Elizabeth Bernhardt

ELIZABETH BERNHARDT

This is like an exam. (Laugh) What is this about? I can’t remember any of these things.

Go to the next – I have to think about that while your (interruption) Ask me something else and let’s see if I can answer these things. (Interruption) Mm-hmm. Okay. (Interruption) Okay.

Let me answer as a – as a teacher. The most – I think one of the most liberating ideas in the last 20 years about – about teaching languages is the notion of developmental sequence. And I use the word ‘liberating’ because what it does is it liberates you from the notion that the kid has to have absolutely everything perfectly before going on to the next point. And it says, “This isn’t going to happen perfectly right now. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t happen perfectly right now because it’s going to happen soon.” And what I have to do is keep my eyes and ears open for when the new form starts to emerge. So it – for me it meant that when I heard inaccurate forms come out, I didn’t feel like I had failed, I didn’t feel like the kid had not done his homework, I knew that I had taught the material. I know that the form is going to come out in a couple of weeds or months and I also had a much more positive view of the kid in front of me knowing, “You know, he probably did do his homework, he probably did get it all right, and that doesn’t mean in online oral speech that all those forms are going to come out all right,” and that’s what I mean about a liberating notion. It really changes the view of what the learner is really going to do.

Error correction. Um, you know, if you’re in the middle of content, the error is about the content. The error needs to be – the errors we need to listen for are things like, “Does he really understand that hot air rises?” And when we’re in the middle of a science lesson that’s what’s important. If – if the student is saying something like “Hot air rise,” that’s – I – I’m happy because we have the right science concept, we don’t have the right form. Uh, there are lots of opportunities to correct that form – “correct that form” by repeating any number of times “Rises, rises, rises,” by making sure in the lab notebook that those forms are – are corrected. In the feedback in – in – direct correction in the notebook, or feedback in the notebook, “Oh, that’s good that you know that hot air rises.” Um, and then I think that there – there is a point down the line when we’re out of content instruction when we say, “Could we try to remember that we have an inflection on the end of the third person singular and that happens to be an ‘s’, let’s practice it. Let me call it to your attention. Let me tell you how often you got that incorrect, and then let me tell you how to uh – and then let’s practice it one more time.” Okay?

Right. (Interruption) Mm-hmm. (Interruption) Mm-hmm. (Interruption) I am speechless on that one. I forget what that was.

Oh, oh, I – okay. What – what teachers sometimes do is look for what they believe is difficult, which is “Can this student pronounce the word ‘photosynthesis’ and can he or she spell ‘photosynthesis’ and maybe put ‘photosynthesis’ into the closed test?” And while those are all important skills, that doesn’t mean that the child understand photosynthesis. And so there needs to be ways of getting that student to either demonstrate what photosynthesis might be about, draw it on the board – uh, draw it on the board is about as good as I can come up with at the moment but – but to somehow illustrate what the process is, um, so that the teacher is confident that the kid understands the process. What we get all confused about is whether knowing – if – knowing the words and knowing what really the words signify. We be – we start believing they’re the same thing and those are not the same thing in a second language situation.

Oh, no. Background knowledge does not always help. Background knowledge frequently helps. Background knowledge particularly in highly – what do I want to say? I want to say highly charged cultural settings, uh, can actually be a hindrance. Meaning, if one cultural perceives a process in a particular way, um – how do I want to say this? Perceives a process in a particular way and that is not compatible with culture ‘b’, we know that the student will take the background knowledge from culture ‘a’ and automatically impose that in culture ‘b’ and that doesn’t – uh, it isn’t the way it works. But we do that – it isn’t just a second language issue. It’s a – it’s a general issue. Um, it’s probably an issue that takes – that happens a lot in scientific misconceptions. If you believe something about process ‘a’, you will impose that belief on process ‘b’ and that it – it may be completely incompatible and completely inconsistent with process ‘b’. So no, it doesn’t always help. And let me add one more thing, that’s – that’s the really tough part. When do you know when it will help and when do you know when it won’t help? And it’s really, really tough for the learner because we encourage the learner, “Use what you know or use whatever skill you bring.” That’s always a good idea, we think, except that sometimes that skill that the person brings is completely at odds with what he’s trying to learn. (Interruption) Keep going. (Interruption) Okay.

Okay. I think um, for me the history is the – is viewing language exclusively as a form process, as some sort of, uh, a matrix that we fill things in, the old Latinate version of what language was about, which was memorizing all those different inflections. That was a view of language that predominated and really works if all you’re going to do is learn how to read the language. Now I should put as a footnote, that’s also a big fake because one doesn’t need all of those little – those matrices in order to read. But it’s a more perfect match. It – it – it works, it looks – it’s literacy to literacy and that’s sort of uh – that seems um, I guess con – intellectually consistent. Um, where that fell apart is um, is actually in the post- World War II notion that, “Gee, there’s a little more to this then just, uh, uh, language for reading knowledge.” And if I can – can go back a bit, the – the real history of this started at the end of the 19th century when there was a declaration that the only use of another language was for reading purposes. That was the committee of 10 out of the University of Chicago that essentially set the American curriculum. That’s the same committee that said we do algebra in the 9th grade, we do geometry in the 10th grade, and started that ritual going that is merely a ritual. There’s no real reason we have to do it in that sequence. So that same committee established that whole notion of just for reading purposes. Then if you fast forward 50 years then you – then you – whoa, there was a little more to it and the minute that there was, uh, a discussion about there was a little more to it, then things changed dramatically because one had to see that there was communication and there were people involved and gee, there were different ways of saying things and –like 3 big events there and – and it helps explain – explain where we are as a – as a profession.

I think that – okay – I think the way the curriculum, uh, was established at the end of the 19th century – and I think it’s important that we remember that the American curriculum is not very old. It’s about 100 years old. So at the turn of the century the notion that all of this was only for reading purposes, um II World War that brought us to a notion of, uh, “Gee, there’s a little more to it and we have to have more oral language involved,” and then into the 60’s with the introduction of – of what Snidely referred to as hyphenated linguistics, the whole notion of sociolinguistics and communication and all of that involvement. Those are the 3 big events in my view.

Uh, okay. Let’s see if I could – if I could cheat in a book I’d look back and see those (interruption) Yeah, yeah.

Yeah, let me – let me – let me respond as a teacher though. It – it’s sort of – it’s sort of – you know, coming from a life where I taught all that formal stuff and then going into a setting where as I use it in the trenches, so to speak, across teachers from all different languages. I think a way of thinking about it is that there is form and then there is what we intend to use those forms for and then there’s probably then the ability to hold the floor. And I think I think of it in those ways that the – that the – that form is – is critical, then knowing what you want to say, which is kind of uh, almost a, uh, an elementary concept. Let me – let me get into some kind of interaction with you so that I know that I can compliment you or – or not insult you or not step on your toes or that sort of stuff, and then the ability to hold the floor, which is a more, um, uh, which is the more professional use of language then. How long can you speak for an extended turn. So that’s not the – that’s not the academic version. That’s the – that’s the personal version. That’s the teacher version.

I may different – I’m a different person.

There’s a big difference between knowing all this stuff and what you read and then really thinking about what it means sort of online and that’s actually why I wanted to have a different job.

Yeah. The – the big difference, um – I’m not one of these persons who rides that hobby horse about how – that the – that the differences are so enormous. There – the 2 processes are far more alike then they’re – then they’re different. The big difference is the environment in which the kid goes out to use language. Um, and – and I think that’s just says it all, that it is possible to go out and find someone who – that you can speak with. More then possible, it is – that’s the demand, uh, and that makes a big difference in terms of realism and in terms of confidence building. Um, there’s just no question about that. With literacy materials it’s the same way. You have a world of print that surrounds you, you have, uh, everything that is in that in the language that you’re trying to learn. Uh, and that is just not the case in a – in a second language situate – or in a foreign language situation. So like California’s an interesting place. There’s this very serious discussion about Spanish. Is that foreign or a second language? Where I live it’s very much a second language. It is not unusual to go and here people, and particularly small children, use another language. It makes a big difference in, uh, teaching. For example, in my environment, we’re able to send students who are learners out into an environment where they will indeed interact with people who use this language and it’s not – it’s not a movie set. It’s real.

Okay.

Mm-hmm.

Um, I will say one thing – I – I – I – yes and no. But one thing I will say about is that um, as I’ve gotten back into German again, um, it’s clear that I do not have – what I’ve – what I’ve spent the last 3 years trying to do with my German, which was sort of latent for 15 years, is to get – is to acquire a voice in German. And the more time that I’ve spent in Germany in the last 3 years, the more I’ve had people say, “You know your German does not match your personality.” And I’ve come to understand – I’ve tried to really work on that because I had a language that was this language that had been packaged in this very academic way and I didn’t – I – I don’t have all of the skills in that language that really match the – uh, I can’t use irony correctly. I can’t, um, I really can’t, um, um, I can’t insult properly, as if I do that all the time, but um I just can’t um – I’m not being articulate enough about how it matches my personality, but I really do understand what – what people have said about that. I use a different set of images naturally as myself then I can use in German. Those are really phrases and images that other people gave me rather then ones that I got to choose myself. Um, and I – I – uh, actually I don’t feel uncomfortable with that as others feel toward me, others who know me, and then listen to me and – and they all – they feel attention that I didn’t even know was there. So I’ve spent a lot of time trying to make that – that match, in other words, trying to make German more my own then this abstract thing that I had learn and that I was always kind of afraid of. You know, I always had this – well here was this academic thing that I was suppose to do perfectly and never really thought about the process of making – making that work for me and my personality.

Okay, okay.

Yeah.

Yes.

Mm-hmm.

Um, how do begin? I – there’s a real frustration and a real – there’s a frustration and a fear in confronting the test which – which is again, “Do I know this content?” Uh, maybe it’s tri-part, “Do I know this content, do I know this language, and can I put both of those things together?” And I think those are 3 separate questions to answer. And what has always concerned me is that we have students who do not perhaps know that content, um, who might have enough language to fake their way through. And let me be quick to add, this isn’t anything special about kids in school. Uh, in fact, I think if we were really to investigate this, we would see that all over the place in the highest level university classrooms where there are foreign language learners trying to struggle with talking about literature and what do I know who are – have been so, um, socialized into being worried about he language. They have no idea of what’s in those stories or why those stories are important, or how their cultural reflections, or any of that stuff. They are so worried about getting an ‘A’ on their composition. And on the other side of that desk you have instructors who are so worried about all of those forms that they pay no attention to whether there is any content that’s worth knowing in the composition itself. So I – I – I really – we tend to dump on – on kids – like this is a young child’s problem or this is a junior high school problem. This is no junior high school problem. This goes through every level of the educational system. Probably the only different is that adults are a little bit better covering up and kids are – just don’t have all of those strategies. Um, so I’ve – I’ve sort of run on about – about that. Sorry, that’s a – that’s a – it’s always been an import – it’s an important point and it really bothers me when a person’s in – in university instruction somehow start believing that the students in front of them are qualitatively different from the 13 year old. I don’t really think that that’s the case. I really – I – it’s – it’s a lit – it’s about sophistication. It’s not about basic learning strategies at all. The other part, of course, that happens is that there are um, um, kids who really do know the content, who really do understand the processes, who have a lot of knowledge, but they don’t have the English to go with it. And those are the kids, actually, that I worry the most about because those are the ones I think that must be in real danger of dropping out of school because school is not answering – they – they – they – they know things and they’re – and – and it’s like being in a sound proof room and they can’t get out. They can’t say what they know. And that’s got to be the most frustrating thing. I think it would be more frustrating not to be able to say what you know then the converse, which is to fake your way through – uh, through your elegant grammatical forms. And it’s just a lot easier to – to um – I’m going to use the expression, “Pull the wool over the teacher’s eyes.” Let me also say, teachers are not – when – when I say that I’m not putting teacher’s down. What I’m saying is when you have 30 kids in front of you and you’re trying to get through this, I don’t – I don’t – you’re happy when you hear something that’s correct and you move right on. I know all those feelings, uh, but – but I – I think that there’s just a – a real set of very complicated frustrations around the whole issue.

Um, boy, that’s just – you know those persons are the hope of – of the nation. They always were. I think somehow we start for – we begin to forget uh that that’s always been the nature of American education to be concerned about language minority students. They were always there and they always will be there and that’s really good. Um, I think um what happens a lot of times when teachers are so pressed with so many students and trying to meet so many needs and so many parents and – and no resources, and all that – all of that stuff rolled into one, it’s – it’s in classroom 101 and some – in some public school. Um, I think the natural human reaction is to not pay attention to the kids who are being quiet and appear to be doing their work. Those are the kids we love because those are the kids not “causing trouble in my classroom.” Those kids don’t get the attention they deserve. And the language minority kids who figure out early that they want to please the teacher and the definition of pleasing the teacher is being obedient in the classroom, not being a trouble maker, when they figure that out then they don’t get that attention that they need and they just move through the curriculum. Uh, teachers are, I think, really busy – worried about the kids who are being disruptive and they spend a lot of time trying to deal with that behavior and not with content, and then they believe that if the child has the book open to the right page, the content is happening. I don’t blame them for believing that but um that’s – that’s what – that’s what – I think that’s what happens with a lot of kids. They have parents who are telling them “Please don’t cause trouble in school. I’ve got enough trouble – I’ve got a very uh conflicted life and I’ve got to deal with – the last thing I need is for you to cause trouble in school or to have a note come home from your teacher – (clears throat) excuse me – that I can’t read.”

Oh, sorry. Yes, I do. Sorry. Okay.

Performance assessment? Um, you know, performance assessment is a – is a technique in assessment but prob – what I haven’t liked about performance assessment is the belief that it answers all the problems and we should pitch everything else. That – that – that’s the mistake. The best set of assessments is – no, how do I want to say this – the more assessment we do from the – a greater array of perspectives, the better the assessment is going to be. So it’s a mistake to do one kind of assessment versus another. There – they all contribute different kinds of information. Performance assessment will not give you very, uh, concrete pieces of information about particular grammatical forms. It’s not designed that way. That uh – that said, it’s important to know about particular kinds of grammatical forms. I have no problem with saying we need to continue to give some of those old fashioned tests. We need to get a sense of where kids are in that – in their development. What can they give you – remember that the written test is going to give you the maximum kind of performance and we need to know where they are maximally, we need to know where they are minimally and that means – minimally by uh – what – what I mean by that is that’s the highly stressful situation where they’re up and speaking. That’s a minimal performance and the grammar test gives us the maximal performance and we know that reality is – (clears throat) excuse me – somewhere in the middle. Um, to that extent – well, and then let me move back to performance assessment. What performance assessment supposedly will do, will downplay the language part of things and allows a student to literally perform, uh, almost to the point of pandamine to make sure that we know that we can understand what – that they’ve – they’ve acquired the process.

Chattering.

But, I mean it’s just simply an environment that is much more sensitive to language issues. The whole culture sensitizes people to that. That makes it – I’m not at all surprised.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

No, and you wouldn’t want them to because they don’t know enough.

Yeah.

Collaboration is really hard. I can’t say I run right out and want to collaborate again. I’ve found that to be – I think that the literature written on collaboration is written in a – almost in a vacuum. I believe that that literature is probably not written by too many people who have ever tried to collaborate. Um, um, collaboration means that you have to respect the other person’s knowledge base and be willing to accept it. And those are very – two very difficult issues – two very difficult things to accept because uh most people believe they know about language because they use a language. And so they are – I’ve found them to be relatively incapable – and I – I don’t mean that they’re malicious, but they’re just not uh– they just don’t take the whole language stuff seriously. It’s just something they can all do so what’s the problem. And when you have a collaborator who – who comes to the – to the project with that kind of uh attitude that “What you have is simple and what I have is complex,” is uh – it isn’t the most pleasant kind of uh situation. Um, in the things that we did in science, how much of an impact do we have – did we have? I don’t think much. Uh, I uh – after two or three years of doing that I don’t feel that I ever was able to convince those people that language was somehow important. That also got all – they were all wound up with all these post modern – all these sort of um, um, uh intellectualized notions of language. Uh, they had all of the politically correct rhetoric surrounding language and they could not uh – they could never come to terms with – with what we meant by language as form, language as function, language as – as in support of content. They just could never handle it.

True. Isn’t that a happy story?

Okay, you’ve got to give me a second to sort of get on a roll.

Yeah. Okay, okay. Speech communities.

Um, see I know too much about this topic. That’s really the problem. I’m problematizing it. (Interruption) Yeah. (Interruption) Yeah. (Interruption) Right. (Interruption) Yeah, so it takes a second. (Interruption) Yeah. Um, speech communities are groups of people who use a language or – a language or a particular code – it might not be the same language. It might be a variant of that language who agree upon the rules that govern the use of that language or that code.

Speech communities are numerous. An individual can be a member of countless numbers of speck communities depending upon their social uh, um – social membership in groups, uh their professional, their uh – even their recreational groups. Speech communities um – what do I got to do there? I’m going to stop there. (Interruption) Okay? (Interruption) Okay. So to – to an – to talk about speech communities within a particular context, you need to look at what uses are made of the language and what are the different context for that language use, and that context will be associated with a particular speech community who is determining the norms and standards for using the language within that context.

Sure. (Interruption) Sure. You know, the issue of standard versus non-standard is – is not only an intellectual one, but it’s an emotional one as one, and relates to social uh divisions, social uh assignments of individuals. Um, standard language is the one that we associate with being educated um, and being uh a mature user of a language. However, non-standard languages and varieties of a language are as important in the life of individuals if it’s their home language, if the language of their social identity, um outside of their work or outside of academia, outside of school. Um, I know as an individual who grew up in a home where my mother spoke standard language but my father was a non-standard English user, um I can appreciate the – that distinction, but also um I value the distinction. I mean that’s who my father is. He’s um a real uh genuine user of non-standard English and that is important to him. And asking him to speak differently would be denying who he is and – and making him different from his peer group. His peer group – he’s now in his 80s, they all meet for coffee every morning. That’s how they talk. That’s how they communicate, and I know when I interact with my father, um I don’t change my dial – my – my – change to non-standard, but I will us non-standard forms in communicating with him because I want to identify with my father as well and show that relationship. So I – you know, as a teacher of English, um I’m not a very good representative of the prescriptive school in to saying that everyone must speak standard all the time because I recognize from my own experience the value of what a non-standard can mean for personal identity, social identity, and appropriateness. It would be inappropriate for my father with his friends to speak anything but the non-standard form. (Interruption) Okay. (Interruption) No, he’s just non-standard English. (Interruption) Yeah, he’s “ain’t” and “ain’t got no” and “done seeing” and (Interruption) I mean he grew up on a farm. He worked in an automobile factory and his peer group – that’s – that’s – that’s what it means to be a member – his speech community, that’s what they use. That’s – their language is non-standard.

No matter how um – let me think – what I want to say is no matter how tolerant we claim to be – that we want to be about language (interruption) the truth of the matter is that there are (interruption) language (interruption) language that we – we – there are distinctions, people make distinctions between high and low status. (Interruption) Okay, but now I need to say that to you. (Interruption) What did I say, though, what was my first sentence? (Interruption) Our – you know our efforts and desires to be tolerant – okay. Regardless of our efforts to be tolerant about other language varieties, other language forms, and other languages within a particular society and um our – and our um (Interruption) Regardless of our efforts and desires to be tolerant about language – different language varieties, different standards, uh versus non-standard, and about different language in general, this doesn’t change the fact that languages are regarded as having different status. And there’s a high status language, there’s a high-status form of a language, for example, non-standard is generally considered low-status (Interruption) or in the United States, for example, there’s um tensions and struggles between English is the dominate language and Spanish, or Chinese, or other languages uh spoken by immigrant populations, or our second-language populations, or third language populations in the United States. Um, these differences create uh social inequalities and also reflect social inequalities.

Prompt me here.

Okay, I can give you another family anecdote. (Interruption) Okay? (Interruption) Okay. Um, attitudes towards language and languages that others speak um from a higher status position. Uh, I have a nice anecdote from a family member. Uh, her young daughter was getting ready to choose a foreign language to take in high school – or junior high or high school. She was going to make this selection, which language should she take for the language requirement? And um her child wanted to take Spanish and was eager to learn Spanish and – and take that course. And her mother said, “Oh, but don’t take Spanish. Only poor people take Spanish. Why don’t you learn a language like French or German, then you can go to Europe.” So I think that anecdote really sums up a – a widely held view or represents a widely held view of the status of Spanish. Only poor people speak Spanish so why would you want to speak Spanish if you want to think of yourself educated and be associated with a more elite, more prosperous segment of the population.

Sociolinguist competence, or sociolinguistic um appropriateness concept is very important in language use. Um we speak differently to people all the time and we gauge how we’re going to speak to people based upon what is appropriate in that situation. If we’re speaking to an academic community, there’s a certain kind of language we use, how we speak, the vocabulary we choose, and of course the kinds of things we’re talking about. But that choice of vocabulary, tone of voice, um even the picture of our voice, the rate at which we speak, all of that relates to the appropriateness of the situation. If we’re speaking to children or speaking to friends, we adjust our speech accordingly to what would be appropriate. If I’m having dinner, a casual dinner with close friends, and I began speaking – began speaking as if I’m delivering a seminar, paper, or as if I’m giving a lecture at a conference, they would – they would wonder what was going on or there would be a real change in the dynamics of that because that would be inappropriate. So the same thing applies to um considering other varieties, standards of a language. There are times when it is appropriate to use more casual speech, more informal speech, even non-standard language, and there are times when that would not be effective. So I think the issue of effectiveness is important here, that we choose language that is appropriate in order to be an effective communicator in that situation. So (Interruption) I’m blabbing too much. I’m getting on a role. (Interruption) Okay.

In teaching language to children about – and teaching them about sociolinguistic appropriateness or – and maybe we don’t even really have to (Interruption) They’re doing room renovations. Yeah. (Interruption) Okay. Um, teaching adults. Okay. The concept of communicative competence, sociolinguistic appropriateness when teaching children is a very important aspect of this when teaching language. Um, I don’t know so much that we have to teach them that there is such a thing of sociolinguist appropriateness, they’re already quite aware of that they can speak to their mother in one way and they can speak to their teacher in another way, and they should speak to strangers and so forth in different ways. So they – they know about appropriateness. When they’re mother says “Don’t talk to me like that,” or “Don’t use that language with your – with your sister.” They know the concept, but I think that um that isn’t taken advantage of in the teaching of a second language, that knowledge that they already have. And they’re often taught to speak one variety of the language, one form of the language that is either very formal or very correct, over correct, for different purposes in using the language.

World language. Okay. Um, okay. Language is a dynamic, not a static phenomenon and one of the results of this dynamism of a language is that it’s always changing. It’s always adapting to new settings, new needs, new purposes, new demands on it. And this uh dynamism is really well illustrated in the uh spread of English as a global language or it being prevalent around the glove, that it is a language being used, being um – okay. English is a language being used worldwide in a variety of context, for a variety of purposes, and one of the effects of – of this multiple functionality of the language and the multiple context, cultural context, social context, is that it will change and it will be a little bit different from what it was when it arrived in that country or when – what it’s first purpose may have been. So as a result we get not only functional variation, but we get formal variation, we get a language changing in its phonology, in its syntax, in its um semantics so that it’s – maybe that the British English speaker or the American English speaker may be in that context speaking let’s say with someone from India, someone from Nigeria, someone from Singapore who’s using English, but the American may not understand what the Singaporean, the Nigerian, or the Indian is saying because language – they – they’ll – that – the American English speaker might not understand what the Singaporean, Indian, or Nigerian is saying simply because in those context English has been adapted and as a result there may be this question of being understood. However, this is not a problem as some see it. Some uh – there are some critics of English change who believe that English should be always the standard native speaker form. British English standard should be maintained, American English standard should be maintained because they believe – then people will no longer be able to understand each other. But this isn’t really an argument because even if you look at a country like the United States, as a cultural society of the United States, we have different Englishes within the United States. We have regional differences between the South, the Southwest, the Northeast, and the Midwest, for example. And there are times when we don’t understand each other’s choice of words, uh sentence structure, or pronunciation, but we still do communicate with one another when we need to through a variety that is mutually intelligible and this – the United States is a microcosm, if you will, of the globe for this purpose – of this analogy. Um the same thing is true in uh – at the level of world Englishes, of varieties of English around the world, that we will be able to understand one another, and in fact we do when we need to. When we interact with one another we do, but the fact of the matter is that most of the speakers of English around the world do not speak with American, or with British English speakers, they speak with individuals from their geographical region or international uh community uh who are also members of those communities, or also non-native speakers, and they establish their own speech community with its own rules vers – intelligibility, comprehensibility, and uh interpret ability.

A very important issue of national concern now is the question of the place of English as an official language in the United States. This issue, again, is another emotional political and educational issue of – of considerable importance. The – the impotence for the movement seems to be a concern about the place of English, the future of English in this country and the – the alleged threat to English from the Spanish-speaking community, this has created a lot of problems, a lot of tension. I don’t need to elaborate on particulars, we’re all familiar with the – with the national debate, but it has serious implications for classroom teaching in the public school setting. Students who have English as their first language or have their – excuse me have – students who have English as their second language, this is the language that they feel most comfortable with, this is the language of the home, this is the language (Interruption) Okay, back up. (Interruption) Yeah. Flip of the word. Word paw there. So where do I back up to? (Interruption) Okay. Okay. Um, in the schools the children for whom Spanish is their home language are most comfortable speaking Spanish for social interaction with their peers who are Spanish-speaking, for maybe expressing their – their innermost emotional needs, wants, desires. This comes naturally to them just as it would for any – any child who speaks any language or your home language is the one that – that comes first when you’re – when you’re being yourself. So their use of Spanish, let’s say, in a classroom, in certain situations, is understandable, and certainly can be acceptable. The – the tension or the – and I say tension in terms of – of the equilibrium that has to be reached is that child becoming proficient also in English, not replacing Spanish, but becoming proficient in English for the academic uh concerns that their families have for them, that the uh – that the public has for them, that society has for making them um be able to participate as full-fledged members of this community, but to – to require that English replace Spanish or that Spanish be um treated as if it is no longer valid or valuable is a – has serious consequences not only for the child’s academic development, but also for their sense of identity with their language, with their uh the lan – the culture associated – identified with that language, and their sense of who they are, and their sense of self-esteem, their sense of uh belonging to a community.

If you want to look at what’s happened to Native um Americans and also uh immigrants from Mexico, Puerto Rico, and so forth that – I think Native Americans are a really nice example because um they were not colonized in – in the sense that Britain and the United States went to Africa and to Asia and um South America and established colonies formally, but the end affects of the treatment and the way that language programs, and so forth, were developed or not developed for um indigenous North American populations is comparable. You have children going off to boarding schools in order – so that they will not become proficient in their home language so that you can – and they were punished severely for using their native language. So that is definitely in the realm of theory – theories and terminology of imperialism that is the case of imperialism in – broadly interpreted, that these children were denied uh use of their language and it was a way of dominating them and subjecting them so that their society would not be powerful and – and – and would be divided, and was the divide and conquer approach.

Okay, you mouth it and I’ll say it. (Interruption) Okay. The situation of uh indigenous North American populations, Native Americans uh provides an excellent example of the issue of language and power.

Mandy Marvel: Bernhardt, Burns, Ricento, Gottlieb, Malone