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Bilingual Basics

Bilingual Basics News, Volume 11:2 (March 2010)

by User Not Found | 11/03/2011
In This Issue...
  • Leadership Updates
    • Notes From the Editor
    • BEIS/TEDS Steering Committee 2009-2010
    • Bilingual Basics Reviewers
    • Call for Manuscripts
  • Articles and Information
    • Advocacy for Bilingual/Multilingual Learners by Nancy Dubetz
    • The Multidimensional Character of Second Language Acquisition and Emergent Bilinguals: A Crucible of Educational Reform in a Multicultural Society by Joseph H. Gaines
    • Advocacy for English Language Learners by Jorge Osterling and G. Sue Kasun
    • Advocating for Multilingualism in College Writing Instruction: The Role of the TESOL/BE Professional by Christine M. Tardy and Amanda Hobmeier
    • Reflections of a Bilingual by Jane Park

Leadership Updates Notes From the Editor

Alcione Ostorga, The University of Texas - Pan American,

This issue’s theme emerged from the focus of the special Academic Session of the Bilingual Education in ESL (BEIS) Interest Section topic at last year’s TESOL convention. The theme arises from the turbulent climate created by the most recent policies affecting immigrants in the United States and the use of English in schools. These issues often lead to anger and frustration as educators seek to find solutions that promote not only academic success for English language learners but also a humanistic climate where they can hold on to their right to keep their language and their cultural identities while learning to tread the rough waters of the current educational climate for immigrants in many nations throughout the world.

The articles presented here continue the dialogue that initiated during the March 2009 convention. Various aspects of advocacy are discussed, beginning with a summary of the Academic Session by Nancy Dubetz, our current BEIS-TEDS chair. Then an article by Joseph H. Gaines presents an overview of the history of bilingual education in the United States. There is a special emphasis on the impact of the most recent policies for the education of English language learners and some suggestions for educators are offered. This article is followed by a four-part PowerPoint presentation by Jorge Osterling and G. Sue Kasun. This presentation is an online adaptation of their presentation at last year’s TESOL convention. It is both informational and practical, containing four separate parts with data about the impact of the most recent policies for the education of English, a case study from Virginia, and an explanation of some of the most recent policies regarding English education, and ends with practical suggestions for educators to engage in advocacy work. Christine M. Tardy and Amanda Hobmeier discuss the issue of advocacy from the college educator’s perspective and suggest ways for ESL and bilingual educators to work together toward this end. Finally, Jane Park presents the student’s perspective in language learning. She adds to this dialogue the important perspective of the English language learner.

This issue is special because it is the first to be fully refereed. All articles went through a double-blind review by two reviewers in addition to the editor. I want to thank all the reviewers for their hard work and commitment to the quality of our special publication. Their names are listed in the “Leadership Updates” section.

In addition to these articles, you will also find information regarding the steering committee members and a call for manuscripts for the next issue ofBilingual Basics.

BEIS/TEDS Steering Committee 2009-2010

Nancy Dubetz

Chair Elect
Mayra Daniels

Past Chair
Shelley Taylor

Joan Wink

Members at Large
Juliet Luther
Cheryl Serrano
Francisco Ramos
Patrick Smith
Jane Nickerson (TEDS)

Delegate at Large
Aida Navárez-LaTorre

BEIS Newsletter Editors
Sarah Cohen (General Preconvention Issue)
Alcione N. Ostorga (Special Topic Issue)

Darcy Christianson

Bilingual Basics Reviewers

Tatiana Cevallos

James Cohen

Maite Correa

Mayra Daniels

Fabiola Ehlers-Zavala

Aida Navárez-La Torre

Juliet Luther

David Schwarzer

Patrick Smith

Sharon Whitehead-Van LobenSels

Call for Manuscripts

The goal of the BEIS online peer-reviewed newsletter, Bilingual Basics, is to provide a forum for the discussion of educational and sociopolitical issues in preK through postsecondary bilingual and multilingual educational settings around the world including the teaching of English to Deaf students. The audience for Bilingual Basics is bilingual teachers (including Deaf educators), researchers, and teacher educators in TESOL. The newsletter serves as a vehicle for the expression of ideas and scholarship related to teaching and learning in bilingual classroom settings. The newsletter also takes an advocacy position with respect to bi/multilingual education. It includes articles, research summaries, book reviews, convention information, and general commentary.


What topics are appropriate for this general issue of the newsletter?

  • Short articles based on completed or ongoing research that is related to the topics described above;
  • Summaries of the Discussion Sessions you organized for TESOL 2009 if of a general nature. (Summaries shorter than the length specified below are acceptable.);
  • Reactions to Discussion Sessions that outline and further the dialogue related to bilingualism, multilingualism, and all educational contexts for diverse language learners;
  • Summaries of BEIS talks or workshops that you presented or attended at TESOL 2009; and
  • Timely issues of relevance to our interest section.

What else will appear in the preconvention, nonthemed BEIS newsletter? The general issue includes preconvention information, ballots, and a wider range of articles than in the theme issue.

Please note that we are now accepting submissions of articles that are either bilingual or written entirely in languages other than English! This reflects the efforts of this interest section to encourage a multilingual focus within TESOL. Acceptance of these articles is, however, dependent on our access to editorial readers with fluency in the language of the submitted article.

Please send all inquiries and submissions to:

Sarah Cohen, Editor (,and Mario Lopez-Gopar, Coeditor (


Submission Length: 1,000-2,000 words (max)

Abstract: 50 words (500 characters or less)

Style: Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (5th ed.)

Tips: Begin with central ideas or conclusions, keep sentences short (16 words max), keep paragraphs short, and chunk information (heads, subheads)

Deadline: April 15, 2010

Articles and Information Advocacy for Bilingual/Multilingual Learners by Nancy Dubetz

Nancy Dubetz, Lehman College, CUNY, BEIS-TEDS Chair

At the 2009 TESOL Convention, the special Academic Session of the Bilingual Education in ESL (BEIS) Interest Section focused on advocacy. TESOL has made a commitment to advocacy for English language learners and this session included a panel of presenters who have engaged in advocacy for bilingual/multilingual learners from different locations within the educational enterprise, as school practitioners, researchers, teacher educators, and policymakers. The purpose of the session was to explore different dimensions of advocacy including, but not limited to, (a) the roles of policymakers, professional organizations, teacher educators, researchers, and school practitioners in advocating for bilingualism/multilingualism; (b) the types of advocacy that educators can and do employ within and beyond the classroom to promote bilingualism/multilingualism; and (c) the resources that advocates draw on to undertake their work.

The panel included Ester de Jong from the University of Florida, Jospehine Arce from San Francisco State University, Manka Varghese from the University of Washington, Juliet Luther, who is a teacher in New York City and an alumna of the Bank Street Bilingual and ESL Teacher Leader Academy, Kristin Snoddon from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto, and Jim Cummins, also from OISE.

The presentation by Ester de Jong highlighted how advocacy for bilingual learners can be seen as going “against the grain” of monolingual practice, policy, and research. De Jong offered insights from a review of existing literature on bilingual teacher advocacy in and outside the classroom and the factors that appear to shape advocacy at the classroom and the school/community level and beyond.

Josephine Arce offered a retrospective of preservice Spanish-bilingual teachers in their roles as cultural and intellectual educators in reclaiming language. She drew on her study of how the engagement of preservice bilingual credential candidates supported the development of collective consciousness through a course content that promoted dialogues about Latino’s self- and collective identity, socioeconomic issues, power relations in educational settings, and society at large. The course titled EED 737: Teaching Social Studies, Social Justice and Literacy, Grades 3-6, was a culminating course in a three-semester program. Students explored Latino history of resistance in the United States and revitalized historical memory as counterresistance to the implicit and explicit dominant ideological and cultural hegemonic educational mandates.

Manka Varghese spoke about the role of practicing teachers in advocating for bilingual/multilingual learners. She made the argument that teachers can more successfully develop their advocacy role when they are in a professional community themselves. Although the image that is often promoted is that of the classroom teacher working on his or her own, much of the current literature on teacher learning as well as the presenter’s own research shows otherwise. It shows that teachers can become more successful advocates when they are working with other teachers in a shared community. Varghese argued that this understanding needs to be infused within our teacher education programs as well as the way we organize teaching and learning within schools.

Juliet Luther offered insights into the educational, cultural, and political complexities and challenges for bilingual education teachers as they act as advocates in implementing bilingual programs in schools; interacting with colleagues, students, and their families; and engaging in broader educational and political activities in the field of education outside the school community. Luther shared her perspective on the past and the future for bilingual education advocacy, based on her own experiences as a teacher and those of other bilingual teachers in the field, through their responses to a survey in which they were asked a variety of questions about their activities and perspectives in the field of bilingual education.

An advocate for Deaf students, Kristin Snoddon emphasized that, around the world, the linguistic human rights of Deaf students are violated by schools and educational programs that fail to support the use of native signed languages of the Deaf community. Snoddon argued that language planning and policy, and a legal framework that upholds the use of signed languages in education, are essential for providing equity in education for bilingual Deaf students. She noted that academics, researchers, and organizations such as TESOL can work collaboratively with Deaf organizations to ensure that research-based evidence regarding the benefits of bilingual education programs is brought to the attention of governments and policymakers.

Jim Cummins explored issues of advocacy for bilingual/multilingual learners within the context of a pedagogical framework that highlights the role of choicesthat educators make within their classrooms and schools. These choices reflect the implicit or explicit language policies that are operating within the school. Cummins argued that within the context of the Pedagogies of Choice framework, more effective and research-based language policies would result from educators within the school, articulating, both individually and collectively, the choices they have available, the directions they want to pursue, and the ways of moving in these directions. The role of research and researchers in this process is not only to articulate and synthesize the findings of research in a coherent and comprehensible manner for multiple audiences but also to provide windows into classroom practice through case studies and action research in such a way that innovative and imaginative instructional practices can be observed and contribute to the articulation and pursuit of pedagogical choices by educators engaged in local school policymaking. The logic of this kind of policy-oriented case study and action research is thatactuality implies possibility—if particular innovative instructional practices have been implemented successfully, then it is also possible, in principle, for other educators to implement these strategies.

Over a hundred people attended the BEIS Special Academic Session on Advocacy. Following the presentations, audience members engaged panelists in further discussion about advocacy policies and practices. The topic is one that is of critical importance in light of recent changes in policy at all levels of government, and discussions on the topic will continue at the upcoming 2010 TESOL Convention in Boston, where both the BEIS Special Academic Session and some BEIS concurrent sessions will provide additional insights into advocacy as well as opportunities for participants to share their experiences and perspectives.

The Multidimensional Character of Second Language Acquisition and Emergent Bilinguals: A Crucible of Educational Reform in a Multicultural Society by Joseph H. Gaines

Joseph H. Gaines, Boricua College, New York,

"Washing one's hands of the conflict between the powerless and the powerful does NOT mean you are neutral, it means you are taking the side of the powerful."

--Paulo Freire (as cited in Scott, 2006)

Through a sobering recognition of America's tumultuous struggle for social justice, equality of education, and equality of educational opportunity for millions of its children and young adults attending institutions of learning in the United States, resurgent echoes of its cultural and linguistically diverse enclaves resonate with increased intensity and vigor; this is most apparent as it relates to English language learners, literacy, and their attainment of academic excellence in public education. One finds, however, upon the sociopolitical topography of America's educational landscape, with piercing redundancy, mounting controversy coupled with an air of incontrovertible change during the past four decades of U.S. educational policy decision making. Furthermore, these politically rather than educationally grounded changes have touched and impacted upon national, state, and local levels of governance. Paradoxically, these questionable alternatives, by and large, are characterized by their implacable rigidity in most instances, in regard to pedagogical policies and practices aimed at English language learners. Simply stated, they stand diametrically opposed to the most reliable theoretical and empirical research data and knowledge amassed pertaining to language learning and acquisition, cognition, and assessment of second language learners (Baker, 2001; Cummins, 2000; Hakuta, 1986; Fishman, 2001; Menken, 2008; Peal & Lambert, 1962). What is more, Garcia, Kleifgen, & Falchi (2008) made plain the point that

As a result of top-down educational policies and the negotiation of teachers and communities, different types of educational programs for these students exist in the United States. . . . Moreover, federal bilingual policy has changed over the last four decades from taking into account the children's home languages and being flexible about educational approaches to being far more rigid in emphasizing English only for English language learners. (p. 18)

For the purpose of this discussion let me define who constitutes the target population that has engendered so much attention. English language learners or emergent bilinguals are best defined as either native born or immigrant students who speak English as a nonnative language and reside in all areas of the United States. As Peregoy and Boyle (2001) asserted, in large measure, many are sons and daughters of immigrants who have left their countries of origin in search of a better quality of life. Many recent immigrants have left countries brutally torn by war or political strife in regions such as Central America, Southeast Asia, South America, Eastern Europe, East and West Africa, and the Caribbean. Others have immigrated for economic reasons and their pursuit of educational opportunities. Still others come to the United States to be joined with families who are already in the country. Moreover, many English language learners were born in the United States and some, such as Native Americans of numerous tribal affiliations, have a deeply rooted legacy in America that manifests their lengthy history and countless generations upon American soil. Whether immigrant or native born, each cultural group brings its own history and contributes to the rich tapestry and culture that form the basic fabric of the United States.

Although New York has a strong and protracted history of support for bilingual education, since the passage of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) in 2001, substantial changes have been realized in regard to educational policies as they relate to second language learners or immigrant student populations and public education. Because of the contentious public debate and pressure made over testing practices for English language learners in particular, in 2004, second language learners were exempt from the elementary exams if they had been in U.S. schools 3 years or less; however, this mandate was reversed in 2006. As a consequence of the passage of NCLB, New York had required English language learners at the elementary level to take the New York State ESL Achievement Test (NYSESLAT) for their first 3 years of participation in statewide testing, in lieu of the English language arts exams taken by English-proficient students. However, in deference to NCLB, Zehr (2006) contended, New York State must now require English language learners at the elementary level, from the moment they arrive in the Unites States, to take the same English language arts exam as that taken by native English speakers. However, as Menken (2008) suggested, "NCLB is in effect a language policy that promotes English rather than bilingual education" (p. 41).

It is evident that the United States is a de facto bilingual nation. Unquestionably, New York City is one of the most vibrant multilingual cities in the world. However, although English plays a major role in the daily life patterns and discourse of the United States, it has never been, and cannot be considered in the context of New York City, New York's vernacular. The New York City Department of Education (2009a, 2009b) reported that as of 2009 the current total school population was 1,038,741 children, of whom more than 40 percent spoke a language other than English at home. Ironically, within this vastly multicultural society, the nation has never had an official language although efforts to make English its official language have neither gone unnoticed nor gone unchallenged. In 1983, the movement founded by former Republican Senator S. I. Hayakawa called U.S. English or English Only was created to establish English as the official language of the United States. Nonetheless, the United States to date has no official language.

In spite of national and state data showing the preponderance of language minorities, the majority of English language learners speak a common language: Spanish. Escamilla (2006) further asserted that language diversity is frequently used as an argument to promote English assessment policies, and many places mandate that assessments be conducted only in English. This is clearly contrary to sound second language learning principles.

Accordingly, August and Hakuta (1997) shed greater light on this concern as they suggested that standardized tests that most states currently employ to meet state and federal mandates were developed for assessment of native English speakers, not for English language learners; moreover, they purport that for most second language learners, paper/pencil content assessments in English often measure student's lack of proficiency in English and not their knowledge of the content. Last, Escamilla (2006) also contended that many state assessment programs are available only in English, and offer little or no opportunities for students to demonstrate their knowledge of content in a non-English language. I would be remiss to not mention that some movement toward providing assessment tests in student's native language has been considered. However, this has been undertaken minimally, as one finds in practice the older policy of testing English-proficient students and English language learners using English only--clearly a policy that is viewed by many scholars as being academically ineffective and detrimental to English language learners, as has been cited previously.

According to the New York State Department of Education Office of Bilingual Education and Foreign language Studies (2009) Bilingual/ESL Network (2003), the translated editions of Regents Examinations in all core areas required for graduation other than English are available in Spanish, Korean, Chinese, Haitian Creole, and Russian. More significantly, in this give-and-take of educational policy transformation, all students, including English language learners, are now required to take the English Regents Examination to graduate from New York City high schools (Menken, 2008).


The needs and academic exigencies of emergent bilinguals in U.S. schools, at present, particularly as they relate to bilingual/bicultural education, second language learning, and assessment in public education, are neither being adequately addressed nor being found congruent with the critically significant academic and social demands and expectations of a world-class education. An urgently recalibrated calculus that will accommodate a fresh and coherent academic commitment and coalescence of education policy and implementation within U.S. schools is warranted.

Born out of the muddy backwaters of social inequality in American society, in 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that segregated schools were unconstitutional. With that pronouncement, a new era was ushered in the continuing struggle for civil rights. A decade later, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed by Congress prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin (Evans & Hornberger, 2005). Crawford (2004), Garcia (2005), and the National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition (2006) made plain the importance of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and its critical role in protecting the educational rights of language minority students in the United States. In 1968, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) - Title VII, known as the Bilingual Education Act, established a federal goal of assisting English language learners, also referred to as limited English-proficient (LEP) students, in the quick acquisition of English. The label "LEP" may be seen as being distasteful in that it suggests and creates an inappropriate stigma or ideology for viewing speakers of languages other than English. Accordingly, English language learners, by and large, are seen as being "limited" or having a "deficit" linguistically, intellectually, or academically. Moreover, with the reauthorization of the Bilingual Education Act of 1974, educational services were then expanded to include students of any socioeconomic status who had limited English-speaking ability.

Garcia et al. (2008) maintained that, with the arrival of the 1980s, the tone and focus of the federal Bilingual Education Act began to change, noting an increase in the fiscal allocation of funds to English-only programs. In subsequent years, from 1988 onward, 25 percent of federal funding of programs in which only English was used was expanded and in addition, a 3-year limit on participation in transitional bilingual education programs was imposed. This meant that the schools now had only 3 years to bring English language learners to fluency in English--an educational outcome that years of research have proven to be neither academically sound nor reasonable. The research data irrefutably demonstrate that second language learners require at a minimum 5 to 7 years to achieve near-native language fluency, in both basic interpersonal communication skills (BICS) and cognitive academic language proficiency (CALP), in order to compete academically with native language speakers (Cummins, 1981, 2000; Garcia, 2005; Hakuta, 1986; Krashen, 2003).

Surprisingly, in 1994 Congress reauthorized the Bilingual Education Act and provided more attention to two-way bilingual education programs and lifted the quotas for English-only. Consequently, as Menken (2008) pointed out, although the amendments to the 1994 law can be perceived as favorable toward bilingual education, in large measure, "they equally reflected a movement away from the focus on educational access and equality found in legislation such as the Civil Rights act (1964) and towards a new emphasis on educational standards, outcomes, and excellence instead" (p. 20).

Nonetheless, Evans and Hornberger (2005), along with Wright (2005), suggested that these laws provided greater clarity for the benefit of native language development and permitted English language learners to remain in language support programs for more than 3 years, thus favoring programs in which students' native language skills were developed as they gained English proficiency. Ultimately, for more than a decade and a half, standards and assessments have been situated as pivotal themes in federal education legislation passed by Congress. This is best illustrated in the legislation articulated in the 2001 NCLB mandate, mentioned earlier in this article.

The legislative efforts previously cited are only a small representative corpus drawn upon to illustrate the scope and sequence of the legal battles waged in pursuit of social justice and equality of educational opportunity for second language learners. What is more, these legislative efforts reflect--particularly in the case of 1968 with the passage of the ESEA--the first major focus on the need to provide, by law, equitable and adequate education in the United States for language minority students or emergent bilinguals.


The educational response to new immigration in the 21st century is distinctly different and more complicated than the social, cultural, and educational reactions that were manifest by education policymakers, school administrators, teachers, and ethnic communities in the 20th century. In the early 1920s, for instance, sociologist Nathan Glazer (1985) asserted that immigrant education was based upon simply teaching English and the American way of life. That entailed primarily an assimilationist approach, which generally included saluting and pledging allegiance to the flag. It also aimed to convince students of the decadence of most foreign governments as compared to the U.S. education of new immigrants. In the latter part of the 20th and early 21st century, as a result of court decisions and political divisions, schools are required to provide a more holistic-humanistic approach to teaching and learning. However, this has been proven to be a steep and arduous path to follow, because of the persistently divergent winds of political will and social malleability. One of the most significant U.S. Supreme Court decisions affecting new immigrants was Lau v. Nichols, in 1974. That decision required schools to provide special educational assistance to students from families in which English was not the spoken language of the household.

With regard to the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness--the inalienable rights--one of the major delivery systems to achieve those ends is education (Gaines, 2003a; Male, 1974). Moreover, education is considered a critically essential tool for promotion of the social, moral, political, and economic development of citizenry and proper functioning of a revitalized democratic society. The institution of education, nevertheless, Bullivant (1984) suggested, has posed a dilemma. The crux of the problem, then as now, arose from the realization that the citizenry of America was composed of a diverse group of people, natives to the land and immigrants, in spite of its strong Western European orientation, and that this diversity encompassed culture, class, ethnicity, and, I argue, a socially constructed notion of race.

The academic and affective demands of emergent bilinguals in U.S. schools, at present, are not being adequately articulated within urban public school curricula and are sadly out of touch, once again, with the requisite principles of a world-class education. This means that schools must be situated in an organic-dynamic learning system that will operate from a framework that both creates and nurtures a more reasoned 21st-century education paradigm, a model that places a high premium on both the affective and intellectual currency embodied in a world-class education consisting of four crucial academically and psychosocially grounded areas of attainment: knowledge, information, learning, and skilled intelligence.

The much neglected affective dimensions associated with learning that impinge on English language learners' overall emotional and psychological states of mind is called acculturative stress. This is a consequence of behaviors experienced as a result of adaptation to a new society and culture and/or relocation of the child or young adult derived from circumstances related to political and social unrest, war, economic deprivation, migration, and the like, as previously mentioned. Acculturative stress can have catastrophic effects on the individual and play an important role in the quality of academic performance and learning outcomes of second language learners. One need only look to the research of Krashen (2003), which in the early 1980s focused attention on these affective concerns, as it relates to English language learners' language acquisition and academic performance. His theory of theaffective filter indicated that there is an impediment to language learning or acquisition caused by negative emotional (affective) responses to one's environment. Considerable empirical research has been done since that time; however, some theorists still hold that the weight of the research is not definitive. Yet, the inconvenient truth of the matter strongly suggests the contrary. What is more, the idea has gained significant support by many scholars in the field (Ariza, Morales-Jones, Yahya, & Zainuddin, 2002; Freeman, Freeman, & Ramirez, 2008; Garcia et al., 2008; Perez & Torres-Guzman, 2001).

As can be seen in the educational and social legislation for social justice and the attainment of equality of education and equality of educational opportunity, as it pertains to English language learners and the nexus between social justice and the vigilance required for the maintenance of equality of education for all, my concern with a connection to the past in this regard is really future oriented. In this light we educators must deepen our understanding of events and circumstances by taking into consideration the social and historical context in which we operate. The context fashions in powerful ways how we think and act. One crucial aspect of that context is the fact that American schools were never designed to teach everyone. As Tatum (2007) poignantly asserted,

we often talk about the importance of an educated citizenry for a successful democracy. . . . [H]owever, when our democracy was being established, only White male landowners could vote. The educated citizenry that our founding fathers had in mind did not include many of the people who will read this essay. White women were not allowed to vote. . . . The Constitution originally defined enslaved Africans as equivalent to three-fifths of a person without the rights of citizenship . . . in slave holding states it was illegal to educate them. (p. 40)

It must be clearly stated that from the very beginning of America's entrance upon the world stage, American constructions of race and class have determined who had access to education and, in large measure, those social and legal constructions continue to shape how Americans feel and think about not only themselves but also who can and will profit from it. These constructs of intelligence, closely entwined with ideas about race and class, are central to an understanding of academic accessibility and power (Gaines, 1996, 2003a).

More often than not, in the current national climate of economic strife and rising social petulance in the United States, in the early stages of the 21st century, the temperament attributed to established populations toward immigrant groups can be viewed as being problematic; this perception is not isolated to American shores and is also manifest in other countries as well. It is a pattern that usually accompanies harsh economic times, no matter the composition of the social or ethnic group in power (Spring, 1991).

It is ironic that within a nation that inhaled its first breath of freedom built upon the creativity, ingenuity, and labor of its immigrant population, one finds, by and large, the self-same immigrants, presently cast in the mold of an American cultural context, being seen and treated as not only different but also a threat to established political and social relations. It is precisely because of a combination and heightened sensitivity toward these social, economic, and political fears that one finds cultural indifferences in language, customs, race, and religious beliefs that are exploited and emphasized, causing increased hostility and prejudices that are accompanied by discriminatory attitudes and practices.

Steele (1992) hastened to offer a reminder that the oldest formula for aggression known to humankind is premised on the basis of difference, which has fueled and, in many instances, served to justify the pursuit of power and domination over another. The problems, inextricably tied to immigrant populations, regardless of locale, rest heavily on public schools. The disquieting fact that in many schools, the subtle and often unrelenting message conveyed to youth of color, by and large, has been "you are not worthy--you don't belong." Escamilla (2006) gave voice to this unsettling notion as she purported:

Hispanic/Latino children in American schools today receive subtle and not so subtle messages that are reinforced in the media and U.S. culture at large, as well as from both inside and outside the cultural gap itself. The first message is feeling devalued. The second message is feeling you don't belong. (p. 184)

The schools must be the liberating organism and its teachers-facilitators of learning, the student's empowering agents in this charged sociopolitical equation.

The negative psychological and emotional effects of devaluing the human worth and dignity of second language learners need not persist. A renewed sense of purpose, which validates the humanity of the child or young adult, must be engaged. It is our charge as educators to ensure that children learn to love and value themselves and the languages that envelop them as they are poised to learn and embrace them. The most undesirable psychological effect faced by second language learners, research reveals, is caused by the current high-stakes testing environment in the United States (Carrasquillo & Rodriguez, 2002; Gottlieb, 2006; Menken, 2008). Escamilla (2006) highlighted what may be seen as a catastrophic circumstance raised by Valdes and Figueroa as they argued,

when a bilingual individual confronts a monolingual test--both the test taker and the test are asked to do something that they cannot. The bilingual test taker cannot perform like a monolingual and a monolingual test cannot measure the other language. (p. 87)

The schools must establish and provide the needed academic, psychological, and affective care and support that will teach the children and young adults that come from homes with different languages and cultures, other than the dominant culture, who they are, and how they too are the heirs to a legacy of dignity, grace, extraordinary artistry, and intellectual creativity within the global village.


The quest to adequately ameliorate the sociocultural injustices that lie at the feet of an American people engulfed in a tide of unimaginable incivility toward a growing multicultural populace continues. In the nation's early birth pangs of a dynamic democratic experiment, one finds no single easy remedy that will either reconcile or stem the tide of cultural indifference. The dialogue, nevertheless, must go on, and a climate induced for societal healing and transformation must be assured in order to secure the pursuit of a more perfect union.

Let there be no doubt that the goal of achieving language proficiency in both one's native language and the dominant language of the society in which the individual lives is the desired goal of educators for all second language learners. Nonetheless, the intractable debate over second language acquisition, cognition, and assessment of emergent bilinguals remains ripe with controversy after almost 50 years of rigorous objective theoretical and empirical research. It is resolutely clear, however, that forcing children and young adults to learn English at the expense of their native language only serves to place them at an emotional and academic crossroads between their families, friends, and schools--even if it is done unintentionally (Alicea, 1991; Cummins, 1987; Escamilla, 2006; Gaines, 2003b; Skutnabb-Kangas, 2000).

Key measures that have been identified by scholars such as Menken (2008), Garcia et al. (2008), Gaines (2003a), Cummins (2000), and August and Hakuta (1997), who have worked and studied the crucial issues relative to ELLs and their academic, psychosocial growth and development, suggest the following:

  • Move away from an overreliance on standardized tests to allowing for the use of multiple measures of assessing student achievement (e.g., variety of student works--in conjunction with their tests, classroom performance, teacher recommendations, and grades);
  • Develop assessments with English language learners in mind from the outset, rather than attempting to include them as an afterthought into assessments designed and developed for native English speakers;
  • Significantly develop coherent, clearly articulated top-down educational policies that support local language policies and practices;
  • Allow for the measurement of process and progress rather than simply the outcomes of high-stakes exams;
  • Ensure that minority languages count. Performance by English language learners on language arts exams that are in their native language, such as the Chinese Regents or Spanish Regents (taken in New York), should count within the accountability system; and
  • Ensure that bilingual teachers match the language(s) in which students will be tested, to yield valid scores on the tests that count. The demands of the tests should also be balanced with other demands such as the knowledge acquired of students and its application to their futures in the United States.

These selected recommendations are critical in the much-needed mediation and ultimate attainment of academic excellence for not only English language learners but all students who deserve a world-class education.

With a renewed breadth of possibilities as has been bequeathed to Americans in their most recent expression of democratic will, culminating in the election of the 44th President of the United States, Barak Hussein Obama, let us, as educators, now take account of this most pregnant moment for creative, redemptive change and let it wash over us as we are challenged to move forward in the hopes of initiating and maintaining a fresh dialogue of possibilities. For that reason, those who would be charged with the brain trust of the nation, teachers--facilitators of learning--should be competently prepared to address the multidimensional character of second language acquisition and multiculturalism, in light of the many challenges and pressing demands they will assuredly face, within the eye of the storm.


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Joseph H. Gaines is professor of education and serves as chairperson for the Childhood Education and MS in Education - TESOL programs at Boricua College, Manhattan Campus, in New York City. His areas of specialization include bilingual education, literacy, ethnomusicology, urban education, and multicultural education.

Advocacy for English Language Learners by Jorge Osterling and G. Sue Kasun

Jorge Osterling, George Mason University,, and G. Sue Kasun, University of Texas at Austin,


Recently, some U.S. communities have reacted with hostility to U.S. immigration policies, rules, and regulations. Children of immigrants have often been, directly or indirectly, the targets of these hostile attitudes. We believe, therefore, that educators and teachers must advocate and support all students, regardless of their immigration status.

Section 1. U.S. Immigration and Education

Section 2. Case Studies

Section 3. Legislation and Supreme Court Rulings in Support of English Language Learners

Section 4. Pathways for Advocacy With English Language Learners


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Osterling, J. P., & McClure, S. (2008, August). Dystopia in Virginia: The 2008 Immigration Debate. Mosaic, A Journal of Original Research on Multicultural Education, Teaching and Learning, 1(1),11-21.

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Jorge P. Osterling is an associate professor of multilingual/multicultural education in the College of Education and Human Development at George Mason University. His research focuses on multicultural and multilingual education, particularly of Latino, immigrant, and other students from diverse cultural, ethnic, and linguistic backgrounds.

G. Sue Kasun is a doctoral student in the Cultural Studies of Education program at the University of Texas at Austin. Her research interests include critical pedagogy, teacher education, multicultural education, and community engagement.

Advocating for Multilingualism in College Writing Instruction: The Role of the TESOL/BE Professional by Christine M. Tardy and Amanda Hobmeier

Christine M. Tardy De Paul University, Chicago,
Amanda Hobmeier, DePaul University, Chicago,

Advocacy for the ESOL professional means informed participation in decision making; it means lending one’s voice to the chorus of voices which shapes our understanding of the issues pertinent to our work and our students’ lives and which impact upon the policies related to those issues. Such participation means working to retain and strengthen what is good and effective in our programs and policies. It also means working for change where improvement is warranted. (Forhan & Scheraga, 2000, pp. 195–196)

Although we may typically think of advocacy as work that involves professional organizations, politicians, and public debates, advocating for change can—and should—occur at local levels as well. In this article, we describe how TESOL and bilingual education (BE) professionals can advocate for multilingual students within a context that has been relatively under-examined: writing instruction in U.S. higher education. We begin by describing this context, and we then outline steps for working toward and carrying out local advocacy. Although we focus on a fairly specific local context, we believe that the collaborative framework we offer can be adapted to a wide range of settings in which TESOL/BE professionals find themselves.


While much has been written about the growing linguistic diversity in K-12 contexts in the United States, less attention has been paid to higher education. International students make up one group of multilingual students, numbering 600,000 (3.5 percent) of the student population (Institute of International Education, 2008). A second group of multilingual students, however, are somewhat less visible: recent immigrants and long-term U.S. residents who speak languages other than English as a first and/or home language. Many 2- and 4-year institutions do not collect information on students’ language backgrounds, so these multilingual students are often hidden from statistics; as graduates of U.S. high schools, they are often not required to take language proficiency exams (like TOEFL) or ESL courses in college. Harklau and Siegal (2009) triangulate figures on the growing populations of immigrant youth, college-going minority youth, and language- minority student enrollment and retention to illustrate that linguistic diversity is increasing in U.S. higher education.

While this demographic shift to a more linguistically diverse student body should be an important concern for all university faculty and administrators, it is particularly relevant to the writing classroom, where literacy and language are most explicitly addressed. At most postsecondary institutions, First Year Writing (FYW), also known as Freshman Writing or Freshman Composition, is one of the only courses required for all students. FYW programs are generally administered by composition studies professionals and taught predominantly by part-time instructors and graduate students who hold expertise in composition studies, literature, and/or creative writing. Preto-Bay and Hansen (2006) describe the growing linguistic diversity in FYW classrooms as quickly moving toward a “tipping point”—a point at which “a steady-state equilibrium is disrupted, followed rapidly by a chain of events that can be difficult to manage” (p. 37). They argue, along with others like Horner and Trimbur (2002) and Matsuda (2006), that FYW’s traditional assumptions of a monolingual student body are out of step with and ill-serving today’s multilingual student population.

A “disciplinary division of labor” (Matsuda, 1999) has perpetuated such assumptions: TESOL specialists study and work with multilingual students in ESL classes, while composition specialists study and work with monolingual students in FYW classes. Yet such assumptions and divisions are not sustainable in today’s classrooms, where monolingual English speakers, multilingual international students, bilingual U.S.-educated students, and World English speakers sit side by side. Some scholars (e.g., Canagarajah, 2006) have called for FYW to adopt more pluralistic practices of writing instruction that bring students’ multiple languages and varieties into the writing classroom, putting a multilingual or language-as-resource ideology (Bianco, 1996) into practice. As composition scholars Horner and Trimbur (2002) state, “We should refuse to accept the notion that present-day U.S. culture does not need to change, and won’t be for the better, by different speakers, thinkers, and writers speaking, thinking, and writing differently” (p. 618).

TESOL and BE specialists have an important advocacy role to play in bridging disciplinary divides and supporting multilingual English language learners in higher education. With knowledge about language and biliteracy development, we can work with our colleagues in composition studies to understand current practices and effective routes toward change that benefit students and teachers.


Forhan and Scheraga (2000) outline two basic elements of effective advocacy: educating oneself about sociopolitical concerns and understanding the relationship between professional practices and broad policy decisions. At an institutional level this means understanding the local concerns in the context of, for example, institutional policies, administrative or program structures, and teacher and student beliefs and practices. In this section we describe three steps we took within our local setting to identify concerns and to contextualize those concerns:

  • Identifying the student population
  • Understanding instructors’ beliefs and practices
  • Indentifying barriers to the implementation of multilingual practices

Student population. Although our university prides itself on serving a student body with many first- and second-generation immigrants, the institution does not collect any information on students’ language backgrounds. Therefore, the large number of multilingual students is essentially invisible within the writing classroom—particularly as many of these students have lived in the United States for several years and therefore speak English with American accents. Working with the FYW program administrators and teachers, we distributed surveys to a representative sample of FYW students, asking about their dominant languages, home languages, and varieties of English that they speak. Our survey results revealed that approximately one in five students self-identified as multilingual.

Instructors’ beliefs and practices. In addition to identifying the population, we felt it was important to understand instructors’ beliefs about language diversity. As Cutri (2000) notes, such beliefs have an important influence on the teachers’ classroom language policies and practices. To understand these beliefs, we surveyed 82 percent of the FYW program’s 72 instructors and carried out individual interviews with 25 percent of them. The surveys and interviews gave us insight into the instructors’ beliefs about working with multilingual students and incorporating multilingual practices into their instruction. We found that many instructors valued language and cultural diversity, though they did not always integrate multilingual practices. In general, instructors felt it was more appropriate to invite students to draw on their multiple languages in informal writing tasks such as prewriting, journal writing, or personal writing than in formal or academic writing. Interestingly, our survey and interview findings suggested that instructors were generally accepting of multilingual practices in theory but that these beliefs did not necessarily translate to classroom practice. In fact, 53 percent of instructors reported that they had never invited students to integrate multiple languages in conjunction with class work; only 3 percent (two instructors) reported frequently doing so.

Barriers to the implementation of multilingual instructional practices. What prevents instructors from adopting multilingual practices in their classrooms? Our interviews and surveys helped us to identify several key obstacles. First, many felt that the goal of FYW courses was to teach standard English and that the incorporation of multiple languages or varieties would either oppose that goal or go beyond the scope of the course. Some also expressed concern about how they would assess multilingual texts. Finally, an important obstacle seemed to lie in the instructors’ lack of formal education in teaching linguistically diverse students. In addition to voicing misconceptions about language and literacy learning (for example, that the best way to learn English is through English-only immersion), several teachers stated that they simply lacked knowledge of how to effectively integrate multiple languages into their instruction.


In his rebuke of the monolingual assumptions that dominate FYW instruction, Matsuda (2006) asks writing teachers to “re-imagine the composition classroom as the multilingual space that it is, where the presence of language is the default” (p. 649). We believe that TESOL/BE specialists have a crucial role to play in helping instructors to re-envision the postsecondary writing classroom in this way. The steps outlined above can lay the groundwork for such advocacy, helping to build an understanding of the current concerns and the factors that contribute to them. To move forward, TESOL/BE professionals can work with FYW program instructors and administrators toward revisions at the program and classroom levels.

At the program level, TESOL/BE specialists can help foster discussions on language, providing spaces for instructors and administrators to explore, debate, and learn about multilingualism and writing development. To help clarify the role of language in relation to course goals, programs can revisit and revise administrative documents such as goal statements and teacher handbooks to explicitly address language. Finally, programs should be encouraged to consider the value of hiring linguistically diverse faculty when possible to reflect the linguistic diversity of the students, and to hiring faculty who have disciplinary knowledge in second language learning and teaching.

At the classroom level, TESOL/BE specialists can help instructors develop strategies for integrating multilingualism. In-service workshops and teacher resources can empower instructors with an increased understanding of biliterate practices and language development. In such interactions, it is important to acknowledge resistance that instructors may have to modifying their approaches and beliefs. Instructors can be encouraged to expand current practices rather than radically shift approaches. For example, instructors who already assign multilingual personal essays by writers like Amy Tan or Gloria Anzaldúa might be encouraged to ask students to integrate their own linguistic resources in similar essays.

TESOL/BE professionals can also help FYW teachers create flexible assignments that allow for optional multilingualism. Because a common rationale for not integrating multilingual practices is that not all students are multilingual, teachers should be encouraged to consider how minor revisions to typical assignments might allow some students to draw on their linguistic resources without disadvantaging other students. For instance, a common assignment in our FYW program is a Literacy Narrative, in which students write an autobiographical story about their personal engagement with reading or writing. Such an assignment could easily be revised into a Linguistic Autobiography, in which students share a part of their language story, describing how language has shaped their identity. All students—monolingual and multilingual—can write on this topic, yet the assignment is flexible enough to allow multilingual students to draw on their linguistic resources in creative and developmentally useful ways.

While the suggested revisions here may appear small, they represent important means for raising program awareness of language minority students and moving away from monolingual assumptions. Through collaboration, TESOL/BE professionals can work with English composition professionals to affect change and to embrace the multilingual reality of today’s writing classrooms.


Bianco, J. L. (1996). Institutional responses: Empowering minority children. TESOL Quarterly, 30, 586-590.

Canagarajah, A. S. (2006). The place of World Englishes in composition: Pluralization continued. College Composition and Communication, 57, 586-619.

Cutri, R. M. (2000). Exploring the spiritual moral dimensions of teachers’ classroom language policies. In J. K. Hall & W. Eggington (Eds.), The sociopolitics of English language teaching (pp. 165-177). Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.

Forhan, L. E., & Scheraga, M. (2000). Becoming socipolitically active. In J. K. Hall & W. Eggington (Eds.), The sociopolitics of English language teaching (pp. 195-218). Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.

Harklau, L., & Siegal, M. (2009). Immigrant youth and higher education: An overview. In M. Roberge, M. Siegal, & L. Harklau (Eds.), Generation 1.5 in college composition: Teaching academic writing to U.S. educated learners of English (pp. 25-34). New York: Routledge.

Horner, B., & Trimbur, J. (2002). English only and U.S. composition. College Composition and Communication, 53, 594-630.

Institute of International Education. (2008, November). Open doors 2008: Report on international educational exchange. Institute of International Education. Retrieved from the World Wide Web March 8, 2009, from

Matsuda, P. K. (1999). Composition studies and ESL writing: A disciplinary division of labor. College Composition and Communication, 50, 699-721.

Matsuda, P. K. (2006). The myth of linguistic homogeneity in U.S. college composition. College English, 68, 637-651.

Preto-Bay, A. M., & Hansen, K. (2006). Preparing for the tipping point: Designing writing programs to meet the needs of the changing population. Writing Program Administration, 30, 37-57.

Christine Tardy is Assistant Professor of Writing, Rhetoric, and Discourse at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois, in the United States. Her research interests include multilingual writing instruction, policies and politics of English, and genre theory and practice.

Amanda Hobmeier is a graduate student in the Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and Discourse at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois, in the United States. Her research interests include second language acquisition and instruction, language policy, and intercultural rhetoric.

Reflections of a Bilingual by Jane Park

Jane Park, Biola University, La Mirada, California,

The field of second language acquisition (SLA) and learning is anything but simple and clear-cut. Issues in bilingualism, as one domain of SLA, are no exception as they provide a small glimpse of the complexity in the broader field. Over the years, a vast range of definitions for bilinguals and bilingualism has been offered. One definition of bilinguals that Hamers and Blanc (2000) provided and that I will adopt comes from Webster’s Dictionary: “having or using two languages especially as spoken with the fluency characteristic of a native speaker; a person using two languages especially habitually and with control like that of a native speaker” (p. 6). By way of a retrospective analysis, I address two specific issues pertinent to bilingualism: code-switching and bilingual personalities. Throughout the article, I integrate some of my personal experiences from the perspective of a learner growing up as a Korean-English bilingual, and also address the implications of bilingualism for teachers and English language learners alike.


Code-switching is a fairly common practice employed among bilinguals. Brown (2007) defined code-switching as “the act of inserting words, phrases, or even longer stretches of one language into the other” in the course of a conversation (p. 72). There has been a widespread assumption that code-switching is a manifestation of the bilingual person not knowing either language adequately (Shin & Milroy, 2000; Wei, 2007). Growing up, I was under the impression that code-switching is indeed evidence of a lack of linguistic proficiency in one or both languages. According to Bialystok (2009), some recent research suggested that bilinguals “control a smaller vocabulary in each language than monolinguals” and I must have “known” this inherently because of my strict tendency to not engage in code-switching (p. 4). I would force myself to stick to one language at a time in a given context so as to not lose the language I knew already at the expense of my “other” language; it was my way of preserving and keeping up with both languages by pushing myself to articulate my thoughts in one language without having to resort to the other language.

However, Gumperz (1982) successfully disproved the notion of “semilingualism,” that code-switching is a compensatory mechanism or an evidence of language deficit. He showed that code-switching, in fact, “provided an additional resource which bilinguals systematically exploited to express a range of social and rhetorical meanings” (Shin & Milroy, 2000, p. 352). Poplack (2007) also stated that “code-switching is a verbal skill requiring a large degree of linguistic competence in more than one language, rather than a defect arising from insufficient knowledge of one or the other” (p. 240). More interesting, Poplack found that code-switching that occurs in a single sentence—the very types that were considered the most “deviant” forms of code-switching—is actually the kind that requires the most skill, and therefore was produced mostly by the “true bilinguals.”

Reflecting upon my personal experience, I can see how knowing two languages and, more specifically, having the mere option to code-switch have been advantageous. Although my lexicon in one language may not be as broad compared to my monolingual counterpart, I do think that my overall vocabulary is larger, as it encompasses two unrelated sets of languages. After all, as Cook (2003) questioned, “bilinguals use languages for different purposes than monolinguals and have a total language system of the knowledge of far greater complexity in their minds; why should L2 users be measured against the knowledge of a person with only one language?” (p. 497).

Personally, I may have refrained from code-switching for the sake of consistency, but just being able to draw on a rich repertoire of words and concepts in and through two languages has opened up a wider channel of communication internally and with others. As an example, there are certain words that cannot be translated without losing their precise meaning. In such cases, code-switching becomes an efficient tool and a resource, especially when conversing with those who are familiar with both languages. For instance, jung is a word in Korean that conveys the hybrid meaning of attachment and affection. Neither of those words in isolation can encapsulate the exact meaning of jung, but when used in conversation with persons who understand Korean and English, the listener will be able to understand the emotion that the speaker is trying to communicate. I have used the word when conversing in English as I tried to convey its exact meaning. A common use would be in the context of human relationships, and especially intimate relationships, whereby people are said to remain committed to each other, even after the “passion” fizzles, because of their jung toward one another. Jung undoubtedly is a word that encompasses multiple affective meanings and that has layers of cultural undertones embedded as well.

As one reviewer of this article noted, my personal experience with code-switching largely relates to culturally specific meaning. However, other bilinguals may engage in code-switching more frequently for a variety of purposes, whether it is efficiency in communication with other bilinguals or because code-switching has become a language of communication in itself for some. Regardless of the reasons for code-switching, it should be acknowledged that merely being able to have the choice to code-switch is a privilege that bilinguals are blessed with.


If a meaning of a word can get “lost in translation,” as could be the case with jung, then what about a bilingual’s personality? With respect to language ego, Brown (2007) stated that “meaningful language acquisition involves some degree of identity conflict as language learners take on a new identity with their newly acquired competence” (p. 158) suggesting that there is a correlation between successful language learning and a certain degree of identity conflict.

Reflecting on my own experiences of learning English, I remember feeling timid and self-conscious because I lacked something that everyone else seemed to have: the language. I have always been more on the introverted side by nature, but not knowing my English inevitably made me more shy than I normally would be in my L1. Over time, I became a fairly balanced bilingual in Korean and English, but in the midst of the process, I feel like I have developed three different sets of personalities or identities that do not necessarily overlap: one in Korean, one in English, and one that mixes the two languages, which is revealed only to other bilinguals. Needless to say, the “language barrier” was no longer a factor in the development of my “bilingual personality.”

Much of the discrepancy between the different “personas” may still stem from mere structural or lexical differences in the languages, but I deduce that the differences in the characteristics of culture (e.g., individualistic vs. collectivistic, emotionally charged vs. emotionally distant) play a bigger role in the manifestation of certain character traits. In their study, Ramirez-Esparza, Gosling, Benet-Martinez, Potter, and Pennebaker (2006) examined whether bilinguals expressed different personalities when they spoke in different languages. They noted some differences between the English and Spanish monolinguals; more interesting, they found certain personality traits to be more salient when the English-Spanish bilinguals spoke in one language, while other traits were displayed more when they spoke in their other language.

For me, I display more extroverted tendencies when speaking in English than in Korean. Being sociable and independent are highly valued in Western society, whereas being reserved and group-oriented are still considered more virtuous in Asian cultures, especially in interacting with superiors. Interestingly enough, I think these cultural underpinnings factor in which “persona” I take in different contexts. All in all, although it may seem like there is a shift in personality when I switch languages, I realize that the context influences which facets of my “baseline” personality surface and submerge.


Recounting my experience growing up as a bilingual has deepened my appreciation for the ways I have been blessed. Though there are both advantages and disadvantages of being a bilingual, it is important to encourage the English language learners to capitalize on the advantages. Unfortunately, bilingual education in schools for all grade levels across the United States is still a far-fetched reality. As language teachers, however, we can take some steps in our own classrooms.

First, it is imperative that we create and foster an environment where students who are learning a new language can thrive even in unfamiliar contexts. Many of our students may already feel discouraged or powerless by the language barrier. Some may also feel like they have to “adjust” their personalities because of such linguistic limitations. In that regard, teachers should be careful not to reinforce the students’ insecurities by imposing Western culture and values or holding unrealistic expectations of the students. Instead, teachers ought to tailor the curriculum and deliver lessons in a creative way that would help lower students’ affective filters and allow them to feel secure and be themselves. Consequentially, the students would ideally feel empowered to take ownership of and personalize their learning experience. One tangible way in which this could be materialized is by the teachers simply making themselves available outside of class and ensuring that the students know that they can approach their teachers for help.

On a related note, another way in which teachers can help English language learners is by taking on the role of being a resource to them. Often times, their teacher in the classroom may be the first and only “native speaker” that the students interact with on a regular basis. Therefore, the teacher should provide as much linguistic input as he or she can in the classroom setting. This does not necessarily mean that the students will learn or “pick up” everything that they are provided with, but when it is time for students to produce linguistic output, the chances of them being able to draw on what they had internalized will be higher if they had a lot more accumulated in their “language bank” than otherwise.

For me, age undoubtedly worked to my advantage because I was at such a malleable age—psychologically, linguistically, and cognitively—when I was first learning English during my childhood. However, I also think that the constant input that I was surrounded by, from my teachers and peers, had a significant impact on my language development. As far as the amount of input, I wholeheartedly agree with Brown’s (2007) statement that “language learning is an interactive process, and therefore an overreliance on the role of input at the expense of the stimulation of output could thwart the second language acquisition process” (p. 80). But I also adopt Krashen’s “input hypothesis” model in regard to the level of input; he argued that “the language that learners are exposed to should be just far enough beyond their current competency that they can understand most of it but still be challenged to make progress” (Brown, 2007, p. 295). Though it is still a challenge to operationalize this model, I do think that teachers should set realistic yet high standards for the students and provide meaningful and comprehensible language input that will guarantee success not only in the academic realm but also in “real-life” contexts.

As for the students, I think the first step is to think about their own goals and what they hope to achieve through the language-learning process. The reasons for becoming a “bilingual” look different for everyone, as does the journey itself. Many different variables, such as the students’ cultural background, personalities, learning styles, and context, all come into play and paint the tone of each student’s language-learning experience. However, the common key that would be useful for all English language learners is to be intentional about their learning experience and take ownership to accomplish their personal goals.

For me, it was important to not only “maintain” but also continue developing my proficiency in both my L1 and L2. Learning English always had to take precedence for both academic reasons and survival in the United Kingdom and the United States. However, I thought that being a “balanced bilingual” would ultimately make me more marketable regardless of where I was. Thus, I made a conscious decision to make sure I was not “losing” my Korean at the expense of English, and vice versa. Some of the “natural” ways in which I could retain my Korean were by solely using it at home and also by visiting Korea for months at a time during school breaks. Some of the conscious efforts I have had to make were consistently reading the newspaper in Korean and watching Korean news and even dramas to keep my L1 schema activated even if I did not have the opportunity to use Korean as much as English on a daily basis. The process of acquiring, learning, and maintaining languages has been an ongoing effort, even to date. Personally, I feel like I have been able to grow tremendously as a person throughout the entire process, and not just as a language learner.

Another important point that learners need to understand is that they should anticipate “nonlinguistic outcomes” as a byproduct of their becoming bilinguals, which include “changes in attitudes, self-concept, cultural values and beliefs” (Baker, 2001, p. 131). It is natural for bilingual learners to feel different from their monolingual counterparts. Moreover, often times, they may have a difficult time identifying even with other bilinguals because everyone’s story is so uniquely different. One way to develop a healthy sense of self-identity amidst the transitions and adjustments is by focusing on the advantages of being a bilingual, which entails having access not only to two languages and cultures but also to a broader platform of opportunities.

All in all, teachers and English language learners will mutually benefit if they understand that learning a language does not necessarily mean they have to lose a part of themselves. The pursuit of bilingualism certainly is an ongoing, complex task that requires a great deal of self-reflection, self-awareness, motivation, and patience. What I have mentioned in this article provides a small glimpse of the myriad of issues that many bilinguals will have to wrestle with at one point or another. However, the rewards of becoming bilingual will far outweigh the challenges. With international trade and communication rapidly expanding, the role of bilinguals in the global arena is becoming increasingly indispensable. My personal hope is that the best efforts in nurturing, encouraging, training, and providing bilinguals with abundant resources will be put forth so that they might thrive and become well-rounded, effective leaders of our generation.


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Ramirez-Esparza, N., Gosling, S. D., Benet-Martinez, V., Potter, J. P., & Pennebaker, J. W. (2006). Do bilinguals have two personalities? A special case of cultural frame switching. Journal of Research in Personality, 40, 99-120.

Shin, S. J., & Milroy, L. (2000). Conversational code-switching among Korean-English bilingual children. The International Journal of Bilingualism, 4, 351-383.

Wei, L. (2007). Dimensions of bilingualism. In L. Wei (Ed.), The bilingualism reader (pp. 3-22). New York: Routledge.

Jane Park is completing her MA in TESOL at Biola University in La Mirada, California. She has taught at the University of California, Los Angeles Extension, and plans to teach overseas after graduation. Her research interests include second language acquisition and bilingual identities.