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Developing Educator Expertise to Work with Adolescent English Learners

Module 4 – Multilingualism in the United States and Around the World: Current Issues and Tensions: A Focus on the Conversation with
Ofelia García

By Haiwen Chu

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



As the world becomes increasingly interconnected and collaboration increases across countries and cultures, communication is more important than ever. To participate in a rapidly evolving global society, multilingualism is more and more expected and necessary. Yet, the United States has not invested to ensure that all its residents are multilingual, intercultural, and multiliterate. According to the latest Census data, more than two out of ten individuals (22%) in the United States speak a language other than English at home, a percentage that has more than doubled in the four decades since 1980 (United States Census Bureau, 2019). This percentage primarily reflects the use of language in the home, and thus likely understates the full language capabilities of U.S. residents, some of whom may speak world languages without using them at home.


Despite this broad linguistic diversity, three in ten Americans reported they would be uncomfortable to hear a conversation in a language other than English in public (Horowitz, 2019). Multilingualism remains unevenly distributed across the United States. Language education policy has long been determined by broader social and political forces, which have often served to promote English at the expense of other languages (e.g., Blanton, 2004; Kloss, 1988).


In this module, you will explore some of the broader societal attitudes and policies toward bilingualism, the concept of translanguaging in the everyday practice of bilingual individuals, and potential uses of translanguaging within classroom learning that can expand learner autonomy.


This module is centered on the ideas discussed during Aída Walqui’s July 16, 2020, conversation with Ofelia García. The conversation focused on multilingualism and its implications for the design and enactment of quality instruction for students who are designated as English Learners that enables them to realize their full potential to become multilingual, multiliterate individuals.


Specifically, by completing the activities in this module, participants will:

  1. Unpack some of the history and current social context of multilingualism/bilingualism in the United States.

  2. Understand some of the theoretical assumptions that undergird visions of bilingualism.

  3. Explore the potential of translanguaging in instruction to expand learner autonomy.

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