ELL – School-Based Support for Bi-Cultural Development

CONTACT _Con-3432156F1 \c \s \l JR


The University of Phoenix

Due 7/29/13

School-Based Support for Bi-Cultural Development

A school, given that its students spend more of their waking hours at the school than at home, has a unique opportunity to help to foster an ELL student’s bi-cultural (and linguistic) development while providing educational content.

However, before addressing how a bilingual learner’s cultural identity develops, one must first address what comprises culture. Herrada (2008) puts forth the ideas the recognition that diversity is dependent upon culture:

“Tengamos en cuenta que la cultura y los procesos por los que la construimos son fundamentales en el reconocimiento de la diversidad y, por ende, de la forma en la que nos identificamos e identificamos a los demás”

Herrada (2008) gave a definition of culture in his qualitative study on Cultural perceptions in an increasingly multi-cultural Spain, and how to assign people in a language group to a culture. He provides competing examples:

“La cultura es una sustancia que se define por sus múltiples manifestaciones.  De este modo, la cultura se hace visible en forma de conductas y objetos, ya se trate de la manera de saludar, las costumbres en la mesa o el código civil. Todas estas manifestaciones tienen la particularidad de ser compartidas por un grupo de personas y por tener gran capacidad para transformarse.”

However Herrada notes an example from Andalucia where by an assignment was given to write about the culture of Andalucia, but realized that not all members of the language group displayed the same ‘conducts’ as defined above.  Clearly, in terms of defining culture in our classrooms, we need to pay special attention to not over generalizing all known aspects of a culture to an individual group member – an individual may not identify with some or many aspects of their heritage culture.

Baker (2006) uses the term Bicultural competence to relate to the knowledge of language cultures, feelings and attitudes towards the different cultures , behaving in appropriate ways, awareness and empathy and having confident to act in accordance their biculturalism.  As two groups of monolingual students who acquired a culture from vastly distinct sources meet, it is important that elements of bicultural competence be specifically taught to allow for ease in transition and to allow a second culture to develop in the newly arrived student.

Language of course is an essential component to bi-cultural competence.  A child’s willingness to continue to speak the heritage language may have a significant effect on cultural identification.  Many students realize early that their home language is not the prestige language.  As culture is of course transmitted to a significant degree through language, important elements of the culture may be lost if the student does not chose to speak the home language

Tse (2001) describes a situation of an adolescent bilingual speaker who is not actively engaging in language maintanance.  Tse uses the term ‘group membership’ as an individual belonging to a certain culture, and notes that increased language ability allows for more access to the cultural group, thereby maintaining cultural identity.  This shows that language is both a vehicle and access code to culture.  She notes:

“…in terms of our heritage language students, it is not essential that they identify with native-speaker peers in other countries where the language is spoken.  As long as they are able to feel allegiance with a group that deems the language important – such as bilingual and bi-literate students in their school – then the positive effects are similar.”

The same result may be found when families do not raise their children in the home language.  However many Latinos whose parents did not speak to them in Spanish growing up go on later to study Spanish to re-establish their connection with their language group,  and thereby attempt to reconnect with their culture.

It is clear based upon Tse that the fostering of language groups is critical for the success of a heritage language program whose aim is to promote language and cultural maintainance.  To accomplish this,  Tse recommends the following:

accept non-standard forms of the heritage language

provide considerable exposure to the heritage language

give official status of the language at the school – incorporating it into the regular-day curriculum.

cultivate interest in the heritage language among all students at the school.

However, while languages may be readily accepted and valued by a school, there are some cultural values that these students bring that are simply not valued by a school, and cultural clashes may occur within the educational setting.

Latin American and Middle Eastern cultures tend to prefer close personal contact and therefore closer interpersonal distance. It is common to see female friends holding hands in L.A. cultures while walking and so see male friends embrace for extended periods of time.  This may be uncomfortable for other students belonging to the dominant American culture, who tend to use touch less as a rule and, in more conservative areas, may be misinterpreted as deviant or inappropriate behavior.

In addition to touch, Latin American cultures are differentiated from the general American culture in that they are high-context cultures.  These cultures tend to use high-context messages, in which much of the meaning is either implied by the situation, or is presumed to be part of the other individual’s beliefs, values and norms.  For example, a friend who has been invited to a party who knows in advance that she or he cannot attend would not say no to the invitation.  Instead, they would simply not show up, with the implicit message that the friend could not attend.  If a student from the general American culture invites a Latino classmate to a party, and the friends declines in this manner, this refusal could be considered very rude and may damage their future relationship.  The General American culture transmits Ideas and feelings that are clearly expressed in such a way that misunderstandings are impossible.  A polite refusal to an invitation is considered the most polite manner.  Uniformed classroom peers that do not belong to these home cultural groups may find this method of communication to be off-putting and perhaps disrespectful.

Tardiness for Americans is generally unacceptable and frowned upon. This culture views tardiness as a signal of aggression and a relaxed attitude toward responsibility.  However in Latin America one is expected to arrive late for an appointment, and it is considered rude if one arrives early or punctually.  However if absolute punctuality is required, ‘hora inglesa’ is specified ahead of time.  This is due in part to American societies operating on linear time, whose focus is on factual and technical information needed to comply with demands.  Latin American cultures view time as based on universal understandings and personal systems.  Cultural clashes between students and teachers may be less pronounced for an individual student in that, at least in many Latin-American cultures, punctuality to school is required.  However teachers may find a parent’s tardiness to a meeting to be disrespectful.

Teachers can assist with personal adjustment process by letting students know that the ways of the home culture are accepted and valued while competence in American ways of behaving and speaking are promoted as the student works towards bi-cultural competence.

However some of this adjustment involves cultural clashes occur between students and their families, lying outside of the control of the teacher.  This is likely to cause stress for a student, and this stress can therefore affect their school performance.  These conflict usually revolve around areas of friendships with those of the opposite sex and/or of different backgrounds, courtship, demands for freedom and higher expectations for academic performance.  Teachers may not have the training or resources to properly counsel their students and their respective families who are actively engaging in culture clashes.  Schools should compile a list of resources, such as Family Resource Centers, to which families and students can be directed to help them work toward resolving these intrafamilar challenges.

Clearly the development of bicultural competence within the general US culture is at best complex for a monolingual student from another culture. For the school to foster the development of the cultural identity of a students, it is important for the school to consider many factors.  Cultural attributes are not fixed objects to which all members of the group are fixed.  Sensitivity should be expressed prior to making generalizations.  Students should be encouraged to socialize with members of the same language groups as well as with those of different language groups. Aspects of heritage language should be used in positions of power within the curriculum.  All students should be encouraged to use heritage languages and members of languages groups should be encourages to accept new members of the group, or accepting of non-native speakers of the group wishing entry.  Lastly, students should be encouraged to express themselves in non-standard varieties of the home language and culture, with the understanding that aspects of the home culture may not be acceptable in every situation. School staff and students should be made aware of cultural differences that may clash with her or his own and interpret the behaviors of those of a different culture with caution; behaviors that may seem ‘odd’ may be in fact quite normal in a different context.

Herrada-Valverde, R. I. (2008). EL CONCEPTO DE CULTURA ENTRE LOS FUTUROS. Revista ELectrónica de Investigación. Retrieved from http://www.uv.es/RELIEVE

NovelGuide. (2012). Interpersonal Communication in an Intercultural Setting. Retrieved from  HYPERLINK “http://www.novelguide.com/ReportEssay/science/social-science/interpersonal-communication-intercultural-setting” http://www.novelguide.com/ReportEssay/science/social-science/interpersonal-communication-intercultural-setting

Direnfeld, G. (n.d.). Issues for Immigrant Parents and Their Children. Retrieved from  HYPERLINK “http://www.yoursocialworker.com” http://www.yoursocialworker.com

Baker, C. (2006).  Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism (4th ed.). Tonawanda, NY: Multilingual Matters.

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