Last week, I shared some examples of the writing I see from students at the community college where I work. Most of it comes from essays written before they take writing classes, so the hopeful assumption is that they will improve as they go through their college career. In reaction to that post, Renée over at Lessons from Teachers and Twits brought to my attention this video posted on Profesorbaker’s Blog. It is an interview of Professor Andrea Lunsford, Stanford University’s Director of Writing and Rhetoric, who conducted a longitudinal study of writing abilities, following 190 students at Stanford for almost six years. She explains that she found no significant influence of technology on the quality of writing.
What can this study really tell us? How accurately does it reflect what is happening in schools and colleges these days? Can we really conclude from it that technology is not exerting any influence on the English language or writing skills? Or must we limit our conclusions to more modest proportions? Continue reading
I have spent my life around different languages. At home, though I heard mostly English, there was plenty of Portuguese being thrown around, especially when my parents were talking about us. When I wasn’t at home, I was usually found at my best friend’s house, whose parents were francophone Quebecois. Another friend down the road lived with her Ukranian grandparents. I befriended the foreign students, starting with the little Italian girl who started school with us in 2nd grade. After all this, it should come as no surprise that I have spent the last 20 years focusing my attention on languages and linguistics.
When my oldest sisters started school, they spoke almost no English. After some time of watching her children become confused by hearing English at school and Portuguese at home, my mother decided that the best thing for the family would be to switch the home language to English. She did not want her children to have difficulty at school, and believed that dealing with two languages would only serve as a distraction and source of confusion for them. She wanted to make it easier to navigate this new culture and society she and my father had chosen to live in. As a result, I was born into a family that had made the transition almost completely into English, with the exception of certain kitchen commands, food terms, random traditional expressions, and ‘colorful’ phrases one would say when very angry at a small girl who has just broken the sugar bowl.
I get a bit enthusiastic about the dictionaries.
As a teenager and adult, I’ve had moderate success with second languages, but I longed for the same ease in another language as I have in English. I listen enviously to all the people I know who were lucky enough to have been brought up bilingual, and I wondered what prompted my mother – and many like her – to believe that maintaining her native language at home while her children learned English in school would have been a mistake. Continue reading