"The whole movement of life is learning" (Krishnamurti). "To be an act of knowing, then, the adult literacy process must engage the learners in the constant problematizing of their existential situations" (Freire). "Once you learn to read, you will be forever free" (Douglass). "I can learn anything I have the desire to learn" (White, S.G.).

Saturday, April 19, 2014


First of all, thank you so much to everyone who shared their presentations on Tuesday.  It was really interesting to hear about everyone's project.  I was surprised to learn how similar many of the themes were, despite the fact that many of us were working on completely different artifacts.

Carol and I have really loved working on this project.  It was such an interesting, eye-opening experience.  It has been great working together, especially since both of us have very different positions within our organization.  I have found so many rich, interesting details in this study, and it was so frustrating having to summarize everything within 20 minutes.  When Carol and I first met to organize our presentation, we ended up having an hour-long discussion just on our findings.  Our work environment is basically a cacophony of multiple, competing Discourses.  There are so many factors that come into play: cross-cultural communication, power relationships between our department and the university as well as university office staff and students, language barriers, subversive appropriations of text...I do not even know where to start on writing my discussion paper!

Out of all the stakeholders that I interviewed, I am most fascinated by the responses of the student workers in our office.  Their positionality to our text gives them a very unique perspective.  Not only do they serve as office members who are responsible for answering questions regarding the process, they are also international students at the university AND language brokers.  Each one of them is at least bilingual (one of them actually speaks 5 languages more or less fluently), and they are frequently asked to interpret or assist the students in filling out forms.  They seem to be able to bridge all of these competing discourses (is there a term for this?).  Not only do they serve as language brokers for students that speak their mother tongue, but I would say that they are language brokers for all international students that come to our office.  Even I would consider myself a language broker, not just because I speak two languages fluently, but because I "speak the lingo."  My friends and family often tease me about my ridiculous hand motions and my slow speech when I am trying to explain something.  I just tell them that I speak "fluent ESL."  Often I receive phone calls from other departments at the university asking me to "translate" what the student wants.  Most of the time it is a student whose language I do not speak, but because I spend so much time in this world of modified English, I am able to understand what the student is trying to say.

One other theme that I came across in my interviews that I didn't have the chance to mention in my presentation was the idea of exclusionary language.  On our application, we have many questions regarding immigration and immigration status.  The student workers have informed me that they notice a lot of confusion surrounding those questions.  One even told me a story about how when he first arrived in the United States he had no idea what any of these acronyms or codes meant, only that when he realized how  important they were, it made him terrified.  A student's understanding of their immigration status is critical for their survival here, but it takes a while to understand all of the legalese and abbreviations.  It took me nearly a year to get the lingo down, and even now I still have to look up items on the DHS website.  I could do an entirely different project on this topic alone.

Questions and comments are welcome!  Also, does anyone have any suggestions on how to synthesize some of these findings so that this doesn't turn into a dissertation? :-)  I feel like there are just so many theories I could use!


  1. Hi Rachel-

    You and Carol did a nice job with your presentation and I appreciated how well you both explained the context of your project and relative positionality. I’ve been working on the presentation and paper simultaneously and initially felt a little overwhelmed with how to synthesize and organize everything into a logical flow but what helped me was thinking about overarching macro themes- maybe yours would be relational power or cross-cultural communication? -and then drilling down to more of the micro or localized voice of the student workers and their experiences. Once I had a structure for my themes it was easier to match the readings with my findings. I’m sure there are numerous ways to organize so it feels more manageable but I’m pretty sure 5 pages will still be a minimum :)
    Also, I think your post helped me get closer to the answer I posed in mine...maybe she’s brokering the language instead of code-switching. Thanks!

  2. Rachel, I can also appreciate the feeling of having so information and not knowing how to tackle the paper. I had a similar struggle with the presentation. I went broad with my presentation and now I'm going to go deep on just a few of the topics for my paper (Dr. Muth's advice to me after class). So, perhaps you can do the same? Pick just two (or three) themes from your research and really explore them. I'm sure the theoretical framework will just magically appear. :)

  3. Rachel,
    As I promised in class, I wanted to provide you a reference or comment from the Reading Work book that might be helpful in your analysis of the "exclusionary language" you mentioned in your blog, e.g. "One other theme that I came across in my interviews that I didn't have the chance to mention in my presentation was the idea of exclusionary language."

    On page 120 of Reading Work book is the following statement: "Attributes of the 'ideal discourse' had little meaning and little immediate relevance in their everyday work lives. That included the language of the quality documents. It was the language of another culture, opaque, and without resonance for them. Although they worked in the same hotel, their lived experiences were in different cultures and discourses." (Belfiore, et al., 2004, p. 120)

    I see some similarities between the language issue associated with the hotel's quality documents and the language issue associated with the ELP admissions application.

    I hope this helps.


Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on this post. Diverse opinions are welcomed.