Expanding the linguistic repertoire
Norwood, Rachel June
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This research examines the context of third language learning by Spanish-English bilinguals in a U.S. high school. I entered this study with a perspective viewing language acquisition and use as interrelated with ideologies, power and discourses (see Bourdieu, 1991, Fairclough, 1989, Silverstein, 1996, Foucault, 1969/1972). Using ethnographic methods, I was a participant observer in two French I classes that had high numbers of students learning French as a third language. Focusing on the Spanish-speakers in the classes, I conducted interviews with them and took field notes in order to explore how available their additional language competence was to them in French class and in the general context of the school. I also spoke to teachers and administrators and researched local media in the form of newspapers and websites in order to find out how potential multilinguals were viewed at the state and local levels. I found in some ways that there was a disconnect in the way that a school viewed itself as international and global on the one hand and how the school actually treated immigrant students from other places on the globe. Students still in English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes were still seen as remedial and teachers were sometimes surprised to find out that they were in a French class. The focal students, however, were able to resist this remedial labeling and to both see their additional languages as a resource in learning French, and express a desire to keep speaking Spanish and French beyond high school. Students in both of the classes were also able to illustrate the non-deterministic nature of language ideologies by playing with language and resisting school monolingualism in spite of the subtle and not-so-subtle Englishonly atmosphere at the state and local levels of the school administration.