Kim LettoraleDr. SchwarzerCurr 509.01: Sociocultural Perspectives on Teaching and LearningDecember 12, 2011 The linguistic landscape of a community is the different languages that can be seen in thecommunity including languages displayed both publicly and privately. When a community isclosely observed, many different languages may be seen in places such as restaurants, grocerystores, convenience stores, and in advertisements. The different languages that make up thecommunity are its linguistic landscape. This information is important to teachers and schoolsbecause the languages that are seen in the community represent the students that are in theschools. When a teacher understands and appreciates the different languages that each childeither speaks or is exposed to, this allows them to incorporate that information into theclassroom. When a teacher chooses to incorporate various languages into the classroom, this canbe achieved in many ways. Some things a teacher do would be finding resources in thecommunity they are teaching in. For example, a teacher could point out different languages thatare seen in the community to the students and base projects on those languages (specificexamples are explained in the conclusion). Some students may not even realize that a particularlanguage is a part of their own community. The students that speak the language being discussedwould be able to contribute information to the class, leading them to feel a sense of pride fortheir native language. Teachers can also ask people from the community or parents of thestudents to visit the classroom and share their languages with the students. The volunteers couldteach simple phrases for all students to learn such as “Hello, how are you?” or “My name is…”The students could then start their days with these phrases in the different languages they arelearning about. Technology can also be used as a resource to bring in elements of differentlanguages into the classroom, such as favorite books, songs, or poems in languages that are
represented in the community and therefore the classroom. By incorporating the differentlanguages in the classroom, the teacher shows the students that each language is important andrespected and language is trait we value and encourage in all of our students. Brining variouslanguages into the classroom also gives all students a connection between their community,home life, and the classroom that is often missing in classrooms today. The pictures taken in East Orange for the linguistic landscape were captured in bothpublic and residential areas, with the majority of them taken on East Orange’s main streets.What became obvious in the community are the vast amount of food establishments andrestaurants that cater to the different cultures, languages, and backgrounds of the people in thecommunity. There are also a great deal of hair salons and barber shops, stores sellingentertainment items, and places of worship that show the rich cultures and religions of EastOrange. In this community, most of the language speaks to the culture of the community asopposed to the written language itself being different. In East Orange, most of the language onthe signs, buildings, and advertisements is in English, yet the meaning and cultural significanceyou gain after viewing each sign varies a great deal, giving the language a greater meaning. Itappears that each sign gives the store a personality that can be felt when the observer looks at itthrough the use of words, colors, and images. Each sign or language seen in the community tellsthe viewer the culture of the East Orange and also suggests languages that may be spoken in thecommunity even though the signs themselves are in English. As mentioned in my communitystudy, there are various ethnicities in East Orange including African America, Jamaican, WestIndian, Caribbean, Haitian, Jamaican, Trinidadian and Tobagonians, Dominican, Nigerian, andLatino, and many of these ethnicities are seen in the cultural and visual language in thecommunity.
I focused on a few specific areas of signage in East Orange to demonstrate the culturallanguage of the community: food establishments, religious signs, entertainment, schools, andadvertisements. When examining the signage representing the hair salons and barber shops, theviewer knows right away that hair is an important part of Black culture. The signs not only say“hair braiding” but include images of Africa and the colors of African countries. One sign alsosays “African Hair Braiding Gallery.” The use of the word “gallery” demonstrates that it is notsimply a hair style but an art form. The salons also include images of real women with differenthair styles to inspire clients and again show the importance of hair styles in East Orange. Thesalon is communicating both through written and visual language to the viewer. When looking atthe food establishments, the signs include the type of food being offered, such as Caribbean,West Indian, or African, but also include colors and images that show the culture of the food andthe community. The Caribbean sign has bright and vibrant colors with images of palm treesrepresenting the islands and culture of the Caribbean. The West Indian grocery store has a livelyand festive font in bright colors again communicating to its audience a part of the East Orangeculture. These signs also suggest that African and Caribbean languages are spoken in EastOrange even though they signs are in English. A language that was not English on the foodestablishments was Arabic, which advertised a “Halal Deli,” showing that there is a Muslimcommunity in East Orange. There was also a sign advertising “Halal Soul Food” which blendsthe African American culture with Muslim religion. As stated earlier, most of the words are inEnglish on these signs, but they communicate a greater meaning though the use of images andcolors. Some of the signs also advertise specific types of food such as “smoked goat meat,”which again is still in English, but speak to the African and West Indian culture. Anotherlanguage I did see as well, but was quite hard to find, was French. In one of the stores, there was
a hand written sign adverting “Beurre President” which is a French butter. This I foundinteresting because some parts of the Caribbean and Africa speak French. This information,along with the single sign, indicates to me that some families in East Orange speak French.When looking at stores that are advertising forms of entertainment, it appears that movies andmusic are important to the African culture. These signs were again shown in English, but mostlikely give those who are from Africa a sense of comfort knowing they can watch movies fromhome. Also, in East Orange, there are various Christian religions in which the places of worshiphave their signage in English; however we did discover an Islamic community center which hadArabic writing on it indicating that Arabic may be spoken in some homes. When looking atschools, there was one sign in French, indicating that there are French speaking students, andthen there was a school advertising a “Hispanic Heritage Program,” which was written inEnglish, but shows that there is most likely Spanish spoken by some of the East Orangeresidents. Lastly, there a few more signs/advertisements in East Orange that are worthmentioning. They are in English but speak to what may be happening in the community. Therewas an advertisement about employment help indicating there may be a low employment rate inthe community and there was pharmacy advertising about diabetes and weight loss help, whichmay be some of the health problems in East Orange. I felt that these signs are important for ateacher to notice because they may have a student with parents looking for jobs or may knowsomeone with diabetes or obesity. They teacher would be able to discover this just by readingthe language of their community. In the case of East Orange, it may not be what language isbeing used, but what are they are trying to say. In conclusion, the incorporation of the linguistic landscape of East Orange in theclassroom is important to linguistically diverse children because it brings a part of who they are
in to the classroom. Their home life and culture no longer need to be completely separateentities from the life in the classroom. After viewing the community of East Orange, a teacherhas a vast array of elements that they could bring into the classroom. So many discussions andprojects can be based on the hair styles of the Black community. Some suggestions would be thehistory of hairstyles in Black cultures. Questions to ask would be, “How did the styles changethroughout the years?” “Are hair styles in East Orange different than in Africa?” The names ofcertain hair styles may be in other languages and discovering the literal meaning could be quiteexciting. Another element would be discovering the various cultures and languages though thefood signage. Students could investigate the different foods offered in East Orange and thenexplore the native languages of each culture and country represented. They could investigatetheir own cultural backgrounds and invite parents in to share the different native languages withthe classroom. Also, the African movie shops could be quite inspiring to teachers in EastOrange. They could incorporate original African movies or music to bring the community insidethe classroom. Children love movies and music and the resources to bring these things into theclassroom are right in the stores in the community! After the movies are watched or the music islistened to, a picture book project or identity text project could be assigned; such as if the studentonly knows English, they could create a picture book telling a story. If the student knows alanguage other than English, they could tell a story with both translations. All of thesesuggestions bring a part of the child’s culture and language into the classroom. As teachers, weneed to allow the students to be proud of the culture they are and the language they speak. Withthat pride, comes the desire to share their knowledge, ideas, and language with each other,making the classroom a rich learning environment for everyone.