CSUF professor sheds light on bilingual discrimination

In Features, Lifestyle, Top Stories
(Gabe Gandara / Daily Titan)

Ridicule in the classroom for thick accents and mispronounced words can cause children to be ashamed of their roots.

Lisa Winstead, associate professor at Cal State Fullerton, said this shame can teach them a disquieting lesson: “Don’t speak the language that your parents speak.”

She used this example to emphasize what it’s like when bilingual Latino teachers are told not to speak or use their native language in schools.

Winstead, a Spanish bilingual authorization coordinator, had the opportunity to share and present her research on “Bilingual Latino Teachers in Schools: Experiences of Language Shame and Loss” at the Pollak Library Faculty Noon Time Talk on Tuesday.

The presentation focused on a qualitative study of eight U.S. born Spanish and English speaking Latino teachers, along with an exploration of bilingual and bicultural teaching experiences as English language learners. 

Many of the Latino teachers experienced teasing and intimidation as children, which often resulted in language loss and trauma.

(Gabe Gandara / Daily Titan)

Clem Guthro, dean of the library, related to this presentation on a personal level. His four children, who were adopted from South America, struggled with issues of language, and most of them forgot how to speak Spanish over time.

Before 2016, a California proposition prevented bilingual teachers from helping their English-learning students.

(Students) were forced to sort of leave both their language and identity at the door and adopt English only, which I think is really hard,” Guthro said.

Winstead, who speaks four languages, also acknowledged the fact that other ethnicities face similar hardships.

“I’ve noticed that it’s not okay for kids to talk in their native language, not just including Spanish but Chinese and Vietnamese,” said Jacklyn Yearwood, psychology major.

Winstead said a French accent may be seen as more appealing than a Spanish accent in the U.S., pointing out social bias within society.

The presentation ended with questions and conversations about how this shame and loss can be prevented in the future.

“It reinforced what I know, so it’s always good to hear about a more recent study that’s been done in terms of those types of issues that have affected not only my students, but myself,” said Christine Valenciana, former assistant professor at CSUF.

Valenciana said she has worked with teachers in schools without a bilingual or dual immersion program.

“I got some insight in terms of those teachers who are afraid and unwilling to use the Spanish language,” Valenciana said. “It’s about fear.”

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