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Developing Educator Expertise to Work with Adolescent English Learners
Module 2 – The Language We Use to Talk about English Learners and Our Work: A Focus on the Conversation with Guadalupe Valdés

By Aída Walqui

OVERVIEW    |    INTRODUCTION    |    PART 1    |     PART 2    |    PART 3    |     PART 4    |    REFERENCES

Part 2: Exploring Ideas Presented by Guadalupe Valdés


The article you are about to read explains the author’s conceptualization of “circumstantial” and “elective” bilingualism, a conceptual difference that parallels Joshua Fishman’s proposal of “folk” and “elite” bilingualism. Fishman, known as “the father of sociolinguistics,” studied societal bilingualism and divided it into two large categories: folk and elite. Folk bilingualism is the bilingualism developed by minoritized individuals or groups. In this type of second language (L2) development, the students’ family language is not valued, and being able to use the L2 is not appreciated either. However, in elite bilingualism, when students learn a foreign language, prestige, rather than stigma, is associated with learning that L2. In elite bilingualism, students’ L1 — being the language of status — reinforces the asymmetry with respect to minoritized students.


The following chart, created by Aída Walqui almost two decades ago, delineates other dimensions of these two types of societal bilingualism (i.e., elite/elective bilingualism and folk/circumstantial bilingualism). Notice that while the cognitive effort of learning an additional language is very similar, the social process involved in developing them is different, as is the assignment of value or stigma to the process. If we construct these differentials, it is also in our power to transform them, and this constitutes an especially important role of teachers.

The construction of prestige and stigma in the development of L2s

Foreign lg.

  • Student does not need it to interact fully in country of residence

  • Standards for proficiency are quite tolerant

  • The L1 of the student is valued and unquestioned

  • The FL does not displace the L1


  • Leads to “elite” or “elective” bilingualism

Second lg.

  • The language is required for effective civil participation

  • Standards for proficiency are very demanding

  • Value of students’ L1 is not appreciated by many

  • Over time L1 is displaced by L2 with severe consequences

  • Leads to “folk” or “circumstantial” bilingualism (Fishman, Valdés)

Walqui, 2006

Before engaging in the remaining activities, participants should read the article, Analyzing the Curricularization of Language in Two-Way Immersion Education: Restating Two Cautionary Notes (Valdés, 2018).


This article was written in 2018 on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the passing of the Bilingual Education Act of 1968. In it, Valdés takes stock of half a century of two-way immersion education implementation and the concerns that still remain about the process of learning English for non-native speakers and two-way immersion program.


The remaining activities will guide you in exploring ideas about the unintended consequences triggered by the uncritical acceptance and implementation of programs that may look alluring on the surface but may actually further ostracize and harm English Learners.

Activity 2.1: Jigsaw reading of article on two-way immersion education

Participants will engage in: Individual reading, discussion in pairs, group note-taking

Duration: Approximately 20 minutes for the in-class portion of the activity (reading and note-taking occurs outside
of class)

Reading: Analyzing the Curricularization of Language in Two-Way Immersion Education: Restating Two Cautionary Notes (Valdés, 2018)


Participants sit in groups of 4. Before the activity, it is a good idea to invite participants to sit in new groups of four so that they have the opportunity to interact with different colleagues with different experiences and perspectives.


In their groups of four, participants are subdivided into two sets of two. The first set will be called Team A and the second set is Team B. All participants will read the article, but their focus and notes for discussing them will relate to a different question.


Ideally, participants are guided in their analysis by the criteria on the Compare/Contrast Matrix but they write their notes on a separate piece of paper. The chart will be used for recording the group consensus.


  • Part 1 of the jigsaw: Participants read the article on their own and take notes outside of class (the reading is done outside of the session in order to maximize collaborative time during the joint work).

  • Part 2 of the jigsaw: In pairs (Team A and Team B at each table), participants spend 8 minutes discussing their ideas about the article, reaching a consensus, and taking notes in the relevant spaces of their Compare/Contrast matrices. They agree who will share what part of the notes with the other team at their table.

  • Part 3 of the jigsaw: Around the table, participants in Team A share their previously agreed upon part of the notes while Team B listens and takes notes; then, Team B shares while Team A listens and takes notes.

Compare/Contrast Matrix

Team A

Dual Immersion Programs

Team B

Curricularization of Language

What assumptions guide the proposal for dual immersion programs or pedagogical actions that are based on the curricularization

of language?

Are these assumptions correct? What are some of the dangers in an uncritical application of the ideas proposed?

How may we critically and constructively recover the positive aspects of the proposal? What exactly would you need to be aware of and plan for to make it work?

Activity 2.2: Discussion of ideas from this Module

Participants will engage in: Small-group discussion

Duration: 15 minutes


This activity continues the jigsaw started in Activity 2.1.  


  • Part 4 of the jigsaw: After discussing and completing the compare/contrast matrix in Activity 2.1, Teams A and B at each table identify salient ideas in the article and the impact of those ideas on their practice.

    • Now that you have critically analyzed the language we use to talk about our students and our profession, the curricularization of language, and the dangers embedded in adopting programs that have not been critically explored, consider the following question: What will change as a result of you becoming aware of educational proposals that may have a negative impact on minoritized students if they go unanalyzed and unaddressed?


Activity 2.3: Acting on concrete situations

Participants will engage in: Writing a short essay (essay is written outside of class or as a quiz)

Related resource: Douglas Fir Group Framework


This activity focuses on the 10 fundamental themes presented in the Douglas Fir Group Framework (found on page 16 of Valdés’s article, Analyzing the Curricularization of Language…), which was a framework developed by a group of linguists that lays out the foundations for a new sociocultural and multidisciplinary understanding of language and language development.


  • Participants will begin by thinking about the following question on their own: Does the school you work in (or where you do your practice) act based on these themes?

  • Next, participants should write a brief essay about the following: Choose one theme from the 10 themes presented on the Douglas Fir Group Framework.

    • List the ways in which your school enacts the theme and may strengthen it.

    • Or, list the ways in which your school violates the theme, and how your school may redirect its actions to be in sync with the theme.

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