Episode 62 – Advocating for Heritage Languages

Norah Jones Heritage Language Part 3

” Language advocacy, advocacy in general, is about collaboration and consistency, and a commitment to building connections. It comes from all of us and is a function of each individual’s journey. To best honor identity, to grow our society and to address the needs in our multicultural civilization, we need to start from where we are, and then we need to demonstrate the power of respect for each other by working to grow the view of multilingualism and language as a conduit for a peaceful and prosperous global past and future. And the only way to do that is together.” Amanda Seewald

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In Episode 60, the first in the series of four podcasts on the topic of heritage languages, we focused on the role and importance of heritage languages as part of our national language landscape, and ways that we can work together to recognize the multilingualism of our society, work toward equity and justice for every language speaker and become truly global citizens. The panelists, who have rich and extensive experience working in this arena, describe a number of approaches that we can take to achieve this. Please take a look at their biographies: Dick Brecht, Maria Carreira, and Fabrice Jaumont.

In Episode 61, the second of the four episodes, we talked with founders and leaders of community-based heritage language schools, who think and work enthusiastically with students, parents, and teachers in these schools to ensure that students are engaged and involved and recognize the gift of their heritage language as a vital part of their identity, self-worth, and learning and career potential. The panelists have implemented exciting and powerful activities and connections in their schools, and it is an inspiration to hear them share about these. Please take a look at their biographies: Neila Baumiliene, Ashok Ojha, and Agnes Tounkara.

In this third podcast in the series, my panel of leaders of national organizations with a variety of perspectives on and experiences with the role of heritage languages in society provide powerful stories of individuals young and old, in varieties of educational and work settings – and in doing so, connect those experiences with the need for active support and advocacy for such languages in order to build a strong society.

Please check out the biographies of this week’s panelists: Linda Egnatz, Amanda Seewald, and Celia Zamora, along with that of my co-moderator, Joy Peyton.

Multilingual societies are facts. Global interconnectedness is a fact.

Those human beings who have one or more heritage languages in their lives based on their own unique life story are poised to create strong futures for themselves and the nations in which they work…

IF instead of being told they need to forget their heritage culture and language(s) they are encouraged and empowered to join them with their new culture and language.

…IF those in families, organizations, schools, and businesses understand that the gift of multilingualism can strengthen every aspect of society.

…IF knowing how high the stakes are, everyone advocates, that is, speaks up for the power and possibilities of all human languages. If everyone speaks up for not just hoping societies will be succeed but helping to ensure they do by connecting the language skills of everyone to the well-being of all in a global future.

The global future is here.

Advocacy is lifting one’s voice to urge that the reality be acknowledged and prepared for, for the benefit of all.

Enjoy the podcast.


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Episode 62 – Advocating for Heritage Languages

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Transcript

Norah Jones:

We are very excited about having you here today, everyone. Today we’re talking again about advocating for heritage languages. First of all, what I’d like to know is why? Why advocacy? And why heritage languages and heritage language schools? Why advocate? What’s the point? Who would like to start?

Amanda Seewald:

I’m just going to start with regard to advocacy since it’s basically what I eat, sleep and breathe. Advocacy is really, first of all, it has to start exactly where we are, wherever we are. Whatever roles that we’re playing, we need to make sure that we are advocates for the value of multilingualism and the value of language as an indicator of identity and culture and as a connector. And so I want to just start by saying that. But when we look at community based heritage language schools and we look at heritage languages in general, I think advocacy is our responsibility, as it is a right that is often not recognized or has not often been recognized well through the public schools for heritage learners for way too long. And so it is an opportunity for us to advocate. And what I mean by that, is to use our voices in the right places, with the right people to express what is necessary to uplift and to provide opportunities for voices to be heard.

Norah Jones:

Thank you, Amanda. Joy?

Joy Peyton:

I’d just like to build on what Amanda just said because this relationship with Amanda, with JNCL-NCLS, with ACTFL, with Celia and ACTFL and Linda and the Global Seal of Biliteracy, is actually changing the world for community based heritage language schools. Who for a long time, the leaders will tell me, they’ll sometimes they’ll start crying when we get together because they say, “But no one has ever noticed us before or cared about what we do.”

Joy Peyton:

And we started to bring the schools together, which is one thing to unite the hundreds of community based heritage, thousands of community based heritage language schools that are teaching hundreds of languages in this country and we don’t even know about all of those schools and we don’t even know all the languages that are being taught and we’re not connected with them all. But first to unite them, bring the them together. But then to connect with JNCL-NCLIS and to be advocating for these schools in the midst of the much larger language world that they’re advocating for, to connect with ACTFL and to learn how to create pathways for students and assess their progress and to connect with Linda and to have opportunities to reward students, to recognize their language proficiency and let them receive awards for that recognition, this is absolutely huge for us.

Norah Jones:

Thank you, Joy.

Linda Egnatz:

I’m going to just really jump in and Joy, what you said in your first few seconds about how this advocacy role in this engagement with these communities that they feel like they haven’t been seen and they haven’t been noticed. And they’re meeting in libraries or church basements or community centers and they’re sharing school spaces and they are so passionate about preserving their language, that they’re willing to do whatever it takes, wherever they can find the space to do it, to really to carry on language, culture and their identities. And they were really truly and have been really lost to the rest of sort of the mainstream language education field. And for me, that was my biggest, in working with the Seals of Biliteracy, that was my biggest aha and my biggest shame because I felt like there are not hundreds, there are hundreds of thousands of students around the United States learning languages.

Linda Egnatz:

I think we have over 450,000 Native American speakers in the United States. We have numbers of immigrant populations, some of them are not first generation, they’re second or third gen generation that are still preserving the importance of that identity. And as an advocate, we grow and we connect better with the rest of the world as global citizens but we can’t just recognize the Spanish, French, German and Chinese that might be offered in the typical school. These other languages need a platform and we need to be able to provide them, not just with that platform but their voices. And we need to do that in ways that provide them with, for example, the programs with JNCL, with the Seals of Biliteracy, with these sort of a outcome recognition pieces that provide efficacy to what they’re doing because they’ve been told that what they’re doing isn’t necessarily important or doesn’t matter or doesn’t count as transcript credit for college.

Linda Egnatz:

And so the efforts that we’re taking in this conversation, that we’re making as organizations, can change that and create opportunity but also really sustain things that we don’t want to be lost because that’s the biggest regret from members of peoples in these communities that have said, “I wish I would have.” And we are going to make sure that that line sort of disappears from that vernacular.

Norah Jones:

Thank you. Celia, in your role at ACTFL, what is this opening of your companions here? What comes to your heart and mind?

Celia Chomón Zamora:

Well, apart from just admiration and just excitement as to all of the collaboration that’s going to come out of this, I myself am a heritage speaker. I was born in Venezuela. I moved to Miami, Florida when I was six years old. Miami, Florida is about 90% heritage speakers, so I list the experience of being a heritage speaker placed in a Spanish one classroom, where I was just trying to learn how to function with my language. And all I got were, “Here, learn how to do the alphabet because that’s all we really have available for you.” And being put in an AP Spanish class after the first year and saying, “Well, go for it. And now what do you do with the language?” Eventually when I became a language teacher, I realized that I didn’t know anything to teach Spanish. I didn’t know what a pluperfect subjunctive in the third person was. I could use it but I didn’t know what it was. And I really felt at odds because I wanted to continue my language and teaching but I had no resources.

Celia Chomón Zamora:

For me, advocacy was really looking at my husband, my family, my friends, my community, my students and saying, “What can I do to help you?” And that led me to create, even before I knew what the term heritage speaker was in early 2000s, I created my first heritage speaker class in Miami, Florida. And that led me to pursue a master’s in linguistics and eventually I worked for Center of Applied Linguistics, with Joy, where I learned what heritage speakers were and that led me to pursue my doctorate, where I specifically researched and just eat, live and breathe heritage speakers.

Celia Chomón Zamora:

Now with this role at ACTFL, one of the main things that I’m bringing to ACTFL is creating an abundance of resources for teachers and for students themselves, who are heritage speakers, who want to continue that pathway so that they themselves can become teachers. To creating those professional development opportunities, to train teachers to really be able to empower and support and engage these heritage speakers so we don’t lose them in the Spanish one or Portuguese one classes but that we enable them and we empower them to really continue to build on their heritage and their identity and their culture to become, as Linda said, global citizens. ACTFL is definitely working very, very diligently to ensure that we are churning out all of this information and resources to continue the fight to ensure that they continue their languages.

Norah Jones:

Celia, you provided such an important segue to a question that has been on my mind and it relates to a phrasing that Amanda said when she did her opening words, which has to do with advocacy to the right people, at the right places, about the right topic, with the right resources. And right then in what you just said, you identified some of the specific targets that you are looking at advocacy tapping onto by providing information and pathways. I’d like to open that question up to all of you. Who are the right people based on your roles or potentially the roles of the people that are not engaged with organizations or experiences that are specifically around advocacy, who are the right people? What are the right places? What are the right things?

Amanda Seewald:

I’m glad to talk a little bit about this because I think that it’s always dependent on what it is, as you said, Norah, what it is that you’re trying to achieve. And not just what the topic is but what is the goal within that area? For example, if we’re talking about support for community based heritage language schools, then the places we need to start are within the communities themselves, the broader communities to help the visibility of these programs. Become a part of the chambers of commerce, become a part of the PTAs in the schools, become a part of a connector to the school districts. Beyond that, then we work our way up. And I think there’s a different way to look at that as well. From the JNCL perspective, we do a lot of federal work.

Amanda Seewald:

My role as an advocate for heritage languages and specifically for community based heritage language schools at JNCL is to make sure that legislative offices, as we look at legislation that impacts this Seal of Biliteracy, like the BEST legislation or as we look at NALRC, the Native American Language Resource Center, how are we making sure that community based heritage language schools and heritage languages are addressed within the language that is used for the development of that legislation? That’s where from a very minuscule way, in a small way, we can make sure that that language is there that provides a template that can be replicated in other pieces of legislation. On the grassroots level, I think it’s about making sure that the programs themselves and the languages and the communities that are indicated by those languages, are supported and visible. And that’s where… I think that’s where we start.

Linda Egnatz:

And I think one of the pieces that really would kind of dovetails and relates to that is we think about the broad audiences that are available to us with these heritage community groups because these typically are not educators that lead these programs or support these programs. These are parents and grandparents but they’re also community leaders, they oftentimes can work with their local, depending upon the language they’re working with, their embassies to get support through some of those educational spaces. And these also represent people within the community that oftentimes are working in global organizations and so that’s another space where, if we’re thinking about who do we advocate to? We advocate to the sort of locally based community companies that want to expand to either serve those communities locally or to expand into those markets internationally. And so when we look at the wide diversity of languages that are being offered in heritage language programs, it’s amazing.

Linda Egnatz:

And one of the things that’s been difficult for these groups to do is to connect the importance of language and culture and identity with those perhaps earlier language learning programs, with the importance in how they’re able to then leverage those languages that they offer as a language adult. And so oftentimes these programs lose students when they get into that middle school and high school realm, as opposed to hold onto them and really create or provide them with the language credentials that equip them for lots of job and employment opportunities and a way to really use their language in a meaningful way as an adult. And so we don’t again, we don’t want that to become a loss, we want that to become a gain. And so it’s really important as advocates that we’re articulating pathways to State or the Global Seal of Biliteracy for these students as a retention tool, to help them see the value of what they have.

Linda Egnatz:

To articulate, for example, with the universities and the admission counselors at universities to say, “You need to ask, is there another language?” It’s not just what’s on your transcript from the high school experience. And so those are some ways in terms of others that we can involve in the conversation that are stakeholders, they’re community stakeholders, they’re academic stakeholders, they’re policy stakeholders, like Amanda was talking about but more importantly, within the local community, these are business owners who could really benefit by identifying those with language skills within their own workspace or their own neighborhoods to serve each other and to expand their businesses.

Norah Jones:

Thank you, Linda, and thank you, Amanda. Celia?

Celia Chomón Zamora:

Definitely the business owners, I was about to say, are very, very important because apart from even just having the language proficiency, that cultural piece that really comes from living your heritage language is something that cannot be beat, especially thinking of hospitality. When you have visitors from all across the globe and then of course you have the different language varieties and just those nuances that you can’t really grasp in the classroom setting, heritage language learners can really leverage those nuances and those pragmatic components of the conversation to really ensure quality experience for whatever the business owner or hospitality is.

Celia Chomón Zamora:

But I was originally going to add as well, that for us, we’re leveraging the original advocates of any language, which are the parents. And really leveraging them through educating the parents on why it’s important for them to continue speaking their heritage language at home, why it’s important for them to continue, regardless of how difficult it is, trying to learn the target language in the new country to really continue the culture. And a lot of times they just don’t know and they don’t know how important it is for them to be the original input at that household.

Celia Chomón Zamora:

When my son was born in Washington, DC, no longer Miami, he had a speech delay at around two and a half years old. He had not started talking and we took him to the pediatrician to start asking him what was going on. And she told me, “Well, you’re speaking to him in Spanish at home. You need to stop. You’re confusing him. Only talk to him in one language.” And the next day I switched pediatricians. But that’s because I had the privilege of being a linguist because I know better but how many parents don’t know?

Celia Chomón Zamora:

And of course, if I was not a linguist, I would do anything that my pediatrician would tell me to do for the sake of my son. If I thought that my language was harming my child, of course I would stop. How many parents are being told very incorrect information, not out of malice but out of ignorance? We really need to go out there and inform and teach parents to advocate, to continue their heritage language and to be proud of that so that those learners can eventually grow up to be the next generation of speakers of that language.

Norah Jones:

Yes. Joy.

Joy Peyton:

To connect with that, another group, with what Celia just said, another group who we want to advocate to is teachers and administrators in public, private and charter schools to say, here’s some of the message, “You consider these students to be English language learners. They also speak another language. They have another school profile.” I tell many educators this, “Do you know that this student has another school profile? This student goes to a Saturday school all day Saturday and is now so proficient in German that he’s already passed the test to attend the university in Germany. That’s how proficient.” They may be highly proficient in their language. They may be able to earn the Global Seal of Biliteracy and have that on their diploma, as well as whatever else they’re earning there. They have many opportunities like Amanda and Linda were saying, opportunities for jobs, to work in the community, contribute to the community. Also, we can learn a lot from them and we can learn a lot from the schools that they participate in. So, teachers and administrators in schools.

Norah Jones:

Thank you very much, Joy. Amanda?

Amanda Seewald:

Yeah. I wanted to just, and I think that Joy illustrated what I was about to say as well, which is that what Celia was saying is absolutely so true based on, honestly, the biases that we’ve seen in our school systems for so long against heritage learners. Of course that is shifting slowly but we’re pushing it. But the other side of that, and I don’t mean but I mean AND the other side of that is what Joy is defining here. I’ve had the experience of being a parent in a community based heritage language program because my children went to a Chinese school on Saturdays, in my hometown. And this to me, the group of parents that lead community based heritage language schools, the groups of community members who are a part of this, come to the experience with this value for language, with this absolute desire to keep language, culture and identity a part of their children’s lives.

Amanda Seewald:

Because in many cases, some of these schools do not experience the same types of negativity that often, and I want to be upfront about this, my experience in schools, in public schools that many Spanish speakers and other speakers receive in the public schools. And that is a really awful example of how our school system and our society as a whole has not valued languages, one, in the same way, cultures in the same way and how we really need to address that we have to look it in the eye and say, “This is the truth.”

Amanda Seewald:

And community based heritage language school parents, as leaders, have the opportunity to help us help other parents around the country and administrators and teachers to see the value of language in the way that it helps keep a culture and a community combined and together and united. And I think that’s very important too. And so I love what Celia was sharing about her child and everything and all of the experiences are so important. And I also think that the community based heritage language school parents, there’s a dynamic there that we haven’t found a way to advocate to bring them together and that’s a part of it I think.

Norah Jones:

Thank you, Amanda. Linda?

Linda Egnatz:

I absolutely want to go back to what Joy talked about with the administrators and the other stakeholders that are not necessarily the world language educators in the school because they are, first of all, oftentimes they’re just not informed. They don’t know that the programs exist. That’s a first piece, is it’s part of that sort of education and onboarding process of a new student. By law, we’re providing students with a survey, is there another language spoken at the home? But the follow up question should be, is the child involved? Is there a language program that they’re participating in outside? We make that connection from the beginning because this articulation piece has been, I get weekly, I get emails about this lack of communication between sort of the Monday-Friday public school or even private school program with these specific heritage language programs. Where there isn’t this articulation.

Linda Egnatz:

And the saddest story I’ve heard and I’ve shared this story many times, is a student that was a student of Polish, and I’m in Illinois, it’s our third language after Spanish. And he was enrolling for high school. And the high school counselor said, “Well, you have to take a language.” And he says, “Well, I go to Polish school, I speak Polish.” And she said, “Well, that doesn’t count.” And this is what students have been told, they don’t. And part of it is also in terms of Seals of Biliteracy. When we look at statistics right now across the state, the latest state Seal of Biliteracy report from 2020 was that there were only seven states that had 25 or more languages represented by their Seals of Biliteracy. That’s a travesty. New York was I think at 46, which sounds like an incredible number but in New York City, there are over 200 languages that are spoken.

Linda Egnatz:

So, languages are going unrepresented in many cases. And we also think about on just in terms of education and professional development or just building awareness and that sort of advocacy campaign of awareness is to say, for example, with our English language learners, yes, we’re committed to provide that support that will help them become successful in school as an English language learner or an emerging bilingual, which is a more exciting way to share that concept toward multilingualism. But it also means that if they’re an English language learner, they’re a speaker of another language and very oftentimes they may be aware of that language but they’re not looking at how do I then support the services to that family to say, “That language is also important.”

Linda Egnatz:

Because when that comes from the authority figure of the school, please sustain that language. These are some tools. You may not speak that language but you can share them, have them write to family or friends in the home country, have them access free materials and reading materials on the internet so that that language is sustained. And that’s a message that we have to provide them with. Not it’s important and we recognize it, but that here are the tools to help you as a parent, help your child sustain that language in an environment where maybe no one else is speaking it.

Linda Egnatz:

And I think that becomes that part of advocacy that is also lost because we’re intent on the English side and we’re not recognizing that they come with a wealth of language. With the Global Seal, we’ve just at the middle school level, we’ve done at working fluency for us, which is the advanced low on the ACTFL scale, we’ve done lots of middle schoolers from heritage language programs that have come to these. These are levels high enough to be certified as a language teacher, which is the other advocacy line that this is our pipeline to dual language immersion programs. This is our pipeline to staffing more diversity in terms of language programs and offerings, both at the high school and university levels. And we don’t want to lose that because they drop out too soon to really… we need to convey that message that you are wanted and desired as a teacher because whether you’re going to teach science in your language or some other subject. I think that’s the other piece.

Norah Jones:

Thank you, Linda. One of the things that has happened spontaneously here is each one of you in turn at a specific juncture has told a story, a story about a real child or a real situation, confronting the situation in which they found themselves and sometimes to the growth and benefit and sometimes to a disastrous, in my opinion, response of things like it doesn’t matter. When we take a look at what are some success stories, what is it that you might say, especially for those, again, you are engaged with some specific legal, basically, or at least legislative impetus and so forth. We could talk about that a little bit.

Norah Jones:

For the moment I wanted say, when you go out, you tell a story that says, “Here’s what the transformation is and here’s why you should care that advocacy from the heart,” that among others, that Linda Markley talks about, for example, that we know touches people. What kinds of stories can people tell that says, “This is not a scary thing to advocate for, but a life changing thing, a positive thing.” How do you approach telling those stories in a way that can open up the spirit of those that might be considering this to be a distraction or a money user?

Celia Chomón Zamora:

When I go into classrooms, especially of teachers that are starting to be trained to be heritage speaker teachers that sometimes think, well there’s really no difference. Why should I even spend time looking at this? At the end of the day, language is language. I tell the story about my own husband, who was born in United States as a second generation Nicaraguan. In his Spanish classes, he would come with the way that his family spoke Spanish, which is slightly different than the modern standard Spanish that’s taught in the textbooks. And his teachers would say, “That’s not how you say that. That’s wrong, you’re wrong.” And who are you to say that my language is wrong? Who are you to say that my culture or what I’ve grown up saying is wrong? And when I go into the classrooms to let them know of course the standard language is of course important but there’s a different way to approach that.

Celia Chomón Zamora:

Instead of saying, “This is the only right way,” you could always say, “Your way is fine but let me show you a different way.” Kind of like code-switching. Let me show you that if you want to go and conduct business with Latin America, this is a different way of saying the same thing so that you can conduct business in Latin America. I tell them that story and I tell them how my husband refused to speak Spanish for many, many years. And then when I met him, I told him, “Well, this is a Spanish only household so you’re going to have to learn.” And instead of making him feel ashamed of his language, embarrassed of his language, I empowered him and he would say something and he would himself retract and say, “I know that’s wrong.” I’m like, “Hey, hey, hey, the point is to communicate. It’s okay, keep going.” And I wouldn’t give him feedback, explicit feedback like that and I would just continue to empower him.

Celia Chomón Zamora:

And finally one day I saw him working, he’s director of engineering for a hotel and he’s using Spanish with his direct reports, with his coworkers. He is a proficient Spanish speaker and he told me one day, and this is the quote that I always end all of my workshops with, “I always felt that I wasn’t Nicaraguan enough and that I wasn’t American enough but then one day I realized that I’m neither or, I’m both. I’m Nicaraguan American and my Spanish is enough.” And that is why us empowering our heritage language learners and teaching teachers and training staff and advocating for heritage language learners the correct way is so important because we don’t want to deter them from their language, we don’t want to push them away. We want to welcome them in and tell them that they are important and that they can continue their language.

Norah Jones:

Celia, you use that phrase, just rephrasing a tiny bit, I am enough, as I am, as my language is and I can be a variety, a combination of languages and culture, history. Thank you so much for telling that story. Who else?

Amanda Seewald:

You were saying Norah, about the question you asked was also about how do we help people see that the advocacy for this goes beyond, it’s worth it to advocate for this. And so I would say that there are two different ways to a look at this. The first is from a legislative standpoint and at JNCL-NCLIS and certainly this year through language advocacy days, we focused on the concept of language at the intersection. At the intersection of all of the different types of things that we could do in our lives as professionals and personally, in diplomacy and economics, in any form of corporate environment or nonprofit. And we brought to the forefront, the voices of different professionals and how language is used by them in each one of these scenarios. That information we have not done a good enough job of over the last however many years we’ve all been advocating, of letting legislators see that, see the impact of that. And so I believe that one of the things that we need to be doing is helping to illustrate the value of multilingualism in the real marketplace of life.

Amanda Seewald:

The second thing that we need to do is to constantly be aware of and do the research to know who the people are with whom we are meeting. Who are the stakeholders? Why are they important? Where are the connections to their own personal and professional lives, in particular their personal lives, that language and culture have a connection to everyone? And if we can somehow tap into that, as we speak to people, then I think we can also help them see the inherent value of how identity is driven by this. I think it’s very hard for people to refute that evidence once they see it in themselves.

Joy Peyton:

This is a story I think about advocating for middle and high school students and a success story in that regard. In some neighborhoods, at least this was the case in certain schools and neighborhoods in Virginia several years ago, middle and high school students were dropping out of school. They were skipping school. These are middle and high school, Spanish speakers. They were skipping school, they were dropping out of school. They were taking a lot of drugs. There was huge concern about that. And so a group of people founded an organization called Prospera. And Celia knows because they came into ACTFL to be part of ACTFL supported of them. It was a leadership program. Training, teaching these middle and high school students to become leaders in the school.

Joy Peyton:

And I visited one of schools where they have it to see how it was going. And I’m telling you, when the class was over, it was I think they started at 3:00 o’clock. The children’s day was over. It’s tired. It’s end of the day. They’re sitting at their desks leaning over, they kind of had it. The teacher says, “Okay, it’s time for you to go get your materials and work with your tutor.” Those little kids jumped up, ran to their lockers, grabbed their materials and sat down next to their tutor. And they’re like this, why is that? Because they’re working in Spanish with a middle and a high school student. They respect them. They want to be like them. It’s like, okay, here we are. Those middle and high school students got high school credit. They got information about going to college. The little kids advanced, they advanced. It was an amazing thing and that is a great success story of building student leadership and Celia wants to follow me.

Norah Jones:

Yes. Celia.

Celia Chomón Zamora:

The same program that Joy’s talking about. I remember that I did a program evaluation for Prospera in western Virginia and I was asking the students, “Why do you like this so much? Why are you so excited about it?” And they said, “Because we finally see ourselves in Spanish, we see people that look like us teaching us and it makes me want to keep going.” Wasn’t even just about the language. It was about, like Joy said, the role model and a pipeline. And then a lot of them were saying that they wanted to do that when they got to middle and high school. And so then now you have this beautiful cycle of a pipeline and continuing and a lot of those high school students, I remember I interviewed one of the high school students and they were sad because it was their last year and they were trying to find a way to be able to come back in college to continue that. That really is a beautiful story of that and seeing themselves in role models.

Norah Jones:

Yes. Linda.

Linda Egnatz:

Yeah. And to segue, there’s a lot of data and research out there that says, if you have a teacher that’s like you, that is similar in ethnicity to you, that you are something 10 or 15 more percentage times more likely to graduate from high school. These numbers are really powerful. And then if we take that to the other aspect of advocacy to say, “If you’re a bilingual or you’re a multilingual and using your language, are you sharing that with those next generation students? Are you letting them know how that gave you opportunity that you might not otherwise have had? Are you willing to sort of share your story and be that role model?”

Linda Egnatz:

And then on the flip side of that, as educators, are we looking for role models in the real world? Are we looking for people that can connect and help our students sort of link to those future opportunities? One of the incredible things that many of our community based heritage language programs are doing is project based learning where they’re really connecting into projects within their communities that are not only helping support the marketing in those particular communities but are really helping students connect with speakers of the language, that are using the language in a real and meaningful way. And those are sort of lessons that other, sort of traditional language classrooms could actually learn from some of these programs.

Linda Egnatz:

One of the exciting things I’ve been able to do globally is to work with the Global Teachers’ Club and where they’re doing joint projects and collaborative projects with other schools and with speakers in other languages and learning and sort of exchanging that culture. There is some interesting opportunities that would be available for some of these articulations and collaboration to come together. Because again, traditionally, our biggest issue for these heritage languages is they’re outside of the norm or outside of the awareness of traditional academic programs. If, for example, our universities who are trying to staff their upper level courses, especially in less common languages, knew that if they just went to the heritage community programs and they were able to harvest a really rich third year and fourth year program because these students are at middle school and high school levels, already in the advanced level language ranges.

Linda Egnatz:

And so those are the places where they need to look and these students are powerful but you need to know they exist and then you need to give them, we need to create as advocates, some of the pathways for them to access and link to these opportunities. And I know that’s something that all of us here have been really committed to doing.

Amanda Seewald:

I would very much like to uplift and highlight what Linda just shared. In my work on a daily basis as a world language and dual language consultant, I have seen the power of making language really focused as a function of problem solving, and helping students, and having all of the work and the heart of the curriculum focused on global citizenship and sustainable development. As a Teach SDG’s ambassador, I believe we need to think about this in every way we advocate for language education. The concept of curriculum and instruction cannot be divorced from the advocacy. It’s so important we focus on why we are teaching language, what are we teaching students to do, how are we building the problem-solvers that truly language and communication can help us create? And I believe that that is a very important way for us to move language forward, and to move the idea of education forward, as a whole.

Norah Jones:

I’m going to turn now to each of you and say in your roles where you are, what you do, what is the next big thing that you really want to see happen? What is the next thing that you in your leadership area are trying to push for to make sure happens, because you know what the breakthrough can be for heritage language learners, heritage language use, heritage language schools, however you would like to define it.

Amanda Seewald:

I think that the next big thing is for us to make sure that language education for heritage learners and for all learners is secured and is provided in a meaningful, well-articulated way across the United States. And in order to do that, we need legislation that puts multilingualism at the forefront, which is why I’m so excited about the World LEAP, the World Language Education Assistance Program legislation that JNCL-NCLIS is currently working on and plans to be presenting to offices that have expressed interest in it.

Amanda Seewald:

If we are successful in finding leadership to present the World LEAP legislation. It would be the first time in over ten years that there would be a K-12 component to world language and dual language learning held in the Department of Education, where it belongs. This is such a very important piece for us, especially because right now in the Department of Education we have such great support from our bilingual Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona, and because we see this as the most important next step for providing for these programs, for providing for the growth of programs, for supporting the Seal of Biliteracy and its growth in support of heritage language learners, and of course, for increasing the teacher pipeline and diversifying it so we can make these programs a success.

Norah Jones:

Thank you, Amanda. Thank you. Who else would like to share their specific direction goals? Linda?

Linda Egnatz:

Well, in my role as the Executive Director with the Global Seal of Biliteracy, we kind of are focusing on three ways that we can support this articulation. The first one is what we call level up. We’re really encouraging an ongoing pathway to higher levels of language proficiency that are first of all, recognized with a Global Seal of Biliteracy, a language credential that they can use for applications for college or for work. But we’re also excited that this year, to really support our heritage language programs and our dual language immersion programs, that we are launching a sort of recognition program for those that haven’t quite reached the level of seal credential and so it’s a pathway awards program. We’re really excited about that piece.

Linda Egnatz:

The second piece is our goal would be then to sort of help students leverage their bilingualism. And that’s really what we’ve been talking about with this articulation. Are we providing students with the tools so they know how to talk about their own language skills in ways that are comprehensible to the next, whether it’s the college admission counselors, so that they can advocate for themselves because sometimes there isn’t anyone else there to do that for them?

Linda Egnatz:

And last, I think as advocates and this really first backs into to the LEAP legislation that Amanda was just talking about, is how are we linking them to opportunities? Opportunities for the Seal of Biliteracy, through providing funding for testing, for example, for the Seal of Biliteracy in these less common languages. Are we providing them the links to colleges? Are we letting colleges know where these programs are and what these students are able to do? How are we linking them to their next steps? Because if they see the outcome that’s a powerful motivator and really sort of engages that intrinsic interest in pursuing my language to a higher level of skill.

Norah Jones:

Thank you so much, Linda. Celia?

Celia Chomón Zamora:

At ACTFL, we’re very excited in enacting a lot of great new kind of initiatives for heritage language speakers, as well as heritage language teachers. One of the things that we’re doing is we’re creating resources for teachers to advocate for, develop and implement new heritage language courses and heritage language track at their schools. And this really starts through the administration. Even helping just to create templates to send home to parents and to administrators as to why it’s really important to create these programs in all different languages.

Celia Chomón Zamora:

Another thing that we’re doing is we’re conducting a lot of outreach and support to provide professional development and resources to community schools because these are extremely important. And as Joy has previously alluded to, sometimes they felt like they weren’t necessarily acknowledged or looked at. By being able to actively target them and meet them where they are and say, “What do you need from us? How can we assist you? How can we help get you and the speakers to the next level?” Is something because of course, their needs are going to be very different than the needs of a typical school, a regular Monday through Friday school.

Celia Chomón Zamora:

And of course, one of the other things that we’re doing is creating and developing a very secure teacher pipeline by going into minority-serving institutions, community colleges and even those community schools, to ensure that we are targeting and really recruiting those speakers to then continue to become heritage speakers, to really leverage, why are you in this? What was so important for you? Why was it so important for you to continue this? And wouldn’t you like to see more people like you advocating for the continuation of your language and identity? To then be able to have them become the next generation teachers.

Norah Jones:

Thank you so much, Celia. How about you Joy?

Joy Peyton:

Yeah. Wow. Very powerful stuff. Well, one thing that I think is a really important next step is to the excellent efforts and opportunities will be recognized and documented. Now, each of the people here, Celia with ACTFL, Linda with Global Seal and Amanda with JNCL-NCLIS, are doing that. Are working, it’s interesting, in rich complex, different ways to ensure that efforts and opportunities are recognized and documented. I just want to mention one other and it’s America’s Languages Alliance. And Dick Brecht spoke in the first podcast and he’s leading that effort. But the desire is to document excellent schools that provide access for people who don’t always have access to language learning opportunities. That includes community based schools. It includes Native American schools, which we have not connected with well, at least we in the coalition have not. But this is going to start to give them visibility and create greater connections.

Joy Peyton:

Schools in marginalized, unrecognized communities, just communities that’s like, oh, those guys. We don’t even know or care about them, marginalized, unrecognized communities. And schools teaching all languages. I’m just so hoping that we can find out what schools are teaching all of the languages that are being taught in the US.

Norah Jones:

These are just such exciting opportunities and growth. And just hearing it from each of you brings about a sense of the joy on behalf of the individuals, their families, their communities, their schools, the businesses and organizations that need talented people and certainly the interconnected global world. Deeply appreciate your sharing each of these specific insights, as well as all of the amazing, well, both passion and history and the kinds of stories that can be shared and evoke others.

Norah Jones:

Speaking of stories, I’m going to do one more thing before we end today. I’m going to ask each of you to think to yourself, I have one more opportunity to say something to the listeners of this podcast, one more thing that I just can’t let these listeners leave today without hearing from me. It could be a repetition of what you have already said. It could be an opportunity to share something new but in each case, what do you not want to leave today without having people hear you say? Who’d like to go first?

Amanda Seewald:

I would just say that language advocacy, advocacy in general, is about collaboration and consistency, and a commitment to building connections. It comes from all of us, and is a function of each individual’s journey. To best honor identity, to grow our society and to address the needs in our multicultural civilization, we need to start from where we are, and then we need to demonstrate the power of respect for each other by working to grow the view of multilingualism and language as a conduit for a peaceful and prosperous global past and future. And the only way to do that is together.

Joy Peyton:

The power of connection and collaboration, which is so incredibly visible to me here, that Linda in Global Seal, Celia in ACTFL, Amanda at JNCL-NCLIS, are here together. Well, the coalition, we’re here too. Talking together and saying, “Oh.” I wrote down while you all were talking, a whole long list of things that we can do together moving into the future. But we really need to work together. Sometimes we’re too busy to work together. It’s like, oh, I can’t handle another person. We’re too busy to work together but that’s really how we’re going to move forward. And this is such a fabulous opportunity. And when we did the podcast of, it’s the next podcast on international collaborations, there again, there are people in how many other countries that are running language programs and heritage language programs, community based programs that we could all learn from each other work together? The power of connection and collaboration and I just want to thank you all for your connection and collaboration.

Norah Jones:

Thank you, Joy, who next?

Linda Egnatz:

Well, I will be happy to go next. Final words.

Norah Jones:

Thank you, Linda.

Linda Egnatz:

First of all, it’s really hard to ask for anything final from me. But I think if we go it back to the big picture here is how do we as individuals make a difference? Well, the first thing we do as individuals is we value the identity that language brings and that rich cultural perspective that’s needed as we get begin to sort of in this sort of divisive world that we live in, that language really can bring us together. That we can make the table longer, where there’s more places at the table, that sort of metaphor for joining together and really collectively using our language skills to build a better world. I think that’s a big space.

Linda Egnatz:

But at the practical level, what can we do? Is we can advocate. We can talk to our, whether it’s our local administrators at schools, to make sure that the articulation and the language recognition is inclusive of languages that are spoken by the ELs in our buildings, as well as those who may have grown up but secretly no one knows is attending a Saturday school for a heritage language. We really, first of all, at the local level, we want to identify those. And then we take that nationally to that big picture.

Linda Egnatz:

And we want to talk to our legislators and whether they’re your representatives or your senators and it doesn’t matter on what side of the aisle they are on, language impacts all of us. And that we advocate for that new LEAP legislation because we do, language is going to allow not [only] our students to and our country to not just leap forward but to really provide incredible opportunities that these students’ heritage languages are a natal gift and we want to sustain those. And we’re going to be able to do that if we can put these little pieces at the local level, as well as these national pieces into place.

Norah Jones:

Thank you so much, Linda. Celia?

Celia Chomón Zamora:

I’d just like to end by saying that when a language dies, the culture and the history and the stories die. In order for us to really ensure that we continue this path forward, being able to really refer to the past and refer to the cultural impact, we need to really invest in our languages. It’s a matter of empowering our learners to continue and embracing their identity, embracing their diversity, embracing the variety and just always remember that language connects. Language doesn’t divide, language connects.

Norah Jones:

What a beautiful and articulate summation. I just am so grateful to the four of you today for expressing the heart of heritage language on the way to speaking for the voice for heritage languages. And I think that you will forgive me if you have prompted me to say the following as I end this podcast with you today, most regretfully that I end it, is that the advocacy begins by the heritage language individual speaking to their own heart about their worth, their contribution, their unique identity and their humanity, advocating for their own value and then allowing that to radiate out into their families and beyond. Thank you, Celia, Linda, Joy and Amanda for providing so many beautiful pathways and understandings of what advocacy can do for this very important aspect of our common humanity. Appreciate every single one of you being here today.

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