ESL, Language, Policy

Who’s being “Sheltered?”

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In education, we have a popular method called “Sheltered English Immersion,” which is supposedly designed to “shelter” students who are still learning English in schools.

In my last few years of research, I’ve wondered who or what else is being “sheltered” through this approach. In my latest article, I propose four answers to this question.

1. We’re sheltering the monolingual pedagogies as the only way to teach a language.

2. We’re sheltering monolingual teachers from having to learn another language, placing the burden of change on the students instead.

3. We’re sheltering monolingual English-speaking students from having to grapple with the multilingual realities that will face them outside the walls of the school.

4. We’re sheltering monolingual policies and theories that promote all of the above as just the “norm.”

When I bring these issues up in academic circles, some wonder if the field had already “moved past” the monolingual/bilingual dichotomy. A good critique if you’re up on the latest theoretical scholarship, but less so if you spend time in U.S. classrooms where monolingual approaches still dominate. So, I dive deeper to ask “If the monolingual paradigm has largely been destabilized… what accounts for the recalcitrance of monolingual orientations in educational policy and practice?” (p. 2).

I believe the answer is that the four “shelters” above produce major advantages for the (largely white) population of monolingual, English-speakers in U.S. K-12 schools and beyond. Dive in to the article below if you’re interested (let me know if you can’t access the article). Glad to hear your thoughts!

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Chang-Bacon, C. K. (2020). Who’s being ‘sheltered?’: How monolingual language ideologies are produced within education policy discourse and Sheltered English Immersion. Critical Studies in Education. https://doi.org/10.1080/17508487.2020.1720259

 

Dialect, Language, Politics

Political Correctness and the “War on Free Speech”

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Image Credit: Rebecca Barray, via Flickr

Political Diatribe. Trigger warnings. Microaggressions. Victimhood culture.

Being politically correct, or “PC,” has been all over the media this year. Some say this is the mark of a more conscientious and inclusive society, while others say we’ve gotten “too sensitive.” According to one recent presidential candidate, political correctness is literally “killing people.”

But what does being PC even mean? Merriam-Webster will tell you it’s about avoiding language “perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against,” which all sounds well and good. So why the dramatic outcry over a basic politeness virtue we teach kindergarteners every day?

The backlash usually arises when someone is called out for not being PC. In general, no one likes to have their language corrected. If someone points out a mistake in grammar or pronunciation (cue Chris discovering there’s no “x” in espresso), we’re briefly embarrassed, but we move past it. But if someone gets called out for being “un-PC,” prepare for words to fly.

So what is it that makes this correction strike so much deeper? Clearly, it’s something that goes beyond the words or “corrections” themselves to tap into dynamics of language and power. Continue reading “Political Correctness and the “War on Free Speech””

Language

Law Voided by Missing Comma

Image Credit: Guian Bolisay
Image Credit: Guian Bolisay

Yes indeed folks – perfect punctuation is profitable.

Not only can it explain a murderous panda at a restaurant, as the old “Eats shoots and leaves” joke goes, but a similar lapse in comma decorum might even get you out of a parking ticket.

According to the Associated Press, an Ohio woman brought her parking ticket to an appeals court in West Jefferson Village, complaining that she was ticketed for parking her vehicle longer than 24 hours. She pointed that, as written, the law lists the types of vehicles subject to this rule as any motor vehicle camper, trailer, farm implement and/or non-motorized vehicle.”

Since the woman’s car is a motor vehicle and not, as the law states (sans-comma), a motor vehicle camper, the appeals court had no choice but to throw out the woman’s ticket.

The law, I’m sure, will be swiftly revised. But in the meantime, watch out for those comma ommissions, and happy free parking to all West Jefferson-ians!

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Language, Politics

When is a Terrorist Not Called a Terrorist?

Drowning

“I just think he was one of these whacked out kids. I don’t think it’s anything broader than that… It’s about a young man who is obviously twisted.”

“This man, in my view, should be designated as a potential enemy combatant and we should be allowed to question him for intelligence gathering purposes to find out about future attacks and terrorist organizations that… he has knowledge of. ”

As Judd Legum of Think Progress pointed out, both quotes come from the same U.S. senator in reaction to the perpetrators of two separate national tragedies.

Both perpetrators were American citizens. Both were barely beyond their teenage years. One, however, is immediately labeled a terrorist. The other, “just one of these whacked out kids.”

One of the quotes refers to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev of the Boston Marathon Bombing, and the other to Dylann Roof, the A.M.E. Church gunman in Charleston. But off course, no one needs to tell you which quote is which. Continue reading “When is a Terrorist Not Called a Terrorist?”

Diversity, Language

Map of World’s Largest Languages

Ever wonder who would win a heavy weight championship between world languages?

Well here you have it. Alberto Lucas López designed a language map proportioned by number of native speakers. Turns out, of the world’s 7,102 known languages, more than half of us speak only 23 of them.

Map of World Languages

But there’s even more to the map than meets the eye. Each color also represents a region of the world.

World Language Regions

Interestingly, had López colored the map by languages’ region of origin, we’d be left with a much less colorful map: Every language listed comes from Europe, Asia, or the Middle East. On a map of language origin, the entire continents of North America, South America, Africa, and Australia wouldn’t even appear. Continue reading “Map of World’s Largest Languages”

Dialect, Language

When “No” Means “Yeah”: The Rise of “No Yeah”

question

It seems linguists are discovering what Midwesterners like myself have done for years. In a recent article for The New Yorker, Kathryn Schulz discusses the use of phrases like “No, totally” when you actually mean “Yes.” Here’s her example, from a conversation about modern art:

“MARON: They can look at any painting and go, “Eh.” They can look at a Rothko and go, “Hey, three colors.” And then you want to hit them.

DUNHAM: No, totally.”

See? Dunham does “totally” want to hit somebody. But she starts her sentence with “No.” If she would have said “No” on its own, the meaning would be completely different. So what’s going on here?

Schulz wonders if it’s just a younger-generation phenomenon:

“Dunham is twenty-eight years old, but the “No, totally!” phenomenon is not limited to her generation. It’s not even limited to “No, totally.” I first started noticing it when a fiftysomething acquaintance responded to a question I asked by saying, “Yup! No, very definitely.” That sent me looking for other examples, which turn out to be almost nonexistent in written English but increasingly abundant in speech. In 2001, the journalist Bernard Kalb told the White House correspondent Dana Milbank that it was the job of reporters to thoroughly investigate political candidates, to which Milbank responded, “Oh, no, yes, I agree with you there.” In 2012, Anderson Cooper, talking with the CNN senior political analyst Gloria Borger, referred to Newt Gingrich as “the guy who has come back from the dead multiple times.” Borger’s reply veered toward Molly Bloom terrain: “Yes, no, exactly, exactly, exactly.”
Continue reading “When “No” Means “Yeah”: The Rise of “No Yeah””

Language, Politics, Vocabulary

Map of What Countries Actually Call Themselves

endoIn a previous post about the power of naming, I referenced the fact that we oftentimes don’t call nations by the names they use for themselves.

I just found out there’s actually a word for what an ethnic group or nation calls itself: It’s called an ENDONYM, and there’s an entire map of them at endonymmap.com:

On the actual website, you can zoom in and explore the map, but here’a a sample screenshot:

Screen Shot 2014-11-06 at 9.41.21 AM

The website’s Answers, Errata and Discussion section is equally interesting:According to endonyms.com, “A map of this nature taps into some deep notions of personal identity and can arouse strong nationalist passions. Indeed, I’ve received many (mostly polite) questions and comments asking why a particular language was used for a label, Continue reading “Map of What Countries Actually Call Themselves”

Dialect, Language

Can you guess the accent? (Quiz)

choirA few weeks ago, Quartz writer Nikhil Sonnad wrote an article about the Speech Accent Archive – a project by Steven Weinberger, a professor of linguistics at George Mason University.

Weinberger asked people from all over the world to record themselves reading a particular paragraph (chosen because its 69 words cover most sounds in the English language) to see how English is used/pronounced throughout the world.

Quartz pulled a few of the recordings and designed a quiz. I scored abysmal 50% but, hopefully you can do better. Take the quiz here, and let me know how it goes!

It’s interesting to wonder: Why do we have this skill in the first place? Not only can we recognize accents as “not ours,” but it seems like most of us can also place these accents with relative accuracy. Why do you think our brains developed that skill? And more importantly, as indicated by my atrocious quiz score, why do I seem to lack it? 🙂

~C.B.

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Dialect, Language

“Articulate”

Jamila Lyiscott has been making the social media rounds with her spoken word piece, “3 Ways to Speak English.” It pretty much sums up my earlier posts on dialect in America (which you can read here and here).

The basic premise: Being “articulate” is not about your ability to use a particular dialect that’s arbitrarily considered to be “superior” or “standard.” Rather, being articulate means:

Continue reading ““Articulate””

Language

Linguistic Dating Advice….

love wordThe little things really do matter.

All this time, you’ve probably been focusing on WHAT your date is saying, when apparently, you really should have been looking at HOW he/she says it. And not in terms of banal things like tone or looking longingly into your eyes, but the words themselves. Or more accurately, the words around the words.

That’s right, it turns out there’s a correlation between similar use of near-meaningless function phrases (such as the, that, I, and, this) and romantic interest. According to James Pennebaker, Psychology Professor at the University of Texas, Austin:

Continue reading “Linguistic Dating Advice….”