Learning in two languages, and new Zulu words

A back-to-school edition about learning in a second language. We spend some time in the classroom with fourth grade teacher Stephanie Blanco of  Gauldin Elementary School in Downey, CA to explore the challenges of teaching English language learners. ELL came to the fore after 1998, when California voters approved Proposition 227, which ended bilingual education.  In ELL classrooms,  everyone — whether they or not they are proficient in English — learns in English.

Gauldin has a good record of improving ELL students’ English skills, in marked contrast to many of the schools in neighboring Los Angeles. The situation there is so dire that the the U.S. Department of Education has launched a investigation to determine if if the Los Angeles Unified School District is violating the civil rights of English Language Learners.  The feds are also taking a look at Boston schools. (A few months ago, Carol Hills and I  discussed Arizona’s decision to penalize ELL teachers whose accents are deemed too foreign. Arizona is still defending its policy, which itself has come under federal scrutiny.)

Also in the podcast, a Creole-speaking Haitian girl newly arrived in New York City enrols in a high school, with help from a community group in Brooklyn. The girl fled Haiti after the earthquake there earlier this year. Like most Haitians, she wants to master the language and stay here permanently.  But she only has a U.S. visitor visa.Then it’s back to California as an Arabic immersion program gets underway at FAME a public charter school in Fremont, CA. Reporter Hana Baba provided us with a nice slideshow of scenes from the school, including the photo above of school founder Maram Alaiwat. Not surprisingly, many of the students at this K-10th grade school are of Arab and/or Muslim descent.  More surprising is that the school has opened its doors to the FBI. The bureau offers FAME 5th graders the chance to become “junior special agents” .

Finally, the first Zulu-English dictionary in 40 years has just been published in South Africa. Some English speakers already know a few words of Zulu (also known as isiZulu) — words like ubuntu. Zulu has also borrowed from other South African languages such as Afrikaans, and many Zulu words offer their own linguistic takes on apartheid and AIDS. We talk with the publishing manager of Oxford University Press South Africa.

Listen in iTunes or here.


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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Learning in two languages, and new Zulu words

  1. Michele Chounlamountry

    This particular podcast was interesting. I can only imagine how difficult it may be for English learning students to be in a classroom full of native English speakers. I also agree with the teacher who is speaking in the podcast that English should only be taught in the classroom.

  2. Abby

    Hello! I’m a college student and I know I’m behind but the podcast has been actually really interesting! I’m in an intercultural communications class and we’re talking about how important communication is. I agree with Ms. Mendez though on this podcast that even though the learning English is important, the kids that have a natural born language should keep that language too. I actually knew two languages from where I was from because I would travel so much between homes and when I was younger yet when I came to America the environment was different. My mom never spoke to me in any of the other languages and it was always English at home and at school so I had gotten to know it pretty well. I wish though that I knew all three because whenever we go back to visit my original home, I can barely understand what they were saying and to me that was a real embarrassment. Great podcast though!

  3. Raphael Valdez

    While taking an intercultural communication class at Northern Virginia Community College, i found this podcast to be very interesting and very relative to what I am learning now in my class. Schools here in America consist of many diverse cultures. Many elementary schools today have special programs for children who speak English as a second language. ELL students aren’t just in L.A or California, but around the whole country. ELL students also are not just born outside this country, but born here in the U.S in ethnic neighborhoods. Therefore, these students are American born but not yet adaptive to the English language. ELL students should not be ignored just because of their inability to speak fluent English. Students should learn English at school, but still keep their native language at home to avoid losing their native linguistics. Poverty has shown to be a negative affect in ELL students’ academics. Students can be very good in math and social studies, but not do as well in reading and writing. However the ELL programs show that it is a very effective way to teach these ELL students, but will these programs be a reliable and proficient way to improve English?

  4. Lauren Cruz

    I see a few fellow classmates from my Intercultural Communications class at NOVA have chosen to post on this specific podcast as well. This podcast jumped out at me because not too long ago there were some articles in the local newspaper, I believe it was The Washington Post and one of the local news channels did a story on schools with ELL students here in Virginia. These specific individuals have doubled in their numbers since 1990 and will continue to do so. As Ms. Blanco stated it’s incredibly overwhelming to try and teach students who are on different levels of learning in the same class. One school here in Woodbridge, VA went so far as to give the ELL students separate classes to get them up to speed so that they could be in the regular classes. I believe that the best way to learn a language is to be fully submerged in it and we’re not going to help these children if we keep making exceptions for them. We need to find a way of learning that will incorporate these students and not leave them behind. I believe one solution would be to have more dual emersion programs. It’s unfortunate that more schools do not have dual emersion programs. The best time to learn a language is while still a child. The mind is still developing and learns new material faster. Being proficient in two languages will help those individuals in many aspects of life, especially when looking for jobs. I do know that English is one of the hardest to learn as a second language. However, if we keep making exceptions for those who only speak their native tongue, how are we ever going to get them to not only succeed but excel in English?

  5. The World in Words website/ipods are awesome! The entire world, and particularly world language educators should make time to visit, listen, discover and learn on a regular basis. Mr. Cox, please keep up the great work!

  6. Amy Bonilla

    Being able to speak a second language is an advantage in this world, there are few places you can go where only one language is spoken. Look at the United sates for example, if you go to a crowded place such as the mall and you begin to walk silently and hear those around you, you will hear all kinds of different languages. And although these people are speaking languages you might not be able to recognize, they all have one thing in common, and that is that at some point in there lives they have had to learn the basics of the English language. There are people that complain or in some cases simply argue that its hard to teach students who enroll in schools and are not able to speak English. They argue that it takes up time and money to have to teach these students English and at the same time the material that needs to be learned in order to move up grade levels, what they don’t notice is that half of the kids they are trying to teach are kids already born here in the United states. They directly assume that because they speak a different language they come from a foreign country. The truth is that this country has become one of the most diverse areas in the world, someone from a different country can come here to the United States and find an area where they will feel at home. To me that is an advancement to this country. Not many countries have the opportunity to take in different ideas and cultures and advance all together as one. We should not let the fact that we speak different languages slow any body down. Nice podcast!

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