- Dig into your own language identity and reflect on the ways in which language is weaponized.
- This post shares a number of ways we can create and nurture linguistically inclusive and linguistically safe spaces in our classrooms, schools, and communities.
- Consider your instructional materials, start a campaign, and engage with your local agencies or businesses.
“You’re in America. Speak English.” These words echo off the walls of our grocery stores, post offices, sports arenas, and our school cafeterias. They pack a punch right to the gut. While the US does not actually have a national language, English-only policies and rhetoric still exist in many of our settings. These types of statements express the sentiment that English is the only language that matters, and they are rooted in white supremacy.
We have to do some digging and learning about how our language is tied to our identities, and also reflect on the ways in which language is weaponized.
Reflecting on my own language identity, I can share that my great-grandmother arrived from Hungary in the 1920s. She settled into a neighborhood in Chicago with other Hungarian immigrants. They supported each other in finding housing and work. In fact, this is how many of Chicago’s neighborhoods were formed!
Unfortunately, the language was never passed down to us due to pressures to “assimilate.” In high school, I started to learn the Spanish language out of privilege. It’s unnerving to note that as a white educator, I am praised for my additional language, but the families that I serve are often looked down upon for their language skills.We cannot just “create” linguistically safe spaces. We have to nurture those spaces so that they can continue to grow, flourish, and create change. Click To Tweet
In our efforts to dismantle oppressive systems and rhetoric, let’s reflect on how we can create and nurture linguistically inclusive and linguistically safe spaces in our classrooms, schools, and communities. This is everyone’s responsibility regardless of your student makeup. Even if 100% of your students are monolingual English speakers, it is important that we are intentional about modeling linguistic inclusivity to all and for all.
Everything that happens in schools is the reflection of a choice that someone makes, from what we teach to the resources that we use to the posters on the walls. We can start to reflect by analyzing common areas of our school—hallways, the cafeteria, the front office, etc. What languages are on the wall? Whose faces are on the wall?
Taking Action to Create Linguistically Inclusive Spaces
We can utilize a language tool like this one to record initial noticings. Create an action team (not a committee!) that does a building walk-through and fills this out. After you walk the building, sit down and share your noticings. At the bottom of the tool, there is a space to create a goal for your school. Then, set a date for your next follow-up and lock it in! Hold yourselves and your school accountable!
We can take it a step further by taking a look at our instructional materials.
Whose stories are being told and by whom? When families enter the front office, are they greeted with books and magazines in English only that feature Caucasian faces? Diversifying our books, magazines, and signage is important—and rather easy—to do! Check out resources like Books del Sur for authentic Spanish texts.
Start a campaign to build awareness about the languages in your school community.
Check out this resource to get the whole school involved in participating in a #LoveOurLanguages campaign!
Hit up your local community agencies and businesses.
Tag them on social media or send them an email to help your community grow in its linguistic inclusivity efforts. Encourage them to Tweet out the number of multilingual staff they have or share the number of multilingual clients they serve!
Reach out to your local library and ask them about their multilingual books, magazines, and videos. Send a letter to your local government and ask them how they perform outreach to multilingual residents. Show examples of multilingual commercials on TV or newsletters in your community. Start a ripple effect that gets folks talking about and celebrating the linguistic diversity of our friends, neighbors, classmates, colleagues, and family members.[scroll down to keep reading]
Creating & Nurturing Linguistically Inclusive Spaces: Keep Reflecting
This is everyone’s work. It is important for us to continue to reflect on our own language identities as well as those we serve. We cannot just “create” linguistically safe spaces. We have to nurture those spaces so that they can continue to grow, flourish, and create change.
Build Language Justice by Andrew Lee from Anti-Racism Daily
About Carly Spina
Carly Spina has 15 years of experience in Multilingual Education, including her service as an EL teacher, a third-grade bilingual classroom teacher, and a district-wide EL/Bilingual/Dual Language Instructional Coach. She is currently serving 8 schools (EC-8) in a linguistically rich community of over 60 languages and over 800 active EL students. Spina has engaged in the successful co-creation of several parent outreach programs, Title I tutoring programs for students in grades 3-5, mentoring programs for middle school students, co-teaching initiatives, and more. She is deeply passionate about equity and advocacy for multilingual learners and fights for access and inclusive opportunities for kids and families.
Spina actively fights against food insecurity in the community she serves. She has spoken at various national conferences and events and has received several awards over the years, including the Illinois Education Association Reg Weaver Human & Civil Rights Award in 2015 and the Distinguished Service Award for Excellence in the Team Category for EL Community Engagement in 2019. She was the WIDA Featured Educator in April 2019 and was named a Paul Harris Fellow in July of 2019. Spina is an active member of the EL/Bilingual community on social media and enjoys networking and growing with teachers and leaders across the country. She is currently working on her first book with EduMatch Publishing.