Reaction to foreign lang. conversation (RE: Michigan: Dearborn schools leader: Foreign language use limited)

Don Osborn dzo at
Sat Jan 17 20:01:35 UTC 2009

Has anything been written on this perspective of multilingual
interaction?...  Is it universal that people assume that speech they do not
understand between others is negative and about them? Having lived in
multilingual societies, I don't remember that sort of general reaction,
though the context might make a big difference, and often someone in a
multilingual group conversation will take it upon themselves to brief
someone who obviously is not going to understand a particular discussion.


I have had the impression since long ago that it is a "monolingual" American
trait. In high school I think it was, I remember an interaction like this:
someone asks an exchange student to say something in their language, the
latter then obliges, and then the first student asks if they did not just
say something bad about them.


Two excerpts from the NPR article in particular give rise to this question


"So let's say that there's two staff members, me and another staff member,
sitting in the office, and we're both talking in a foreign language - that
we shouldn't do that if we both understand English, because it's not fair to
the other people who walk in and out of the office, who may not understand
what we're talking about," [District Superintendent Brian] Whiston says.

 . . .


"I think human nature is, if you don't understand something, the assumption
is that they're talking about you. I think it tends to put people who are
not familiar with the language in an uncomfortable position," [president of
the Dearborn Federation of Teachers Kevin] Harris says.


. . .



From: owner-lgpolicy-list at
[mailto:owner-lgpolicy-list at] On Behalf Of jbale at
Sent: Saturday, January 17, 2009 11:18 AM
To: lgpolicy-list at
Subject: Michigan: Dearborn schools leader: Foreign language use limited


This report on Michigan Radio, MI' NPR station, offers a little more  
detail than the Detroit Free Press article - and a little more cause for

Keep in mind that Dearborn secondary schools are partnered with  
Michigan State University's Arabic Flagship, focusing primarily on  
curriculum development at this point.  In addition, one primary and  
one intermediate school use one of the largest FLAP grants to support  
Arabic instruction and curriculum development.  Like I said, this  
newest report is cause for concern.



Jeffrey Bale, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Second Language Education
World Languages Faculty Leader
Department of Teacher Education

College of Education
Michigan State University
356 Erickson Hall
East Lansing, MI 48824

517-353-0750 (office)
517-505-8888 (cell)
517-432-5092 (fax)
jbale at

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <>

More information about the Lgpolicy-list mailing list