Language and Identity

<b> Forum for the discussion of all aspects of bilingual education </b>

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Language and Identity

Post by teachnj » Mon Nov 21, 2011 5:15 pm

Language embodies the essence of who you are. It denotes culture and tradition. In addition, an individual’s sense of belonging is reinforced by the language he/she speaks. We must value a person's language in order to validate who that person is. In chapter 9 of Forbidden Language the authors site studies that uphold the theory that maintaining an individual's primary language leads to better self esteem and confidence in students. Studies on self esteem and self confidence have shown that when teachers couple these 2 important variables with meaningful and rigorous academic work students will excel. So, why not nurture the primary language? Why not validate who these students are?

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Cultural Identity

Post by suarez07 » Tue Nov 22, 2011 7:56 pm

I agree completely. A few classes ago, I learned a sad fact regarding primary langauge maintenance. Unfortunately, many immigarnt parents are so willling to make sure their children become successful here in the USA, that they themselves encourage their children to fully adopt the new second language along with the culture associated with the language- in this case, it was English. This desire to learn English came at a cost of loosing their primary language and cultural identity. Many of the immigrant children who learned English, admitted later on life (as adults) how some of them developed either a dual cultural identity growing up, or lost their cultural identity altogether. It was sad to read these statistical facts, but it was a reality of the cost for some who want to learn English. I believe this is why schools should encourage cultural diversity to not only expose others to the different cultures in the USA, but it helps to encourge and maintain cultural identity.

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Post by sunflower03 » Sun Nov 27, 2011 6:31 am

I had a parent/teacher conference with a parent who speaks Spanish/English at home. She was concerned that her son couldn't speak Spanish nor English fluently and is not proficient in English nor Spanish. I had expressed the importance of maintaining her first langauge, however, she decided that she was only going to speak to her son in English and that that was going to become the language that he would be proficient in. I thought this to be very sad. Unfortunatley, this is what many parents face.

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Post by satter06 » Tue Nov 29, 2011 8:18 pm

It is sad that the parent has to make that choice. That child may end up acquiring English more if he is forced to speak it at home but language is a big part of culture. Unfortunately, her son may learn English fluently or may not, but either way he is losing his primary language and that is not benefit to him. I wish that there were more programs and encouragement to become fluent in English while being able to maintain one's identity and culture which is intertwined with maintaining thier primary language.

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Post by andrewgessman » Fri Dec 23, 2011 2:39 am

I agree completely that language informs identity. I went to Hebrew school as a kid and now teach Hebrew school as an adult, part-time. Jewish families send their kids to Hebrew school to learn about their ethnicity and identity, through the vehicle of an ancient language. So I know what it means to have language being a fundamental part of one's identity. BUT, in my case, I am not talking about teaching ethnic identity through language in a public school. I am talking about a voluntary ethnic school kids choose to attend on the weekends. After my classes are finished in the morning, the local Chinese community uses the same facilities in the afternoon to teach their kids Chinese and about their ethnic identity.

There is a place for teaching ethnic identity and language, but a mainstream public school is not that place. The children must learn English. I support Bilingual Education to achieve that goal, and believe that students should be proficient in an L1 to help them become proficient in an L2. But the goal is to get them to learn English, not to reinforce their identity, through L1 maintenance. That's an admirable goal and sentiment, but it should not be the imperative of a public school. There are venues outside of school for ethnic language/ethnic identity enrichment. This can happen at home as well.

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