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Review of  Teaching and Learning in a Multilingual School

Reviewer: Fernanda L Ferreira
Book Title: Teaching and Learning in a Multilingual School
Book Author: Tara Goldstein
Publisher: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Anthropological Linguistics
Issue Number: 15.2129

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Date: Mon, 19 Jul 2004 23:04:38 -0400
From: Fernanda Ferreira
Subject: Teaching and Learning in a Multilingual School

AUTHOR: Goldstein, Tara
TITLE: Teaching and Learning in a Multilingual School
SUBTITLE: Choices, Risks, and Dilemmas
SERIES: Languages, Culture and Teaching
PUBLISHER: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates
YEAR: 2003

Fernanda L. Ferreira, Bridgewater State College.

This book is intended for teachers and teacher educators who are either
presently working or who intend to work in multilingual communities.
The core of the book focuses on findings from a four-year critical
ethnographic case study (1996 to 2000) of Northside High School. The
name is a pseudonym given to a Canadian high school with a large
student population from Hong Kong. Following the book abstract, it
deals with the multitude of ways in which teachers and students thought
about, responded to, and negotiated the issues and dilemmas that arose
in this multicultural environment. The insights they derived from their
experiences of working across linguistic, cultural, and racial
differences are the essence of this text.

The book is divided into two parts, the first titled ''Dilemmas of
Speech and Silence'' and the second '' Dilemmas of Discrimination''.
Although specific in many ways, the content extrapolates to issues
generally present in English-speaking schools that serve a population
of students whose first language is not English. Each chapter contains
four components as follows: an excerpt from the ethnographic study, an
analytic commentary on the ethnographic texts, a pedagogical
discussion, and lastly, suggestions for further reflection and

The book also includes three separate and important appendices. In
Appendix A, Goldstein includes a play she has written called ''Hong
Kong, Canada''. The inspiration for the play and some of its words come
from the ethnographic study itself. Appendix B is titled ''Critical
Education Ethnography in Postmodern Times'' and deals with the details
of the ethnographic study, the research team, and the theories involved
in developing the study. Appendix C is titled ''Developing Oral
Presentation Skills'' and deals with a workshop given by Judith Ngan,
one of the research assistants in the project. Finally, there is a
short but important prologue that deals with the author's choice of
language, encompassing racial, ethnic and linguistic descriptors.

CHAPTER 1. Introduction: Bilingual Life and Language Choice at
Northside. This chapter starts with a description of the school, its
reputation for excellence and a shift to a linguistically diverse
student body. Following a 1995 review of the school, the district
decided to provide ''a major focus on oral [English] language
development'' (p. 6). This introductory chapter shows how, after a
change in linguistic policy in Toronto schools, teachers and
administrators were faced with the almost impossible task of fostering
institutional English learning while maintaining the multilingualism of
the student body.

The chapter includes a detailed description of the Cantonese-speaking
student population and a theoretical discussion of language choice.
Here Goldstein explains the impetus for undertaking the ethnographic
study, which was to understand the linguistic choices of the teachers
and students and their effect on academic success. She describes her
theoretical affiliations as a mixture of anthropological research
perspectives and interactional sociolinguistics. The concepts of
''cultural capital'', as put forth by Bourdieu (1993), are mentioned as a
basis for some of the discussions in the book. Overall, the
ethnographic study found that, although the use of Cantonese helped
students achieve success, it contributed to linguistic and academic
dilemmas for the students as well as for teachers.

CHAPTER 2: Accepting and Legitimizing Multilingualism. This chapter
deals with the positive as well as negative consequences of an open
linguistic policy in the classroom. It focuses on the way a math
teacher, Mrs. Lo, used English, Cantonese and Mandarin in her
classroom. It initially details the positive outcomes of students who
were allowed to communicate in their first languages in order to
resolve difficult math problems in small groups. The chapter includes
excerpts of interviews where the teacher explains her use of Language:
English while presenting materials (''center stage''); Cantonese or
Mandarin on a one-to-one basis when students encountered difficulties
(''shared stage''); and Cantonese or Mandarin while providing academic
and personal advice to students beyond classroom hours (''off-stage'').
The author explains that the teacher's use of these three languages is
a reflection of her various roles as a teacher, helper and ''counselor''.
As she points out, the more recent views on the connections between
collaborative learning and race relations informed Mrs. Lo's creative
use of space and languages.

In ''Pedagogical Discussion: on linguistic accommodation'', Goldstein
discusses negative consequences of linguistic accommodations. She
agrees with the value of fostering multilingualism in the classroom,
but suggests that teachers provide a frank discussion of linguistic
practices in the classroom before each semester, in order to deal with
issues of exclusion and resentment.

In ''Further Reflection and Discussion'' Goldstein refers readers to her
play ''Hong Kong, Canada'' and suggests reflection exercises based on the
themes presented. She creates activities that explore concepts such as
''private'' and ''public'' spaces. More importantly, she brings to the fore
the pedagogical and theatrical practices put forth by Augusto Boal

CHAPTER 3: Promoting and Legitimizing English. This chapter is
dedicated to issues regarding the pedagogical approach of Mrs. Anne
Yee, a teacher who promoted English monolingualism in her classroom. It
starts with an excerpt from an interview with the teacher, who
implemented the policy primarily as a way of providing her ESOL
(English as a Second or Other Language) students with more
opportunities to practice English. Goldstein points out that the
''maximum exposure argument'' has been articulated before and is
reinforced by the media and academic discourses. In addition, the
teacher's defense of her policy enlists the concept of ''articulation
flexibility'', as in the speaking component of language as the only
parameter for proficiency. This view of language learning also
disregards any variations between language learners. In her critical
discussion of this teacher's pedagogical approach, Goldstein offers the
more recent advances on theories of language learning, where the
learning is instilled as a result of the construction of social
identities and ''investment'' in this complex social process.

In the section ''Pedagogical Discussion: Learning from the American
'Ebonics' debate'', Goldstein provides parallels between Northside and
the Oakland School Board decision to use African American English to
help students achieve oral and written proficiency in Standard English.
She reviews the ideas put forth by educators regarding this issue, as
well as how the decision was misinterpreted by mainstream media.
Goldstein then relates her own experience in an English-only program at
the University of Manitoba, in which she was forced to uphold a policy
of linguistic coercion, with negative or opposite effects. Later, she
adds excerpts of interviews with English teachers involved in the
Ebonics debate as a means of fostering discussion. In the section ''For
Further Reflection and Discussion'' Goldstein integrates her analysis
with activities based on the play. She brings together ideas and
remarks by antiracist thinker Beverly Daniel Tatum.

CHAPTER 4: Responding to Silence. This chapter, written by Goldstein
and research assistant Gordon Pon, deals with the issue of silence in
the multilingual classroom. It integrates interviews with a Cantonese-
speaking student and a Canadian-born student of Indo-Caribbean
ancestry. It focuses on the ways in which students in Mrs. Yee's
English class dealt with silence and the concept of the stereotype of
''model minority'' assigned to Asians. The text provides insight into the
Canadian-born students' view of silence exercised by the Hong Kong-born
students. The chapter presents a discussion of different modes of
silence, as proposed by Asian-American scholar King-Kok Cheung. Later,
the chapter focuses on the issue of ''whispered'' conversations, as part
of the Cantonese students' fear of sounding ''uncivilized''.

In the section ''Pedagogical Discussions: silences in the multilingual
classroom'' the authors explore ways in which silences can be dealt
with. They do this by first presenting the biographical information of
each of the teachers in order to contextualize their pedagogical
approaches. In the following sections, Goldstein and Pon offer some
successful strategies for alleviating tensions in small group work.
They also propose alternative grading strategies in order to lower
expectations and subsequent conflicts generated in such learning
situations. Under ''For Further Reflection and Discussion'', the authors
propose strategies that challenge the mainstream discourse about
language, such as the idea of standard versus non-standard, dialectal
variation, and linguistic discrimination.

CHAPTER 5: Resisting the Anti-Immigrant Discourses and Linguicism. In
this chapter Goldstein recounts the journey of a young Chinese-Canadian
artist named Evelyn Yeung, who participated in a transforming art class
at Northside. The art teacher, Ms. Edgars, had required that students
produce journal entries about their visual work. Evelyn decided to
produce a work called ''Journey to Acceptance'', and this chapter traces
her self-discovery by presenting excerpts of interviews, journal
entries and artistic texts. In the commentary section, Goldstein
analyzes the student's final reflection piece as a pedagogical project.
She brings to the fore ideas by Cummings (1996), who argues that the
negotiation of identities at school is central to student learning. In
her critical analysis, Goldstein draws not only from Cummings' work on
language and power but also from Lippi-Green's (1997) work on language
subordination processes as well as the cultural theorist Homi Bhabha's
metaphor of ''third space''.

In the pedagogical discussion (''On Rejecting Linguicism''), the author
draws largely on the work and strategies established by the art
teacher. Here, she reflects on what educators can learn from the
antiracist stance of this teacher at Northside. She purports that
teachers need to develop their own critical literacy skills and
recognize the discriminatory discourses facing students. The concept of
critical literacy as developed by Brazilian educator Paulo Freire
(1970) is crucial in this discussion. Under ''Further Reflection and
Discussion'', Goldstein reflects on the work of Tatum (1997) and the
concept of identity. She devises activities in which students explore
the different cultural images of language identities that are presented
in the media. Other activities also connect with the play, in
discussing racial and linguistic tensions in the school.

CHAPTER 6: Oral Presentations, Accent Discrimination and Linguistic
Privilege. In this chapter, Goldstein calls attention to the emphasis
given to the display of strong English oral presentation skills at the
school. The chapter begins with a play written by Asian student Timothy
Chiu called ''No pain, no gain''. The play dramatizes the challenges of
organizing oral presentations in a second language, and the
disappointment of giving a performance that does not live up to the
presenter and his family's expectation of excellence. The assignment is
part of a workshop conducted by Mrs. Yee, the English teacher who
wanted to provide more opportunities for the Asian students to use

In the commentary section (''Speaking with Different Accents''), the
author utilizes the student's play to explore the issues that arise
when students speak in different accents and teachers must evaluate
students who speak English as a second language. Again, Goldstein
reminds us of the idea of ''cultural capital'' as put forth by Pierre
Bourdieu in discussing the students' ability to access knowledge. She
also uses Lippi-Green's concepts of mutual responsibility in the act of
communication as well as the ''myth of the non-accent''.

The pedagogical discussion (''Anti-Discrimination Education in
Multilingual Schools'') explores ways teachers might respond to issues
related to accent discrimination and linguistic privilege. Finally, the
chapter includes ideas given by Judith Ngan in preparing an oral
presentation. It brings to the fore ideas by Gee (1996) who emphasizes
that students learn school ''discourses'', not language.

CHAPTER 7: Challenging Linguistic Inequities in Multilingual School
Communities. In this chapter, Goldstein starts with an excerpt of the
play in which the idea of ''opening and closing doors'' is used to
exemplify the conflicts involved in language policies. In this short
conclusion, the author summarizes the different ways in which the
assumptions behind the established language policy for the school
district (which defended multilingualism) were both embraced and
contested by teachers and students.

In the section titled ''Challenging Linguistic Inequities in
Multilingual School Communities'' the author discusses some pedagogical
approaches that support student multilingualism. Following
sociolinguists Heller and Martin-Jones, she looks at approaches in
terms of whether or not they encourage the use of languages other than
English in the ''center stage'' or ''off-stage'' of the classroom floor. In
the section titled ''From 'What Is' to 'What it Could Be''', the author
argues for the possibility of a language policy in which both teacher
and student multilingualism is supported. In the final section of this
chapter (''Pedagogical Discussions: Promoting Multilingual and English
Learning Activities''), the author discusses her own decisions in
language policy in the classroom, which takes into account the lessons
learned from the teachers at Northside.

This book is a powerful educational tool for the 21st century
classroom. Working in multilingual settings has become the overwhelming
reality in the United States and abroad, as is clearly demonstrated in
Sonia Nieto's series foreword. To that end, the book combines
scientific ethnographical work with insights derived from playwriting,
participant observation and critique. Only such a multifaceted approach
can answer the question as to what makes an effective educator today.
The book finds counterparts in the work of Brazilian linguist Marcos
Bagno, who wrote what he defines as a ''sociolinguistic novella'' and a
groundbreaking text called ''Linguistic Prejudice: what it is and how
it's done'' (my translations). Both authors deal with issues of
linguistic privilege and the use of artistic text for pedagogical
purposes. The title Goldstein's book is perhaps the best summary of its
contents. There one will find topics related to teaching and learning
in a multilingual school, where language choices, risks derived from
those choices, and dilemmas that often affect students and teachers are
discussed. In the critical evaluation that follows I will refer to the
very few shortcomings of the book and also point to its many merits.

The organization of the book has its advantages and its disadvantages.
There is some repetitiveness between the excerpts, the interviews and
the commentary sections. The many metalinguistic references to
different parts of the text can be a bit distracting. However, the
inclusion of a preface about language choice is a very wise decision by
the author. I especially liked the discussion of the word ''oriental''
and her decision to leave the word in the text, in order to foster
classroom debate. As far as the organization of the chapters, the first
part of the text is dedicated to the language policies in different
classrooms at Northside. The second part of the book is more content-
based, and it relates to the consequences of linguistic policies, from
various points of view. The book in fact challenges the original idea
of a textbook, in as much as it deconstructs the established
prescriptive organization and embraces constant evaluation and

Although the author is very careful on the use of language, a few
statements such as ''Evelyn needed to work through the uneasiness and
discomfort of ... [the fact that she] could not read or write in
Cantonese, her own dialect of Chinese'' (p. 90) should be avoided, since
it is generally accepted that Cantonese and Mandarin are two different
languages. To be fair, throughout the book and in Appendix B the author
makes references to the differences between Cantonese and Mandarin.

In chapter 7, Goldstein refers to Gee's 1996 work on school
''discourses'', which are ''acquired'' and not ''learned''. It would have
been helpful to include a critique of the conceptual differences
between ''learned'' and ''acquired'' as first articulated by Krashen (1981)
and subsequently challenged by others. By the same token, the part of
the text dedicated to the analysis of ''discourse competence'' could have
been supported by introductory definitions of linguistic competence as
outlined by second-language acquisition researchers such as Larsen-
Freeman & Long (1991). For future editions of this book, I would
suggest providing clearly marked and numbered questions included in the
discussion and commentary sections. This would help in its usage in
classroom discussion. Minor misspellings of the name 'Coelho' are found
throughout the text and once in the bibliography.

Most of these comments are minor problems in face of the innovative
organization and approach of the book. It presents us with what the
author calls a ''hybrid ethnographic text'' which combines insights from
ethnographic study with pedagogical discussions for educators working
in multilingual schools. Overall, this book should be mandatory reading
in pedagogy and diversity classes as ancillary material and a source of
discussion of linguistic policies.

Bagno, M. 2004. A lingua de Eulalia: Novela sociolingüística. São
Paulo: Contexto.

Bagno, M. 1999. Preconceito Lingüístico: o que é e como se faz. São
Paulo: Loyola.

Boal, A. 1979. Theatre of the oppressed. London: Pluto Press.

Bourdieu, P. 1993. Sociology in question. London: Sage Publications.

Cummings, J. 1996. Negotiating identities: Education for empowerment in
a diverse society. Ontario, Canada: CABE (California Association for
Bilingual Education).

Freire, P. 1970. Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Seabury.

Gee, J. 1996. Social linguistics and literacies: Ideologies in
discourses. New York: Falmer Press.

Heller, M. & Martin-Jones, M. 2001. Introduction: Symbolic domination,
education and linguistic differences. In M. Heller & M. Martin Jones
(Eds.). Voices of authority: Education and linguistic differences.
Westport, CT: Ablex.

Krashen, S. 1981. Principles and Practice in Second Language
Acquisition. English Language Teaching series. London: Prentice-Hall

Larsen-Freeman D. and M. Long. 1991. An Introduction to Second Language
Acquisition Research. New York: Longman.

Lippi-Green, R. 1997. English with an accent: Language, ideology and
discrimination in the United States. New York: Routledge.

Tatum, B. D. 1997. 'Why are all the Black kids sitting together in the
cafeteria?' and other conversations about race. New York: Basic Books.
Fernanda L. Ferreira is an Assistant Professor at Bridgewater State
College where she teaches Spanish, Portuguese and linguistics courses.
Her areas of expertise are Spanish and Portuguese sociolinguistics,
theories of creolization, and language contact varieties. She is
presently working on the sociolinguistic profiles and proficiency
levels of heritage learners in southeastern Massachusetts.

Format: Paperback
ISBN: 0805840168
ISBN-13: N/A
Pages: 248
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