TIPSHEET: Vanderbilt experts can discuss problems with Metro Nashville “English only” resolution

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Two Vanderbilt Peabody College literacy and language experts are available to discuss why a resolution under consideration by the Metropolitan Council of Nashville and Davidson County to ban the use of bilingual services by many Metro agencies will not help non-English speakers learn the language and could in fact further isolate them from speakers of English and necessary services.

Kevin Leander, associate professor of language, literacy and culture, is currently involved in two projects that involve issues of literacy and immigration and strategies that teachers can use in classrooms to help students who have immigrated from Mexico to the U.S.

“This proposal takes an area of people’s lives – dealing with government agencies – that is already complicated and makes it even more difficult without offering any assistance,” he said. “It attempts to force people to learn the most complex type of communication – communicating about important legal issues – first. People simply do not learn the most difficult material before they learn the basics.”

Robert Jiménez, professor of language, literacy and culture, is collaborating with Leander on the literacy and language projects and is the editor of a new book, Race, ethnicity and education: Volume 2, Language and literacy in schools.

“The primary problem with this proposal is that it does not do anything to help people actually learn English,” he said. “I believe non-English speakers do wish to learn the language and this will hurt rather than help their efforts. It also creates a very unwelcoming environment in Nashville for people who speak other languages in general. I’ve never heard of such a policy in any of the countries I’ve visited.”

Media contact: Melanie Moran, (615) 322-NEWS