Skip to main content

Emerging Bilinguals Glossary Entry

The term emerging bilingual is fairly new, but my work with bilinguals dates back to 2010, when I completed my student teaching in a bilingual English-Spanish class at the Joseph J. Hurley K-8. Immediately following my practicum, I was hired as a long-term substitute to finish the year as a 5th grade teacher and it was at that little community school in the South End of Boston that I fell in love with working with bilingual students. From there I had my first full-time teaching job in a bilingual 3rd grade class at the Sarah Greenwood K-8 in Dorchester, which then morphed into a role as ESL specialist half-way through the year. After one year in Boston Public Schools, I decided to cast my net a bit further, and found my forever home of Framingham.

Throughout my decade of teaching experience, the field of teaching English has continued to evolve.

Schools commonly use the terms EL or ELL when describing English Language Learners in the United States. Formerly, these students were identified as LEP (Limited English Proficient), but that term was phased out as educators didn't want to label English learners as "limited." Then the terminology of EL and ELL was on the rise, as collectively these students compose roughly 12 million students across the US (approximately 1 in 4), include native speakers of more than 400 languages, and represent a diverse group of languages, cultures, ethnicities and nationalities, of which about 75% are Latino and native speakers of Spanish.

The term "emergent bilingual" was originally coined by Ofelia Garcia in her article "Emergent Bilinguals and TESOL: What's in a Name?" published in TESOL Quarterly June 2009. She states emergent bilingual could be a better term for English learners, as LEPs and ELLs suggest limits to a student’s capabilities. "The term emergent bilinguals refers to the children's potential in developing their bilingualism; it does not suggest a limitation or a problem in comparison to those who speak English," she argues.

As soon as I heard the term, I loved it. I loved the power and positivity behind the words, and I love how the classification is goal-oriented. Learning is a continuum, and learning a language is an evolutionary process that is the exact opposite of limiting--it broadens one's horizons and can open up students to new countries and cultures and opportunities and lives.

To be an emergent bilingual is to be ever growing, improving, and learning, so when the time came to begin raising children of my own, I had no doubt in my mind that I wanted my children to be emergent bilinguals, especially because of their bicultural background. That is where Raising Emerging Bilinguals came from, but I share this post today to show that the story begins well before then. I had no idea when I came to Framingham in the summer of 2011 and interviewed at the dual-language elementary school just what my future had in store for me. While I did not get the job as first grade Spanish teacher, instead I got a job at Fuller Middle School teaching ESL, which put me on the trajectory of settling in Framingham, meeting my husband, and having a few emerging bilinguals of my own.

While we never quite know what might lie ahead in our futures, a truth that resonates now even more, I can look back and see how each decision in my life led me to where I am now, and I am eternally grateful for all of these experiences that have shaped and formed me, and helped me to discern what it is that is really important in my life.

Thank you for joining us on this documentation of our journey, and I assure you our road to raising emerging bilinguals is just beginning!


    Popular posts from this blog

    Is 5 Little Monkeys Racist?

    I’ve seen a lot of Tik Toks debunking children’s nursery rhymes lately. I have two toddlers, so now whenever I hear one of those rhymes, I think about their unsavory origins. But my son loves, loves Five Little Monkeys. He’s just learning to talk, and can almost say it by himself. I’ve thought about telling him to stop singing it since I learned in the original lyrics it’s not monkeys jumping on the bed, but he just gets so much joy from singing it as he jumps up and falls down, I thought... no harm, no foul, right? As long as he thinks the song is about monkeys, it’s ok.  Until my niece came over one day, and the three toddlers were playing on an old mattress we have on the living room floor for them to jump around on. My son asked me to sing 5 Little Monkeys. At first it was cute, because they literally were jumping on the bed, but then I took a good look at the three of them.  My kids are half-Guatemalan but very fair, like I am. Whereas my niece is half-black, and her skin happens

    Storytime Bilingüe featuring “Buenas Noches Luna”

    This week's Storytime Bilingue features Buenas Noches Luna , the Spanish translation of the beloved children's book Good Night Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. We love the vivid language and images, and the black and white contrast pages are particularly compelling for the little ones whose eyesight is still developing. You'll see how much Mateo interacts with the book during this reading! This is a story I have nearly memorized, because I read it to Maya consistently before bed during our bedtime routine. We've read it so much, she practically has it memorized, too. Sometimes she likes me to read it aloud, and sometimes she likes to "read" the book by describing the images. I actually wrote about her as an emerging bilingual reader in my earlier blog post,  Today a Reader, Tomorrow a Leader , but the highlight of that post is that research shows repeated readings of the same book really benefit early literacy and vocabulary acquisition. For that reason I

    Why You Should Travel with Little Kids

    I took my first cross-country road trip when I was six-weeks-old. My parents loaded me up in an old Ford Wagoneer and drove me home from my dad's hometown of Pittsburgh, PA, to my hometown of Ojai, CA. After that, we traveled back and forth between the East Coast and the West Coast every summer of my life. A few times we flew, but most years we loaded up the car with the suitcases, the dogs, and the children and drove 3,000 miles across the country. This early exposure to travel instilled within me a joy of seeing the world, and since that first trip I have visited 34 states and 14 countries. And I hope to share that same joy with my own little ones. Traveling with children can be hard--it disrupts their nap schedules, may involve crossing timelines, and definitely pushes everyone beyond their comfort zones. But seeing different countries and different parts of our country as children gives them a greater appreciation for cultural and regional differences, and it widens their exper