Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Latinx Children's Push and Pull of Spanish Literacy and Translanguaging

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Latinx Children's Push and Pull of Spanish Literacy and Translanguaging

Article excerpt


Some believe learning English guarantees one's U.S. academic success, but such a belief ignores other factors, e.g., official language and education policies and socio-political contexts (García & Kleifgen, 2010). Therefore, we situate our study of Latinx children's language experiences and beliefs amidst multi-factor U.S. oppression, such as linguicism, racism, and xenophobia (Anzaldúa, 1990) and governmental policies (Smith & Murillo, 2012). This hegemony relates to monoglossia or positioning one language as the language of power (García & Kleifgen).

Although our study took place in the U.S., many non-dominant languages face marginalization worldwide in high-powered spheres, or official contexts, such as schools and governments, which tend to favor dominant groups (Fishman, 2001; Young, 2009). Low-power spheres are more intimate among family members and occur in homes (Fishman; Young). Because of normalizing influences in society, subaltern groups tend to speak languages and dialects perceived as less prestigious than the languages of dominant groups (García, 2014). For example, some characterize U.S. Spanish as a language of poor recent immigrants and translanguaging (hybrid language practices) as unsophisticated linguistically (Anzaldúa, 2007). Others minoritize Spanish by equating language with ethnicity and dichotomizing Spanish and English (Flores & Rosa, 2015; García & Mason, 2009). These notions have enabled banning Spanish literacy in many U.S./Mexico border schools (Anzaldúa; Smith & Murillo, 2012).

These "raciolinguistic ideologies" (Flores & Rosa, 2015) influence policies and practices, e.g., transitional bilingual education, a subtractive model that moves pupils into English-only quickly (Hinton, 2015). Subtractive models of bilingual education prioritize learning the target language in school; subsequently, language-minoritized children learn to read and write in the dominant language at the expense of developing native language literacy (Flores & Rosa). Thus, the mother tongue is subtracted and replaced by the dominant language. Hinton found that schools in our region, serving mostly Latinx students like ours, tended to focus on English because of accountability pressures educators faced through the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), now the Every Child Succeeds Act (ESSA) (U.S. Department of Education, 2002).

Part of NCLB, high-stakes standardized tests are mandatory, normed, and administered to public school children at pre-determined points in primary through secondary grades. Test results determine governmental funding and sanctions for school districts, school closures, staff career advancement, and educator bonuses (Nichols & Berliner, 2007). See also Hinton (2016) and Menken (2016) regarding implications of high-stakes testing on language teaching at the national level in the United States. Other implications of these tests relate to decisions regarding children who cannot advance to higher grade levels and graduate high school unless they pass certain standardized exams. These tests are available only in English after fifth grade in Texas (Nichols & Berliner; Texas Education Agency, 2015; U.S. Department of Education, 2002).

Furthermore, standardized, high-stakes assessments in English influence literacy and language curricula and pedagogy (Menken, 2006; Nichols & Berliner, 2007; Palmer & Lynch, 2008) and relate to the educational attainment of language-minoritized youth (Gándara & Contreras, 2009). In primary and secondary schools serving mostly low-income emergent bilinguals, teachers tend to prepare youth for these tests through English-only, discrete skill or phonics practice devoid of higher-order analysis, evaluation, and synthesis (Bussert-Webb, 1999, 2008; Poza, 2016). School gentrification still occurs in the U.S., with campuses serving predominantly rich or predominantly poor students; even within a campus, administrators tend to place low-income Latinx students in lower academic tracks that fail to prepare them adequately for college (Gándara & Contreras). …

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