Blackness and bilingualism: language ideologies in the African American community
Greer, Elizabeth Jane
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This qualitative interpretivist study uses Richard Ruiz’s language orientation framework to explore the perspectives of African Americans towards Spanish-English bilingualism as it relates to dual language education. Ruiz presented three ideologies towards minority languages: language as a problem, language as a right, and language as a resource (1984). Galindo later added the idea of language as a boundary (1997). This study attempts to add to these frameworks by providing an alternative perspective: a minority language as seen by members of another marginalized group. Previous research demonstrates the potential of dual language programs to promote academic, linguistic, and cross-cultural competence in all students (Howard, Sugarman & Christian, 2003; Thomas & Collier, 2011), yet also suggests that African American students are experiencing limited inclusion in these types of programs (Center for Applied Linguistics, 2008; Lindholm-Leary, 2001). This project contributes to the scant but growing body of research on African American involvement in dual language by examining the existing language ideologies in the African American community towards multilingualism, specifically Spanish-English bilingualism. The researcher analyzed 5 semi-structured interviews with members of the African American community in one urban school district. Thematic coding revealed the representation of each of Ruiz’s original orientations as well as Galindo’s, however, the data analysis also uncovered nuanced and additional ideologies emerging from the racial position of African Americans in U.S. society. This project provides compelling insight into the perspectives of African Americans towards Spanish-English bilingualism. In practice, the implications of this study suggest alternative approaches to the design, recruitment, and implementation of dual language programs with African American students in mind. In theory, this study presents a racially nuanced understanding of Ruiz’s original language orientation framework as well as engages in problematizing the existing raciolinguistic hierarchy of power in U.S. society.