TALGS this year was different. After 3 years of being
scheduled on the third weekend in February, this year’s
TESOL and Linguistics Graduate Students conference was held a
week earlier because the Carolina TESOL Winter conference took
the third weekend. About 30 people attended. But, as before, the
conference, co-sponsored by Carolina TESOL, took place at the
Bate Building of East Carolina University, Greenville, NC.
The Invited Speaker, Dr. Donna Christian, president of the Center
for Applied Linguistics (CAL--www.cal.org),
gave a pre-conference
talk on Friday afternoon 3-4:30 p.m. Charting a Path to Bilingualism
for Our Students. In it she noted that the U.S. lacks the language
resources (in languages other than English) to meet its diplomatic,
economic, security, and social goals, and in addition that the
diverse languages of students in U.S. schools are not usually
viewed as resources to be developed. She proposed pathways for
individual students to follow through the educational system
that lead them to bilingualism, along with policies and practices
that would support such paths.
The conference proper, however, began on Saturday morning at 8:15
with two rounds of concurrent sessions. These paused at 10:00 for
Dr. Christian’s plenary on bilingualism, followed by a lunch break.
After lunch, one round of sessions followed, and the conference
included a general session/discussion forum. There were two more
rounds of sessions before the conference ended around 4:55.
As always, the range of presentation topics was amazing:
bilingual education in North Carolina with a focus on dual
language immersion, teacher-embodied reflection through
transformative Boalian theater, teacher attitudes and code
switching in English speaking students, metaphorical language
use in health professions, second language pedagogy (e.g. L2
writing; error correction; pragmatic transfer), indigenous
language maintenance, new ethnic varieties of English, and more.
Digital Languages: Teaching Complexity and Comprehension
through the Application of the Visual in Digital Languages (Caroline Brooks, East Carolina University)
In case you hadn’t noticed, kids of the Internet Generation
are different. They operate at twitch speed; they process
information in a parallel fashion rather than linearly; and
they access information randomly rather than step by step.
Rather than fear technology, they utterly embrace it, genuinely
craving the newest i-Pod; and fantasy and role-playing are a
basic part of their lives. They are used to instant learning
and expect immediate results. How can all this not have an
impact on their learning and cognition? These kids have to
‘power down’ to deal with books and the classroom.
Yes, there are positives in the picture. Learning, in the
Internet schema, involves play, i.e., is a source of intensely
absorbing pleasure. Because it is relaxed, involvement is
heightened, thereby increasing our ability to learn. This
gives us a logical question—how can and should we initiate
our ESL students into this world of technology?
The presentation included an analysis of two popular web
site designs. Have you ever heard of the 1950’s Hello Kitty
style? Would you ever imagine the Bauhaus movement of the
early 20th century having a major role in web site design?
Though the Internet generation may not be able to verbalize
this, it intuitively picks up the underlying approach and
meanings of distinct styles/organizations, a given-new format
versus a gestalt recognition, subjectivity in its personalization
versus a machinelike objectivity.
Parents before the Internet Age were the active educators;
now that’s no longer the case. What will be the long-term
impact on the cognition and academic achievement of the
Internet generation? How are a generation of simulated worlds
and adopted personas being applied to reality even now? And can
our use of game-based approaches help students with marginal
skills or motivation? Fundamental stuff here, folks.
The 10:15 plenary by, Dr. Christian was “Bilingualism for All
Students through Two-way Immersion.” This was an overview of
two-way immersion, synthesized from research conducted by the
CAL, with information from programs around the country
The government wanted research on improving foreign language
education through immersion, integrating language and content.
In 1986 one east and one west coast school began two-way
immersion programs (Dr. Christian contrasted for us the
several variations on the theme: Dual Language Umbrella,
Developmental Bilingual, Transitional Billingual, Two-Way
Immersion, Heritage Language Immersion, and Foreign Language
Immersion); these had as common goals language development in
both target and native languages, bilingualism and bi-literacy,
cross cultural competency, and high academic achievement. All
included monolingual content instruction through two languages
for all students, with 50 to 90% of daily instruction in the
Results differed as a factor of student language/family
backgrounds, program implementation, community support,
and school-level factors. But, in a nutshell, the overall
outcome was simple and clear: those in Two-Way Immersion
perform in all contexts at least as well as their peers.
Using immersion thus is a no-brainer, right? Unfortunately,
policy at the local, state, and federal levels critically
affects education. Local school boards determine if two-way
immersion can even happen. State-level politics has made a
bigger difference, notably with an English-only movement
(and its typically anti-bilingual feeling); California,
Arizona, and Massachusetts have put on the ballot referenda
about bilingual education (when was the last time you heard
of a movement to restrict math teaching?).1 On the federal
level policies for funding programs affect education. NCLB
is silent on the method of instruction—all it requires is
testing students in English—but this has caused English to
be stressed earlier so that students will be ready to take tests.
Research documents the success of the model; will a dedication
to good educational practices widen the use of immersion, will
the global economy and national security needs push it, or will
we be obliged to become activists to build quality education for
Language Maintenance and Status: Belize Kriol (Christa Teston, Kent State University)
Before Columbus the one language spoken in Belize was Mayan.
Traders brought Spanish and eventually English, and the English
brought slaves from West Africa. Speakers of Garifuna migrated
to the area, and indentured servants were brought in from China
and India. In the mid 1800’s, refugees poured in from neighboring
countries (by then Belize was a British colony) and Mennonites
arrived from farther north; later a variety of Asian groups flowed
Having large numbers of people speaking mutually unintelligible
languages required the creation of a functional contact language;
hence, Belizean Kriol developed (in Belize there is no hard ‘c’),
a creole in which English is the language of the lexicon but a
variety of African languages provide the syntax (mainly Yoruba).
Its phonology, vocabulary, and syntax differ significantly from
standard English, but Kriol is the one language shared by nearly
all and used by all for everyday communicational needs. Like other
creoles, it is, of course, capable of expressing the full range of
thought and emotion in daily life.
Since independence in 1981, a concern has been the creation of a
unified nation, and a primary means to this has been efforts for
Kriol to gain official status as the national language—essentially,
to expand its vocabulary and codify its form to express the range
of meanings and serve the range of functions required of a written
There have been attempts to codify Kriol--published Kriol texts,
a dictionary, poems in Kriol, some short stories for adults as well
as some children’s literature (there’s a Kriol Ananse), and even a
small text on how to write Kriol for children. Efforts are being
made to include Kriol-based text within the school curriculum.
But Kriol is still largely oral; the language of the colonizer is
used by the bureaucracy, the courts, and industry. Further, since
English was established as the official language in 1826, Kriol
became perceived as ‘broken English,’ with resulting stigmatized
social attitudes toward the creole. Gaining political and economic
power (the prime minister uses English unless catering to a remote
population) may be an uphill climb, but the number of world
Englishes may be about to increase by one.
Afternoon Discussion Forum
More on Two-Way Immersion: an informal discussion of policy,
politics, research, and practice
Educational statistics are not the only upside to bilingualism.
Functioning bilinguals have the onset of dementia delayed by an
average of 4 years. Strokes might wipe out a native language but
still leave you with a functioning language. And in the classroom,
Latin cognates make academic learning easier for a speaker of a
Romance language (though students may need help recognizing
cognates on their own).
On the less positive side, however, Dr. Christian noted that
bilingual education has gotten the blame, when some practices
were used, for less than stellar results. The one thing that
research has shown is that school (climate, practices, personnel,
etc.) is the greatest determining factor in success.
Instruction in two languages to integrated groups of students is
a challenge to implement. The possibility of using the second
languages outside the school can vary widely. There may be too
many different native language groups and partner groups that
are too small. The Spanish may in practice be watered down so
that English speakers can understand, whereas Spanish speakers
get pushed. Extra startup costs for materials are by comparison
only a relatively small problem.
Politically, there is a gut feeling to deal with—English is the
key to success, and it is counterintuitive to feel that learning
in Spanish (etc.) adds to overall success. There’s also the
situation that programs set up to serve English speakers siphon
off capable bilingual teachers from the less privileged. Further,
language programs here very predominantly tend to be the standard,
detached-from-real-world-use foreign language model or
unidirectional, transitional ESL/EFL programs—and it is
extremely difficult to shift public perception to a fundamentally
different model. Though the US may lag here, it does lead in
concern for the civil rights of linguistic minorities and hence
in its attention to their languages.
There are statistics such as those of NYC’s newcomer high school
for students in the US less than 3 years, which has a 95% rate of
students continuing on to college. Can anyone pronounce ‘Hispanic
The forum also touched on the issue of beginning language study
early or late. Adults have a metalinguistic ability—an awareness
of what language is about, an analytical ability to analyze
priorities – that makes language learning much more efficient.
Though only children routinely can acquire accentless speech,
accent reduction can reduce the effects of accents that inhibit
New Ethnic Varieties of English: Hispanic English in North Carolina (Erin Callahan, Danica Cullinan, & Mary Kohn, North Carolina State University)
Chicano English is a ‘non-standard’ variety of English found
in many areas of the SW US; this study focuses mainly on Hickory
and Durham, now mainly looking at acquisition by children, looking
for local dialect.
Chicano English arose from 150 years of language contact
in the SW in situations similar to those which encourage
creole and pidgin development; it now has phonological and
syntactic norms of its own (some speakers of Chicano English
may indeed be monolingual English speakers).
New dialects form (1) by the mixing of various dialects
(for example, in Australia); (2) the next generation of
children pick forms, with the majority winning and weeding
out ‘marked’ forms, and (3) the least stereotyped forms and
the most common forms are retained in the new, stabilized
dialect. This process is called “koinezation.”
Consonant cluster reductions happen in many Hispanic dialects,
more or less frequent depending on environment. There are
variations in the vowel space. There is syntactic variation,
including past tense unmarking and regularization of irregular
forms. Double negation often appears. However, the study
did not find evidence that a koiné dialect has formed.
This is not just an issue for linguists; dialects can
affect a student’s proficiency assessment, for example
if a Hispanic acquires regularization of irregulars as a
Every dialect can vary on a continuum from more to less
standard depending on context and speaker. In this study,
social dimension was clearly a factor. The vowels of the
nine year old student in the study who went to a school
with few Latino contacts had much more Southern vowels
than the others, as well as Southern vernacular grammar.
So, social contact with others seems to control the
formation of dialect, and the particular dialect seems
to be a matter of social group membership.
What social groups do your students participate in?
Call for participation: TALGS 2008
The stated purpose of TALGS is “…to provide a relaxed but
serious environment where graduate students in Applied
Linguistics and professionals working in the field of
TESOL… can have the experience of presenting their work
and receiving feedback.” TALGS is “a forum to showcase
their research and experiences… committed to bettering
the educational experiences of language learners in the
community by providing a comfortable environment where
an interaction between theory (the researchers) and
practice (the teachers) is possible.” This is a
marvelous opportunity for participants in any ESL
teacher training program; don’t shortchange students
by not strongly encouraging them to take advantage of
The 5th TALGS conference returns to its regular schedule
in 2008; mark your calendars for Saturday, February 16,
2008 (9am-6pm). For information, visit the conference
website at http://core.ecu.edu/engl/talgs/conference/conference.htm.
To view pictures from this year’s conference,
1 Colorado defeated the initiative; Mass. banned bilingual
education; there the legislature added an amendment allowing
two-way immersion—which the Governor vetoed—but the legislature
By Bill Isler
Past President, Carolina TESOL
2007 ESL MiniConference Online
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