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  • 'Talking while Spanish' on trial in Wichita

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SamuelRiv@gmail.com Aug 16, 2008 12:30 am

It's hard to know where to begin with the extent to which everybody quoted is missing the point. But I guess that's why silly policies like these get implemented in the first place.

Private schools can get away with a lot though, as long as there's zero government money supporting them. I believe they can even practice open discrimination on race, sex, etc., so I'm not sure I see if anything should be done in this case.

The core issue in most of these posts seems to be education of the public in social linguistic concepts, or at least deference to expertise. There seem to be many reasons why people don't defer to linguistic experts like they do to biologists or physicists: one is that everybody sees themselves as an expert on language, since they're fluent in at least one, so it's a natural viewpoint; another is the popularity of newspaper grammar columnists who give the public the perception that prescriptivism is what linguistics is "about" - look at the Wikipedia Language Reference Desk if you want to see what even educated people ask linguists given the chance; finally, there's the lack of pop science publication by linguists themselves, or the poor  public communication skills in linguistic publications.

An example of the latter is the California Spanish bilingual education controversy that started with a linguist's editorial that suggested California public school teachers educate themselves on the differences in English and Spanish pragmatics so that they can deal with the influx of nonnative speakers in English-spoken classes. Everyone thought that column was suggesting that classes themselves be bilingual, or that teachers would be required to learn Spanish. Such a terrible miscommunication is a supreme example that a linguist can't just assume they're an expert at communicating.

For starters, I think you guys need a Carl Sagan to make the field accessible and popular in the public eye. Or even, god forbid, a Stephen Hawking to call your own.

Reply to SamuelRiv@gmail.com at 12:30 am
B5@BlueWaterArts.com SamuelRiv@gmail.comJan 7, 2009 12:34 pm

... the poor  public communication skills in linguistic publications.

An example of the latter is the California Spanish bilingual education controversy that started with a linguist's editorial that suggested California public school teachers educate themselves on the differences in English and Spanish pragmatics so that they can deal with the influx of nonnative speakers in English-spoken classes. Everyone thought that column was suggesting that classes themselves be bilingual, or that teachers would be required to learn Spanish. Such a terrible miscommunication is a supreme example that a linguist can't just assume they're an expert at communicating.

 

Samuel, I'm not sure where you got your information on California bilingual education, but it's missing several facts.  Before it was overturned by one of California's infamous propositions, teachers WERE required to teach the basic academic subjects in a special Spanish-language track -- e.g., algebra in Spanish.

The theory was that, if you just taught in English, then immigrants would miss out on math, social studies, etc., until several years had gone by and they were fluent enough to catch on.  So, all subjects would be taught in multiple languages to accommodate the immigrants, until they became English-fluent.

The problem became that many students never became English-fluent, and stayed permanently in the Spanish-language track.

Teachers were never *required* to learn Spanish.  However, bilingual teachers were, and still are, entitled to a pay premium in most districts, and each school had a certain number of slots requiring someone with a bilingual credential, so monolingual teachers had limited job prospects.  In some districts, teachers were effectively coerced to learn Spanish.

By the way, while I didn't see it myself, I heard of districts where there were other languages used in the bilingual program -- e.g., Vietnamese.  (California has published ballots in not only English, Spanish and Vietnamese, but also Tagalog and several other languages.)  So I guess it's really polylingual education...

Bill
Dana Point, California

Reply to B5@BlueWaterArts.com at 12:34 pm