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Linguistic Society of America
January 7 – 10, 2010
Friday, January 8, 2010
Linguists in Government (special poster session)
Language proficiency in government service: The English for Heritage Language Speakers program
English for Heritage Language Speakers (EHLS) is a scholarship program that prepares native speakers of critical languages for federal service by developing their professional English language proficiency and their knowledge of the culture and expectations of the federal workplace. EHLS is funded by the National Security Education Program (NSEP) and managed by the Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL). Since its inception in 2006, EHLS has graduated a total of 113 scholars, including speakers of Arabic, Dari, Persian Farsi, Urdu, Hindi, Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese), and Russian. EHLS graduates have accepted positions with a number of different federal agencies, including the Department of Defense, the Department of State, the Department of Homeland Security, and various agencies within the Intelligence Community. All are using their language skills in their work.
Presenters include Deborah Kennedy
Jim Bauman (Center for Applied Linguistics) reports an on-going study of how language factors in test item design affect response patterns for native English speakers and English language learners at various levels of English proficiency. The working hypothesis is that performance varies as a factor of the items relative accessibility. Since English language learners lack the linguistic skills to process typical test items measuring performance, they lack access to them. Accessibility is defined according to theories of language structure, discourse function, and cognitive (semantic) function, premised on work in systemic functional linguistics and cognitively based semantics. This definition is exemplified with parallel test items that contrast in language and non-language loads. The practical goal is to predict how test items will perform during trials for different groups of test takers; the larger goal is to create tests that are equitable for all groups. The linguistic means for creating equitable tests has the potential to inform instruction, but linguists must be involved in the debate on language simplification strategies and in explicating the relations between language and non-language-based representations in promoting academic language development.
Mary Schleppegrell (University of Michigan) reports on her nine-year engagement with elementary, middle, and high school teachers on connecting the language of school and academic constructs, in support of English language learners development. She describes activities that enable teachers to support students reading comprehension through a focus on sentence- and text-level linguistic features, and she identifies issues in the linguistic metalanguage that is typically available to teachers. She will focus on how the notion of subject is understood, and how teachers learn to identify and name constituents in ways that help students recognize that variation in form relates to differences in meaning.
William Labov (University of Pennsylvania) outlines his ten-year linguistic analysis and sociolinguistic research program on the problem of raising reading levels in low-income schools. He describes a tutoring intervention that proved effective with elementary school children performing below grade level. He also identifies linguistic problems that must be solved to promote advances in reading instruction. These include issues like the role of exceptions, the use of the elsewhere condition, the cognitive impact of differences in inflectional morphology, and the underlying forms of words for pre-literate speakers.
Diane August (Center for Applied Linguistics) responds to the papers from the perspective of reading research and educational practice.
Participants include Carolyn Adger (organizer), Jim Bauman, Diane August
Saturday, January 9, 2010
Looking beyond English: Linguistic inquiry for English language learners
(1) that examining the spoken and written languages represented in the classroom captures students interest and engages them in critical inquiry about the nature of linguistic knowledge and about their beliefs about language;
(2) that the analysis of students home languages validates these languages in the school context, defining them as a rich resource worthy of study, rather than as a hindrance to education.
Presenters include Daniel Ginsberg
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