¿De dónde eres?

English Translation Below:

Por Erica Mirochnik, Creadora de Mamás por el mundo

Mamasporelmundo.com

Facebook.com/Mamasporelmundo

 

Una de las preguntas más frecuentes que les hacen a mis hijos, y a muchos otros niños también es “¿de dónde eres?”

Para la mayoría de los niños esto es algo sencillo de responder. Para los míos es algo más complejo.

La respuesta más común a esta pregunta es que somos del lugar donde nacimos. En el caso de muchas familias como la mía, mis hijos han nacido en un país que no es el de sus padres y en el que tampoco viven en este momento.

Entonces la respuesta se vuelve algo más larga que decir “soy de…” Comienza una larga serie de explicaciones en las que cuentan que sus padres se han mudado varias veces, que ellos han nacido en uno de esos tantos lugares de residencia pero que ya hace un tiempo que no viven allí.

La versión de respuesta corta es decir que son del país de los padres, cosa que muchos mencionan para evitar dar tantos detalles de su vida y la de su familia.

Para muchas familias es prácticamente impensable la idea de haberte ido a vivir lejos de tu lugar de origen. Sin ir más lejos, hasta hace no mucho tiempo, la gente pasaba su vida entera sin moverse de su ciudad o de su pueblo.

Esto hace que comunicarse con gente en otras latitudes sea el primer desafío que enfrentan estas familias que se han mudado. Y no es sólo una cuestión de cuán bien sabes el idioma local, lo importante es pensar como comunicas con quienes te rodean. Pensar si utilizas el segundo idioma meramente para trabajo y cuestiones prácticas o si has podido establecer vínculos que te permiten compartir algo más íntimo de tu vida con tu nuevo entorno.

En los niños sucede de una forma más natural, ya que a través del juego que es un lenguaje en el que se sienten muy cómodos, los niños pueden expresarse de diferentes formas, pero sobretodo utilizan el segundo idioma para interactuar de manera natural.

Los adultos tenemos nuestros propios obstáculos al respecto, a veces reales y a veces autoimpuestos. Creemos que no sabemos lo suficiente o que tenemos un acento muy fuerte, y nos limitamos la capacidad de interactuar. Buscamos muchas excusas por diferentes razones y así nos privamos de uno de los mayores beneficios que tiene vivir en otro país que es conocer la cultura y la gente del lugar.

Entonces volviendo a “¿de dónde eres?”, creo que es importante manifestar tu origen de diferentes maneras y a través de una segunda lengua abrirte a un mundo de posibilidades donde no solo te beneficias tu, sino tu interlocutor.

Cuando un niño cuenta que ha nacido en otra ciudad genera curiosidad, y cuando un adulto lo cuenta puede generar un diálogo interesante.

En ese momento lo que importa es de dónde vienes y a dónde has llegado, más allá de tus motivos. Estas aquí y ahora con todo tu bagaje, es el equipaje que ha venido contigo y del que debes estar orgulloso para poder compartirlo.

 

 

 “Where are you from?”

By Erica Mirochnik, Creator of Mamás por el mundo

Mamasporelmundo.com

Facebook.com/Mamasporelmundo

 

One of the most frequently asked questions that my children, and many other children are asked is  “Where are you from?”

For most children this is something simple to answer. For mine it is more complex.

The most common answer to such a question is that they are from the place where they were born. For international and expatriate families like mine, our children were born in a country that is neither where their parents are from nor the country where they currently live.

Then the answer becomes somewhat longer to say “I’m from …” and thus begins a long series of explanations which explains that their parents have moved several times, that they were born in one of those many places of residence, and that it has been a long time since they lived there.

A shorter version of the answer is that they are from the country of their parents, which is commonly used so as to avoid giving many personal and family details.

For much of society,  it is an unthinkable idea to live far from your place of origin. Without going any further, until not long ago, people spent their entire lives without leaving their town or village.

This makes communicating with people in other latitudes the first challenge faced by these families who have moved. And it is not only a question of how well you know the local language but also how well you are able to communicate with those around you. Think about if you use the second language merely for work and for answering practical questions or if you have also been able to establish language connections that allow you to share more intimate details of your life with those in your new environment.

For children language learning happens more naturally, because already like learning a game, a new language will feel very comfortable.  Children can express themselves in different ways, but more than anything, children learn to interact in the second language more naturally.

As adults, we encounter our own obstacles, sometimes real and sometimes self – imposed. Either, we do not know enough or we have a very strong accent, and we limit our ability to interact. We look for many excuses for different reasons, and by doing so, we deprive ourselves of one of the greatest benefits that come from living in another country– that is the culture and the locals.

Now back to “where are you from ?” I think it’s important to deliver your origin in a variety of ways; and through the use of your second language you can begin to open up a world of possibilities where you not only benefit but also the person to whom you speak benefits.

Curiosity is generated when one learns that a child is born in another city; and when an adult shares this with others, interesting dialogue can develop.

And at that moment, what becomes important is where you come from and where have you arrived, more than motives.  You are here with all of your baggage, it is it the luggage that has come with you and you should be proud to share it with others.

Bilinguals: The Talented Workforce for the 21st Century

Human Capital Investment:

Employees who speak more than one language are becoming increasingly important in our workforce.  A recent report by New American Economy shows that the demand for bilingual jobs posted on online search engines have more than doubled over the past 5 years.  The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that Translators and Interpreters will be one of the fastest growing professions in the next several years, with an anticipated 42% growth in the private sector alone.  From a study conducted by Northern Illinois University Center for Government Studies in August, 2015, one third of the businesses surveyed were seeking bilingual employees whereas within the next five years, at least half of those businesses are expected to do so.

The majority of businesses surveyed reported that bilingual skills were:

  • critical for success (Korn/Kerry International Executive Recruiter Index, 2005);
  • important for customer satisfaction and retention,
  • improved business competitiveness
  • enabled businesses to engage with new suppliers and conduct business in other countries. (Study by Northern Illinois University Center for Governmental Studies, August 2015).

Drivers in Demand for Bilinguals in the Workforce:

The key factor in the increase demand for bilinguals in the workforce is primarily the human factor — human engagement and interaction that cannot be automated by machines. The need for high quality human interaction and engagement is important in all levels of business and across industries, especially where high levels of interaction is required across diverse groups of people. Why bilinguals over monolinguals?  Bilinguals provide a more enriched level of engagement with others from diverse backgrounds than can monolinguals.  To better understand this, we have identified three key drivers for the growing demand for bilinguals in the workforce:

  • Growing Immigrant Population
  • Global Economy
  • Cognitive and Social Benefits

These driving forces are not necessarily mutually exclusive; but rather overlap and intersect in multiple facets.

Growing Immigrant Population:

Today, more than one fifth of the families in the United States speaks another language other than English at home.  The majority of those families (13% of U.S. population) speaks Spanish.  However, Mandarin, French, Vietnamese, Arabic and many other languages are also commonly spoken.  In Texas, more than one third of households speak a language other than English, with more than 80% of those families speaking Spanish.

Consequently, the majority of the online job posts for bilinguals often tend to be where the majority of families whose primary language is something other than English live.  To give an example of this, below is the U.S. Census Data for where Spanish speakers live in the United States and the data by state for online job posts for bilinguals (NEA report).  You can see from the data below that the majority of bilingual online job posts are located in states with a larger concentration of Spanish speakers.

The demand for bilingual jobs to serve families whose primary language is other than English are found in a large cross section of industries and across all skill levels.  Predominant industries that seek bilinguals include:

  • Education
    • Demand for teachers is to increase by 13% through 2018, demand bilingual teachers to increase at even a faster rate (Geteducated.com)
  • Legal
    • Demand in foreign language skills, especially Spanish, is a top trend in hiring legal staff & law enforcement agencies. “Foreign Language Skills See High Demand in Legal Market” by Charles A Volkert at Robert Half, Job Recruitment agency.
  • Medical
    • Patient care and outcome is directly proportional to ability of medical staff and patient to communicate.
  • Banking
    • The highest number of online job postings for bilinguals are now in this sector per the NEA Report.
  • Telecommunications
    • Minority groups are high consumers smart phones and serving this population requires staff with bilingual skills per the NEA Report.
  • Call Centers
    • Up to 20% of staff are bilingual, Society for Human Resources Management
  • Retail
  • Government
  • Construction
  • Social Services

While job demand for bilinguals is increasing across all skill levels, the fastest growing demand is in the those jobs that require a higher skill level.  Please see below from the NEA Report:

The Global Economy:

Global integration across industries and supply chains has increased the demand for a  bilingual and multicultural workforce who can work well with others from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds. Consequently, Spanish has grown to become an important language in global trade since it is a language that covers a significant global territory, including some of our most important trading partners. For example, enrollment in a popular Spanish language learning program, the Instituto Cervantes, located in 87 cities worldwide, quadrupled between 2003 and 2013. Notwithstanding, China has also become more aggressive in encouraging Spanish as  a second language as China continues to expand its influence in foreign investment and capital in Europe and the Americas (Per the Chinese National Coordinator for Spanish, Lu Jingsheng, at the Foro Internacional del Español, 2015 and China’s Investment in Latin America, David Dollar from Foreign Policy at Brookings).

Spanish is not the only language business and industry leaders are learning.  Many articles have been written highlighting the value of learning Mandarin, French, German and Arabic  for success in the global economy.

How Many Foreign Languages Do Executives Speak?  An interesting website based survey conducted by Korn/Ferry International, an Executive Recruitment Firm based in LA revealed that a significant number of executives speak at least least more than one language.

  • 36% – One language
  • 31% – Two languages
  • 20% – Three languages
  • 9% – Four languages
  • 4% – More than five languages
  • (64% of the 12,562 Executives who responded to the website survey spoke two or more languages)

Cognitive and Social Advantages:

Much has been written on the cognitive and social advantages of being bilingual.  Balanced bilinguals (those who speak more than one language daily and do so in a variety of contexts) demonstrate an advantage in the development of important and highly valued transferable cognitive skills due to the consistent exercising of the brain through code switching between languages.   These transferable cognitive skills include: cognitive load managementproblem solving, sense making, creative thinking, and adaptability. (See below for a list of supporting studies).  They are also the same skills considered to be some of the most important skills needed for our future work force because these skills are essential to success in variety of highly skilled disciplines, such as science, technology, and engineering.

Yet, equally, if not more, important are the essential social skills that bilinguals possess.  Studies reveal that children who are repeatedly exposed to other languages, even if they are not proficient in the other languages, are better at understanding multiple perspectives.

Those who grow up speaking more than one language and whose languages are valued by others have a greater positive self identity, can relate more positively to others from different cultures  and are more likely to pursue higher education (Rebecca Callahan, Assistant Professor of Bilingual Education at U T at Austin, Presentation at Bilingual STEAM event.  Such positive self identity and ability to relate to others are necessary skills for continued self development as well as effective collaboration, communication and negotiation.  Essentially, these skills are the most fundamental skills needed for any job that requires human interaction, which is a key reason why bilinguals (even if they do not use their second language in their profession) are valuable employees.

As employers continue to reap the benefits that bilingual employees bestow, the demand for bilinguals in the workforce will continue to grow.  Currently, bilinguals already receive an increase pay differential that varies from 2 – 20%, depending on the  level of skills and language required ((Study by Northern Illinois University Center for Governmental Studies, August 2015).  Furthermore, research reveals that bilinguals are less likely to be let go by their employers than are their monolingual counterparts during economic downturns (Callahan, R. & Gándara, The Bilingual Advantage: Language, Literacy, and the U.S. Labor Market.).

Implications:

Society must realize the value that speaking multiple languages bestow, not only in the workforce but in society in general, and in doing so continue to promote language learning and cultural understanding.  How? Educational institutions can foster strong multilingual skills at the prime age for language acquisition through:

  • preschool language enrichment programs,
  • effective dual language programs–beginning in elementary and on through high school so that children leave high school as balanced bi-literate bilinguals,
  • language enrichment programs for children of immigrant families whose language is other than English
  • programs that encourage cross cultural exchanges and greater appreciation for our country’s ethnic and cultural diversity.
  • bilingual enrichment programs in the arts and in STEM related activities.

Community leaders and business leaders can sponsor more programs for community engagement that highlight the value of linguistic and cultural diversity while also fostering cross cultural experiences that serve to unite people.  Leaders can help provide parents with the resources they need to foster strong linguistic skills in more than one language and facilitate smaller scaled programs for meaningful active linguistic engagement.  They can also put pressure on educational institutions and other service providers to ensure that native and non-native linguistic skills, along with cultural appreciation for our  country’s diversity, are supported for all children from all backgrounds.

Policy makers can continue to enact laws and programs that encourage second language instruction and cross cultural appreciation.  Twenty-three states offer, (and more are underway), students a Seal of Biliteracy. The Seal of Biliteracy is awarded to students from specific schools or districts who have demonstrated a level of proficiency in more than one language.  Another example is the recently passed Texas law, SB 671, which provides a high school credit to students who have graduated from a TEA compliant Dual Language elementary schools.  This law also includes provisions for more high school credit hours and college credit for those children who speak the second language and who continue taking classes in the second language throughout middle school.  Policies like these are first steps, but many more are required to help build our country’s linguistic skills and cross-cultural connections so that we as a larger community with engaged citizens and employees, have the skills necessary to unite us and lead us forward in the 21st century.

Most importantly, parents must work together to demand educational and enrichment programs to support their children’s bilingual and multicultural education.  Parents are key drivers for policy changes and  implementation across all sectors of government and educational institutions.  Parents make their voices heard by choosing dual language schools, supporting language enrichment programs, raising funds to support language and cross cultural education and holding policy and community leaders accountable to providing such educational programs.

Noteworthy studies that demonstrate important cognitive and social skill advantages: 

Dr Máire Ní Ríordáin, Mathematics and Gaeilge:  A Report on the Influence of Bilingualism, May 2011.

Ellen Bialystok and Shilpi Majumder, The relationship between bilingualism and the development of cognitive processes in problem solving, January 1998.

Hwajin Yang, Sujin Yang, Stephen J. Ceci, and Qi Wang, Effects of Bilinguals’ Controlled-Attention on Working Memory and Recognition, Cornell University 2005.

Heather McLeay, The Relationship Between Bilingualism and the Performance of Spatial Tasks, 26 Mar 2010.

Kessler, C., & Quinn, M. E., Positive effects of bilingualism on Science problem solving abilities, 1980.
Ben-Zeev, S., The influence of bilingualism on cognitive strategy and cognitive development. 1977.

Demont, E., Contribution of early 2nd-language learning to development of linguistic awareness and learning to read, 2001.

Landry, R. G., The enhancement of figural creativity through second language learning at the elementary school level, 1973.

Boaz Keysar, Sayuri L. Hayakawa, Sun Gyu An, The Foreign-Language Effect, Thinking in a Foreign Tongue Reduces Decision Biases, April 18, 2012.

Viorica Marian, Anthony Shook, and Scott R. Schroeder, Bilingual Two-Way Immersion Programs Benefit Academic Achievement, Sept. 5, 2013.

Krista Byers-Heinlein and Bianca Garcia, Bilingualism Changes Children’s Beliefs about what is Innate, 2015.

Morgan, C. ‘Attitude change and foreign language culture learning’ in Language Teaching, 1993.

Samantha P. Fan, Zoe Liberman, Boaz Keysar, Katherine D. Kinzler, The Exposure Advantage: Early Exposure to a Multilingual Environment Promotes Effective Communication, May 8, 2015.

Jonathan W Pesner, Frank Auld, The relationship between bilingual proficiency and self-esteem, 1980.

 

Embrace Multiculturalism and Embrace Your Humanity

Shortly after I moved to Texas, I met up with my good friend and former college roommate, Stephanie.  Stephanie is German and she had moved to Corpus Christi, Texas with her husband one year prior to my moving to Austin.  When we first reunited, she told me about an interesting discovery she had made.  While sitting in her car stopped at a red light, she heard the same style of music that her grandparents use to listen to when she was a little girl but in a language she couldn’t understand.  She looked around to see where the music was coming from and then realized that it was coming from a car next to her.  But instead of an old person, she saw a hispanic youth jamming out to the familiar music.  That was when Stephanie first discovered that much of Texas culture was indeed an intermixing and cross-pollination of cultures with strong roots from German/Eastern Europe and Mexico.  (For more on the history of Tejano music, click here.)

Since the beginning of trade, mankind has been very adept at adopting and redefining cultural ideas, customs, traditions and beliefs through multicultural exchange.  In fact, rather than being a product of isolation we are, by our very nature, a product of multiculturalism.  Unfortunately, in the name of greed and power, countless people from differing cultures have been persecuted, enslaved and discriminated against.  Yet, in spite of it all, many of these same cultures have made and continue to make considerable contributions to our society as a whole.

In rejection to xenophobia and isolationism, let us come together and recognize the value that each group brings.  Let us build mutual respect for each other and avoid repeating atrocities to innocent life caused by hatred, discrimination and persecution.  Let us connect through our shared values that unite us as humans and discover the beauty in our differences.  Let us look through the eyes of others with understanding and find ways to work together regardless of skin color, ethnicity, religion, gender and socioeconomic status.  Let us be what is so innate to human nature, let us embrace multiculturalism.

Multiculturalism is not a rejection of your own culture; but rather it allows you to learn more about your own culture as you also learn about and build respect for the cultures of others.  It is important to remember that no culture is without negative aspects and no culture is inherently good.  Multiculturalism is also not an open door for accepting human rights abuses and discrimination based on gender, race or socioeconomic status.  Rather, multiculturalism beckons you to come with an open mind to appreciate the good in other cultures (as well as your own) with the understanding that no culture is without faults.  Moreover, when we embrace multiculturalism, we also open ourselves up to new possibilities, creative expression and insight that we can in turn alter in ways that make it our ownjust like the early Tejano musicians did after being exposed to the German and Czech music and adopting the accordion in their musical repertoire.

How to embrace multiculturalism:

Be open to meeting and engaging with people who are from different backgrounds.

  • Volunteer with programs that serve the refugee or immigrant communities and other underserved communities;
  • Host exchange students and/or families;
  • Attend cultural events and celebrations;
  • Make a genuine effort to build friendships with others with backgrounds and ethnicities that differ from your own;
  • Introduce yourself and your family to books with diverse characters;
  • Watch plays, movies and other performing arts with diverse characters who tell their story through acting or song;
  • Enjoy trying new types of cuisine from family run restaurants.  While you are there, talk to the owners and staff.

Be prepared to be both accepted and rejected:

  • While multiculturalism is innate to humans, so is discrimination and tribalism.  Regardless of culture, you will always find people who resent any aspect of their culture and/or language being shared with or appropriated by others.  This is especially true for cultural groups who have been or continue to be discriminated against.  For this reason, mutual respect and cultural understanding are extremely critical for any fruitful multicultural exchange.
  • Acknowledge your ignorance.  No group of people is without bias. Bias based on media images, ingrained cultural and/or generational prejudices and du jour religious doctrines further fuel our ignorance and reduce other groups to often negative stereotypes.  When you meet others from difference cultures, be humble to the fact that until you are intimately connected with that culture, you remain ignorant with preset biases.

Other related links:

http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/multicultural-reading-resources/diversity-book-lists-for-kids/our-diverse-world-book-list-for-kids/

http://austin.thinkbilingual.org/the-importance-of-building-a-diverse-community-bilingualism-and-multiculturalism/

http://austin.thinkbilingual.org/mix-bilingualism-with-multiculturalism/

 

 

How can we support kids in learning more than one language?

The Conversation

Image 20150805 22478 1f66m5q
Those who know more than one language have a competitive edge.
The LEAF Project, CC BY-SA

Ester J de Jong, University of Florida

There is little doubt that knowing more than one language carries tremendous advantages.

Young bilinguals are known to be flexible thinkers and better problem solvers. They have a competitive edge in the labor market, with those fluent in English along with another language showing higher earnings. What’s more, research shows that knowing more than one language could even delay the onset of Alzheimer’s and dementia by two to four years.

Most people have come to agree that it is necessary to know more than one language. Over 70% of respondents in a recent study conducted in Florida agreed or strongly agreed with the statement that all students should learn an additional language of their choice.

The question is, how can we support our children in learning more than one language?

I have been a bilingual educator for over 20 years. I have worked with teachers and conducted many classroom observations and program evaluations. One bilingual education model that research has shown to be particularly effective is “Two-Way Immersion,” or TWI.

How the program works

TWI programs are bilingual programs designed to build high levels of bilingual proficiency.

Students who are already fluent in English but want to learn another language are taught along with students who are fluent in a language other than English. These students are also in the process of learning English as a second language.

Some programs teach 50% of the time in English and 50% of the time in a partner language (eg, Spanish, Korean, Chinese). Other programs immerse all students first in the partner language and later (by fourth or fifth grade) get to a 50%-50% level in both languages.

The integration of these two groups of native language speakers (eg, English and Spanish) is one of the reasons that the program works so well. Both groups of students have the chance to practice the language they are learning not only with the teacher but also with their peers in the classroom.

The TWI programs achieve results by integrating language learning.
woodleywonderworks, CC BY

Another advantage of TWI programs lies in the fact that these are part of the regular academic programs (that is, they teach the regular curriculum as prescribed under the state and district content standards). The only difference is that they teach the content through two different languages.

I have seen the benefits firsthand of this model of teaching, for both students and families. A few years ago, a colleague and I researched the experiences of the graduating class of a longstanding TWI program.

Both English and Spanish language speakers told us it had helped them understand diversity and become better at collaborating with those who come from language and cultural backgrounds other than their own.

Being able to speak both Spanish and English, they said, allowed them to work in more and more diverse communities. They anticipated it would help them with their college applications as well as in finding a future job.

The native Spanish speakers in the program added that maintaining their Spanish skills helped maintain the connection not only with their immediate families in the US but also in their home country and with their communities.

What is the evidence?

Our observations are also supported by research.

Students who are enrolled in TWI programs consistently outperform similar students in regular education programs. TWI students score higher on standardized tests in both reading and math.

One study in California showed that while the state average score was around the 50th percentile in reading and math, TWI English proficient students scored around the 71th percentile in reading and math.

The difference for students still learning English was even more pronounced: English learners scored at the 50th percentile in seventh grade in math and reading whereas their peers scored below the 10th percentile.

This pattern has been noted for students who are still in the process of learning English and for students from higher and lower socioeconomic backgrounds, as well as for students with disabilities.

Students studying more than one language also do better academically.
Osama ALASSIRY, CC BY-NC-SA

A recent study in North Carolina again supported the general positive achievement outcomes for TWI for different groups of students. The study also closely looked at African-American students enrolled in the program and found that these TWI students were one to two years ahead of their non-TWI peers in mathematics.

Not surprisingly, other states than North Carolina are looking to these and similar programs to support the achievement of all students. New York City opened over 40 dual language schools recently. And Utah passed a mandate for dual language education, including both foreign language programs and programs for students still learning English.

The reasons for success

So, what is it about the program that makes it so effective?

Academic achievement is enhanced because the curriculum is taught in and through both languages. Students are encouraged to operate at their highest cognitive level, regardless of their language ability.

So, even if you don’t happen to be fluent in the language of instruction (eg, English), you will still receive challenging, grade-level appropriate instruction through your native language.

Moreover, as these second language learners always get to work with multiple role models – the teacher, their more fluent peers, as well as the other second language learners – they are better supported.

The fact that both languages are used for teaching language arts, math, science and so forth also elevates the status of the partner language as a legitimate language for learning. For students whose language at home is not English, this is an important validation of their home culture and languages.

Also, as teachers use the language to teach other subjects such as math or science, students learn to use the language for real purposes, and don’t relate to it just as a set of grammar rules.

Appreciating diversity

The most important aspect of this learning is that each student plays a role in helping other learn the target language while learning themselves.

Through cooperative learning, teachers help TWI students build strong intergroup relationships and create opportunities for students to practice the language. TWI students thus develop an ability to work with students from diverse backgrounds, a prerequisite for today’s workforce.

Given the benefits of dual language education, and two-way immersion programs in particular, one has to wonder why more states are not incorporating these programs.

The ConversationJust as STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) is part of college and workforce readiness, shouldn’t the ability to use English and a language other than English be considered a must-have for all our students?

Ester J de Jong, Professor of ESOL/Bilingual Education, University of Florida

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Meet Mr. Roscoe Overton, Sr., a Diligent Force for Bilingual Education for All

During our first meeting, Mr. Overton explained to me how he has learned to redefine himself many times throughout the various stages in his life.  Mr. Roscoe Overton, Sr. is from a well known and well respected African American family with a long lineage in Austin, TX.  Even an elementary school in North East Austin, Overton Elementary, bears the family name.  The school is named after an important brother,  Volma R. Overton, a civil rights activist and former president of the NAACP’s Austin Chapter who led the legal effort to end school segregation in Austin, TX.  Today, Roscoe continues the fight for access to quality early childhood and elementary education by promoting bilingual and multicultural education.  

Holding a BA degree in Graphic Design and Printing from TSU, Houston and a MA in School Administration from TSU, Nashville, Roscoe has served in the military, worked for private graphics and printing companies, served as Administrator of the non-medical staff at the University of Tennessee’s Medical School and as an Investigator for the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance.  Roscoe retired from his career as an Investigator and with his wife, Johnnie, resettled back to Austin, Texas. Roscoe’s intention after retiring was to enjoy his free time by pursuing his love for golf.  However, to help adjust to Austin’s current culture after years of being away and inspired by the fact that his wife is an educator, Roscoe decided to substitute teach.  It was during his experience as a substitute teacher that Roscoe realized the power of bilingual education as a bridge to bring diverse communities together.

In 2007, Roscoe, came out of retirement to redefine himself once again as the Founder and Executive Director of The Overton Group, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting bilingual education for all with special emphasis in serving the African American community.   The mission is similar to that of Think Bilingual Austin in that it recognizes that bilingualism and multiculturalism is a strong uniting factor in bringing diverse communities together. The Overton Group’s initial focus was to develop a strong Spanish curriculum to serve predominant  African American Pre-K Daycare Centers.  Roscoe’s dedication and commitment to The Overton Group is second to none and his commitment has been paying off.  Not being a bilingual educator himself, Roscoe procured funds to hire professional staff to develop a strong curriculum to teach Spanish to preschoolers and lower elementary age students.  The curriculum developed is titled the Hilo (™) Curriculum.  The word hilo in Spanish means thread and it also serves as an acronym for “Harmonious Intervention through Language Opportunities.”  

The Hilo (™) curriculum centers around its main character, a little boy named Tito.  Tito is an Afro-latino boy and is represented in the classroom as both a doll and in pictures throughout the Spanish curriculum; he represents a child who is helping other children learn his native language.  Today the Hilo (™) curriculum is used in both private and public schools and its success has been proven.  Independent research by AISD, Department of Research and Evaluation showed progress of children at two different schools who adopted the Hilo (™) curriculum for their preschool program. The data found that the Spanish language differentiation between native Spanish speakers and non-native Spanish speakers narrowed significantly in both schools by the third semester.  See graphs below.

Despite this early success in developing a strong curriculum, Roscoe has not given up on one of his key objectives, which is to increase access to bilingual education for the underserved African American communities.   Roscoe realizes that to be successful, parent support and activism for dual language learning in public schools in the African American community is crucial.  For Roscoe, his mission includes not only developing strong curriculum but also reaching out to the hearts and minds of the parents in this community.  By first appealing to the emotions of joy and pride that parents experience in seeing their children speak more than one language, Roscoe hopes that he can then reach out even more to these parents by increasing their understanding on the multitude of benefits these children gain by being bilingual.  The Hilo (™) curriculum for preschools was an important start and stepping stone.  Roscoe continues his outreach to local churches, Parent Support Specialists,  leaders in the Dual Language Department at Austin ISD, local PTA groups and many other organizations that support or promote bilingual or dual language education.  

Little by little, continued success is being achieved.  This year, the first dual language class started up at Pecan Springs Elementary and Overton Elementary, one of the few public title 1 schools in East Austin that currently uses the Overton Group’s Spanish curriculum in their preschool program.

 

 

 

 

 

 

For this summer, Roscoe is organizing a free language, music and movement based program for economically disadvantaged children in North East Austin in grades preschool to second grade.  The program, called the World Language Festival, will be held from June 5  to June 15  at Pecan Springs Elementary School from 9 am to 11:30 am Monday through Thursday.  The goal of this program is to provide kids with meaningful language and cultural immersion by learning about select island nations in the Caribbean.  The children will learn and about and experience the rich contributions made by the African, Taino and European cultures in that region through music, dance, art and story telling.  The program will end with the children providing a music and dance performance in both Spanish and French for their parents.  

To help pay for this World Language Festival, Roscoe turns to one of his favorite pastime sports, golf.  On April 21, Roscoe’s group will host a golf tournament fundraiser at Morris Williams Golf Course to help pay for this summer program.  Roscoe  hopes that given program success, he can continue growing these types of programs throughout East Austin, furthering his outreach to both students and parents.  To participate in or donate to the golf tournament, please find the pdf flyer linked here.

In getting to know Mr. Roscoe Overton, Sr. through our nonprofit collaboration,  what stands out to me most is Roscoe’s words about “redefining” himself.  It is an empowering concept that reminds us all that we are truly capable of redefining ourselves to make a positive difference not only in our own lives but also in the lives of others.  Thank you, Roscoe Overton, for this important life lesson and for being a shining example of what is possible when you are committed to a cause. 

We at Think Bilingual Austin support the Overton Group's  initiatives, as we are both nonprofit organizations with a shared mission.  Click here to learn more about the Overton Group and about the Hilo (™) Spanish curriculum.