VIRGINIA GONZALES: Virginia Gonzales. Texas AMA University.
Well, cognitive development um could be conceptualized differently, you know, from different areas of expertise. Like if you were to speak from uh an educational psychology perspective, it mean more like uh the children’s thinking in connection to how they learn and how to best uh—to instruct. Um, from a more psychological perspective, that would be a more theoretical perspective, would be probably the mental processes that the children go through in their development. Um, being an educational psychology person, you know, I kind of lose psychological applications to education so it’s how—learning about how the minds of the children work whether they—you know, the mental stages they go through and how that affects your language learning and your content learning. Uh, that would be the translation for educators.
Well, cognitive development is actually the mental tool, sort of mental capacity, the mental potential that a child has for learning content versus academic achievement would be the amount of learning a child has already um internalized. Right? And translated to some kind of information. But we need to understand that rematch (?) culturally loaded and that that doesn’t mean that the child—if the child doesn’t have much knowledge or, you know, academic content accumulated or internalized, then that doesn’t mean that the child doesn’t have the potential to learn. And I think that’s a key concept when we speak of all the second language learners, especially if they come from minority and uh, low socioeconomic conditions, you know, poverty.
Well, that—the connection between language and cognition is my expertise. And we call it semantic development. And semantic development has to with the capacity of the child to develop uh meaning, uh particularly to internalize reality, that is you know, cultural/social reality that they experience every day being that probably in a formal situation like in a school or in an informal situation at home, uh and trying, you know, to internalize that reality into some kind of mental symbols that we call meanings. Uh, that would be the difference also between, for example, um hearing uh and listening. OK? Um, you know, the hearing is a physical aspect; it’s a physical capacity. But then we can hear Greek and understand zero of it. So the lack of understanding, that would be the—the listening capacity, which is, you know, the capacity to make sense, to make meaning out of our sensorial input. OK? And that would be semantic development. The capacity of the child to internalize symbols that represent reality in their minds like when we sleep and dream and we have all these mental images through our senses. Um, when we are closing our eyes right now, we could imagine how, you know, a coffee case or uh—an ice cream, you know, a lemon ice cream tastes because we have internalized that as a—you know, as a prior experience and is a semimetal image. Maybe deeper than that it will be an abstract symbol, you know, like a—a mathematical concept, for example, the concept of number. And then from they will get to transform it. OK? And that’s linking language and cognition because most of our representations are verbal that’s also cultural loaded. Most of the teaching and the learning comes through language and is a cultural mediation that we make of the—of the symbols. And, therefore, you know, language is a mental tool. That’s why second language learners were not proficient academically in the second language kind of learn. And it’s not because they lack capacity, but it’s because they lack the tool to make sense of these cultural representations. OK?
Well, it—when we add cultural to this equation of cognition and language, that’s—that’s my expertise and that’s what I started back in ’91 with my dissertation work. And I put together this in a new way—a new mythological way to look at cognitive development in bilingual children who were Hispanic from uh a poverty background. And I developed uh—a mythology to assess their minds um trying to get out their cognitive potential, not so much at what amount of learning they had accumulated, OK, but how they were thinking with their first language, with their second language, and how much the cultural had permeated that way of thinking with this first and second language. Uh, I asked them to form um, um classes of objects, so what’s the classification task, and it was verbal line and verbal. That’s the other important aspect when we talk about young children. Because even for mainstream middle class children who are monolingual, we do a disservice to them if we don’t allow them to give us their—their highest cognitive potential, not the amount of learning they have, because they’re still pretty young when we speak of early childhood. And the second one is that we need to give them the opportunity to tell us how much they know or how—at what level they can think no verbally because yet they are learning their language. So this tool is not yet mature. They don’t have, you know, the full capacity to represent other cognitive potential in language yet. OK? There still need uh more content to the culture to learn these conventions of how do I translate my (?) about thinking into some kind of uh, you know, cultural, conventional language.
Well, cultural mediates our cognitive language development every day in every experience we have. For example, um teaching young children is mostly uh I think a process of socializing their minds through language uh more than learning content per say. Um, for example, the issue of when to—when to say uh thank you and excuse me, how to greet people. I have a three-year-old and I always use him as an example. He has been my open book. Uh, he’s growing up bilingual, Spanish/English, and he has uh kind of a transformed somehow my way of thinking about how young children learn and how fast they learn and what’s their mental capacity to do so. Um, they internalize from every experience they may have and you may not teach them explicitly, but they are explicitly observing the culture. OK? Uh, for example, this week the—the phrase of the week is, “It’s my fault.” And he goes to preschool and it’s—you know, somehow he has heard that from his peers or from his teacher and everything is his fault and I admit it was an accident. OK, which is very much cultural. He wouldn’t say that in Spanish at all because our cultural is actually uh--I don’t want to speak bad—badly about my own culture but in—in the Hispanic world, we never take responsibility for our actions. OK? So the way of talking is also different. We would say, “It spilled on the floor. The—the cup did.” You know, it’s not I—you know, drop it. OK? And he—in English you would do that. I drop it; it’s my fault, OK. I did admit it was an accident. OK? In Spanish, uh he has already in graced some of the cultural aspects and he uses very well the concept of manãna. OK? Tomorrow. When he doesn’t want to do something, he’ll say, “Manãna.” OK? Well, you know, when I insist that he pronounce a word that is long and he cannot, like the airport in Spanish is airopreuto, so it becomes, you know, very long. He’ll say, “Manãna.” And all do it, “Manãna, mama.” OK, so, you know, these concepts are very much cultural and we don’t teach them explicitly, but they are watching and they are absorbing. Um, you go to a pizza parlor, they hear something, and they come back home and they start, you know, uh “I’m a delivery man,” you know, “this is the way in which this course goes.” And it’s internalizing a particular way of interaction. So a social language used for communication for a particular purpose in a particular society.
Well, in terms of language development for monolinguals, um there is uh tradition of studies, you know, going back to the 1930’s if we speak about uh case studies done by—from linguists. Um, but from a more cognitive psychology point of view, probably is uh with the upset—uh onset of cognitive development in the 1960’s you know, um with pingithian--pingithian kind of models in the 70’s that we start understanding how language connects with mental processes. Because before then, the behavioristic, you know, model in the 1950’s, it would be through association, it would be uh, you know, a chain process of connecting labels with some kind of sounds, but not in terms of meaning constructions. OK? What um I’m talking here is uh the contemporary perspective is social constructionism, which means that you um the—the child needs to development the ability to construct symbols, mental representations or meanings. Uh and that is not a given but it has to go through some stages from no verbal into verbal stages. And then language builds on this no verbal stages, you know. Uh, and that’s what conception is pretty much uh in that sense uh, uh building up on the pingithian model. Uh, it has departed in several forms from there because there’s more emphasis on the social context now and the child being, you know, uh learning from the—the cultural experiences. But still the—the, you know, uh kind of the structural stages from no verbal-to-verbal is pretty much there. We go from uh zero to three months in—in uh, uh, you know, uh crying, cooing kind of uh stage. Uh, well crying is very much a reflex and it’s kind of uh an extinct for survival, a way of communicating, you know, for a neonatal or a young child that he or she needs some, you know, needs uh met. Feeding, uh changing, uh clothing. And about three months of age, the child starts cooing, which is I—I—I always say to my students, cooing is like the aerobics of the vocal chords. OK, because in order to start trying to model, you know, the sounds that your vocal chords can produce, you need to use them and see what—how you can play with them. So parents will talk to their babies and the babies will respond with the cooing. OK? And it’s a module rhythmic kind of uh—it doesn’t have any meaning and doesn’t respond to the patterns that it—the parent is using. OK? Uh, so it’s not—it’s not really uh imitating the parent, but it’s just, you know, coming from the understanding of the baby that he or she also has this ability to produce these sounds. At about six months of age we start with babbling. And that is when the child is responding to this model and is making the imitation. OK? And the child will go through a reduplicating babbling kind of stage so it’s like a “baa-baa, baa-baa, caa-caa, caa-caa, daa-daa, ma-ma-ma” and they’re all consonants. They’re all what we call the occlusive uh, uh naa sounds. You know, m, n, and then p, b, t, d, kinds of sounds. And the cross language is that these are universals. So it’s pretty much like every baby will go through these stages. After six months of this stage they start to depart. And the human mind, you know, kind of has some kind of categories of concepts, like the sounds, that you can master. But these are very flexible categories. So they start, you know, shrinking and modeling what you see in your particular culture. OK? And by about age 12 during puberty, that’s when, you know, the capacity of mimicking every sound closest. So they start settling into a particular set of classes of sounds. And that’s why we accents, like I do have an accent in English because I learned that after, you know, age 12. Um, then coming back in terms of um semantic development, at six months of age with this babbling, uh based on understanding there are some kinds of words there, OK, and there’s some kind of meaning there. OK? And at about seven months, eight months, these are all mental ages right, and chronological. They start actually uh producing words and they’ll be meaningful words. You know like ‘daa-dad’ would be the father, ‘ma-ma’ would be the mother, and ‘taa-taa’ would be like in Spanish, it’s typical for the grandparents. OK? And then they’ll start understanding that language has some kind of sense for communication. You go to a restaurant and you observe a baby and the father is, you know, calling the waitress, you know, and the baby will go, “Taa-taa,” you know, and, you know, and he or she knows that there’s need for a sound. OK? So those are the kind of pre-verbal stages that getting to the first word, seven, eight months. Then you get into a two-word stage at about in a year and a half, uh and the first words are nouns and the spur of growth in the second year is immense. It’s really immense. Hundreds of words per year um this—this—this uh—two years and a half until three years, it’s a lot of growth of syntax and grammar and, you know, verbs, prepositions, adjectives start to come up. They start to internalize the syntax and the rules. Again, this is very implicit. Uh, you don’t need to teach them explicitly. They will learn and as the cognitive capacity they have to understand what are the rules, the concepts, again. And they’re learning, you know, the usage of this language. And it will go all the way until 18 years of age. Uh, and there are many individual differences and we need to be aware of that. And the pace of development is not a—uh, you know, um—um, kind of a simple line but it has peaks and valleys and is very idiosyncratic. Uh, that’s very complex for a monolingual because you start speaking with a, you know, a bilingual, it becomes—not only double the process that is geometrical and much more complex.
By the time the child actually starts getting into kindergarten, and we’re talking here about a monolingual child, mainstream, middle-class. Right? The typical, OK, um kind of uh American child, even though that’s not true anymore—uh, the kids actually have a lot of syntax, a lot of vocabulary, they have internalized a lot of grammar, uh and they are making very intelligent applications of this implicit rules they have discovered. Uh, they may develop new words, uh but require a lot of transformation and thinking about it, uh they may uh, you know, make irregular cases regular, uh that’s when people may think they went backwards. But instead they are going forwards. They are able to demonstrate, you know, what are their ideas in—in words and in full sentences. The vocabulary can up to 5,000 words easily with very complex abstract levels. And that’s also the difference between what are we thinking now and we use to think 40 or 50 years ago. We have discovered that with schooling and with new mythologies in research, kids are much more advanced then we used to think. So a kindergarten child can be thinking abstractly with language. Such as knowing what a mammal is, you know, and what, you know, uh, uh, complex verbal concept meaning is.
With bilingual children’s development in terms of language and cognition um can be different um in the sense that adding a second language is not only adding more quantity, OK to the amount of language that you know, but it’s also difference in quality because different language also have different ways of thinking about reality, different conceptual categories, different cultural conventions, different ways of perceiving reality view to the culture. Um, um, in addition to that, in this part of our country in the US, most of the children who are second language learners or have English as a second language are coming from low socioeconomic status backgrounds. So the addition of, you know, uh coming back from a different social reality, OK, or poverty, uh makes their stimulation for language learning very different. OK? And it’s not only a cultural difference. No. It’s actually, uh the social status of the families and the level of education of their parents that makes a difference in how much language they have been able to learn. And I emphasize always it’s not that they have a different capacity, their potential may be very high, and by bilingualism may show advantages, OK, in their cognitive potential, but not in their amount of learning that you will see in comparison to a middle-class mainstream monolingual child. Many studies have shown that there are many advantages of bilingualists. When the kids are middle-class, you see? When you put together both their resources and external environment plus, you know, another resource, which is bilingualism. OK? Adding to your mental, you know, potential. So these kids who are bilingual and middle-class are able to think abstractly at higher levels, they are more creative, uh they actually have more flexibility of mind. Why? Because they have more symbols to think with so they can see reality in multiple ways. Um, they—they’re concept formation is also higher, uh they tend to be um more gifted because of their mental cognitive abilities are—are higher with the linguistic abilities. They start thinking about language. That’s what mental—mental linguistic means and they start questioning all the meaning of the language. They start asking, you know, what are the names of the things in one language in the other. They know how to switch from a language to the other. They know how to uh, uh, you know, learn the cultural conventions that are coming with one language or the other. So to make a long story short, uh we see that uh, additive bilingualism is beneficial to your brain. OK? That’s—that’s the—relative in middle-class children. But abstractive bilingualism, the reality of the poor children who are minority is not beneficial to their academic achievement. And that’s the problem. So abstractive bilingualism is that the kids are not proficient academically in their first language, neither in their second language. Socially they may be proficient in native language, OK, but not academically because of the level of literacy of their parents. Um, um so there are two key concepts there. One is academic versus social language in first and second language and the other key concept is social economic status of the children and the amount of stimulation that you have received for developing both academic and social language.
Yeah, um, uh, lately, you know, in the last uh 10 years or so there has been a lot of studies focusing on the analysis of the family structure factors influencing language learning and cognitive development and achievement. Right now the emphasis is on achievement, you know, trying to understand what’s the big gap between mainstream and minority children and why do they have this big gap in terms of their achievement. Well, language is a major tool for learning. Even though we feel, you know, we are using now vocational technology ways but still, the major tool for transmitting this information, you know, through the Internet, for example, is language. So you have to have a mastery of oral language in order to learn how to read and write. But that oral language is primarily academic language. It’s not social language. So when we go to poor families, we may see a lot of social language but not necessarily that’s going to translate into academic language and academic skills. OK? For example, not only is reading, but pre-reading skills. OK? Uh, when parents—middle-class parents are reading to their children, they are kind of training them, right, to ask questions about reading comprehension. Right? Ok, the passage they have read. To read the pictures, OK? To ask questions to, you know, the adult about what they have read. Uh, there’s a lot of cultural knowledge that’s being transmitted. OK? When I compare the bilingual poor with the monolingual middle-class or the bilingual middle-class, there’s a—a huge uh difference in terms of their characteristics in how the environment—this is the family when they are so young, has uh influence their minds and their language, right, to grow in different ways. The poor bilingual child will have probably a lot of creativity and still flexibility of mind but you won’t see a lot of vocabulary there. OK? For example, when I show them, you know, uh real a leah (?), they will play with an elephant toy and they will point and say, “Well, there are big ears.” OK. That’s good. Big is a concept. Ears, you know, parts of uh the object. Uh, but, you know, they won’t be able to say, “These are mammals” like a child who is monolingual middle-class. OK? You know, that mammal is a vocabulary that was uh stimulated in a particular social context. Right? OK? The poor child didn’t have that level of stimulation, but they will have creativity and will say, “They’re big and they flap the big, you know, uh leaves of the plant I have in my house.” OK? “And this tail is long like a snake.” OK? “And the legs, you know, they are so huge. They look like, you know, the—the columns of this building.” OK? And they’ll start, you know, um kind of giving you a lot of concepts, but they will elaborate in terms of cultural conventions. Right? Uh, so it’s our ability as educators to understand what um environment does to your development. And to understand that we cannot have the same levels of expectation about the amount of learning that we will see in uh in a young child, OK, because, you know, the family—what in the family? The level of education of the mother, primarily, the father also makes—makes a difference but significantly it’s the mothers. Um, um, of course, the occupation because that has to do with status. The quality of the neighborhood in which you live, uh, the resources present at home, of course, we start with a basic level, whether the child is able to be fed, and clothed, and have a roof. Uh, but given that basic, OK, what else do you have. OK? That influence is positively your learning. Mental help of parents, OK? Presence of parents, not only physical, but emotional, OK? Level of stress of the parents. Amount of hours, OK? It’s all equality of time spent or the parent-child relationship quality, but also the amount of hours that the parent is able to—to, you know, give the child and the quality of that particular amount of time. Um, research has shown in that um the minority families um degree of acculturation makes a huge difference. It’s a very significant impact on the level of achievement of the minority children. And with that also has to with the amount of English that families are able to teach to the kids at home and what level of English. OK? Is it local or academic? Is it connecting with literacy skills or not? And the degree of acculturation in terms of are they preparing the child for the uh school context. And it’s not only the mainstream culture. No, it’s the school culture. OK? Which is—which is the key. And I think that’s where we are headed. It’s—the—the key here is level of education of parents and degree of acculturation of parents.
Well, we as educators need to try to understand that language, you know, it’s not necessarily the mental capacity that the child may have internally or in combination with external factors. That’s the other part of it. Uh, language is a result of the interaction between internal and potential and external stimulation. So we as teachers have a powerful, in the sense that, you know, six months of very good quality stimulation in a classroom can make wonders for a very young child. OK? Their minds are still very flexible and they can develop very fast. OK? Uh, but we also need to understand that coming from a different departure point, OK, when they are poor and let’s forget about the bilingualism. It’s not bilingualism what is making a problem its poverty. OK? And a poor child can—even though expect the poor child to come to school with the same level of development or learning that a middle-class or upper class child and it has to do with level of stimulation, or in other word, level of opportunity that you have, you know, to grow uh in—in terms of the family uh environment. Or even the—the, you know, resources present in their school. OK? So we as educators, you know, can actually develop a program that um gives children uh an opportunity to develop their potential. But we need to believe that they have a potential and the misconception comes from—from the perspective that no language equals no intelligence. OK? When in fact intelligence is much more than language.
Well, cultural linguistic dimensions of gift ness is a-is a very interesting concept. Uh, it speaks about the influence of having a second language on your minds. OK? And bilingual children are not only bilingual, but they are also bi-cognitive and they are also bicultural. So as we were speaking before about the degree of acculturation, it has to do with having like a dual bicultural identity in which you are able to absorb two different, you know, cultural conventions and are able to understand how to behave, you know, in one culture and then how to behave in another culture. OK? For example, within Hispanic families, we speak a lot about respect our elders; it’s a traditional culture. OK? But then the bicultural parent will teach their bicultural children that in the mainstream school culture, you need to be assertive. Right? So you cannot be modest because you have, you know, a teacher who is—is older than you. OK? But you have to be assertive. You have to speak up your mind and you have to, you know, be uh able to make decisions and to have control. OK? Like I was saying, you know, uh my child is raised to socialize in this way. OK? He knows that at home the concept of, manãna may work. OK? But at school, he as to take responsibility about his actions and he’s already saying that, you know, “It’s my fault.” OK? So in other words, um, culture uh permeates the way of thinking through a language and through role models and through uh the presence of a different reality. Even though the physical reality may be different, the human being translative transforms the physical reality into a different form of representing. For example, you know, a very simple example, food. OK? The same course in a Chinese restaurant becomes a different taste, right? A different, you know, way of presentation, a different flavor. Uh, it’s because the culture conceptualizes, you know, this particular in a different manner. OK? It matters how it looks, it matters how it tastes, right? The color, OK, the presentation becomes important. It’s not an all-you-can-eat buffet, right, kind of situation. Right? Um, so um cultural actually um translates reality into some kind of um, linguistic meaning, OK, that the child will have to kind of um—let’s say um discover. OK? So discover a process. And that’s how, you know, bilingualism and biculturalism can result in some uh giftedness. OK? Because your—your brain is stimulated not only double, but I will say into a geometric, you know, different way because with two different kinds of representing the world, OK, you are able to understand that they are just symbols. So you transcend--and this is what we call mental cognition or mental linguistic ability. You transcend, you know the labels and start thinking about the meanings and how the meanings are conveyed so differently by different cultures and different languages.
Yeah, actually that term was uh coined um with uh some uh co-author uh Dr. Eliondrio Hasklera (spelling?) in um, uh—we were working as consultants for a particular test review and—on achievement and we started thinking about, you know this mainstream culture in—in connection to how we assess achievement and then uh the more minority view of, you know, what is to be an achiever. OK? And I started talking about—it seems like we have, you know, within the Hispanic community, we have folklore. OK? And the folklore being, you know, the naïve person’s culture. Right? You may not be aware that your ways of thinking about giftedness or, you know, why do you think that your child is gifted? If you ask a—a minority parent, a Hispanic parent, the parents decided to tell us, “Well, it’s because my child is well-mannered.” In Spanish being ‘elocato.’ OK? But, you see, that’s not the conceptualization we have in the historic. Historic for us would be the mainstream school culture. OK? A child is gifted because he’s a good problem solver a teacher may say. Right? Or a child is gifted because he is a leader. OK, he has very good um math skills. A parent talking about the same child will say, “My child helps me at home and he helps me with, you know, the homework of his peers.” OK? “And he helps me set up the table for dinner. And he’s always uh very cooperative.” OK? So there’s a different conceptualization here. And we start talking about the folkloric use of giftedness. OK? Uh, by meaning that uh the minority cultures have a different view of the same concept, in other words, the social concept. Even minority teachers would be found because of training, even though they were sometimes bilingual, OK? They would go with a historic use, OK, with a school cultural use. OK, because of training. Right? Their brain was not naïve anymore. OK? It has been reshaped, right, into some kind of mainstream social way of thinking.
Well, most of my work has been directed into assessment. That’s my thrust area because I have a lot of background in psychology, in particular clinical psychology in my BA and then from there to ed psych in my PhD with a Master’s in special ed so—and a lot of emphasis on assessment. But even though I have started with the medical tradition of models, I grew very uncomfortable with—with it and, you know, got into more alternative ways of assessment. Uh, particularly from a more developmental scale kind of perspective. So I still follow a lot of, you know, the—let’s say the conditions of the—the scientific model that has to be a valid way of assessment, it has to have reliability, you have to train your judgment—your judges, you know, your avid readers. Uh, um, uh, that uh—it’s also modern in a sense that you have to take into consideration external factors, not only the individual, you have to look for a battery of, you know, assessments that are let’s say apoplectic. Right? So they are uh looking at different um angles of development, not only cognition, that language, but social, but emotional, effective and not only the child, but the parents, the siblings, the teacher, the child in different context. OK, the child at home, in the classroom, interacting with peers. Uh, in different content areas, the child doing math, doing science, doing reading, doing writing. Uh, in different content knowledge, OK—uh, the child may be, you know, uh better with numbers than with letters. OK? And then slice that. OK, so it’s a very complex—it has to be a complex process. Um, now the difficulty is how do you trust—lay this ideal into something that you can work with, you know, in a typical day-to-day classroom. More and more we are trying to link assessment with instruction and uh kind of making a bluer line between assessment instruction. So the teacher, you know, as well she or he is um stimulating learning, the teacher may be also doing some kind of assessment. What skills are there, uh the strengths, OK, what skills need to be improved, OK, and what would be the best way. Uh, maybe that’s a portfolio approach. OK? But it has to be longituity now and it also has to have different, you know, instruments. Right? OK? Maybe also observations the teacher is making but in a systematic matter. OK? Maybe it’s interviews with the parents or visits at home. Maybe it’s a survey that the teacher needs to use in order to make it more objective. Right? OK, what are the skills and what’s the comparison with the child in my experience with the other children? Um, maybe it’s also using different informants. OK, this is what I think as a teacher but let’s see what the parents think. OK? Let’s see what other experts think. Maybe it’s a school psychologist, maybe it’s the ESL teacher, you know, or the gifted teacher, uh or even an administrator. Um, the child—when the child is bilingual, you need to assist the child in first and second language. But that’s not kind of only translation, OK, but is representing the cultural amount of knowledge that the child may bring. Right? And then some content may be learning one language; other content may be learning another language. OK? And then understanding that, that’s why many kids who are suppose to be proficient in English; in reality they are not uh because all the social language has been measured. OK? But they don’t have academic language yet and that’s why they fail in school. OK? So that’s doing—making them a disservice. A child who may have uh first language other than English may have the same situation, the child who is bilingual but is only social language. OK, so we need to develop the academic language then transition into, you know, oral English, then academic English. OK? And it’s a long process. The other—that—that will be the already accommodation that we need to be respectful of mental time and in order for a child to develop mental language, in a monolingual, it may take two to three years, in a bilingual who is coming from a poor environment may take five to eight years. OK? So it’s not from K to 2nd grade. OK? So we need to respect he develop of time, individual differences. Do not stereotype because the child is coming from a nation background, they’ll be achievers or vice or versa. A Hispanic will have problems with achievement. Each child is different and we need to discover, you know, how we can uh represent their strengths and their differences, uh their weaknesses. Uh, let’s see, uh the—the—I think the recommendations are um to observe the holistic child and to understand that we need several judgments because even when you start testing, OK, the educators bias can come across. OK, because we’re all working for a particular theoretical perspective with particular con—misconceptions about the child. You know, lack of language meaning lack of intelligence, for example, as we mentioned before. Um, so we need to understand that because of uh that—this, you know, human—and it’s not that we are bias; it’s just that we are human, OK? Uh, we actually um translate reality in different ways, that’s perception. So that’s why we need different opinions. OK? And maybe that child—the same child in a different classroom with a different teacher, you know, uh achieves at much higher levels because of these personality, you know, kind of uh interaction.
Well the sociocultural dimensions of assessment um are very important and also complex. Uh, development, you know, as a whole and learning as a whole process will be influenced deeply by culture. It’s not that we learn, you know, in a vacuum, OK? So we actually learn in a particular context and we develop in a particular culture. OK? And while there is content that we learn, is cultural. So uh content—uh a cultural free test or a cultural free room is impossible, right? It’s not human. It will be not the apart of the human experience. OK? Um, why? Because our brains try to impose meaning on reality. OK? We tend to categorize everything. OK? For example, the cultural experience of entering a supermarket in the US versus entering in Latin America is very different. OK, why? Because, you know, the—the products are cultural. Right? OK, and the ways in which this cultural products are categorized is also cultural. OK? So how they are put together, how they are set, OK? Um, so in other words, um we need to understand that minority children who are coming from different cultures um have not the same content or amount of learning, OK? But it’s not only quantity but I would emphasize quality. It’s not the same kind of content they have learned and it’s not because they lack potential or they lack ability. It’s not because they are learning disabled, or language disorder, or mentally retarded, but because they have grown in a different cultural context and they have learned different content, OK, at different paces too. OK? If we were to compare a preschooler today, three, four-year-old, to uh, a preschool in the 1950’s, OK, there would be a huge difference in terms of amount of learning because mainstream US has changed dramatically.
Well, the—the, you know, the experience of children in the mainstream culture, like 40 years from now, 1950’s, 1960’s, it’s uh kind of centuries apart. Why? Because of the effect of schooling. OK? In the 1960’s—it was the news of the 1960’s to have uh kindergarten, you know, kind of setting. Most mothers would be still at home. Uh, in the decade of the 2000, you know, we have 70 percent of mothers of children under five who working outside the home and most of them go to day care situation scenes six months of age. Uh, that peer contact and the core impact of very young ages into socialization context of schooling makes a dramatic difference in how they are developing to the positive. Actually, it’s interesting but this past semester with my students—with my undergraduates, we did an observation, a project in our children’s center at the university. And to our surprise, at my liking because I’m a working mother, we found that the children who were part-timers of the center—these are all middle-class kids from highly educated parents, faculty or students, the part-timers had much less language then the full-timers. It was a significant difference. And it wasn’t only amount but also quality, of course, with an impact on their cognition and social skills.
Well, in terms of reading readiness, uh when we speak about educators trying to um, uh either do assessment or instruction, again we need to go beyond just, you know the language explicit skills. Uh, we need to understand that most of this readiness will come in a non-verbal form. So that will be, you know perception, that will be attention, that will the child’s ability, for example, to auditory discrimination, to understand that sounds uh that have different, you know—words that have different sounds also have different meaning. Um, um to understand—comprehend language, to follow instructions. So it’s not only output of language, OK, it’s a verbal expression; it’s a verbal comprehension and the deepness, the complexity of it. Um, uh understanding that children may uh develop in different paces so not everybody is going to be at the same level at the same age, but that doesn’t mean that a year from now the child who was showing even lower levels of development may come at a faster pace, you know, uh to over perform his or her peers. So we need to respect a lot of developmental times and give a lot of benefit of the doubt to the children. Uh, to me it’s actually impossible to make a diagnoses, an accurate one that is, OK, so early, at so young ages. We need to wait until they are eight and in the completion of the process, 10, to see how the developmental pair completes. And uh however, many times because of the system, we are pressed to make a decision and they are—you know, in 2nd grade and 3rd grade. OK? The other part of pre-readiness is if they don’t have oral language maturity, they cannot have academic that is written—written, or you know, language maturity. Um, so and—we need to understand again that in a bilingual—you know, a monolingual plus a monolingual doesn’t equal a bilingual. OK? It’s not that you just have to be the double time, right? If you learn one language and, you know, how to read and write in one year, (paper rustling), you learn how to read and write in two language in two years, OK, that’s not, you know, as easy. Right? Um, think about, you know, instead 5,000 words by age five, the child may have to learn 10,000 words. OK? So again, quality uh is important, but we also need to think about quantity of time, OK, and quantity of language that they have to master.
Well, my—my message, I think for mainstream teachers is uh training all mainstream teachers in kind of ESL components. Um, um a sementatory uh part of their uh teacher education major uh is that teaching is much more than a profession. OK? Um, teaching is actually mentorship and because of the education crisis we are going through and because of the large number of minority and—and poor students, you know, uh who we say are at risk or uh developing learning problems in school, OK, more than anything we need mentors. And these are committed advocates. OK? This is what teaching means nowadays. Commitment. And it’s not easy because many times a teacher will have to face some social problems and this is what the children suffer from. Like lack of health care. OK? The child has a toothache, what do you do? Can the child learn, you know, with lack of these social services? Um, uh, you have a report of the social worker; the child doesn’t have running water or electricity at home. What do you do? Or proper clothing. OK? Uh, so teachers are becoming also mentors to the families in terms of advising them of community resources that may be available to them, uh trying to foresee, you know, the—the health of the child. And—and what uh social problems may be negatively impacting the child’s learning. In other words, we are looking at—at that child as uh—in a more holistic perspective. It’s not only academics what matters. OK? But in order to fix academics and to get them to achieve at higher levels, we need to fix also the social surroundings. Uh, so if I were to, you know, summarize everything in one word, I would say mentorship. OK?
Well, I immigrated into this country uh as a grown up actually. As um—when I was age 24 as an international graduate student the University of Texas at Austin to do my master’s and doctorial work. Um, but even though I have taking, you know, every course on error—on—on English in terms of formula learning of the language, even I went through literacy courses, past all of the exams, uh but still, it took me about six months, you know, to make my brain think in English. And for me it was—kind of the milestone was the first day I could dream in English and that, you know, kind of clicking my brain in the sense that it had become an automatic way of thinking. So that’s what I mean by developmental time. Even for adults, OK? And for adults it’s easier because we already have, you know, developed our minds. OK? So it’s a matter of adding a new way of conceptual thinking, but for children they’re doing double whammy because first, they need to develop the concepts, then they—they, you know, the language translation of these concepts, and then the cultural translation. And developmental time meaning that our brains need some kind of uh immersion, right, in order for us to uh get to more subconscious levels of thinking. Right? One thing is what I learned consciously, but if you have taken a foreign language course, that’s the difference between a foreign language and bilingualists. OK? A foreign language is external to your brain. It’s like a coat. You think in your first language, then you translate. Right? But you are saying non-senses because it’s culturally inappropriate. For example, internationalist from Taiwan may say—which happened the other day, “I’m sticking my neck, you know, to hear news.” Said, “Sticking your neck? You know, that’s a very little in translation. What do you mean by that?” OK? They may enforce our cultural, right? We say, “We keep an eye on things.” Right? OK, it’s not the neck it’s the eye, right? OK. It’s the cultural, right, convention. Uh, so we need this development time for making our, you know, automatic process of directly um, uh living. I mean living in the culture gives you the experience, uh direct experience, the direct cultural experience that you need to start thinking, you know, in these new terms.