in the needs language minority children to help them and for the future of our younger generations.

Fessenden, F. (2007, December/‌January 16). No child left behind? Say it in spanish [Newsgroup message]. Retrieved from The new york times:‌2007/‌12/‌16/‌nyregion/‌nyregionspecial2/‌16Rschool.html?fta=y

Friday, February 25, 2011

Heritage Language Learners

Fifth Academic Post
Shuhan C. Wang (2002) states that the National Council of State Supervisors of Foreign Languages  (NCSSFL) has supported language education of the culturally and linguistically diverse population in the US for over three decades, and it continues to support language education by promoting the development of policies and practices to help with “the increasing linguistic and cultural diversity among the population of the United States” (p. 1).  The NCSSFL values the importance of linguistic and culturally diversity as an asset to the US, and this is why it supports programs to protect language education.  The NCSSFL also “[…] endorses an expanded and more inclusive view on heritage language students, […] [and] children with limited English proficiency in our education system” (p. 1). This organization sees bilingualism or multilingualism as a personal gain for individuals who speak another language(s), other than English, in their “education, economic, and political life” (p.1). Individuals with the ability to communicate in more than one language have the advantage to communicate with other ethnic groups and to be able to understand their culture.
Heritage language learners, are all diverse; they all come from different backgrounds. Wang (2002) provides the following definition of a heritage language learner:
 Are raised in homes where non-English is spoken;
Speak or merely understand the heritage language;
Are to some degree bilingual in English and the heritage language (Valdes, 199, also see 2001).
Heritage language learners vary from: being monolingual in their in their heritage language, not speaking their native language, but are exposed to the language and culture of their family and are bilingual/multilingual in English and other languages (Wang, 2002).
There are three types of heritage language groups in the US: indigenous languages, spoken by Native Americans; colonial languages, (i.e., Spanish, French and German), these are languages that were introduced by early settlers in North America, and the third group, immigrant languages ( i.e., Chinese, Hebrew and Russian) (Wang, 2002).
The language, culture and identity are all important for language heritage learners for linguistic and educational purposes. Wang (2002) states the needs of heritage learners should be ensured to help them develop their English language at age appropriate.
 This site gives an idea of some job opportunities that linguistically and culturally diverse (CLD) students have. Heritage language learners can have great opportunities in the workforce and can contribute greatly to society if their languages are maintained by helping them with the development of their native language, to help them acquire English. Some jobs that require bilingualism are: business related jobs, teaching a foreign language, ESL teaching and being a translator. Helping ensure heritage languages, helps the heritage language learner to develop cognitively and psychologically well; this will enable the individual to be fully equipped with bilingual or multilingual skills and be able to contribute in the workforce.
I agree with what Wang has to say about heritage language learners. Their heritage language is so important to help them in their education but also for identity purposes. Heritage language learners, who feel valued as individuals, are more likely to do well in life. They are more likely to mainstream into society because they have learned to embrace both cultures. Culturally and linguistically diverse individuals who become bilingual and bi cultural do well because they learn how to use both languages and cultures to help them survive and enjoy life. 

Wang, S.S, (2002). Heritage language learners.National council of state supervisors of foreign languages

Friday, February 18, 2011

Reading, Writing, and Learning in English Second Language

Fourth Academic Post

Culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) students who speak a different language, other than English, at home, and are limited in their English proficiency, struggle in their writing, reading comprehension and in their oral communication. The need to assist this population in their learning is very essential because of the continued increase nationally. English language learners (ELLs) need to acquire their second language (L2) to help them perform well academically. The ELL Information Center Fact sheet Series gives information of the top languages that are being spoken in the U.S. by CLD students.

Suzanne F. Peregoy and Owen F. Boyle (2005) state that an individual’s “vocabulary represents one of the most important determinants of […] success in reading, writing, and conversing in and out of school” (p. 201).  English language learners’ academic and oral communication success will depend on how much vocabulary they know. This group of students will continue to learn vocabulary throughout their school years, which will help them with their English development. However, there are some strategies that English second language teachers can teach their students as they are in the process of developing their L2.
Suzana F. Peregoy and Own F. Boyle (2005) emphasize the importance for ELLs to know specific strategies in text structure, prereading, during reading and post reading; these are all important to evaluate reading comprehension. Students, who familiarize themselves with text structure helps them to store, retrieve and summarize the information that was read. In the prereading phase it’s important to learn to develop vocabulary before starting to read.  In Chapter 6, Boyle and Peregoy explain that learning vocabulary before, during and after reading is important because “unknown words place a particular burden on English learners’ reading comprehension” (p.201).  In the during reading phase students need to read headings, subheadings and set a purpose for reading to help them with their reading comprehension. Taking time to read such specific information in text books, can increase reading comprehension.  
Some language minority students have studied English formally in their home country as well as their native language. These students have skills that can be transferred to help them acquire their L2.  Literacy skills that can transfer all depend on the type of native writing system they use. For example, the Spanish language uses the Roman alphabet, just like the English language, this makes it easier for English language learners (ELLs) to transfer literacy skills to help them acquire English. Some specific skill examples that can be transferred are: decoding in Spanish can transfer to English decoding, the consonants produce similar sounds in both languages and friendly cognates (i.e., telephone in English and telĂ©fono in Spanish), (Peregoy &Boyle, 2005).
The information of these two authors is very valuable to know. Empowering English Second Language (ESL) teachers with knowledge on how to work with their diverse language learners will help them be prepared to better assist this group of students. They can teach them to utilize their primary language skills to acquire their second language. ELLs can learn writing and reading strategies at an earlier stage in their second language development. This will help them with their academic and communication skills.

Peregoy, S. F., & Boyle, O. F. (2008). Reading, writing, and learning in ESL (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson. (Original work published 2005)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Understanding Language Minority Learners

Third Academic Post
For this academic post I have used a source written by Elizabeth G. Sturtevant. She explains three key ideas to help educators understand language minority learners and 4 key concepts for program planning. These key ideas and concepts are for educators to help them understand English language learners ( ELLs) better. My information will be over the three key ideas that can be helpful to educators when working with language minority students in middle school and high school.  
Elizabeth G. Sturtevant (1998) explains 3 key ideas to help educators understand the population of language minority students that continues to increase. It’s important for educators to consider understanding this group of students, to help them in their Second-Language (L2) development.
The first key idea explains that all language minority learners are individually diverse. They are all different from one another in the following ways: they come from different backgrounds, some are born in the US, some have been living here since a very young age, and some have moved to the USA during their adolescent years (Sturtevant, 1998).
Language minority students also have an education history that’s different from one another. For instance, some students did not receive a formal education in their language one ( L1); others have had their school interrupted and some students have had to move from place to place, due to migrant work. These students have all had a different history of education, and that is why each student is at a different proficiency level in their L2 fluency and literacy during their middle school and high school years. The language levels of these students are: bilingual, partial fluent and some are very limited in their L2. English language learners who are limited in their English proficiency are either new arrivals or have been living here for many years. Those students who have lived here for many years, but aren’t proficient in their English, are greatly challenged in their education throughout their school years (Sturtevant, 1998).
In order for language minority learners to be successful, in their secondary education, they must be proficient in their English. However, it takes time to acquire a second language and each student will be at different level from one another.  It’s important for educators to take into consideration the process and length of time that it takes to learn a second language (Sturtevant, 1998).
According to Elizabeth G. Sturtevant (1998) there are two “faces” that must be taken into consideration when acquiring a second language. Those faces are conversational and academic. The conversational face takes about 2-3 years to acquire and the academic face takes 5-10 years (Sturtevant, 1998).
The length that it takes for language minority students to acquire their second language depends on how much literacy instruction they have received in their L1. Students who have received 2-3 years of formal education in their L1 usually have an easier time acquiring their L2. However, students who didn’t have any formal education or less than 2 years of school, in their L1, usually struggle more in acquiring their L2.
The third key idea is the importance of literacy and concept development in their L1 and how it can support literacy and concept development in their L2 acquisition. Sturtevant (1998) states that adolescents who begin school and have not had any literacy instruction in their L1 should be instructed in their L1, to help them continue to develop their literacy skills. Later, throughout their school years, they can use these skills to help them acquire their L2 more quickly.   
It is important that educators take into consideration these three key ideas when working with language minority learners. Language minority learners are all diverse because they all come from different backgrounds, they all have different levels of education and they all acquire English at a different pace; depending on their formal experiences, and on their literacy levels of education in their L1.

I strongly agree with Sturtevant’s research. She stresses the importance on being familiar with each student to assist them better in their L2 learning.  Due to the fact that each student is so diverse from one another, they each require individualized instruction, to help them with their language development. I believe that it’s important to want to work and assist this group of students as soon as they begin their L2 instruction, this way, they don’t fall too behind and struggle throughout their school years. These key ideas are essential for educators, when working with language minority learners. 

The following site  English Language Instruction in Middle and High School provides a 45 minute web cast with Dr. Deborah Short. She discusses how to teach English language learners academic content and how to ensure reading comprehension. The moderator is Delia Pompa, Vice President of the Center for Community Educational Excellence, at the National Council of La Raza.

Sturtevant, E.G. , (1998). What middle and high school educators need to know about language minority students. [Proquest] Retrieved from

Friday, February 4, 2011

Second Academic Post

According to Kohn (1980) English Second Language (ESL) teachers are more interested in “why” students want to learn English as a second language and do not put all their emphasis in the “how” English is acquired. ESL teachers who know “how” English language learners (ELLs) acquire a language many times don't understand "why" students acquire a second language. If professional educators have a greater understanding why ESL individuals learn a second language, then they can assist ELL better, in their language acquisition. Teachers who know the ELLs' motivation(s) for wanting to learn English will help them to be better equipped to assist them in the classroom setting and with their English language development.

At a CATESOL Conference, that took place in 1977, Joshua Fishman stated that English is now one of the most powerful languages because of “the current economic dominance of the English-Speaking nations in the world” (Kohn, 1980, p. 43). The author continues to explain that the English language is being acquired for “pragmatic and not humanistic goals” (p., 44).  The need to learn English, for many individuals, continues to be personal reasons, for example, better opportunities in the workforce. 

James J. Kohn (1980) also explains in his research that Lambert and Gardner believe that there are two reasons why individuals learn a second language. These two reasons are instrumental and integrative. The instrumental reason motivates the individual to want to learn English because of pragmatic reasons, and an integrative reason would be to assimilate into the culture. Individuals who lean towards the integrative motivation are those who feel that their language and culture are just as important as their community's culture and language; for example, “Montreal” where they practice bilingualism.

Learning a second language is more than just knowing how to speak the language. The individuals’ motivation(s) play a big part in determining their desire to learn a language and to acquire it. Also, ELLs' first language is very important when acquiring a second language and should be taken into consideration. Individuals who desire to assimilate into the American culture are those who see that their culture and language are seen just as important as their community’s language and culture. This is another reason why the preservation of heritage languages is important. It’s important for ELLs to assimilate into the American culture, to help them become successful in their English language acquisition. Professional ESL teachers who acknowledge their ELLs’ L1 and culture will be able to help them with their English development in a more meaningful and successful way.  

The following video shares some teaching strategies when working with ELLs.


 Kohn, J. J. (1979). What esl teachers need to know about sociolingusitics (pp. 43-53). L.A., U.S.: CATESOL Annual Conference. (Reprinted from Readings on english as a second language for teachers and teacher trainees, by K. Croft, Ed., Los Angeles, CA: Winthrop)


Friday, January 28, 2011

Preserving Heritage Languages

I’ve decided to write on maintaining heritage languages of culturally and linguistically diverse students. Research supports that language one (L1) proficiency helps with second language (L2) acquisition. In order for culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) students to be successful in school education they must be proficient in their L1. Second language acquisition is acquired more successfully by CLD students when they have knowledge and literacy skills in their first language and can transfer these skills to learn the target language, English. Educators and policy makers should consider the importance of heritage languages due to the fact that many diverse ethnic language groups live in the US.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                
Many educators and policy makers have often wondered why CLD students don’t do well in their school education. In order for educators to better assist diverse language groups, they must understand them. Ruth Lingxin Yan (2003), the author of Parental Perceptions on Maintaining Heritage Languages of CLD Students did a study on CLD students, there were four families. She did an interview with four parents to try and understand how they perceived practicing their heritage language at home and their attitudes towards preserving their heritage languages. These families emphasized that their continued practice of their L1 helped them be able to communicate with their family members, discipline their children, teach them values, job opportunities and helped with their English learning. The language groups emphasized that it helped their children with their L2 acquisition.  
In the study, data were collected over how frequently the following language groups: Arabic, Chinese, Spanish and Hebrew used their heritage language in their home setting. The Chinese, used their heritage language 90% of the time; the Arabic language group used their heritage language 61% of the time; the Spanish language group used it 50% of the time and the Hebrew group only used it 52% of the time, for religious reasons (p. 104). The first three groups practiced their heritage languages because they thought it was important for their children's “academic learning in the English-language schools” (p. 104). Overall, Chinese and Arabic language groups practiced their heritage language more than the other groups in their home setting. The reasons why they used their L1 in their home setting were: to help with their English learning, to teach stories, family background, to teach morals and values, and culture (p. 105).
According to research, parents who are more involved with their children’s education are more successful. Yan explains that schools should consider the parents attitudes towards their stand on heritage language preservation because of the cognitive, identity and second language acquisition benefits.  School districts should do their best to implement bilingual education or other programs that will help them continue the development of their heritage languages.

The following video "Parents Take on Bilingual Education" demonstrates how parents feel about the use of their native language. They believe that providing a bilingual education helps ELLs greatly.

The following video shows a teacher who gives examples of what parents of CLD students can do to be involved in their children's education. Teachers are encouraged to welcome the help of CLD students' parents, this way, they know and see what their children are learning at school. Learning can be a great learning experience for both the student and the parents, as well as for the educator (s).  

Some things that ESL teachers can do to assist CLD students are: provide resources in more than one language, have bilingual guests visit their classrooms to share about their culture, emphasize the importance to parents about continuing to practice their L1 and mention that the public library has resources in their L1 (p. 209).
There are several reasons why heritage languages of culturally and linguistically diverse students should be preserved. Some of those reasons are: students, who are proficient in their heritage language, will help them to acquire content knowledge in their L2; it helps students understand their culture; communicate with their parents and family; they are able to practice cultural beliefs and it helps them with their self-esteem.  All these are good reasons for educators and policy makers to want to contribute in the preservation of heritage languages. Helping CLD students can open many doors of opportunities in the real world.

The "Bilingual Families Clip" is a video that demonstrates or gives a quick glimpse of what  it is to be a bilingual family. Teaching children to continue to use their native language provides the sense of being "special" because they are able to identify themselves using their languages that are being practiced in their home setting.

Yan, R (2003). Parental perceptions on maintaining heritage languages of cld students. Bilingual review, 27(2), 99-113.Retrieved from EBSCO host.