December 2022

In Every Taíno Headdress, a Story

2023-02-02T14:21:16-05:00By |Articles|

To a casual observer, the headdresses that Priscilla Colón and her husband, Ely, are wearing are in this photo are simply colorful and eye-catching. But what the cofounders of Casa Areyto have on their heads are, in many ways, their personal profiles as Taíno. If you’ve listened to Episode 58 of our podcast, you’ll appreciate just how remarkable this is, given the Taíno’s precarious history as Native Americans in the Caribbean after 1492. The Taíno people were long considered lost, together with their language—but never by Priscilla, whose own tested DNA proves otherwise. She is among [...]

November 2022

The Surprising Truth About American Bilingualism: What the Data Tells Us

2023-02-02T14:21:49-05:00By |Articles|

We Americans think we suck at languages. We particularly think we suck when compared with European countries, “where everybody speaks three or four languages.” Yet this view of our country is outdated. The surprising truth is that the United States is a world leader in bilingualism. This truth matters because the skills that American bilinguals possess not only help those individuals advance in their careers, but taken together, American bilinguals are key to building American soft power. By bilingual, I mean someone who actually uses two or more languages on a daily basis. It’s not the [...]

March 2022

Welcoming Immigrants Through Workplace English

2023-02-02T14:21:58-05:00By |Articles|

Mary Cardenas and Steve Leveen are huddled—as much as one can huddle on Zoom—over the short questionnaire that Mary wants to prepare for her small business. A trained chef, she plans to prepare and deliver healthy meals to people in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she lives. Steve, the cofounder and former CEO of a national retail venture, is giving her pointers. “Right now the form says Mary’s Kitchen,” Steve tells her. “I thought it was going to be Mary’s Healthy Kitchen. That’s distinctive.” Mary quickly agrees. After all, she’s  been able to lower her [...]

Learning More than a Language: Learning Respect for a Culture, Too

2023-02-02T14:22:41-05:00By |Articles|

“That’s so weird.” That was the reaction of a five-year-old boy in Brunswick, Maine, when Margaret Boyle, an associate professor of Romance languages at nearby Bowdoin College, was reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar to a group of kindergarteners. It wasn’t the caterpillar’s feasting on junk food that perplexed the little boy; it was the fact that Margaret was reading the Eric Carle classic in Spanish. The youngster’s pronouncement took her by surprise. “Growing up in Los Angeles in a Mexican-American family, being close to Hispanic cultures was normal for me,” says Margaret, who is also Bowdoin’s director [...]

May 2021

How a Dad Used Language to Up His Empathy

2023-02-02T14:22:22-05:00By |Articles|

When Robert Shaw’s daughter, Felicity, was five years old, he would occasionally reach for the Duolingo app rather than a picture book for bedtime reading. He’d do a short beginner’s lesson with Felicity and her younger brother, usually in Spanish or French. As Robert points out, “When you learn things right before you sleep, you retain them better.” So why not a few words in a different language? But it was words in the English language that Felicity often found challenging when she started reading in earnest, at age six. Both Robert and his wife, La [...]

“Talking Leaves” The Cherokee Syllabary of Sequoyah

2023-02-02T14:22:35-05:00By |Articles|

Editor’s note: Be sure to listen to our podcast on saving the Cherokee language—Episode 30 of America the Bilingual, “A New Generation of Cherokee Speakers Rises.” When is an alphabet not an alphabet? When it is the syllabary of the Cherokee language. A Cherokee named Sequoyah invented it in 1821. He had seen non-Native soldiers reading from what he called “talking leaves”—words on paper—and was determined to find a way for the Cherokee to do the same. Sequoyah (ca. 1776 – ca. 1843) was used to making tools for his work as both a blacksmith and [...]

Jackie Kennedy’s Prowess as a Polygot

2022-04-27T11:20:22-04:00By |Articles|

When President John F. Kennedy traveled to West Berlin on June 26, 1963, he wanted to assure the people there—who were literally walled off from the eastern portion of their city by Communist Russia—that Americans stood with them. Ever the classicist, Kennedy drew from the ancient Romans’ statement of Civis Romanus sum “I am a citizen of Rome.” He wanted to convey that same spirit, but in German:Ich bin ein Berliner. First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy speaks—in Spanish—to leaders of the 2506 Cuban Invasion Brigade at the Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida, where she delivered her speech—in [...]

Where Culture Is a Window into Languages

2022-12-29T17:16:28-05:00By |Articles|

Inside a classroom at Lynn University in the southeast Florida city of Boca Raton, a lively discussion about world religions is under way. The conversation among the students and their teacher is framed around what the university calls Dialogues. The core curriculum of this small liberal-arts university, Dialogues are the signature learning method for classes at Lynn. The focus is on seminar-style courses where both students and professors participate in the learning process. And they engage in cross-disciplinary conversations that take students beyond the borders of the US and into the global community. The structure of [...]

What Color Is Your Paragraph?

2022-10-14T14:00:40-04:00By |Articles|

Meet the award-winning narrator of the America’s Bilingual Century audiobook, who does more than just deliver the spoken text. Sean Pratt has narrated more than a thousand audiobooks, including Steve’s America’s Bilingual Century. You would think that a professional audiobook narrator sees words on the page that they’re reading from. Sean Pratt, who’s won six awards from AudioFile magazine and snagged two Audi Awards nominations, does see them, of course. But there amidst the black type, he spies something else that the rest of us don’t. “I look for the [...]

Becoming Visible with Workplace English

2022-10-18T15:58:46-04:00By |Articles|

In California’s affluent Silicon Valley, there are thousands of residents whom Dr. Guadalupe Valdés describes as “the invisible people.” They are the gardeners, the cleaners, the cooks: the cadre of tradespeople who are nowhere near affluent. They are the Latinx immigrants, primarily from Latin America, working in low-wage jobs. Although they brought little from their countries, their low income and diminished class status traveled with them. But so did their aspirations. The major hurdle many of them face is not being equipped with the English they need in their workplaces. Guadalupe’s English Together program is changing [...]

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