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Bridging Linguistic Diversity

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Ashley Mast

on 10 April 2013

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Transcript of Bridging Linguistic Diversity

Bridging Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Creating Multiliterate Classrooms
By Ashley Mast What is Oppression? “Oppression is a situation or dynamic in which certain ways of being are privileged in society while others are marginalized” (Kumashiro, 2000, p. 25).

“The assimilationist ideology [states] that students of colour should conform to the mainstream culture and become more like middleclass White Americans (Miller, 1995)” (Kumashiro, 2000, p. 27). According to Statistics Canada: Resources:
Addams, J. (1908) The Public School and the Immigrant Child.
Cummins, J. (2001) Bilingual Children's Mother Tongue: Why Is It Important for Education?
Gay, G. (2003-4) Importance of Multicultural Education.
Kumashiro, K. (2000) Toward a Theory of Anti- Oppressive Education.
Peterson, S., Heywood, D. (2007) Contributions of Families' Linguistic Social, and Cultural Capital to Minority- Language Children's Literacy: Parents', Teachers', and Principals' Perspectives.
Schwarzer, et al. (2003) Fostering Multiliteracy in a Linguistically Diverse Classroom.
Statistics Canada- Ethnic Diversity and Immigration.
Urrieta, L., Quach, L. (2000) My Language Speaks of Me: Transmutational Identities in L2 Acquisition.
Villegas, A., Lucas, T. (2002) Preparing Culturally Responsive Teachers.
Weinstein, et al. (2003) Culturally Responsive Classroom Management: Awareness Into Action. Linguistic Oppression “Educational issues involving language minority students and students of colour continue to cause much debate and controversy. These students often strive to become ‘accepted’ by mainstream peers, often shunning their primary language or dialect and cultural practices to become assimilated into mainstream society. In the school context, while liberal multiculturalism is promoted in the classroom, current educational practices at the same time promote quick assimilation, exhibiting a contradiction” (Urrieta, Quach, 2000, p. 26). As Educators we are relaying the wrong Message: “I believe if these people are welcomed upon the basis of the resources which they represent and the contributions which they bring, it may come to pass that these schools which deal with immigrants will find that they have a wealth of cultural and industrial material which will make the schools in other neighbourhoods positively envious.” (Addams, 1908, p. 27) As Educators we must tap into the valuable resources within our very classes; the diversity of our students.

Having a linguistically diverse class is not a challange to overcome but is rather an invaluable tool.

We must support and up-hold the very languages and cultures within our classes to not only over- come oppression, but to enrich the educational experience of all. “In many cases, language minority students learn to devalue their primary language and even actively contribute to the subordination and annihilation of that language and culture” (Urrieta, Quach, 2000, p. 33). “In order to establish a healthier more egalitarian society, that truly celebrates and respects diversity, it is important to focus attention on critical forms of multicultural instructional methods, that promote critical literacy and for, non-standard English speakers, a critical and conscious acquisition of the dominant codes. Subordination and devaluing of non-whites will not foster a productive society, especially when the majority of the population will no longer be white”
(Urrieta, Quach, 2000, p. 34). By 2031
29%-32% of the Canadian Population will belong to a visible minority group
11.4- 14.4 million people
(more than double the statistics from 2006) Allophones (people whose mother tongue is neither English or French) accounted for less than 10% of the Canadian population in 1981
In 2006 Allophones doubled to 20% of the population
By 2031(following current trends) Allophones could reach 29%- 32%

According to statistics Canada this growth is 7-11 times faster than the growth of any other population group within Canada Retrieved from Statistics Canada- Ethnic Diversity and Immigration
on April 1, 2013
http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/11-402-x/2011000/chap/imm/imm-eng.htm “[schools and members of society] worry that linguistic, cultural, “racial” and religious diversity threaten the identity of the host society. Consequently, they promote educational policies that will make the “problem” disappear” (Cummins, 2001, p. 16). “In an era of globalization, a society that has access to multilingual and multicultural resources is advantaged in its ability to play an important social and economic role on the world stage” (Cummins, 2001, p. 16). “The challenge for educators and policy- makers is to shape the evolution of national identity in such a way that the rights of all citizens (including school children) are respected, and the cultural, linguistic, and economic resources of the nation are maximized. To squander the linguistic resources of the nation by discouraging children from developing their mother tongues is quite simply unintelligent from the point of view of national self- interest and also represents a violation of the rights of the child”
(Cummins, 2001, p. 17). It is important for our Nation's Unity that immigrants learn either English or French, but why should the learning of a new language cause one to lose their Mother Tongue? “Many people marvel at how quickly bilingual children seem to “pick up” conversational skills in the majority language in the early years at school… However, educators are often much less aware about how quickly children can lose their ability to use their mother tongues, even in the home context… Where language communities are not concentrated or ‘ghettoized’ in particular neighbourhoods, children can lose their ability to communicate in their mother tongue within 2-3 years of starting school… By the time children become adolescents, the linguistic gap between parents and children has become an emotional chasm. Pupils frequently become alienated from the cultures of both home and school with predictable results” (Cummins, 2001, p. 19). If we are to maximize our nation's linguistic diversity, then we must ensure our students' first language is not forgotten. “There is convincing evidence that supporting immigrant children’s first language (L1) and valuing their culture enhances their English literacy… when schools affirmed students’ personal and cultural identities, students were more likely to succeed as literacy learners. In contrast, children who lost their L1 in the acquisition of English were hindered in their ability to read and write English… When promoted together, the two languages enrich each other rather than subtracting from each other’” (Peterson, Heywood, 2007, p 518). “Children’s knowledge and skills transfer across languages from the mother tongue they have learned in the home to the school language… the two languages are interdependent. Transfer across languages can be two- way: when the mother tongue is promoted in school… Both languages nurture each other when the educational environment permits children access to both languages” (Cummins, 2001, p. 18). “Bilingual children perform better in school when the school effectively teaches the mother tongue and, where appropriate, develops literacy in that language” (Cummins, 2001, p. 18). Why are people so afraid of diversity?

Instead of valuing diversity they try to diminish it hoping it will vanish. In doing so we take away the very essence of the individual. When we encourage and support L1 development we not only improve English literacy but we affirm our appreciation
of our students' identity. “Teachers can help children retain and develop their mother tongues by communicating to them strong affirmative messages about the value of knowing additional languages and the fact that bilingualism is an important linguistic and intellectual accomplishment”
(Cummins, 2001, p. 19). Within Canada there is a shift in Immigration Patters “”To reject a child’s language in the school is to reject the child. When the message, implicit or explicit, communicated to children in the school is ‘leave your language and culture at the schoolhouse door”
(Cummins, 2001, p. 20). “It is critical that teachers deliberately model respect for diversity- by expressing admiration for a student’s bilingual ability, by commenting enthusiastically about the number of different languages that are represented in class, and by including examples and content from a variety of cultures in their teaching”
(Weinstein, et al, 2003, p.272). “Minority-language students develop a stronger sense of self and are more likely to apply themselves academically when teachers show them that their language and culture are welcomed in school”
(Peterson, Heywood, 2007, p. 518). Culturally Responsive Teachers care. These teachers are knowledgeable enough to understand that a student's prior knowledge and experience greatly impact a student's current education. It is imperative that educators take the time to truly know their students both in and out of the classroom. “Many ethnically diverse students do not find schooling exciting or inviting, they often feel unwelcome, insignificant and alienated. Too much of what is taught has no immediate value to these students. It does not reflect who they are. Yet most educators will agree that learning is more interesting and easier to accomplish when it has personal meaning for students.”
(Gay, 2003-4, p. 319) “Multilingual children have an enormous contribution to make to their societies, and to the international global community, if only we as educators put into practice what we believe is true for all children: 1) children’s cultural and linguistic experience in the home is the foundation of their future learning and we must build on that foundation rather than undermine it; 2) every child has the right to have their talents recognized and promoted within the school” (Cummins, 2001, p. 20). “Teachers should use acquired cultural knowledge as a way of demonstrating an openness and willingness to learn about the aspects of culture that are important to students and their families”
(Weinstein, et al, 2003, p.270). “[Culturally responsive teachers] see their role as adding to rather than replacing what students bring to learning. They are convinced that all students, not just those from the dominant group, are capable learners who bring a wealth of knowledge and experiences to school”
(Villegas, Lucas, 2002, p. 23). “To support students’ construction of knowledge, teachers must help learners build bridges between what they already know and believe about the topic at hand and the new ideas and experiences to which they are exposed” (Villegas, Lucas, 2002, p. 25). “It is not enough for teachers to passively accept children’s linguistic and cultural diversity in the school. They must be proactive and take the initiative to affirm children’s linguistic identity by having posters in the various languages of the community around the school, encouraging children to write in their mother tongues in addition to the majority school language, and generally create an instructional climate where the linguistic and cultural experience of the whole child is actively accepted and validated” (Cummins, 2001, p. 20). “Schools and communities can become partners in the development of lifelong multilingual/ multiliterate individuals who are aware that their native language and literacy is a precious resource for the school community” (Schwarzer, et al, 2003, p. 455). “Teachers do not need to be the only ones teaching in the classroom. They can create, with the help of students, parents, siblings, elders, clergy, and other community members, a multiliterate learning community” (Schwarzer, et al, 2003, p. 455). “Educators should incorporate the students’ home cultures into their classrooms and pedagogies, teaching in a ‘culturally sensitive’ or ‘culturally relevant’ way” (Kumashiro, 2000, p. 28). “The second strategy for teaching about the Other is to integrate Otherness throughout the curriculum. Educators should not limit their lessons about the Other to once or twice a year when this topic is exclusively addressed but integrate lessons and topics about the Other throughout the curriculum” (Kumashiro, 2000, p. 33). “Multicultural curriculums should be based on critical and respectful understanding of non-Western cultures” (Urrieta, Quach, 2000, p. 33). “School personnel demonstrated their respect in a number of ways. They went to great lengths to learn about the language and cultures of their student… they created welcoming classroom and school environments” (Peterson, Heywood, 2007, p. 528). “A teacher explained that the creation of dual-language books was extremely valuable to our community because, first of all, we involved parents from our community in translating. (Sometimes they’re a little bit reluctant or uncomfortable, because of their language barrier, participating in school activities.) Secondly, it encourages literacy at home between children and parents” (Peterson, Heywood, 2007, p. 533). “Three practices identified by many participating teachers and principals as contributing to their ESL students’ literacy learning could be adopted in other schools as well: 1) making dual- language books available and/ or inviting parents into classrooms to help in creating such books 2) learning the languages of students in the school 3) encouraging minority- language parents to read and write to their children in their L1s”
(Peterson, Heywood, 2007, p. 535). “It is our hope that other teachers, principals, researchers, and policy makers can continue the work of creating classrooms and schools that truly value the cultural and linguistic diversity of our children” (Schwarzer, et al, 2003, p. 460). Final Remarks: Now, knowing the true benefits of encouraging L1 development for English proficiency and cultural awareness, which ultimately affirms the identity of linguistically diverse students; how do we foster this within our very classes? As educators you have 3 options regarding first language fluency. You can reject, accept or cultivate it. I strongly encourage you to give your linguistically diverse students all the resources possible so they can achieve their full potential. Being multilingual is an accomplishment and something that must be celebrated. For as “Goethe, the German philosopher, once said: The person who knows only one language does not truly know that language”
(Cummins, 2001, p. 17).

We must not reject L1s but create affirming spaces that foster cultural and linguistic
diversity for if we do not we will reject our students' identity and further the harm of linguistic oppression. “While students may not be physically punished for speaking their mother tongue in their school (as they previously were in many countries), a strong message is communicated to them that if they want to be accepted by the teacher and the society, they have to renounce any allegiance to their home language and culture… Whether we do it intentionally or inadvertently, when we destroy children’s language and rupture their relationship with parents and grandparents, we are contradicting the very essence of education” (Cummins, 2001, p. 16). As educators we need to incorporate diversity within every aspect of our curriculum and instruction. In doing so we support our students' identity and challenge oppression. Kevin Kumashiro expands on the treatment of oppressed, 'Othered,' students: This may seem like an overwhelming task, but with a bit of effort it is truly manageable.
Here are a few suggestions of how you can incorporate linguistic and cultural diversity within your own class: One suggestion in making your class and school open and accepting of cultural and linguistic diversity is to have welcome posters in all the various languages spoken by your students posted throughout the school. This not only sends a warm welcome to students but parents who may visit the school. A great way to affirm a students' cultural identity and linguistic diversity is to have books of various languages available within each class and at the library. But why be limited to books?
Invite children and their families to bring in many different textual resources.
This could include:
Common household and kitchen products
bottles, boxes, containers, etc.
Recipes Get creative incorporating linguistically diverse texts throughout your classroom routine and daily instruction. Use the different language texts within lessons to foster a more open understanding of the diverse students within your class.
Look at different resources of the same language and identify similarities and common words.
Examine how texts are influenced by culture and language.
Learn and say the name of common classroom objects in different languages. Limit the times you call these items by their English names. There are endless opportunities, you just need to challenge yourself to 'think outside the box.' Yes published multi-lingual books are an incredible resource, but if your school does not have the resources or is unable to obtain adequate dual language or multi-lingual books or texts, simply create them yourself. A great way to create dual-language texts and to encourage witting in your student's L1 is by using a template. For example try using a comic strip template and have students write out their own story line in their native tongue. Later, invite students to share their comic creation in their own language. This activity gives students the opportunity to work on L1 literacy and share their native language with their peers. In addition, you will likely encounter story lines dealing with oppression as the second box has two individuals who seem to be laughing, and may be perceived as making fun of another person. Engage your class in a discussion of linguistic oppression.

Ask- How do you think someone would feel if they were made fun of because other students viewed their cultural background as different, or they spoke another language?
What do you think can be done to prevent others from making fun?

By showcasing linguistic and cultural diversity in a positive light we can create supportive spaces that work against oppression.

“The school needs to be an affirming space, where Otherness is embraced... where students will have an audience for their Othered voice(s) and where the Other will have role models (Asante, 1991; Malinowitz, 1995)” (Kumashiro, 2000, p. 28). To adapt this activity for older students you can:

First discuss what linguistic oppression is and what forms it can take.
Have students create their own dual- language comic strips dealing with linguistic oppression.
Students can draw the the comics themselves or use various software or websites (like the one used for the previous template)
In the activity students are to have an oppressive conflict followed by a resolution.
Once students are finished have them present to the class in their own language followed by English
As a class further discuss issues of linguistic oppression and ways we can overcome it within our classes, school, community and within ourselves. Here's A Thought:
As students develop their level of literacy in English encourage them to write in their L1 first. This way students can have one continual fluid- thought as they write out an essay or assignment. This helps to develop greater fluency in the student's native tongue, and later the assignment can be translated into English for evaluation. Another great activity would be to invite parents and members of the community to read stories in their L1s and to share aspects of their culture to the class... According to Kumashiro (2000) those who experience (linguistic) oppression need to have role models. Have students lead a cultural or linguistic lesson for the class . Language lessons will enable monolingual students to understand the challenges one faces when learning a new language. While doing this we work against incomplete and partial forms of knowledge regarding those who are oppressed. (Kumashiro, 2000) An additional way to incorporate cultural and linguistic diversity is to bring in both traditional and popular songs of various languages. Have students listen for rhyme and rhythm and provide English translations. Students will enjoy working with music and it can be used in all classes regardless of the subject. Your options for including linguistic diversity within your own class are truly limitless. Get creative and draw upon the vast amount of resources available to you: students, parents, teaching associates and members of the community. According to these researchers, Linguistic Oppression is essentially the marginalization of an individual on the basis of language diversity.
This can take on many forms such as:
Being made fun of for speaking a different language
Told either implicitly or explicitly not to speak their language
Not having access to books and other resources in their native language
Feeling or being told their language is inferior to English or any other language
Feeling they have to lose or minimize the use of their native tongue in order to fit into society or succeed within school
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