Developing Minority Language Resources: The Case of Spanish in California

Developing Minority Language Resources: The Case of Spanish in California


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781853598982
Publisher: Multilingual Matters Ltd.
Publication date: 07/04/2006
Series: Bilingual Education & Bilingualism Series , #58
Pages: 344
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Guadalupe Valdés is the Bonnie Katz Tenenbaum Professor of Education and Professor of Spanish and Portuguese at Stanford University. Much of her work has focused on the English-Spanish bilingualism of Latinos in the United States and on discovering and describing how two languages are developed, used, and maintained by individuals who become bilingual in immigrant communities. Valdés' recent work includes two books entitled: Learning and not Learning English (Teachers College Press, 2001) and Expanding Definitions of Giftedness: Young Interpreters of Immigrant Background (Lawrence Erlbaum,2003). Two other books include: Bilingualism and Testing: A Special Case of Bias (Ablex Publishing Co.,1994) and Con respeto: Bridging the distance between culturally diverse families and schools (Teachers College Press, 1996).

Joshua A. Fishman is the Distinguished University Research Professor of Social Sciences, Emeritus (Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology, Yeshiva University, Albert Einstein College of Medicine Campus Bronx, NY 10461); Visiting Professor and Visiting Scholar, School of Education, Applied Linguistics and Department of Linguistics, Stanford University; Adjunct Professor of Multilingual and Multicultural Education, School of Education, New York University; and Visiting Professor of Linguistics, City University of New York, Graduate Center.

Rebecca M. Chavez received a Masters degree in Language, Learning and Policy at the Stanford University School of Education. Her research interests include work-place language acquisition programs and their impact upon employee moral, language rights and institutional liases, and language as it affects access to information, legal services and effective representation within the U.S. legal system. She is currently pusuing a law degree at the University of California, Davis.

William Perez, Ph.D. is currently an Assistant Professor of Education at Claremont Graduate University. His research examines psychological and social processes that are a direct result of immigration such as cultural brokering, sense of family obligation, acculturation and biculturalism and their relationship to academic engagement among immigrant adolescents. In a parallel line of work, he has also studied how Latino adolescents' experiences with discrimination and social stereotypes influences their academic identities. A third line of work has examined how immigrant Latino youth come to develop a sense of ethnic identity and how this sense of identity is related to educational outcomes.

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Acquisition, Maintenance, and Recovery of Heritage Languages

An "American Tragedy" or "New Opportunity"?



When it comes to heritage languages (HLs), modern America is as divided today as it was throughout the 20th century. The American mainstream is as convinced as ever that foreign languages are not really necessary in this modern age, when "the whole world speaks English." If this is true relative to the great languages of the Western and Eastern civilizations and the great religious traditions, all of which have shaped human intellect, spirituality, and morality since the dawn of history, then it is doubly true of the colonial, indigenous, and immigrant languages other than English (LOTEs; in Michael Clyne's usage, 1991: 3) of the United States.

Those scholars, teachers, and educated laymen who have been laboring in the American "language vineyards" for the past generation must feel a certain déjà vu. They haven't thrown in the towel but they, nevertheless, are not consoled when their friends reassure them that owing to the current war and "war prospects" in South Asia, "languages are going to pick up now." The life and death of cultures, communities, and collective memories cannot be demeaned to the tactics of war. How are the languages of America supposed to function in the daily lives, dreams, and hopes of millions of Americans if they have to constantly worry that they may not be useful to the military or the espionage services? Well, mainstream America isn't really sure that there are any such LOTEs that should function in the daily lives, dreams, and hopes of its citizenry, or that there should be. Usually most Americans most of the time are convinced that "those folks will work their ways up" – or their children will – and "they will forget all that foreign language stuff" that is regrettably occupying space in their minds.

The view that America need not concern itself with LOTEs is supported by a small cluster of accompanying views: (i) that schools don't really succeed in teaching languages anyway ("I had four years of French and I couldn't say a blessed thing then and I certainly can't do so now!"); (ii) that raising monolingual English speaking, reading, and writing children is the only decent and patriotic way to socialize children into "the American way of life"; (iii) that a multitude of languages will confuse the American mind as well as American society as a whole and result in lowered GNP, as well as a higher frequency and intensity of Civil Strife; or, even worse, (iv) that fostering multilingualism is tantamount to fostering political unrest, sedition, and other dangers to American stability; and finally, (v) that English is and of right ought to be the national or only official language of the United States (minor exceptions being made for Amerindians, most of which/whom are dying out anyway).

Into this rather inhospitable cauldron of negative views, beliefs, and attitudes we now come to introduce the topic of HLs, a slim read, indeed, in the backwater where FLES (foreign language in the elementary school), bilingual education, foreign language instruction in schools and colleges, language-related day schools, and supplementary afternoon foreign language education are all contending for a smidgeon of social acceptance and dignified stable support. In this chapter we will discuss HLs both in general terms and with special attention to its possible role for Spanish and Hispanics and in the constant context of common biases such as those enumerated here. Can HLs reverse or improve the rather bleak picture of the present and future of LOTEs in the United States, or is it merely "more of the same but in a different disguise"? What goes through the minds of Hispanic parents when they ponder whether and when to permit their children to register for "Spanish for Native Speakers"? Do their concerns increase or decrease with the successive developmental stages at which their children can access HL programs and experiences? In general, can HLs possibly enable America to more properly appreciate and use its rich LOTE resource, a resource that is second to none in the world?

Heritage Languages: Meeting the New White Hope

"Heritage languages" is a designation that has fairly recently "arrived" in the United States to indicate languages other than the nationally dominant one that are historically associated with the ethnicity (the ethnocultural heritage) of particular minority populations. Such languages, by whatever name, are currently, and have for a good long time been, devalued in many settings. It is even crucial to determine not just why they are underacquired, undermaintained, and underrecovered but why it has taken so long to undertake such a basic inquiry. At the beginning of the 21st century it is no exaggeration to say that as America goes, so goes, for better or for worse, the world. Therefore, it behooves us to ask how we can assist America overcome its self-denial of the many benefits that would accrue to it by means of a more positive and fitting regard for HLs, both as public and as particular-group resources.

The sometimes implied contradiction between languages as distinctly human and humanistic indices of culture and, simultaneously, as part and parcel of the cultures that they express is more imagined than real. All nonmaterial culture serves simultaneously as a carrier, and an essential part, of what it carries. Literature, religion, law and folklore, oratory and negotiation, politics, and celebrations are all examples of linguistic culture that both express the traditional association of the various cultures and help constitute these cultures and the identities they foster. Accordingly, it will be the explicit position of this volume that heritage languages (e.g. Spanish, first and foremost in terms of numbers of speakers) constitute noteworthy resources, material and nonmaterial, for the United States as a whole and for its constituent populations (as groups and as individuals).

Languages (and Heritage Languages) as Resources

The problems of viewing languages as resources (by now, not a new or original metaphor at all) must be brought to the fore at the very outset. Are languages really resources? Do they have tangible, monetary, or "public benefit" value and, furthermore, will the use of the term resources in conjunction with languages orient our discussion in an overly materialistic direction? Even the humane and humanistic terra lingua view that relates linguistic diversity to the diversity in animal and plant life (Mafi, 2003) also tends to deal primarily with material resources. However, "diversity" need not necessarily be valued and evaluated in material terms alone. Environmental impact studies, required throughout the United States before beginning to build a new edifice, highway, or dam are indicative of a modern sensibility for the preciousness of co-territorial life. That preciousness is not necessarily expressible either in monetary terms or in terms of any possible hard-and-fast parallelism with human life. Furthermore, even the widespread positive expectation that languages are resources (and, therefore, are directly translatable into monetary or other power-related terms) not only runs counter to some of our own experiences, but it strikes many threatened cultures as a characteristic Western non sequitur. In much of modern Western culture, "resources" are primarily material and quantitatively expressible (Hinton, 2003) and the overuse of this metaphor in conjunction with matters ethnolinguistic may well tell others more about ourselves than about languages in culture. As it is with other resources, those who control contextually crucial languages have a potential for greater power in relevant human affairs than those who do not; uncommon languages are not, therefore, necessarily more valuable (as Whorf, 1942 once believed). On the other hand, many reasonably widely used languages continue to be powerless and unvalued to this very day (viz. Woloff, Oromo, Quechua).

Languages (and Heritage Languages) as Conflicted Resources

Nevertheless – or perhaps precisely because – language in general and heritage languages in particular are so complexly associated with all other aspects of culture that their propagation and cultivation frequently turn out to be problematic. But, this problematic aspect or attribution is often overdone. Furthermore, there is no aspect of society or culture – ethnicity, religion, education, class, age gender – that cannot become a cause for intergroup conflict. The coauthors of this volume believe that the conflicted aspects of language resources are so often overdone (Fishman 1985), and even given disproportional attention, that in exploring the positive potential aspects of heritage languages we must take caution not to reply in kind and to overlook the negative contexts or co-occurrences entirely. Keeping both in mind is not just an expression of intellectual honesty – something always morally desirable – but it enables us to better understand why the potentially positive contributions of heritage languages in the United States are so often overlooked, unrecognized, and even found to be suspect.

Furthermore, recognition of the problematic nature of heritage languages is necessary in order to understand how to overcome these problems at the societal level and, absolutely so, how to better appreciate their variability from place to place and from time to time. To begin with, therefore, we will look at the language enculturation process throughout the lifespan as a means of appreciating whatever constraints the American scene imposes on the process of HL acquisition, use, and loss.

The First Intergenerational Ethnolinguistic Continuity Stage: Early-Childhood Heritage Language Acquisition

Early childhood is generally any individual's most crucial period of language acquisition. This is the fascinating and brief period of unconscious transition from primarily nonverbal to verbal interaction. No matter how often we have observed language acquisition, even in our own children and grandchildren, it still unfolds miraculously before our very eyes. First language acquisition is also frequently accompanied by national or official language acquisition, although sometimes the opposite sequence obtains. This is so primarily because in multicultural societies with a single national or official language it is the national or official language that is commonly the lingua franca and, therefore, the main language of real power in the community. Minority inhabitants, accordingly, become bilingual during early childhood, frequently in their own homes or family environs.

An HL cannot remain the only language for that proportion of a heritage community that wants or needs to interact (or parents who want their children to be able to interact) with mainstream society. Nevertheless, even early-childhood bilingualism, in which both languages (HL and national or official language)2 are of about equal vintage for a sizable minority population, does not automatically ensure a positive role for the HL in the lives of such individuals. There are, of course, a goodly number of minority individuals for whom there is a clear absence of an HL. Cases of absence of any HL are encountered among African children raised entirely in English or French, Amerindian or Aborigines children raised entirely in English, ethnically Tibetan children raised in Potinguah, or the children of Israeli immigrants who gave up their mother tongues for Israeli Hebrew or the children of Latin American immigrants to the US who gave up their mother tongues "for the children's sake." Similarly far from rare, on the other side, are those children who grow up in ethnically mixed households in which each "side" continues to speak its own HL, doing so precisely in order to enable their children to interact comfortably with both sets of grandparents (not to mention aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.). At this time, in the still brief history of inquiry into HLs in the United States it is not yet known whether each of the etic distinctions vis-à-vis the possible types of HL combinations that exist corresponds to the emic differences either in language facility or attitudes, or whether any differences between them in these respects that may still obtain by adulthood are more related to initial degree and age of mastery.

Turning to factors that may impinge on parental readiness to pass on an HL to their children, we once again find ourselves more in the realm of logical supposition than in the realm of empirical research. We can all, however, surmise that many parents who could pass along an HL during the early childhood of their offspring, do not, in fact, do so. The proportion doing so will vary with the local status of the HL involved and, therefore, its public recognition, public valuation, and the sense of security on the part of the parents of newborns. Parents who are insecure about their own ethnic identity are likely to associate that language more with disadvantages than with advantages and, therefore, identify with it less and discontinue using it more often. Languages associated primarily with indenture, or with poverty, or with lack of literacy or schooling; languages that threaten to foreclose their speakers' access to upward social mobility and social acceptance; languages lacking any widely recognized literary or historical role; and languages of small speech communities lacking in potential political prowess will all suffer a relative loss of intergenerational use and transmission in comparison to others that are known or believed to posses these desiderata. Parents often mistakenly believe that they make a far greater contribution to the happiness of their children by denying their children any exposure to their HLs than by exposing these children to the predictable difficulties and satisfactions of a group-identity–related childhood, adolescence, and adulthood like the ones they themselves (the parents) have experienced.

Wherever some ethnoculturally, and therefore ethnolinguistically, identifiable groups are disadvantaged while ethnic group membership generally remains open to voluntary (i.e. self-initiated and self-maintained) membership and to the absence of racially interpretated stigmata, all socially penalized groups will "underperform" (i.e. they will practice socially patterned membership avoidance) insofar as ethnolinguistic continuity is concerned. Early childhood is the earliest point at which parents who have maintained ethnolinguistic continuity with their own parents frequently decide whether or not to opt for early disengagement from such continuity for their own offspring. Even such disengagement is not irrevocable, however, because parents can still change their minds during their children's early childhood, parents are not the only influences on their children's early language development (grandparents, neighbors, child-contemporaries, churches, and other neighborhood voluntary organizations that aim their efforts at toddlers are also effective in this connection, as the Maori Katango Reo have so amply demonstrated), and because early childhood itself is not the be-all and end-all of intergenerational ethnolinguistic continuity opportunities vis-à-vis minoritized speech communities in the United States (see later). Nevertheless, infancy is the primary age of HL acquisition (or nonacquisition), and that it is marked in the United States by a high degree of "opting out" is a major problem for HL acquisition. The fact that California Hispanics may well opt out (of Mexicanness identity and of HL continuity) less frequently than do others is one of the major forces favoring Spanish as an HL in the United States at this time.

The Second Opportunity for Intergenerational Language Acquisition: The Nursery School and Early Grades

A common feature of HLs is that neither the homes and neighborhoods nor the voluntary neighborhood institutions associated with them are really culturally intact and primarily under their own guiding control. Another problem that "bedevils" the earliest intergenerational language transmission processes is its informality and lack of formal times and places set aside for language in particular. Perhaps bedevils is not the right word to use in this connection, since it deals with the unvarnished daily life (and language life) of many HLs. Indeed, it is the very informality, spontaneity, and motivational self-direction of HLs at this point that makes them real mother tongues to begin with and imbeds them in cultural reality and in interpersonal intimacy from the very outset. These are desiderata that courses and other postchildhood formal efforts can never duplicate or replicate. Indeed, the more the time that elapses between the age of informal language acquisition until organized measures are undertaken on behalf of HL acquisition, the less likely it is that full spontaneity, emotional attachment, and native-like fluency will ever be attained at all (Fishman, 2001).


Excerpted from "Developing Minority Language Resources"
by .
Copyright © 2006 Guadalupe Valdes, Joshua A. Fishman, Rebecca Chavez and William Perez.
Excerpted by permission of Multilingual Matters.
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Table of Contents

ContentsAcknowledgementsIntroductionChapter 1: The Acquisition, Maintenance, and Recovery of Heritage Languages: An “American Tragedy” or “New Opportunity” - Joshua A. FishmanChapter 2: 300- Plus Years of Heritage Language Education in the United States - Joshua A. FishmanChapter 3: The Spanish Language in California - Guadalupe ValdésChapter 4: The Use of Spanish by Latino Professionals in California - Joshua A. Fishman, Guadalupe Valdés , Rebecca Chávez, William PérezChapter 5: The Foreign Language Teaching Profession and the Challenges of Developing Language Resources - Guadalupe ValdésChapter 6 Secondary Spanish Heritage Programs in California - Joshua A. Fishman, Guadalupe Valdés , Rebecca Chávez, William PérezChapter 7 Post- Secondary Spanish Heritage Programs in California - Joshua A. Fishman, Guadalupe Valdés , Rebecca Chávez, William PérezChapter 8 The Teaching Of Heritage Languages: Lessons from California - Guadalupe ValdésChapter 9 Imagining Linguistic Pluralism in the Usa - Joshua A. FishmanMethodological Appendix: References

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