D.16: Bridging Cultures, Languages, and Lands: An Illustration of Latina/o and Chicanx Rhetorical Practices
Reviewed by Isabel Baca, University of Texas at El Paso (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Chair: Laura Anne Carroll-Adler, University of Southern California
Speakers: Victor Del Hierro, Michigan State University, “Familia-From-Scratch: Disrupting Settler-Colonialism through Indigenous Chicanx Histories of Migration”
Alexandra Hidalgo, Michigan State University, “A Video Exploration of the Hybrid Cultural Identities of Bilingual Latina/o Children”
Laura Gonzales, Michigan State University, “Insights into Multilingual Digital Work Coordination: It’s Not about Writing in English or Writing in Spanish, It’s about Being All the Time in Both Worlds”
When I perused the 2016 Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC) program I knew I had to attend this panel. Its title resonated with me: as a Latina educator, I know the importance of bridging cultures, languages, and lands. The U.S. demographics are changing, and as such, so are the linguistic and cultural needs of the nation and its students. This panel not only met but exceeded my expectations; all three speakers showed us, the audience, how important it is to recognize, value, and bridge the diverse languages and cultures in this nation.
Victor Del Hierro, after thanking those who helped him with the work he was presenting, clearly identified the focus of his presentation: we must develop more ways to help students be in the university and help to make their experience meaningful. He argued that service learning helps us accomplish this. With the help of a PowerPoint presentation, Del Hierro shared his ideas on how the university enacts settler colonialism (a form of colonial formation where foreign people move into a region and an imperial power oversees the immigration of these settlers who consent, often only temporarily, to government by that authority). He shared his family’s migration story and developed his main argument. On the screen, we could read Del Hierro ’s words:
- We are increasingly finding that our support of students of color is a lot more complicated than previously anticipated. Beyond getting them here (to the university), we have to create experiences for them that not only develop them academically but offer them ways to make meaningful relations with their community (back home and at the location of the university).
Del Hierro ended with a call for action: We must disrupt university settler colonial relationships with the lands they occupy and push for service learning work that redistributes resources. Service learning as a means to help students of color make their college experience meaningful was emphasized throughout his entire presentation.
Alexandra Hidalgo’s video essay inspired me. She narrated her personal linguistic and cultural journey and how it affected the way she is raising her two sons. Her story of losing her childhood English resonates with many multilingual children and adolescents’ experience. Through this video essay, Hidalgo showed how language is power. This led to a discussion on how the benefits of being multilingual are staggering; these include both mental and social benefits. Though the benefits of being bilingual are many, raising children to be bilingual is challenging. As Hidalgo noted, “We must make a conscious effort to have our children speak both languages [English and Spanish].” The influence family, peers, and school have on promoting languages is powerful. As such, Hidalgo recommended that a way to keep and learn a language is to engage with students who speak the same language. The language of our children’s peers is very influential.
I connected with Hidalgo when she said, “Spanish is the language of my soul.” I too chose to raise my son bilingually. I have lived this linguistic journey: when Spanish is dominant, but English catches up quickly, especially when children enroll in school. In the U.S., schools play an important role in students’ attitudes toward their home and heritage languages. I share Hidalgo’s pain when she narrated in her video that seeing your child reject his/her heritage language is a painful experience. “We can’t give them fully the culture because we are not fully of the culture ourselves anymore,” she said. How do we let English creep in without taking over? We must instill positive language attitudes towards both languages and show the beauty of both.
Laura Gonzales began by acknowledging those who have been fighting for language diversity, including Aja Martinez, Geneva Smitherman, and Victor Villanueva. She immediately stated the purpose of her presentation: “We must move beyond ‘policy issues’ in theorizing language diversity to further language as a ‘matter of practice.’” Gonzales went on to argue that the translation work of multilinguals must be acknowledged as being rhetorical, cultural, technical, and intellectual.
She posed her research questions: What rhetorical practices do multilingual communicators use to translate information? What tools and strategies (technological, digital, etc.) do multilingual communicators use to translate? She examined these questions based on her work at Knightly News at the University of Central Florida (UCF Knightly Latino). She described her study and the data she collected. She described her coding scheme and showed a brief video of Knightly Latino. Through her description of what she calls “translation moments” (instances in time when multilinguals make a decision to transform information from one language to another) and the different processes involved in translation, Gonzales concluded that translation is not about writing in English or Spanish. She quoted Natalie, a student, in saying: “It’s about living all the time in both worlds and knowing where to go in the moment.”
Gonzales described translation processes and explained how multilinguals know how to draw on their linguistic resources. She went on to explain how translators work:
- Translators become aware of their roles as communicators moving across audiences.
- Translators use translation tools as sites for creativity and invention, not as sites for answers.
- Translators combine cultural, rhetorical, and technical skills to contextualize information across languages.
Gonzales called for a revised rhetoric of translation. She believes that translation is a culturally situated process, a cyclical process, and a creative act. And though she noted that translators may begin by using tools such as Google Translate when translating, they must then draw on their cultural knowledge for an accurate translation.
As I listened to all three speakers, I reflected on my own linguistic and cultural journey. I reflected on how I feel about my own journey with both English and Spanish and how this journey has impacted the way I raise my son. And just as importantly, I examined my language and cultural attitudes as an educator in a multicultural and multilingual nation. We MUST practice and convey positive language and cultural attitudes in and outside the classroom.