The Momentum of Dual Language Schooling

A Word with the Abriendo Brecha Lead Editor

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The dual language field has exceeded expectations for all the work it has accomplished up to this point in time. As dual language programs continue to expand and develop across the country it has become far more important to ensure that the programs are continuously improving upon the foundations they have already built.

Despite the numerous benefits that dual language, newcomer, and ELL programs have there is still a great deal of room for growth and improvement as the first wave of mass adoption of these programs subsides in favor of a second wave of expansion and development within the programs themselves. In the book, ‘Abriendo Brecha’, (edited by Michael Guerrero, Maria Consuelo Guerrero, Lucinda Soltero-Gonzalez, and Kathy Escamilla), the editors invited about twenty other writers to help explore and examine the key issues both promulgating the success of dual language programs and those restraints hindering their improvement that still need to be addressed if education offered to young American students is to reach its full potential.

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The writers collectively resemble a motely crew of diverse backgrounds, perspective and opinions, allowing Dr. Guerrero to accomplish his goal of having every reasonable opinion heard and acknowledged. The writers individually were all carefully selected with the factors of expertise and insight considered.

Part of the mission behind the book was to celebrate the success of two-way and one-way dual immersion programs, specifically for the Latino community. There was additionally, however, the added desire to bring in a critical perspective. This critical perspective would allow them to analyze what has been accomplished up to this point, while accounting for the fact that their work and the work of the programs has yet to be completed. Another mission of the book was to help give some perspective, linguistic insight and direction that many dual language programs could stand to benefit from. The book is written in its entirety in Spanish, making it the first dual language book written originally in the language, as previously all other books of this kind had been written in other languages before being translated. The writers of the book wanted to inspire other authors and teams of authors to come together and write works originally in Spanish as a result of the often-unfulfilled need that lies there.

Continue reading to find out more about Abriendo Brecha…

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In the grand scheme of things, this book works to bring a critical subject to light, as we have yet to experience the full promise and potential of dual language education and are unlikely to experience such an occurrence unless we take an extensive and critical look. Guerrero claims there is a linguistic void that has been glossed over. Most bilingual education teachers are prepared using a mostly English approach.

Guerrero, who we spoke to for this article, was inspired to conceptualize and edit the book after he personally struggled to improve his own academic Spanish and his ability to use Spanish in an academic context. Moreover, he maintains that teaching bilingual education courses using primarily English based texts undermines the preparation of prospective bilingual education teachers. He also believes that after reading more books in Spanish, writing in Spanish, and not only teaching in Spanish, he has turned into a better professor and in turn has helped his student’s ability to learn.

‘Abriendo Brecha’ is essentially intended to assist teachers in overcoming the challenges they face when teaching dual languages. When teachers come upon this book they should not see it as a criticism of their work and efforts within dual language programs, but rather realize they are doing many things correctly and this work only wishes to further aid them in their work and their programs development. The work these teachers do is often complicated and complex. As a result, teachers should realize there is still room for improvement. They need more access to written text so they can enhance their own Spanish abilities and overcome linguistic challenges. Guerrero believes that teachers should read dual language preparation books in Spanish, however there is a huge shortage of those type of books. Therefore, teachers are often left helpless in their attempts to improve their Spanish literacy abilities.

He also believes in the power of bringing cultures together primarily in the hope that all groups within a community will learn to appreciate each other and continue to do so as new generations carry the principles of collaboration and mutual respect forward.

Continue reading to find out more about Abriendo Brecha…

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Guerrero is passionate about having more books written in Spanish because he believes we need more cognitive interaction with the Spanish language. Currently, it is for the most part missing. We need that mental task of wrestling with the language so we can benefit from it and become a better reader and writer of foreign languages because of it.

A very interesting point that Guerrero brought up during our interview was the point about the ivory tower. He claims that if we really want to get serious about dual language education, we need to create another tower, so to speak, to create an entirely new academic space where the Spanish language is actually used to prepare dual language teachers. Presently, too many colleges and universities teach bilingual education courses in English and require students to take Spanish courses designed for Spanish majors in foreign language departments.

The authors intended that the main takeaway of the book to be that bilingualism is a powerful combination between two languages rather than the learning of two entirely distinct elements. In order to further this objective, dual language teachers and students need greater access to academic text in Spanish. The promulgation of Spanish texts in the classroom will bring about drastic changes that render both those proponents and skeptics of dual language pleasantly surprised at the positive impacts it creates.

Guerrero urges professors and authors alike to write more books originally in Spanish as opposed to simply translating. Through doing this he believes we can help mitigate the English dominance in the dual language world. He firmly believes that nearly fifty years of preparing bilingual education teachers relying mostly on English based texts has undermined the potential of bilingual education. Further, he asks, if professors do not write Spanish based texts, then who will?

Angela Palmieri
Author: Angela Palmieri

Angela Palmieri is the founding teacher of a Spanish dual language immersion program in Glendale, California. She currently teaches sixth grade language immersion and has been an educator for eighteen years. She traveled to New Zealand on the Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching in 2016 to research and document the cultural practices taught in Maōri-medium schools. Angela holds a Master’s degree in Educational Administration from the Principal Leadership Institute at UCLA, a Master’s degree in Reading and Language Education, as well as a Bachelor’s degree in Urban Learning Education from CSULA. Ms. Palmieri is currently a doctoral student in the Educational Leadership Program at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Ms. Palmieri was born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela, to Italian immigrant parents, and speaks Spanish and Italian fluently. She is a social justice-driven advocate for bilingual and indigenous language education and is an avid traveler. Angela travelled to China and Mongolia on a Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad grant in June and July of 2018.

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