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Chulapol manuscript Chulapol manuscript Document Transcript

  • My Story<br /> <br />“Yes, the Adult Development Center was available, but I have kids, I could not go out of the house, so I had a tutor coming to the house to teach me English language ……. Yes, it was not free like the Adult Center’s classes, but I had to pass the Citizenship exam.”<br />An interview conversation above was from a crafter, gardener, lady from Thailand, mother of three children, and a wife of retired school principle with the United States Marine background. In this paper, I will attempt, as best and analytic as possible, to describe the second language literacy development of two Thai women who were married to an American soldier and migrated to the United States. Through their experiences in learning English as a second language, they had encountered countless events or situations that required them to negotiate their position within their own identity. Two main questions for this paper are (1) How do the immigrant married women with limited literacy develop their second language? and (2) How do they come or what make them to learn the second language? This paper will touch upon some important theories and ideologies of literacy and literacy development. It will end with the interpretative analysis of two questions addressed above.<br />Literacy Theories<br />Literacy Development in Lifelong Learning <br />The World organization such as World Bank realizes the importance of literacy development for a country or society to become industrialized and developed. It is believed that “[i]nvestment in human capital is critical for economic growth” (World Bank, 2003, p. 4). The human capital rests on the idea of knowledge economy, which is grounded from four features of current economy (World Bank, 2003, p. 2),<br />
    • Knowledge is being developed and applied in new ways
    • Product cycles are shorter and the need for innovation greater
    • Trade is increasing worldwide, increasing competitive demand on producers View slide
    • Small and medium-size enterprises in the service sector have become increasingly important players, in terms of both economic growth and employment
    In order for any country to participate in the global economy, it is important to prepare its human resource to compete in the knowledge economy. To do so, World Bank proposed that a model of lifelong learning (a new model of education and training) must be required. A new proposed model encompasses learning throughout the entire life cycle (childhood as well as adulthood). Lifelong learning model includes formal, nonformal, and informal education and training. One of the goals of World Bank’s a proposed system of lifelong learning model focuses on improving the literacy level of people. World Bank argued that being illiterate is negligible in high-income countries (World Bank, 2000). World Bank further presented that the idea of literate people is “anyone who is able to read and write a simple statement” is “insufficient for the knowledge economy, in which a secondary-level education is increasingly regarded as basic education” (World Bank, 2003, p. 23). The Five-level literacy performance measured by the International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS) proposed that in order for one to function in the knowledge economy, the minimum of level 3 is required;<br />
    • Prose literacy “…[being] able to locate information that requires low-level inferences…” View slide
    • Document literacy “…[being] able to make literal or synonymous matches…”
    • Quantitative literacy “…[being] able to solve some multiplication and division problems…”
    “Great Divide” Theory<br />From the perspective of World Bank on literacy development, it can be simply said that being literate (as a whole society) can contribute to the development of the country. The idea leads to the concept that people can be divided into binary, literate ones and non-literate ones. This ideology was influenced by the early literacy theory of Goody and Watt in “The Consequences of Literacy” (1963). The famous Goody’s theory is often referred as “Great Divide” theory which involves in the comparative analysis of communication as a binary divide between different kinds of society or people (1963); “primitive” or “civilized”, “oral” or “written”, “myth” or “history”, “concrete” or “scientific”, etc.<br /> In their essay, Goody and Watt addressed that oral society is illiterate and therefore uncivilized. On the other hand, Goody and Watt portrayed Greek as a literate and civilized society because they communicated in writing. The main thesis of their idea of literacy is that being literate or literacy leads to development of socialization. Goody and Watt’s clearly described how literacy could become part of and play a significant role in social changes. In their example, Greek became or was known as a symbol of civilized society because of its writing. Greek, back then, was considered to have civilized culture due to the diffusion of its writing in the world. In comparison to oral culture, writing is permanent and can be used as storage, documenting history, in democratic process. All of these represent the concept of civilization. Their essay implied that uncivilized societies should adopt Greek’s writing literacy or they should develop their own writing to be more literate. From Greek’s example, one could interpret that, in the present day, English language is the most use language in the world, therefore to be considered literate society English language must be part of literacy study. In addition, the assumption of the relationship between literacy and civilization reflects or mirrors World Bank’s idea of literacy and developed countries where literacy is seen as “autonomous” focusing on distinguishing oral and written language and not accounting the social context.<br />New Literacies Studies with Sociocultural Ideology<br />Other theorists argued against “Great Divide” theory that views literacy as autonomous or a technology for modernization. Cole and Cole (2006) concluded that the Goody and Watt (1963) essay “was explicitly framed as an idea piece – a set of speculations, not an empirical study.” Others also argued toward the idea that literacy cannot and should not be considered as an autonomous or independent from social context, but instead viewed as idealistic and socially organized practice. Street (2003) argued that the autonomous model “disguises the cultural and ideological assumptions that underpin it so that it can then be presented as though they are neutral and universal and that literacy as such will have these benign effects.” <br />The New Literacies Studies (NLS) with the ideological model offers a more culturally sensitive view of literacy. Literacy should be “a set of social practice that are historically situated, highly dependent on shared cultural understandings and inextricably linked to power relations in any setting” (Opoku-Amankwa & Brew-Hammond, 2011, p. 92). From this perspective, literacy is no long just about reading and writing. Literacy and literacy development should and must involve other contexts such as society, family, community, etc. Scribner and Cole’s (1999) study of Vai people confirms this ideological model with the notion of practice (how Vai people practice the Vai language) to guide the way to understand literacy.<br />Scribner and Cole (1999) set out the thesis for studying the comparisons between children with and children without a written language, and between schooled and unschooled children. From the study, it can be understood that literacy is about (1) transfer of knowledge and (2) part of social practice. Literacy is not what you learn. It is, however, what you could transfer, apply, or practice in the real life. The study doesn’t emphasize on what Vai people know about the language, but what are involved in their literacy practice. For example, how Vai people learned Vai language so they could read the letters or record their marriage spending. Scribner and Cole (1999) summarized their ideological view of literacy study as,<br />“Instead of focusing exclusively on the technology of a writing system and its reputed consequences (‘alphabetic literacy fosters abstraction,’ for example), we approach literacy as a set of socially organized practices which make use of a symbol system and a technology for producing and disseminating it. Literacy is not simply knowing how to read and write a particular script but applying this knowledge for specific purposes in specific contexts of use.”<br />(p. 236)<br />In terms of literacy development, Scribner and Cole’s (1999) study has shown that schooling is not equal or does not necessary lead to literacy development. In the study, what has been found is that schooling, in fact, has an effect on Vai children’s cognitive performance such as “formal schooling with instruction in English increased ability to provide a verbal explanation of the principles involved in performing the various task.” Nonschooled literacy (Vai and Arabic scripts), on the other hand, doesn’t produce cognitive effects in children.<br />Another sociocultural perspective view of literacy and literacy development can be found in Duffy’s (2007) “Writing from These Roots, Literacy in Hmong-American Community.” Duffy (2007) deployed the life history research and used the rhetorical concepts of literacy development method to provide the interpretative analysis of Hmong people’s journey of literacy and literacy development. Throughout the analysis of Hmong historical events in their journey through different spaces (China, Laos, Refugee camps, and United States) and their lack of written language (having lost written language throughout the journey), Hmong was introduced and was experiencing different language literacy. These literacy development processes appeared to intermingle with Hmong’s social, cultural, and historical episodes. This, in turns, affects Hmong’s identity and how they position themselves at the place they reside.<br />