Raciolinguistic Bilingualism or Normative Monolinguality?

By: Mary Carol Combs  

This study surfaces a paradox in language and education policies in the U.S. border state of Arizona. Migrant and refugee K-12 students resettled in the state speak languages the U.S. State Department considers “critical” (less commonly taught, but valuable for international business, journalism, diplomacy, and military intelligence). Four of these languages are present in contemporary school classrooms in Arizona – Arabic, Chinese, Farsi, and Somali. State schools also serve large numbers of Spanish-speaking students from Mexico and Central America, as well as Chinese, Vietnamese, and Iranian native speakers and heritage learners. Arizona education policy supports school immersion programs to promote critical languages, yet it also prohibits native speakers of these languages from enrolling. This prohibition is counterproductive given that migrant students are the very individuals whose proficiency in these languages would seem to predict the best chance for success in an immersion program. Arizona’s critical language policy is also discriminatory. It prioritizes the linguistic training of affluent, mostly white, native English speakers, who are invited to appropriate the first languages of migrant students, while at the same time, forcing migrant students into segregated English only, grammar-based classrooms if they are learning English as a second language. In effect, Arizona policy positions non-native speakers of critical languages as authoritative and native speakers of the same languages as inconsequential, even invisible. This research explores this paradox and analyzes how Arizona’s critical language policy contradicts conventional notions of linguistic and cultural capital as the expertise of a particular group.

Language Diversity, Language Policy, Critical Languages, Linguistic Appropriation, ESL
Education and Learning in a World of Difference
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Mary Carol Combs

Professor, Teaching, Learning and Sociocultural Studies, University of Arizona, United States
United States