Sunday, April 10, 2016

Tongue Tied


This weeks readings are from Tongue-Tied: The Lives of Multilingual Children in Public Education.
The first article titled, Aria, by Richard Rodriguez tells his story of how he learned English. He went from being alienated due to his primary language of Spanish to a member of public society who speaks English. The story gives a personal experience of what it feels like for Richard as he learns the English language. Richard's primary language was Spanish until one day the nuns from his school visited his home and advised his parents to practice speaking English at home. "In an instant, they agreed to give up the language (the sounds) that had revealed and accentuated our family's closeness" (35). The family began to practice their English every night, and slowly their Spanish language disappeared. However, the  language held the family together, it was their connection, but as they learned the public language they lost that connection and began to feel more of a connection with being an American Citizen. "But the special feeling of closeness at home was diminished by then. Gone was the desperate, urgent, intense feeling of being at home; rare was the experience of feeling individualized by family members. We remained a loving family, but one greatly changed. No longer so close; no longer bound tight by the pleasing and troubling knowledge of our public separateness. Neither my older brother nor sister rushed home after school anymore. Nor did I" (36). They became assimilated with the American language and culture but it seems as though they lost a piece of who they were. Richard even talks about how now that English was his primary language, he did not know how to refer to his parents(Mom, Dad, Mama, papa) so he rarely addressed them by their titles, "they would have been too painful reminders of how much had changed in my life" (37).  Conversations between the children and their parents dwindled, and rarely did he hear his father talk, except when his dad was with relatives his voice would spark, be full of ideas and his dad was confident. After reading this article, I felt a sense of sadness for the Rodriguez family. Richard's parents did what they thought best for their children, but by doing so they lost apart of themselves and the family connection.

The second article, Teaching Multilingual Children, talks about the importance of educators to appreciate and understand students languages and life situations. It is important for teachers to be supportive. The article offers 7 guidelines  for teachers to be able to understand how they can fulfill that role.

1. Be aware that children use first language acquisition strategies for learning or acquiring a second language (223).  This section talks about how children use similar strategies they used to develop the first language as they do the second language. However there are some variable to consider such as: age, time and place of second age acquisition.

2. Do not think of yourself as a remedial teacher expected to correct so-called "deficiencies" of your students (226). This section advises teachers to not think of themselves as fixing the problems of students rather think of their  teaching as "working to develop the child's language as an effective instrument of intellectual growth" (227).

3.Don't teach a second language in any way that challenges or seeks to eliminate the first language (227). This section talks about validating the importance of  home language and not excluding its role in teaching the second language.

4. Teach the standard from of English and students' home language together with an appreciation of dialect differences to create an environment of language recognition in the classroom (227).
This section talks about the importance of dialect and its use within the classroom while teaching students the standard form of English.

5.Do not forbid young students from code-switching in the classroom. Understand the functions that code-switching serves (229). This section talks about allowing students to use both languages in speech which can aid in language acquisition. The use of code-switching classroom varies from program to program . There are many benefits to the use of code-switching in classrooms.

6.Provide a literacy development curriculum that is specifically designed for English-language learners (233). This section talks about different curriculum approaches: using primary language to build literacy skills, teaching literacy simultaneously in both languages, and teaching literacy in English only.

7. Provide a balanced and integrated approach to the four language skills: listening, speaking, reading and writing (234). This section talks about using a wide arrange of activities to teach the language (i.e. environmental print, reading recipes, dialogue journals, sing, alongs). This method "eliminates boredom, raises awareness, and makes language teaching as well as learning as culturally relevant as possible" (235).

This weeks articles were very informative as I do not have much experience working directly with Multilingual Children.  I've had families in the past were Spanish was the primary language spoken in the home; I currently have a family where Telugu is the primary language spoken at home and I have a new student starting in the next few weeks were Spanish is the primary language.  After reading these article, part of me feels bad for encouraging parents to speak to their non-verbal children only in English as it is difficult for a child with a severe disability to learn and understand two languages. After reading Richard's article, I think maybe we need to reframe how we discuss this conversation; we think in terms of the disability but we do not think about the family culture. I am looking forward to class this week to  learn more about the topic of multilingual education.

As I was doing some further research, I came across this training offered by TESOL International association called Separating Difference From Disability With Students Learning English as an Additional Language. In this training, ELL teachers will learn: "how to distinguish learning and behavior problems due to difference from those due to disability about research into distinctions between language difference and language disability in linguistically diverse students how to use screening and intervention planning forms and procedures for diverse learners during the problem-solving, instructional intervention process how to use assessment and intervention processes appropriate for culturally and linguistically diverse students about key legal constraints on identifying and assessing culturally and linguistically diverse students for special education placement a process for developing cross-cultural intervention plans and/or IEPs for an at-risk diverse learner." I was very please to see considerations have been made for students who have a disability and are trying to learn the English language,


  1. Great post! I found Richard Rodriguez's story so unique in its eloquent description of how assimilating to the "mainstream" culture/language can have negative effects. His realization about his father was so interesting and really got me thinking about how much language defines a person.

  2. Hi Alicia,

    Thanks for sharing that information from TESOL. I wanted to read your blog this week because I was curious if you had ESL students in your classroom and how you handled that. I know you work with younger children but I wasn’t sure if you had any students where you had to teach ESL. Also, I don’t think you should feel badly for encouraging your student’s parents to speak only in English… that’s why we’re here… to learn :)