Language, Education, And The Borg6
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Language, Education, And The Borg6 Language, Education, And The Borg6 Presentation Transcript

  • Language, Education, and The Borg Identity Politics and the Assimilation of Linguistic and Cultural Minorities
  • Objectives for This Talk
    • To provide context for the discussion of speech-language intervention within a diverse population, including:
      • An examination of the distribution of languages within the U.S., focusing on the status of English relative to other languages.
      • An exploration of the values which drive the debate about language policy.
      • An investigation of the intersection between politics and science with respect to language policies (using AAVE as a specific example).
      • An outline of two complementary approaches to addressing linguistic differences for professionals working with individuals from non-majority linguistics communities.
  • Languages in the World
    • There are 5000 distinct languages in the world (give or take 1000).
    • There are 201 distinct countries in the world (give or take 6-8).
    • With so many languages and so few countries, it is not surprising that…
  • Nations typically contain multiple linguistic communities.
    • Some extreme examples:
      • Papua New Guinea (850)
      • Indonesia (670)
      • Nigeria (410)
      • India (380)
      • Cameroon (270)
      • Australia (250)
  • Time for A Joke
    • “What do you call someone who speaks two languages?”
      • “A bilingual.”
    • “What do you call someone who speaks three languages?”
      • “A trilingual.”
    • “What do you call someone who speaks one language?”
  • “An American”
    • In its history, the U.S. has been one of the most monolingual societies in the world.
    • Factors that have contributed to monolingualism:
      • Rapid expansion.
      • Displacement of indigenous cultures and languages.
      • Universal education.
      • Mass Media (especially radio and television).
  • The Dominance of English
    • “… throughout all of our history as an independent country…English has been our dominant language. Since the founding of the British colonies in North America, no other language has come close to challenging or displacing English as the lingua franca of the United States. English is almost the sole language of government and politics, it is the overwhelmingly dominant language of commerce and education, and it is spoken exclusively in the vast majority of homes and public spaces in civil society in every region of the country.”
    • Schmidt, R. (2000) Language Policy and Identity Politics in the United States .
  • What About Immigration?
    • America has been the destination for millions upon millions of non-English-speaking immigrants.
      • 1 st Wave (1841-1890)
        • 15 million
      • 2 nd Wave (1891-1920)
        • 18 million
      • 3 rd Wave (1960-1990)
        • 30+ million
      • Battle, D. (1998) Communication Disorders in Multicultural Populations .
  • Assimilation
    • First generation immigrants try to learn English, but still use mother language primarily.
    • The second generation typically retains some fluency in speech and writing.
    • By the third generation, immigrants to the U.S. have typically transitioned to English, and are no longer fluent in their language of origin.
    • Schmidt, R. (2000) Language Policy and Identity Politics in the United States .
    “ You will be assimilated.”
  • Things are Changing (Slowly)
    • The U.S. is on track to become more like other countries in the world, where (at least) two languages with a significant number of speakers coexist within a single nation.
    • This graphic shows the percentage of Spanish speakers in the US in 1990 and 2000.
    2000 Census 1990 Census
  • More Recent Stats: ’00-02
    • There has been a lot of reporting in the media about the growth of the Hispanic population.
    • This graphic shows percentage of growth of the Hispanic population between 2000 and 2002.
    • What kind of story do about absolute numbers tell?
  • Number of Speakers per Language in the Entire U.S.
    • English 215,423,557
    • All other langs. comb. 46,951,595
    • Spanish 28,101,052
    • Chinese 2,022,143
    • French 1,643,838
    • German 1,383,442
    • Tagalog 1,224,241
    • Vietnamese 1,009,627
    • Italian 1,008,370
    • Korean 894,063
    • Russian 706,242
    • Polish 667,414
    • Arabic 614,582
    • Portuguese 564,630
    • Japanese 477,997
    • French Creole 453,368
    • African languages 418,505
    • Greek 365,436
    • Hindi 317,057
    • Persian 312,085
    • Urdu 262,900
    • Gujarathi 235,988
    • Serbo-Croatian 233,865
    • Other Native N. Am. lgs. 203,466
    • Armenian 202,708
    • Hebrew 195,374
    • Mon-Khmer, Cambodian 181,889
    • Yiddish 178,945
    • Navajo 178,014
    • Miao, Hmong 168,063
    • Scandinavian languages 162,252
    • Laotian 149,303
    • Thai 120,464
    • Hungarian 117,973
    www.mla.org (2000 Census)
  • Proportion of U.S. Population
    • Largest single minority are Spanish speakers:
      • 28 million = 11% of the total population.
    • No other language is spoken by more than 1% of the population.
    • All languages other than English combined:
      • 47 million = 18% of the total population.
      • 77% of 47 million also speak English “well” or “very well.”
    • 96% of total U.S. population speaks English.
    www.mla.org (2000 Census)
  • Proportion L.E.P. Speakers is Greater for Younger Ages
    • Birth rates in the U.S. among minority populations are typically greater than the majority, English-speaking culture.
    • Schools are projected to have a larger proportion of students who speak languages other than English.
    • Thus, while the impact of the increase in speakers of languages other than English may be hardly noticeable for the population at large…
    • For SLPs and SLPAs, this information is highly relevant.
    • Especially for CA and TX.
  • Trends
    • The number of minority language speakers is growing.
    • However, the number of English-proficient bilinguals is growing just as rapidly.
    • There is a direct relationship between English proficiency and length of residence in the U.S.
    • The growth of the L.E.P. population is greater for younger (i.e., school age) population.
  • Yet, Language Policy is a Very Contentious Issue
    • "Tragically, many immigrants these days refuse to learn English! They never become productive members of society. They remain stuck in a linguistic and economic ghetto, many living off welfare and costing working Americans millions of tax dollars every year." – English First fundraising letter
    • "there is no evidence that there will be long-term advantages or disadvantages to teaching limited-English students in the native language" (Glenn 1997)
    • …” when well-developed, [multiple language skills] seem to provide cognitive advantages.” (Hakuta 1986)
  • Language Policy in the Courts
    • Currently, 27 States have passed “English Only” laws.
      • Two States have had laws overturned by the courts.
      • Four States have laws that specify two official languages (including WA).
    • www.englishfirst.org
  • The Question is: Why?
    • If English is so dominant as the language of the land, what is this “English Only” business all about?
    • English is under no threat of being overthrown as the primary language of the US.
    • So why create legislation to enforce a situation that already appears to be the case?
  • What Are the Values Being Expressed?
    • “ Pluralists” focus on:
      • Individual social justice and oppression.
      • Preservation of culture.
    • “ Assimilationists” focus on:
      • Unity and the greater good for society as a whole.
      • Advantages of participation in majority culture.
    • Schmidt, R. (2000) Language Policy and Identity Politics in the United States .
  • Pluralists: Loss of Language = Loss of Culture
    • Language is the main vehicle for culture.
    • As a people lose their language, they lose the culturally unique rituals and customs.
    • They lose access to the literature, stories, and history that is encoded in the traditional language.
    • These cultural connections should be protected through the maintenance of language.
  • Pluralists: Social Justice
    • Pluralists are also concerned about issues like:
      • Voting in a native language.
      • Education in native language.
      • Access to essential services such as health care.
  • Assimilationists: What is an American?
    • What defines us?
      • Not race.
      • Not ethnicity.
      • Not culture.
      • Not history.
      • Not religion.
    • The only thing that we have that binds us together is our common language.
  • Assimilationists: English is the Glue that Holds Us Together
    • Because English is so dominant in the U.S., it has been possible to identify “American” with speaker of English.
    • The cohesion of the U.S. depends on the continued status of English as the dominant language.
    • Without English to bind us, the U.S. would disintegrate because nothing else holds it together.
  • The Complexity of the Assimilationist Position
    • It would be an oversimplification to say that the assimiliationist position is just a product of xenophobia.
    • Members of immigrant and minority populations are often strong advocates of an “English Only” policy (e.g., Linda Chavez).
    • They want their children to benefit from the advantages of being fluent in the dominant language.
    • They feel that the traditional language will limit their children’s ability to advance and succeed in the majority culture.
  • From a Linguist’s Perspective
    • The word “English” itself has at least two separate meanings:
      • It may refer to a dialect that is dominant within a country.
        • “English is the language of the U.S.”
      • It may also refer to a group of related dialects, none of which has the status as the standard “language”.
        • “English is spoken in many parts of the world.”
  • “Language” is a Fuzzy Concept
    • This is not an unusual situation in science:
      • Is Greenland a large island or a small continent?
      • Is light a particle or a wave?
      • Is Pluto a planet with a large orbit or an asteroid with a small orbit?
  • Language vs. Dialect
    • In China, there are many dialects.
    • Some dialects are not mutually intelligible.
      • Mandarin-Cantonese:
        • 46.5% mutual intelligibility
        • (www.glossika.com)
    • Yet, we still call it all the “Chinese” Language.
  • Language vs. Dialect
    • When we compare German and Dutch, the boundaries between languages are not so clear.
    • Eastern Dutch and Low German have dialects that have very high mutually intelligibility.
    • Yet, we call them separate languages.
  • Dialects in the U.S.
  • From a Linguist’s Perspective
    • The distinction between “dialect” and “language” is largely not scientific.
    • Linguists don’t spend their time establishing which dialects get to be called “a language”.
    • Such distinctions are essentially a political decision.
  • Linguistic vs. Political
    • Linguists answer this problem by assuming that everyone speaks a dialect.
    • A dialect may also happen to be “language”.
    • “ Language” is label that usually gets associated which the dialect that has the most power.
  • How Does a Dialect Become a Language?
    • They become the most important dialect for certain activities:
      • Business
      • Education
      • Government
      • Religion
    • Some dialects acquire high status for cultural reasons.
  • Standard American English (SAE)
    • Is a dialect.
    • Is the dominant dialect in the U.S.
    • SAE is a dialect with the full backing of the state.
    • Thus, we call it a “language.”
    • A “language” is a dialect with an army and a navy.
  • -- A Brief Summary --
    • Language Policy is an issue that is highly polarized.
    • The issue involves several concepts that are a bit slippery (language, dialect).
    • There are a lot of underlying values and emotions that are being tapped by this issue.
    • We have a media that tends to oversimplify complex scientific issues and dramatize conflict.
    • Sounds like a recipe for misunderstanding, right?
  • A Test: Ebonics
    • In 1996, the Oakland Unified School District declared that children entering school speak a separate and distinct language called “Ebonics.”
    • The OUSD proposed to use Ebonics as a bridge language to introduce reading, transitioning children gradually to Standard American English (SAE).
  • AAVE
    • “Ebonics” is a neologism created out of two words: “ebony” and “phonics”.
    • Ebonics refers to a dialect of English that linguists refer to as African American Vernacular English (AAVE)
    • AAVE is the most different of all the dialects of English spoken in continental North America.
  • William Labov
    • “ Research in New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Florida, Chicago, Texas, Los Angeles, and San Francisco shows a remarkably uniform grammar spoken by African Americans who live and work primarily with other African Americans. Repeated studies by teams of black and white researchers show that about 60% of the African American residents of the inner city speak this dialect in its purest form at home and with intimate friends.”
    • (Testimony submitted to Congress, 1997)
  • AAVE
    • AAVE is characterized by the following features:
      • Word-Final Consonant Cluster Reduction.
      • Absence of 3 rd Person Singular “-s”.
      • Multiple Negation.
      • Copula Deletion
      • Habitual “be”.
  • Word-Final Consonant Cluster Reduction
    • In SAE, reduction is possible when the following word begins with a consonant:
      • cold cuts 
      • best kind 
    • In AAVE, it is also possible to reduce when the following word begins with a vowel:
      • cold eggs 
      • best apple 
    • Compare to consonant deletion in French.
  • Absence of 3 rd Person Singular “-s”
    • In AAVE, there is an absence of the suffix “-s” in the following contexts:
      • He need to get a book from the shelf.
      • She want us to pass the papers to the front.
  • Multiple Negation
    • In SAE, (a) can be negated by (b) or (c):
      • a. I had some lunch.
      • b. I didn’t have any lunch.
      • c. I had no lunch.
    • In AAVE, multiple negation is possible:
      • d. I didn’t have no lunch.
    • Compare with the Russian or French:
      • I never not eat (Russian)
      • I no have not eaten. (French)
  • Copula Deletion
    • The verb “to be” can be deleted under certain conditions in AAVE:
    • SAE:
      • He is nice/He’s nice
      • They are mine/They’re mine.
      • I am going to do it/
      • I’m gonna do it.
    • AAVE:
      • He nice.
      • They mine.
      • I gonna do it.
    • Compare with copula deletion in Russian or many Creoles.
  • Habitual “be”
    • Where SAE uses “always” or “usually”, AAVE can employ habitual “be”:
    SAE: The coffee is always cold. Sometimes I get angry. She is late everyday. AAVE: The coffee be cold. Sometimes I be angry. She be late everyday.
    • Compare with Spanish.
    • Armando es borracho.
    • Armando esta borracho.
  • The Status of AAVE
    • Linguistic comparison reveals that AAVE:
      • Is regular and systematic.
      • Has developed constructions to express meanings in a highly efficient manner.
      • Exhibits structural similarities to other well-studied language such as French, Russian, and many Creoles.
  • What If…
    • From a linguistic point of view, all dialects are equal.
    • The selection of the “standard dialect” is a political concern.
    • For example, if African Americans were the majority culture in the U.S., then AAVE would be the standard language of the country.
  • The Logic of Ebonics
    • The OUSD wanted to recognize that the children in their schools speak a dialect that is significantly different from SAE.
    • Traditional educational practices tend to treat African-American Vernacular English as a deficient form of SAE rather than as an independent dialect.
  • The Logic of Ebonics
    • There is evidence that treating a dialect like AAVE as a distinct “language” actually improves children’s ability to differentiate between their own dialect and the standard dialect (SAE).
    • The strategy seeks to eliminate the confusion/frustration that arises among children who speak AAVE from being told that their language is English, but not “correct” English.
    • Validating the language as they speak it allows children to acquire a different dialect (SAE) without losing or denying their primary dialect.
  • Additional Motivations
    • While not explicit in the OUSD statement, it is desirable to have an accurate understanding of the grammar that children actually know and use in order to begin teaching a significantly different dialect.
    • Educators need to know what to teach and what not to teach.
  • Research on Reading
    • Learning to read means mastering the relationship between speech sounds and spelling.
    • The sound system of AAVE is significantly different than that of SAE.
    • Educators need to be aware of this information, and who it applies to.
  • Once Again: Values Drive the Debate
    • The underlying values that drive the debate are strongly held.
    • Language is so important for so many reasons, and people care about it intensely.
    • The underlying values, and hence the debate, are not going to change quickly.
  • Reactions to Ebonics
    • Pluralists : focus on the possibility of designing better educational practice by recognizing the validity of the language that children speak when they come to school.
    • Assimilationists : focus on the danger of elevating the dialect to the status of a “language”, fearing that this approach may undermine the motivation to learn the standard dialect, resulting in reduced opportunity and isolation.
  • Labov (Again)
    • “ At the heart of the controversy, there are two major points of view taken by educators. One is that any recognition of a nonstandard language as a legitimate means of expression will only confuse children, and reinforce their tendency to use it instead of standard English. The other is that children learn most rapidly in their home language and that they can benefit in both motivation and achievement by getting a head start in learning to read and write in this way. Both of these views are honestly held and deserve a fair hearing. But until now, only the first has been tried in the American public school system. The essence of the Oakland school board resolution is that the first method has not succeeded and that the second deserves a trial.”
    • (Testimony submitted to Congress, 1997)
  • What’s Our Role?
    • As professionals working directly with speech and language, we must take linguistic difference into account.
    • In particular, we must take extreme care not to confuse difference with delay or disorder.
    • Intrinsic features of a different cultural or linguistic system can be mistaken for immature or disordered approximations of the standard dialect.
    • Culturally appropriate practice requires that assessment and intervention techniques take into account these differences in the population.
  • Culturally Appropriate Practice
    • Two approaches:
      • The Cultural Competence Approach.
        • While all cultures contain a degree of variation, there are some common features that clinicians can become aware of.
      • The Linguistically Neutral Approach.
        • The core features of language are invariant. If we focus on these features, we will remain culturally neutral.
  • Cultural Competence
    • “Clinicians should understand and value the differences that exist among clients and should develop an awareness of the cultural, verbal, and nonverbal factors that influence the clinical situation. In developing a cultural awareness, the clinician should ask, ‘what can I do to serve this client in a culturally appropriate manner?’”
    • Battle, D. (1998) Communication Disorders in Multicultural Populations .
  • Cultural Competence
    • Cultural competence entails:
      • Examining one’s own cultural/linguistic background, and how that is perceived by the population you are working with.
      • Learning culturally specific information about the population you are working with.
      • Understanding the socio-political context that is relevant for that cultural/linguistic group.
    • This approach is useful even when the language/dialect is not different but the culture is (i.e., Native American population).
  • Linguistically Neutral Assessment and Intervention
    • The second approach is to identify practices that are neutral with respect to the cultural variables that have been discussed.
    • Linguistic research has shown that some aspects of language are universal.
    • Selective attention to universal aspects may avoid culturally specific features of language.
  • The Logic of the Linguistically Neutral Approach
    • “ Modern linguistics has revealed that linguistic knowledge can be discovered in ‘hidden’ properties of sentences. Even mature adults are not aware they know and use ‘hidden’ rules. In the future, language assessment tests for children should incorporate these insights to provide a deeper analysis of what children know and don’t know. We argue that these properties are key to accurate diagnosis and maximal intervention. Previous language assessment tools focus primarily on outdated and low-level descriptive accounts of language.”
    • de Villiers, J., de Villiers, P., Pearson, B., Roeper, T., & Seymour, H. (2004) “Raising the Standard: New Approaches for Language Assessment”
  • Universal Features of Language
    • Grammatical processes that are neutral with respect to culture:
      • Lexical development (Fast Mapping)
      • Wh-questions (Subjacency)
      • Definite articles (Presuppositions)
      • Passives (Agent Restrictions)
  • Lexical Development (Fast Mapping)
    • Children learn the meanings of words in context by eliminating possible meanings that they already have a word for.
      • For example: “He is mooping.”
      • When prompted, children will choose a picture depicting a novel action as the meaning of this utterance rather than a familiar action that already has a corresponding verb.
  • Wh-questions (Subjacency)
    • “ Two cousins went to the zoo. A funny monkey came and tickled the little girl’s nose with his tail. She sneezed very hard, and the monkey’s hat blew right off! After the zoo, the cousins went to buy some ice cream. The little girl ate her ice-cream with a spoon, but the big cousin ate hers from a cone.”
    • “ How did the girl who sneezed eat the ice cream?”
    • Answer: “With a spoon.” Not: “Very hard.”
  • Definite Articles (Discourse Knowledge)
    • “A bird and a snake were sitting on a rock. They were friends. One of them flew away.
    • “Which one flew away?”
    • Answer: “the bird,” not “a bird.”
  • Passives (Agent Restrictions)
    • The present tense passive construction is ambiguous:
      • “ The bear is washed.”
      • Could refer to a variety of situations, including the bear washing itself.
    • In the progressive tense, the passive no longer has this ambiguity:
      • “ The bear is being washed.”
      • This sentence only allows a reading in which the bear is not doing the washing.
  • Culturally Neutral Assessment
    • For the all of the items just described, SAE and AAVE speaking children who are typically developing will score equally well.
    • Children of either dialect who are experiencing a language disorder will show significantly lower scores.
  • A Complementary Approach
    • The two approaches to culturally appropriate practice are not mutually exclusive.
    • The best approach includes the use of both kinds of information.
    • Culturally specific information and understanding of socio-political context are crucial for appropriate communication.
    • Dialect neutral techniques that measure core features of language are crucial for accurate assessment and effective intervention.
  • Conclusions
    • The Borg will not disappear.
      • Immigrants will continue to be assimilated into the majority language.
    • For social, cultural, and public policy reasons, the debate will continue about preservation of and accommodations for minority languages.
      • The values underlying this debate show no sign of shifting.
    • As language professionals, we have a special obligation to accommodate speakers of non-majority languages.
      • The appropriate education and livelihood of whole populations depend on the accurate identification of and appropriate intervention for speech and language disorder.
  • Contact Information
    • Rick McKinnon, Ph.D., CCC-SLP
    • The Evergreen State College
    • Olympia, WA 98504
    • (253) 471-2727
    • web: www.asapc.org
    • email: rickm@asapc.org