Map of World’s Largest Languages

Ever wonder who would win a heavy weight championship between world languages?

Well here you have it. Alberto Lucas López designed a language map proportioned by number of native speakers. Turns out, of the world’s 7,102 known languages, more than half of us speak only 23 of them.

Map of World Languages

But there’s even more to the map than meets the eye. Each color also represents a region of the world.

World Language Regions

Interestingly, had López colored the map by languages’ region of origin, we’d be left with a much less colorful map: Every language listed comes from Europe, Asia, or the Middle East. On a map of language origin, the entire continents of North America, South America, Africa, and Australia wouldn’t even appear. Continue reading

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“Fortunately,” We Don’t Have Language Learners Here

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Note: This post was co-written with two student teachers, who wished to keep their names and institutions anonymous.

Dear Veteran Teacher,

You may not remember, but earlier today, your new student teacher asked you how to make her lessons more accessible to diverse learners.

You dismissed that as largely unnecessary – at such a high-performing school as yours – and told her, “You’re fortunate, we have no English Language Learners here.”

You probably weren’t aware of what you said. Or what it meant.

I’m sure you’d never say, “You’re fortunate – we have no students of color here,” though you have very few.

You’d never say, “You’re fortunate – we have no students with special needs here,” though I don’t see them either.

So I’m wondering, how did such an unfortunate comment could roll so effortlessly and unabashedly off your tongue? Continue reading

Are Language Learners a Disadvantage in the Classroom?

Language Learner Pic

At a recent forum, I listened to three regional secretaries of education discuss their states’ different approaches to education. While each took a variety of stances on big educational issues like standardized testing, charter schools, and “Race to the Top” funding, they all agreed on one thing – that having more English Language Learners (ELLs) in their states has created challenges. 

Someone had asked a well-intentioned question about how each state addresses the needs of its ELLs, but what followed was a general tirade about all the difficulties schools were now having because of “these kids’” increased presence in the classroom. The discussion was off-putting – not because meeting the needs of linguistically diverse students isn’t challenging – but because no one thought to ask about the advantages of having ELLs in schools. 

Think about it – we wouldn’t discuss other forms of diversity this way, with a laundry list of negatives. An influx of racial diversity, for example, can also bring complex challenges, but school leaders embrace these changes as an asset to their schools (as they should). They wouldn’t be caught dead making comments about how hard it is having “these kids” come into “their” schools.

So why is it ok to talk about ELLs this way?

Time ran out during the forum discussion, but I was curious how other educators would answer questions about linguistic diversity as an asset. So I asked a group of high school teachers I work with, and we came up with an extensive list of answers. Continue reading

Shape Up – There’s an Ed-Talent Scout on Campus!

army

Well, it’s clear that someone at the New York Times read my last post on bringing more men to the teaching profession. While I focused on gender, the conclusion asked how we could make teaching more appealing across the board, and the Times kindly dedicated an entire “Room for Debate” segment to answering me.

So here you have it: Six educationists chimed to ask “What can be done to make a career in education more attractive to men and people of color?”

You may, of course, read the columns in their entirety, but here’s a quick tally of the most prominent suggestions:

Continue reading

How Many Englishes Do you Speak?

It’s no secret that English-speaking Americans can sound vastly different from one another. We have different accents (Southern, Jersy, “Bah-ston”), vocabulary (pop vs. soda), and good ol’ colloquial idioms (Really New England, how can 15 minutes before an hour [e.g. 12:45] be referred to as “quarter OF?”). A grad student at N. Carolina State University created some amazing maps of some of these differences which, according to the Huffington Post, briefly “set the internet on fire.”

The levels of allegiance to this word are staggering.

We freely discuss these differences, but rarely talk about how they impact our perceptions. We know people make assumptions based on race, gender, or clothing styles, but do we judge based on dialect as well?

In my Language, Literacy, and Culture course, I used Morocco as an example of a Linguistically Stratified Society in which the language you speak strongly indicates your social class. French, for example, is more often used in universities and legal documents, while Darija tends to be the at-home language of urban communities, Tashelhit for rural areas, etc. I used the graphic below to “rank” the social status of each language.

moroc

Note that this is NOT a comparison of the actual legitimacy, complexity, or beauty of the languages – from a linguistics standpoint they’re completely equal.

Continue reading