It’s Not Fair to the French-All Five of Them!

by multilingualmania on October 13, 2010

in Anti-Bilingualism, Bilingual Education, Bilingual Politics, Linguistic Discrimination

"So I says to him, 'THIS is how you do a karate chop'!"Today I was in a training at work with a psychologist who was talking about response to intervention with struggling students. I thought she was a really knowledgeable person and after the training I approached her to ask her some questions about statements that she had made about data analysis and I wanted to know if she could help me run a few tests on our data.

Our conversation somehow turned into a conversation about assessment and providing intervention services for struggling learners in dual language programs. She made a comment about the need to assess students in both languages on every single test that teachers administer.

I commented that in the lower grades, especially kindergarten and first grade, it would be sufficient to administer Spanish assessments in phonics, letter name and sound identification, and other early literacy skills in Spanish. It’s not necessary to double assess every single skill, especially with students who are making appropriate progress in mastering such skills in their primary language. As opposed to administering the exact same assessment in both languages, it would be a better use of resources to assess the students in Spanish in the early grades and provide an alternate assessment of English language development designed to measure student progress in acquiring proficiency in English.

The conversation suddenly veered off course when she “questioned” at what point students should immediately be exited from the program if they are struggling. I told her that parents have an option to have their children in the program, whether the child is successful or struggling, and that we have an obligation to provide additional intervention services for the student in whichever language the student is struggling, even if they are struggling in both languages.

Suddenly, she commented, “We’re not obligated to provide any type of bilingualism to any of the students. It isn’t recognized by the state or even the federal government”.

I mentioned that even though the state and federal governments might not bend over backwards to promote and legitimize bilingual education, nonetheless it is a legal right in the state of California and that we just so happened to work in a school district that has a resolution for bilingualism.

She then turned to me and said, “It’s not equitable. If you want to look at this from an equity perspective, it’s not fair to people who speak other languages, like French, who don’t have access to bilingual programs. It’s not fair. When you say that we are a bilingual district, you are just talking about Spanish“.

I mentioned that 96% of the second language learners in our school district were Spanish speaking students and the other languages in the district represented less than one percent per language. She continued on, “What about French? It’s not fair. I’m looking at this from an equity perspective”, she said.

I started to become frustrated and mentioned to her that I wasn’t exactly sure how we birdwalked into a conversation about the five French speakers in the district not having access to bilingual programs because all I wanted to talk about was the data. “Well, I’m just talking about equity. If we are going to give bilingual education to one group of students, to be equitable then we should give it to all language learners”.

For a brief moment I tried to explain to her that although I would love to have Dual Immersion programs that teach French, Romanian, Russian, and other languages, but it it is just not feasible to have a bilingual program in those languages when there are less than five students in the entire district who speak the languages. Eventually I got a little snotty and said, “I’d be happy to have a bilingual program for the seven students who speak Romanian. However, maybe you should help us write a grant in order to get a teacher for the seven students who will have to teach a multi-age kinder through twelfth grade classroom since the seven Romanian speakers are scattered in different grade levels”.

I finally gave up trying to explain, because I eventually concluded that no logical explanation would make it clear to her what was blatantly obvious because her argument was secretly more of an anti-bilingual education argument under the disguise of equity.

The premise of her illogical argument is really this: Even though 96% of the student population speaks Spanish and over 5, 000 Spanish speaking students are requesting placement in a Spanish-English bilingual program, there are still five French speakers out there who are denied access to instruction in their primary language. And because those five French speakers are denied access to primary language instruction, by default so should everyone else.

That’s ridiculous, illogical and I’m sure that many of us know that this has nothing to do with bilingual education for French speaking students. It’s nothing but a thinly disguised attempt to be anti-bilingual in a passive aggressive way.

Do you think that she would have also been so concerned about equity if the demographics were reversed, and the French speaking students constituted a majority and were receiving bilingual education services? In this type of instance, would she be so adamant about equity if the five Spanish speakers didn’t have access to instruction in Spanish? Probably not.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Chloe May 16, 2011 at 5:55 pm

I am born French and I am American since 2009. I feel rejected, hated by my new country. Nobody wants to speak, or try to communicate with me. All what I get from my car manufacturer to the school district of my son is it’s documents in English and Spanish. What is the hate of the actual America against all the other languages? We are new Amricans and migrants from Japan, China, Germany, Italia… and all we get thrown at our face is language that ise not our mother tongue. Why is it okay to pay taxes to accomodate the people from South America and all the others we get nothing. Why don’t we publish at least in the language of the autochthonous living in the actual United States? That will make more sense to me, than that perpetual discrimiantion of all the languages except the Spanish that is not the main language of the US.
To tell you the truth, I am getting very frustrated with my new country. Super un-welcome. Rejected, not worth to even be an equal customer.
To conclued, our adopted son who speaks Liberian English was taught in our American School..American English with explanations and support given in Spanish. Our personal home language is English and French language as the mother tongue of the parents! And we paid for with our state taxes for public schooling. Why should I pay federal/state taxes to have thing printed in spanish when we don’t speak the language and it’s not even the official language of the government/state? Be fair to everyone or keep it in the official US language. At least in Europe when you go out you find that almost everywhere thing can be found in several european languages.
We need to get this antisemitism like behavior stopped.

multilingualmania May 16, 2011 at 6:25 pm

I’m not familiar with all of the laws in each state, but at least in California I am aware that in school districts that there is a regulation that if 15% or more of the student population in a certain school or district speaks another language that formal documents must be translated into that language or languages. Of course it’s not fair to the less than 15% of people who might speak additional languages. I think that the idea that Europe is all inclusive of multilingualism is not necessarily true–of course multilingualism is embraced but there is always going to be smaller populations of people who are excluded from having materials in their primary language. I’m sorry that you feel excluded and rejected; it’s more of an issue that there are more Spanish speakers in certain areas, because in other areas other languages might be more common and will be translated. I can bet that in an area with many French immigrants that there would be french translations, just like the local school down the street sends home everything in English and Vietnamese as opposed to Spanish. Multilingualism is a beautiful thing, and tons of people would love to be exposed to french.

Claudia S. May 16, 2011 at 7:13 pm

I completely agree with you. In a perfect world all children would have access to program in various languages. I attribute the majority of programs in Spanish to demographics, such as you have (supply and demand). There is a huge need and therefore it must be addressed. I, myself, have nothing against the French language. Actually, I have studied French since middle school and consider it my third language. I would like nothing more than to be a French teacher instead of a Spanish teacher but the opportunities are simply not there. That is understandable, Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world. What a terrible argument she provided though. Since we cannot provide everyone the opportunities then nobody should. That is completely idiotic. If everyone else is feeling left out, then they should work to change the system in their community.

Sarah May 16, 2011 at 7:24 pm

I don’t agree with you Chloe. If you go to Miami, most of the things are translated either to Spanish or Portuguese; if you go to New Orleans I bet there are more billboards and restaurants with french names than with spanish names. It all depends on where we live and the demand for a certain language. It just doesn’t make sense to print out and translate everything for less than one percent of the population. I’m not sure where you live in the US but there are probably more hispanics in the area and since the demand is bigger, so is the supply. It’s not that they prefer people who speak spanish, but they might have a specific budget to use for bilingual programs, and they have to cover the biggest demand.

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