Tongue-Tied: the Lives of Multilingual Children in Public Education
Edited by Otto Santa Ana
Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham, 2004
ISBN 0-7425 2382-9

This book is must-reading for teachers, students, and government policy-makers alike. It is an anthology of over 50 writers, educators, students, poets and academics from all walks of life, cultures and languages. Among the more practical tools for the social worker and researcher for example, is a detailed chronology of the evolution of minority and linguistic rights in the United States since 1663, the year of the first translation of the New Testament into Native American languages. There are several telling interviews between White interviewers doing “research” and the Black, Chinese or Latino subjects for the research. There are dozens of poems and testimonials by writers such as Amy Tan and feminist bell hooks.

The book opens with a moving foreword (see poem below) and an informative preface explaining its origins and intent: a response to California’s Proposition 227 which rid that state’s public schools of bilingual education, “generating despair for minority communities.”

But the book evolves beyond this original goal, with several reviews and abstracts of seminal, academic articles, previously published, that have marked the road to multicultural education in the U.S. For example South African writer Njabulo Ndebele notes that “the need to maintain control over English by its native speakers has given birth to a policy of manipulative open-mindedness in which it is held that English belongs to all who use it, provided that it is used correctly. This is the art of giving away the bride while insisting that she still belongs to you.”

Elsewhere, you can read explanations of living with Spanglish, understand the origins of “Lost in Translation” and find insightful but critical analysis of widely-acclaimed, mainstream works such as that of the 1994 best-seller The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life, by R.J. Herrnstein and C Murray.

Divided into six parts, and richly supported with footnotes, an index and bibliography, this work is a must-have in the tool-kit of the modern educator and language worker.

Poem by Ofelia Zepeda, from the foreword to Tongue Tied:

Walking with Language
Some have carried it, held it close, protected.
Others have pulled it along like a reluctant child.
Still others have waved it like a flag, a signal to others.
And still, some have filled the language with rage and
Dare others to come close.
And there are those who find their language a burdensome Shackle.
They continually pick at the lock.

© 2004 Pluri Vox Media Corp.

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