Saturday, November 12, 2011

Sneak Peek: Language and Power Presentation

Hello SED552,

Seth and I will be your facilitators on Tuesday, November 15th, 2011 for our graduate course at Rhode Island College. The theme of the class is “Language and Power”, according to our syllabus, and we look forward to analyzing the two required texts for class through using some strategies/ games that you can hopefully bring back to your classrooms to use with your students. So, please make sure you all read the two required pieces (both from the book Tongue Tied (2004):

1.       “Aria” by Richard (Ricardo) Rodriguez
2.        “Teaching Multilingual Children” by Virginia Collier

As far as the content of Tuesday’s seminar, we just wanted to point out some aspects of both pieces that will be discussed.

1. Aria (Rodriguez)
·         The idea of “private” versus “public” language: Rodriguez really makes this point a theme of this passage. He opens up the narrative by calling Spanish (his native language) a “private language” (34) When beginning to learn English in school, Rodriguez’s teachers come to his home and ask his parents to speak English in the home to better acclimate Rodriguez and his sister to America. At first, the speaking of English in the home is almost a game. In fact, Rodriguez recalls “After diner each night, the family gathered to practice ‘our’ English. Laughing, we would try to define words we could not pronounce.” (35) However, once Rodriguez and his siblings became more confident in English, it seems like their worlds were changed. Rodriguez admits that there was “a new quiet at home” and that he “no longer knew what words to use when addressing [his] parents.” (37). So, once his public world and private world collided, this course of action forever alters his life and view on bilingual education.
·         The “sounds” of a language: Rodriguez discusses how it isn’t necessarily what the person says, it is how it sounds to us; the same way in which French, Spanish, Portuguese, or Italian are known as “romance languages” because of the pitch, tone, and accent. Rodriguez specifically states the various sounds he heard in English versus Spanish and how those sounds resonated with him. Upon news of the nuns demanding English at home, Rodriguez laments that his parents “in an instant, they agreed to give up the language (the sounds) that had revealed and accentuated our family’s closeness.” (35) He describes the English language, initially, as “gringo sounds” and how those sounds “startled” him. (35) Eventually, as his English becomes more and more prominent, he “stopped hearing the high and low sounds of los gringos.” (36) Rodriguez continues to acknowledge, “a more and more confident speaker of English, I didn’t trouble to listen to how strangers sounded speaking to me. And there simply were too many English speaking people in my day for me to hear American accents anymore.” (36) Unfortunately, as his English became better and better, his desire to speak Spanish (that private language) dwindled. As Rodriguez looks back on his youth, he describes how hearing Spanish, he “continued to be a careful, if sad, listener of sounds.” (38)
·         Language and Family: Rodriguez seems to have an extremely strong relationship with his family when Spanish is the predominately (and sometimes only) language spoken. However, as his English increases, there seems to be a disconnect between parent and child. He describes his family as “a loving family, but one greatly changed. No longer so close; no longer bound tight by the pleasing and troubling knowledge of our public separateness.” (36)
·         Silence: There seems to be many a night in the Rodriguez household that was spent in silence after the children were required to speak in English.

2. Teaching Multilingual Children (Collier)
·         Techniques and Strategies: It seems as those this piece is more of the academic piece, whereas the Aria piece is a memoir. Collier attempts to provide ways in which teachers can help those students who are multilingual. She asks teachers to be aware of how children learn and that literacy in a native language helps promote second language literacy, not hinders it. She also discusses how the idea of “code switching” (the ability to speak two languages in the same sentence), actually is beneficial to an English language learner. I guess people used to see code switching as the inability to process language (almost like confusing the two) but actually, code switching shows a higher intelligence because the person understands language placement in both languages.
·         Opposite Views: Collier and Rodriguez have opposite views of how second language acquisition should function in public schools. Rodriguez seems to be in favor of English immersion only whereas Collier believes bilingualism should be promoted in the classroom. Dun dun DUNN!!!
·         Come with Questions: This article will be where the bulk of our discussion will lie, so please come prepared with questions and your game faces on!

After a delicious dinner at Twin’s Pizza, Seth and I are pretty pumped about Tuesday. I hope you guys are too! Yeay!! GOOOOOOOOOO TEAM!!


  1. You said that Collier and Rodriguez have opposite view about ESL in schools, I disagree. Rodriguez does wonder at the beginning of "Aria" how long would he have put off learning English if not pushed, but by the end he seems to lament the fate of his family and his loss of culture because of the way he learned. I think "Aria" defends Collier and what she is saying should happen in schools by showing the results of traditional teaching and its negative effects.

  2. I somewhat agree with Sarah. Although Rodriguez does spend much of his article lamenting what he gave up in order to achieve linguistic assimilation, I think he is much more conservative than Collier. He talks about the "necessity of assimilation" and seems to value the power his public identity has helped him accumulate. Whereas Collier discusses the dangerous of "eradication" and advocates for a more inclusive approach to the teaching of language.

  3. Maybe I should not have put "Aria" defends Collier," but I still think it is an example of how sad losing your identity/culture can be, especially when it is school driven.

  4. I'm with Kelly. Rodriguez's experience seems to justify Collier's concerns. Rodriquez stresses the “necessity of assimilation” while showing the detriment of devaluing his native language.

  5. After reading your blog on Language and Power, I have to plug the course, Modern English Grammar, with Dr. Potter. This course does not live up to its catalog title! I learned about the history of the English language, dialects, the evolution of ELL! So amazing!