LINGUIST List 32.1371

Mon Apr 19 2021

Review: Anthropological Linguistics; Sociolinguistics: Ijalba, Velasco, Crowley (2019)

Editor for this issue: Jeremy Coburn <>

Date: 31-Aug-2020
From: Laura Dubcovsky <>
Subject: Language, Culture, and Education
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Book announced at

EDITOR: Elizabeth Ijalba
EDITOR: Patricia Velasco
EDITOR: Catherine J. Crowley
TITLE: Language, Culture, and Education
SUBTITLE: Challenges of Diversity in the United States
PUBLISHER: Cambridge University Press
YEAR: 2019

REVIEWER: Laura Dubcovsky, University of California, Davis


“Language, culture, and education. Challenges of Diversity in the United States” aims at contributing to policy reforms to better integrate children and families of minority groups living in New York. Divided into three major parts, the book focuses on policy and planning, households’ conditions and engagement, and issues of general health and some language disorders, respectively. Specialized authors inform on each field following different criteria of analysis but common ecological (Bronfenbrenner, 1986) and socio-cultural perspectives (Vygotsky, 1978). The interdisciplinary topics are relevant to a broad audience of bilingual teachers, immigrant parents, and health care providers of diverse and multi-ethnic communities.

Part I, “Immigration, bilingual education, policy and educational planning,” encompasses an overview of historical and legal landmarks in the advancement of bilingual education, as well as health and disabilities issues faced by minority language families. Elizabeth Ijalba and Patricia Velasco point out, “Political, social, and educational challenges in the struggle to develop bilingual education as a pedagogical model in the United States” in Chapter 1. They summarize bills, acts and court cases that have either protected or hindered the use of minority languages and characterize major modalities of bilingual programs, as they evolved throughout the years. Above all, the authors highlight how bilingual education is a pedagogical model in continuous change, in the light of socio-political and cultural events that impact the physical and mental well-being of minority students and their families.

Catherine Crowley and Miriam Baigorri address the problem of, “Distinguishing a true disability from “something else.” In the first part (Chapter 2) they highlight, “Current challenges to providing valid, reliable, and culturally and linguistically appropriate disability evaluations.” The authors explain how difficult it is to discern between students with language disorders and those with linguistic and academic gaps, usually given by a constellation of variants, from linguistic and cultural different backgrounds, to lack of shared home and school experiences with mainstream children, etc. Because the number of students categorized with different types of learning disabilities and/or language disorders varies widely within and between states, the authors raise questions about the validity and reliability of these diagnoses. Moreover, the disproportionate number of minority students being referred to special education, calls for further investigation on racial, ethnic, and linguistic biases shown in norm-referenced tests, outdated assessments and vocabulary and IQ tests, as well as in many teachers’ perceptions of the students who need referrals. Therefore, Crowley and Baigorri offer a solution in the second part, moving “Toward a model of culturally and linguistically appropriate speech-language disability evaluations.” Chapter 3 incorporates the voices of parents, students, and teachers, as they can help design more accurate and fair evaluations and shape the evaluator’s training. The authors encourage dynamic assessments, based on representative students’ portfolios, and careful selection of culturally sensitive texts and pedagogical material. Above all the evaluation model would reflect on what minority students are able to do, meeting the diverse population’s needs.

The second part of the book, “Bilingualism, literacy ecologies, and parental engagement among immigrant families'' displays a broad picture of households, including Latino, Chinese and Korean families, literacy episodes, from spontaneous conversations to more formal reading events, and children of varied ages and abilities. In Chapter 4, “Raising children bilingually: What parents and educators should know about bilingualism in children, Anny Castilla-Earls offers guidance on how to raise children in a house where more than one language is spoken. She explores possible combinations of language uses, following speakers who belong either to the majority or the minority linguistic group, or identify with both languages (De Houwer, 2007). The author uses her personal experience to share strategies that increase the amount of exposure, such as frequent readings, presence of books and comics, listening to songs and rhymes,watching selected TV and playing with computer games in the second language. Finally, the author offers typical instances of codeswitching and language transfer, drawing from her small children’s utterances, “¿Mami, me das un snack? Quiero cranberries y cashews” (“Mom, would you give me a snack? I want cranberries and cashews”), and “En papi carro” (“in father’s car”) instead of the well-formed Spanish construction “en el carro de papi,” respectively.

Chapter 5 “Language Acquisition in emergent bilingual triplets” by Rosemarie Sepulveda and Elizabeth Ijalba introduces multiple bilingual children, who are seldom treated in bilingual studies. From a sociolinguistic perspective that incorporates translanguaging (García, 2009) and funds of knowledge (Gonzales & Moll, 2002) as positive mechanisms to strengthen home language learning, the authors explore the influence of English and Spanish vocabulary and narrative skills in bilingual triplets, two of them diagnosed with specific language impairment. The study combines quantitative data, drawn from cognate frequency (vocabulary scores) and length, and different utterances (narrative scores), as shown in Tables 5.1 and 5.2 respectively, with qualitative data derived from ethnographic observations of the home, family dynamics, and specific parental roles. Above all the authors discuss the crucial role of home language and culture in the language development of emergent bilingual triplets.

The following chapters present immigrant families of different ethnicities, traditions, and modalities. Elizabeth Ijalba and Qi Li describe, “Multilingualism in Chinese families and raising their children bilingually: Fujianese immigrants.” Chapter 6 focuses on parents’ high expectations in education and the language development of children who are raised between the United States and China. The authors briefly contextualize the several waves of Fujianese immigration in America, as well as the broad range of languages and regional speeches in the Fujian province, most of these mutually unintelligible. The noticeable “reverse immigration” (Kwong et al., 2009) of children born in the United States and raised by their grandparents in China, brings about relevant consequences. Among them, the gradual loss of the first language, the shift into the generalized Mandarin language used in the Chinese province, and the later English acquisition calls for further investigation. These “transnational children” (Bohr, 2010) struggle with bonding to their parents, assimilating to a new country, and learning a new language, among other consequences. They show difficulties adjusting to the American school, including learning abilities and social behavior. Frequently they receive referrals to speech-language therapy, as they are assessed by their low levels of language proficiency. Teachers and health providers are not aware of the children’s language history, first language loss, and lack of practice. By the same token immigrant parents do not receive adequate tools to navigate the educational system and help their children. It is imperative that educational agents deepen the understanding of the transitional children to better meet their emotional, cultural, and linguistic needs and support their families.

Chapter 7 “Bilingualism in Korean-American children and maternal perceptions of education,” by Elizabeth Ijalba and Nakyung Yoo describes the early literacy practices that take place at home. Korean families share strong beliefs in assimilating to the American society and teaching English to their young children, as it is associated with the language of success. Mothers are the main responsible for early literacy at home, and use English as the language of instruction, despite the fact that they are not proficient in the second language. The authors describe the mother/child dyad and find that Korean mothers assume an authoritarian role in the interaction. For example, during a literacy event, the adult shows the picture book, points at the visuals, labels the objects and demands yes/no answers. She uses commands and direct type of instruction that focuses on basic facts. Likewise, mothers teach vocabulary by means of flashcards, exerting great pressure in learning by repetition and memorization. This parenting style implemented in a limited second language puts in risk children’s Korean language and accelerates its shift to English. Due to a lack of foundation in their first language, and insufficient practice in the second language, Korean children are often confused with language delayed students, and misplaced in special; education classes.

Patricia Velasco and Bobbie Kabuto describe a dynamic model of reading between a Mixteco father and his eight-year-old daughter. Chapter 8, “Transgenerational bilingual reading practices: A case study of an undocumented Mixteco family” shows positive results and bilingual reading growth in each member of the literacy dyad. At the micro level, adult and child raise their language awareness in two languages. For example, they contrast meaning and pronunciation between the English pronoun “me” and the Spanish possessive “mi”, and find similarities in the plural formation (with a final “-s”) for both languages, etc. At the macro level the participants collaborate in creating a common set of beliefs and practices of what is considered “good reading”, including comprehension and making sense of the entire text. Above all, the bilingual dyad uses a dynamic way for constructing meaning, benefitting from each other’s knowledge, and moving freely between the two languages. The authors suggest incorporating the effective practice in bilingual programs’ reading activities, departing from unidirectional models and exchange information, helping each other, and implementing translanguaging practices.

In Chapter 9, “Parent education in Latino families of children with language impairment,” Elizabeth Ijalba and Angela Giraldo compare pre- and post- interventions, of several language measures in intervention and waiting control groups (Table 9.1 p. 171). The authors find growth in Spanish and English vocabulary, including receptive and productive lexicon, number of words and expressions, and holistic comprehension, as well as in the number of children's books in the house and reading frequency (Table 9.2. p. 173). The authors describe the challenging social context of most immigrant families, especially when they have children who suffer some type of disability. They underline the already mentioned disproportionate rate of bilingual children who are referred to special education and emphasize the need for deepening the nature and scope of special education, as it encompasses a broad range of learning disabilities, and host professionals who are not always prepared to treat students from different cultures and do not speak their language. Moreover, there are fewer bilingual-related services for children with language impairment. Ijalba and Giraldo also examine the rapid loss of immigrant children’s first language, under the pressure of school specialists who suggest parents’ using the language of schooling. Parents feel the need to shift into the majority language in the home environment. However, studies show offering early literacy events in children’s first language at home is beneficial because parents can teach literacy skills, support expressive vocabulary, and expand the interaction. This foundation in the first language home practices favor later access and development in the second language of schooling, especially for bilingual children with difficulty in language acquisition.

The third part of the book addresses “Cultural perceptions about disability, the home language and healthcare alternatives among immigrants,” following ecological and interactionist perspectives, which oppose to static models currently used by doctors and health providers who tend to categorize issues of health and disabilities in dichotomic manner (Turnbull et al., 2014). The first two chapters focus on perceptions and early interventions among Latino families. While Ijalba describes, “Perceptions about autism in Hispanics immigrant mothers of preschool children with autism spectrum disorders”(Chapter 10), Victoria Puig claims , “How early childhood interventions endanger the home language and home culture: A call to value the role of families” (Chapter 11). Ijalba explores Latino mothers’ feelings of fear and shame for their children with some type of language disorder or learning disability, as well as an overall lack of knowledge about autism. This disinformation, added to cultural beliefs and preconceptions, leads mothers to associate children’s autism spectrum disorder to maturity deficiencies, laziness and even to spiritual/fate reasons (“It’s God’s will”), etc. In Puig’s study, better knowledgeable doctors and health providers also operate under a set of misconceptions regarding migrant children’s language disorders, discouraging the use of the first language in their households and not providing parents with the necessary information about autism disorders.

Both chapters document parents’ feeling of guilt for communicating with their children in the first language and showing limited command of the second language. The negative perception is reinforced by teachers and speech professionals who privilege the use of English, overlooking dramatic reductions or absence of communicative interactions in the first language between mother and child. Detrimental effects for not promoting the mother tongue generates a “negative social spiral,” causing more harm than good (Rice, 1993). Finally, Ijalba and Puig offer similar suggestions to speech language professionals and parents. First, they advocate a cultural and linguistic preparation for educational and health agents to better meet immigrant children’s social, emotional, cognitive, and linguistic needs. Professionals also need to deepen on multicultural issues to conduct more meaningful interventions. Above all, gaining awareness of bilingualism will enable health providers to encourage the use of the first language in the household in richer interactions that may lead to a stronger foundation of the second language. Knowledge of language structures and respect toward minority families will also benefit the communication with parents, offering them information about the nature and characteristics of autism spectrum disorders and collaborating with them.

Reem Khamis-Dakwar offers, “A critical review of cultural and linguistic guidelines in serving Arab-Americans,” in Chapter 12. Less known than other immigrant groups, the Arab people arrived in the United states in three main waves from 1885 to the present, from many of the twenty-two Arab countries, representing varied types of population, religion, and economic resources. The author focuses on linguistic phenomena of Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), the presence of diglossia among Arabic speaking communities (Fergusson, 1959), and the competence of Arabic by heritage speakers in America, with frequent code -switching (Rouchdy, 2002). The chapter also offers a brief contrastive analysis between English and Arabic, which helps overview benefits and challenges of Arab immigrants who are learning English. For example, Arabic alphabet inventories are larger in size, as they have more vowels and consonants than the English language. At the morphological level Arabic presents a more complex inflection system, with singular, plural, and dual, in contrast to the singular/plural number system in English. Moreover, Arabic syntax allows dropping the pronominal subject, while in English the pronoun needs to be explicit in the sentence, while the English word order of adjective before the described noun (e.g. “the red book”), is reversed in Arabic, with nouns before the descriptive adjective (e.g. “the book-- the red”). Finally, the author suggests teachers and health providers deepening the knowledge of current Arab-American students, to better serve distinctive culturally and linguistic groups and overcome biases and preconceptions.

Chapter 13, “Building home-school connections within a multicultural education framework: Challenges and opportunities before and after President Trump’s election” by Patricia Velasco, describes a course on multiculturalism in a teaching preparation program that aims at raising cultural and linguistic awareness. The author and professor of the course compares pre-service teachers’ attitudes toward multicultural students, under socio-political changes. After tracing the trajectory of multicultural education in the United States, Velasco claims that a new course on already known topics of diversity demands departing from shallow and oversimplified lessons on ethnic foods, typical holidays and celebrations, symbols in flags, and historical role models, On the contrary, the current design activates teachers ’self- reflection on issues of identity, perceptions, and attitudes. Experienced and novice teachers should respond to the needs of this time and era when immigrant families seem more vulnerable than before. The author explains how her course implements new ways of communicating and reaching out to immigrant parents under current circumstances. Among the examples, a bilingual fourth grade teacher changes email communications on school activities for voice messages, as not all the Latino parents have computers at home; a third grade bilingual teacher engages parents as co-contributors of a social study unit about different communities by requesting material (maps, pictures, household objects) to be shared in the classroom; and a fifth grade teacher involves English learners’ parents beyond the classroom, by assigning homework activities that demand the joint effort of parents and children at home.

Esperanza Tuñón Pablos resumes the health issue, focusing on the Latino population. Chapter 14 discusses, “Health and alternatives to healthcare for Mexican immigrants in New York.” After clarifying that the Mexican population in New York is heterogeneous, as shown in the demographic profile of Table 14.1 (p. 245), the author describes most common challenges this community faces to access the health system and the health insurance coverage. For example, unhealthy diet habits based on high caloric and low- cost products and lack of exercise bring negative effects, such as overweight and diabetes. While many agricultural workers suffer eczema, otitis, and allergies, Mexican immigrant women show signs of depression and domestic violence, and their children suffer from anemia, diarrhea, and colitis in high numbers. In the school setting, children from Mexican families are frequently diagnosed with learning disabilities and/or language disorders, sometimes swaying between misdiagnoses and over-referrals, based on confounding socio-economic, learning, and language variables. The constellation of physical and mental conditions to access medical insurances and social health program is complicated and varies in different states and throughout historical periods. Among the alternatives, some immigrants look for self-medication, incorporating natural herbs and homemade remedies, while others prefer telephone consultation with family members, and others pay private services. Many travel to their hometowns in special “medical tourism” trips, as they believe Mexican doctors are highly qualified while the health services in Mexico are cheaper (Nigenda et al, 2009).


“Language, culture, and education. Challenges of Diversity in the United States” examines educational and health conditions of major ethno-linguistic groups living in New York. Experts in the field analyze home literacy events, cases of learning and language disabilities, generalized attitudes toward immigrant families, and varied experiences across home, school, and health settings. The fourteen chapters include a broad range of ages, countries of origin, languages, and circumstances, contributing with new data. Moreover, authors bring the voices of old and young immigrants, and professionals of health and education that renew the discussion in current socio-political situation of tension and hostility toward migrant movements. From different theoretical perspectives, and taking up objective or subjective positions, most authors agree in a common view that converges in inequalities experienced by bilingual minority children. As shown in many chapters, these children are often misdiagnosed and/or over-referred to special education, as teachers and health providers are still confounding linguistic, cognitive, and cultural variables. Furthermore, each study combines theoretical foundation with practical guidelines and suggestions for parents, teachers, and speech therapists. Some chapters are particularly relevant because of novelty or less explored topics in the literature, such as the case of triplets (Chapter 5), the description of reverse migration (Chapter 6), and the literate dyad in Mixteco Language (Chapter 8).

Weaker aspects are related to formalities. For example, the book’s categorical division into three parts, shows that topics intertwine within Chapters and between categories. For example, Chapters 2-3 in Part I, and Chapters 5 and 9 in Part II could be easily included in Part 3 as they discuss health related issues. On the other hand, Chapters 12 and 13 in Part III could be integrated to the second section as they also elaborate on parental involvement). Finally, it is recommended that each study offer the cited references at the end of each Chapter, not only to facilitate the specific reading, but also to ensure the exact citation, as sometimes some authors are missed, or dates of publication do not match. Despite the minor formal adjustments, the book encompasses rich analyses and strong conclusions to be used by research specialists, parents, and practitioners in multicultural communities.


Bohr, Y. (2010). Transnational infancy: A new context for attachment and the need for better models. Child Development Perspectives, 4(3), 189-196.

Bronfenbrenner, U. (1986). Ecology of the family as a context for human development: Research perspectives. Developmental Psychology, 22(6), 723-842.

De Houwer, A. (2007). Parental language input patterns and children’s' bilingual use. Applied Psycholinguistics, 28(3), 411-424.

Ferguson, C. (1959). Diglossia. Word, 15, 325-340.

García, O. (2009). Bilingual education in the 21st Century. A global perspective. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell

González, N., & Moll, L. (2002). Cruzando el puente: Building bridges to funds of knowledge. Educational Policy, 16, 623-641.

Kwong, K., Chung, H., Sun, L., Chou, J., & Taylor-Shih, A. (2009). Factors associated with reverse-migration separation among a cohort of low-income Chinese immigrant families in New York City. Social Work in Health Care, 48(3), 348-359.

Nigenda, G., Ruiz-Larios, J., Bejarano-Arias, R., Alcalde-Rabanal, J., & Bonilla- Fernandez, P. (2009). Análisis de las alternativas de los migrantes mexicanos en Estados Unidos de América para atender sus problemas de salud. Salud Pública de México, 51, 407-416.

Rice, M. (1993). Don't talk to him. He's weird. A social consequences account of language and social interactions. In A. Kaiser & D. Gray (Eds.), Enhancing children’s communication: Research foundations for interventions (pp. 139-158). Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes

Rouchdy, A. (2002). Language conflict and identity: Arabic in the American diaspora. In A. Rouchdy (Ed.), Language contact and Language conflict in Arabic: Variations on a sociolinguistic theme (pp. 133-148). New York: Routledge Curzon.

Turnbull, A., Turnbull, H., Erwin, E., Soodak, L., & Shogren, K. (2014). Families, professionals, and exceptionality: Positive outcomes through partnership and trust. Columbus: Pearson/Merrill.

Vygotsky, L. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher mental processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.


Laura Dubcovsky is a retired lecturer and supervisor from the Teacher Education Program in the School of Education at the University of California, Davis. With a Master’s in Education and a Ph. D in Spanish linguistics/with special emphasis on second language acquisition, her interests tap topics of language and bilingual education. She has taught a pre-service bilingual teachers’ course that addresses communicative and academic traits of Spanish, needed in a bilingual classroom for more than ten years. She is currently helping in- service bilingual teachers for professional development and in parent/teachers’ conferences. She also volunteers as translator at Davis Joint Unified School district, the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, YoloArts, Davis Art Center, and STEAC, in Davis, California. She is a long-standing reviewer for the Linguistic listServe, the Southern California Professional Development Schools and the Journal of Latinos and Education. She published “Functions of the verb decir (‘to say’) in the incipient academic Spanish writing of bilingual children in Functions of Language, 15(2), 257-280 (2008) and the chapter, “Desde California. Acerca de la narración en ámbitos bilingües” in ¿Cómo aprendemos y cómo enseñamos la narración oral? (2015). Rosario, Homo Sapiens: 127- 133

Page Updated: 19-Apr-2021