Equity Literacy Project


Wood framed chalkboard with the words “Do you speak english” written cursively in chalk on the blackboard. The word Language is captioned at the bottom right corner over the chalk board in a bold white text.INTRODUCTION

Contributor: Tiffany Marquise Jones

Language is one of the most utilized and misunderstood forms of social and cultural capital. In general, laypeople and scholars/teachers of language alike recognize it is the one commonality we all have no matter our race, ethnicity, gender, or age — the ability to exchange and communicate ideas. That being said, how we communicate and make sense of forms, styles, variations, and codes we use heavily, influences one’s perceived identity. And these perceptions are then entangled and made synonymous with various levels of power/authority and thus privilege and access. Hence, it is important when shaping one’s classroom culture and constructing various assignments, to recognize that no one comes into a space without some baggage as a result of these differences.

And unlike what problematic monoglot / English-only precepts and proponents believe, it is not only those that immigrate to this country who are tasked with acquiring the Standard American English variety SAE aka Mainstream English (ME). In fact, all citizens and native speakers of English enter the classroom speaking a variety of English with a tongue (aka linguistic history and practice) that not only connects us to diverse histories, cultures, communities, and experiences, but that has its own rules and structure that operate separately and, at times, divergently,  from ME. Speakers of minoritized languages, such as African American Language, Appalachian English, Chicano, English, Cajun English, etc. are often negatively impacted by linguistic discrimination and standardization in ways that are similar to second language learners. However, native speakers’ association with “knowing better” must contend with a separate set of expectations, funding/assistance, and judgments that can make for a harsh learning environment as well as a failure or fear to communicate in the classroom setting.

While there is overlap between speakers of marginalized varieties of English and non-Native speakers that have immigrated to the States, where there are differences, they create very distinct issues and outcomes. By understanding the complex linguistic history and ideology associated with the U.S., the monoglot culture hugely governs how language/speakers are evaluated and policed within the linguistic market. Furthermore, the residue of White colonial settlerism is very much alive and pervasive. As Jane Hill (2001) explains in her text The Everyday Language of White Racism, the privilege that White Americans have to access and operate freely within White public space carries over into all American institutions, including Academia. Both native minority speakers and immigrants have to deal with the reality of being monitored for access to jobs, education, and resources — hence why language is connected to the political economy. Where immigrants must negotiate the linguistic terrain in ways where their failure to master correctness is connected to their acceptance as “legal” and “citizens,” minority English speakers must struggle with being both American and Other — two very extremes of belonging.

Teachers must seek to understand these convergences and divergences in order to recognize their ability to create a safe space for students to learn and, if need be, to fail forward without harsh ramifications. Hence, educators should be preemptive by shaping an inclusive pedagogy that seeks to honor linguistic diversity and inclusivity. Learning how to recognize various levels of linguistic capital and privilege is a start. But, for truly shaping a classroom culture that seeks equity, teachers should engage with both linguistics and education scholarship on these subjects as well as the narrated experiences of those who are most vulnerable to linguistic discrimination in the classroom.

Student Voices

Language and Status as Unnecessary Barriers

America is home to all undocumented students. The desire to live The American Dream is what keeps them motivated to continue fighting for their education. Their potential has them looking for opportunities to help their highest aspirations and goals be achieved. Although, many complex barriers are set to make it impossible for these students to achieve their goals. To begin with, schools don’t provide undocumented students with any information regarding their educational options. They are left to educate themselves on immigration laws and policies. Institutional policies exclude and prohibit undocumented students from in-state tuition and financial aid. Therefore, undocumented students are left without any assistance or resources to further their education. Aside from them experiencing neglect they also fall victim to racial discrimination. They are experiencing hostile environments provided by other students and school faculty. America must come to the realization that undocumented students are here to help. Lawmakers must provide them with the security and ability to become successful in America.

American schools do not provide assistance or resources to undocumented students. In 1982, the United States Supreme Court ruled that they will provide education for all undocumented students from K-12 grade. An estimated 3.9 million undocumented students are enrolled in schools across America. The high population rates should mandate school administrators to provide these students with guidance. Although, many schools do provide English Language Development courses they lack in several aspects. For example, many undocumented students have stated that these courses don’t have the right transition toward a full English course.  Therefore, even when they can speak a couple of sentences in English, they struggle with pronunciation and spelling. My fourth-grade teacher constantly yelled at me for not participating in class. My accent and pronunciation made it difficult for me to engage in a full English course. The curriculum of the schools does not allow students to fully comprehend the English language correctly. Undocumented students that do learn the English language quickly are still not really able to advance. Once they transition to all English courses, they are not allowed to test and get accepted into AP courses. They must start from the bottom and prove they can handle those courses. These students feel stuck and worried about not having a head start toward college. Therefore, many undocumented students are trapped in a system that is incorrectly measured. Financial aid is the biggest barrier for undocumented students. To begin with, many undocumented students live in poverty. Statistics have shown that undocumented students experience poverty at twice the rate of US citizens. Their parents cross the border without work visas and the English language. For that reason, they struggle to pay rent, food, and shelter for their families. In many cases, undocumented students can’t receive any financial help from their parents. In addition, they are not eligible to apply for any loans from banks or private lenders. Applicants are required to have a social security number and good credit to qualify for any loan. Complex state, federal, and institutional policies exclude undocumented students from several benefits. They are not eligible to receive federal financial aid and in-state tuition. Undocumented students are completely left without any financial assistance. Many statistics have been made to show the low percentage of undocumented students in college. What they fail to show are all the financial stresses these students must face. They have no financial stability to enroll in such expenses.

The different nationalities, cultures, and ethnicities are what make America the melting pot. The display of different cultural backgrounds is what makes America beautiful. Although, racism in America seems to only be getting worse. The racial discrimination that people of color must face is sickening. They experience microaggressions such as subtle insults and assaults. Institutional ignorance is the most common throughout schools in America. They normalize violence by way of systematic inaction. They constantly act like they were unaware of certain behaviors and actions that are made toward people of color. Of course, no action is taken until the subtle insults and aggression come from people that are defending their culture and nationality. During my senior year of high school, people thought it was funny to chant go back to your country. All the security guards standing around did absolutely nothing to silence them or calm them down. It wasn’t until Latinx students became infuriated and started chanting back that they decided to take action by throwing us to the floor and threatening us with calling the police. While we were being pressed on the floor they proceeded to throw books, backpacks, and notebooks. The school solved the problem by punishing all documented students for not graduating on stage. The people that initiated and threw items were to simply call their parents. They deprive people of color of their rights as well as to stand up for themselves and their culture. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals brought hope to all undocumented students. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals “DACA” is a policy that protects the youth and allows them to step out of the shadows. Undocumented students are now eligible for a driver’s license, work permit, and college enrollment. They were finally provided with the required resources to become successful. I recall watching my family cry for hours when former president Barack Obama announced DACA. The sacrifices they had made to provide our family with a better life were becoming a realization. They knew a program like DACA would allow me to prosper in this country, and not settle for low-wage jobs. Currently, an estimated 200,000 DACA recipients are working frontlines to fight the global pandemic. Frontline jobs such as doctors, nurses, and teachers have been crucial assets for this pandemic. It is astonishing to know that so many undocumented students took full advantage and achieved their dream. Unfortunately, due to the Trump administration, it can all come to an end. The termination of the program has undocumented students in fear of losing their careers and being deported. The cruel reality is that no matter how hard we prove that we are here to help America, we are still not wanted. Undocumented students were brought to America. They were raised and have lived in America from the ages of 3 months to 10 years old. Therefore, they are not even familiar with their native land. America was built and enriched by immigrants. The United States has profited billions of dollars from hard-working immigrants. America must provide undocumented students with the ability to succeed, so they can guarantee a prosperous future in the United States.


Basic Linguistics


The way one sounds when they speak.

Broadly stated, your accent is the way you sound when you speak. There are two different kinds of accents. One is a ‘foreign’ accent; this occurs when a person speaks one language using some of the rules or sounds of another one. For example, if a person has trouble pronouncing some of the sounds of a second language they’re learning, they may substitute similar sounds that occur in their first language. This sounds wrong, or ‘foreign’, to native speakers of the language.

The other kind of accent is simply the way a group of people speaks their native language. This is determined by where they live and what social groups they belong to. People who live in close contact grow to share a way of speaking, or accent, which will differ from the way other groups in other places speak. You may notice that someone has a Texas accent – for example, particularly if you’re not from Texas yourself. You notice it because it’s different from the way you speak. In reality, everybody has an accent – in somebody else’s opinion![1]


Orig. person of European descent born and raised in a tropical colony) is a language that was originally pidgin but has become nativized, i.e. a community of speakers claims it as their first language. Next used to designate the language(s) of people of the Caribbean and African descent in colonial and ex-colonial countries (Jamaica, Haiti, Mauritius, Réunion, Hawaii, Pitcairn, etc.). [2]


“The act of combining local, vernacular, colloquial, and world dialects of English on formal assignments and in everyday conversation, in an attempt to embrace the diverse world in which we reside.” [3]


The alternating use of more than one linguistic code in the classroom by any of the classroom participants (e.g., teacher, students, teacher aide), and can include both code-mixing (intra-clausal/sentential alternation) and code-switching (alternation at the inter-clausal/sentential level). [4]


Language crossing involves code alternation by people who are not accepted members of the group associated with the second language that they are using – code-switching into varieties that are not generally thought to belong to them. [5]


A language used between groups of people whose native languages are different.[6]


Language (origin in Engl. word `business’?) is nobody’s native language; may arise when two speakers of different languages with no common language try to have a makeshift conversation. Lexicon usually comes from one language, structure often from the other. Because of colonialism, slavery, etc., the prestige of Pidgin languages is very low. Many pidgins are `contact vernaculars’, and may only exist for one speech event.[7]

Community and Identity

Community of Practice

A group of people who come together based on a common “concern, a set of problems, or an interest in a topic to fulfill both individual and group goals.” [8]

Speech Community

A group of people who use the same language.

Language Acquisition

(Child) Language Brokering 

Children or young people who interpret or translate for their family members.

Linguistic appropriation

“is a type of complex cultural borrowing that involves a dominant group’s ‘theft’ of aspects of a target group’s language.” [9]

Language Attitudes and Discrimination


Having no language


Using a different language as a way to reinforce one’s language ideology; could also be used as a form of displaying racism.

Monoglot ideology

Is characterized by the dominance of a single language in a language community, and emphasizes the singular, unified image of a standardized, denotationally defined ‘language'” [10]


The act of singling out a group of people based on physical characteristics. [11]

Language and (Dis) Ability

 Deafness/ Hard of Hearing/ Hearing Impairment

A variety of terms are used to describe deaf and hard-of-hearing people. Generally speaking, “deaf” (lowercase) refers to people with the condition of not hearing and “Deaf” (capitalized) refers to the culture of people with that condition who communicate with sign language. “Hard of hearing,” sometimes abbreviated HOH, refers to people with varying levels of hearing. Other terms, such as “hearing-impaired,” are generally not preferred by Deaf/deaf and HOH people. [12]


Communication through a platform other than speech that uses social cues, body language, eye contact, and/or gestures.

Sign Language

System of communication between deaf people through the use of gestures and signs.

Language and Literacy


Using two dialects of the same language.

Language variation

The different ways in which a language is used are based on the region, social contexts, and factors.

Multicultural education

A teaching strategy that exposes students to a variety of cultures, including backgrounds, values, and beliefs.


One who speaks or can use more than one language


The process of bringing about a standard language.

Language and Political Economy

Cultural capital

 “The accumulation of knowledge, behaviors, and skills that a person can tap into to demonstrate one’s cultural competence and social status.”[13]

Linguistic capital

A form of cultural capital that encompasses one’s linguistic skills which are inherited and/or acquired over time and influenced by one’s environment.[14]


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Cameron, James, et al. Avatar. Twentieth Century Fox, 2009.

Cardoso, Patricia. Real Women Have Curves. HBO Films, 2002.

Chu, Jon, director. In the Heights. 2021.

Emmerich, Ronald, director. Stargate. Michaels et. al. 1994.

Hooper, Tom. The King’s Speech. Canning, Sherman, Unwin, producers. 2010.

McTiernan, John, director. The 13th Warrior. Touchstone Pictures, 1999.

Menosky, Joe,  LaZebnik,  Phillip. Star Trek: The Next Generation.Season 5; Episode 2. 1991

Missel Renée, et al. Nell. Twentieth Century Fox, 1994.

Spielberg, Steven, director. Close Encounters of the Third Kind. EMI Films, 1977.

Spielberg, Steven, director. The Terminal. 2004



Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (1998–01-01). Harper Perennial Modern Classics; edition (1998–01-01), 2021.

Lowry, Lois. The Giver. 56247th ed., Laurel Leaf, 2002.


  1. Linguistic Society of America, www.linguisticsociety.org/content/why-do-some-people-have-accent.
  2. Pidgin and Creole Languages, ccat.sas.upenn.edu/~haroldfs/messeas/handouts/pjcreol/node1.html.
  3. Touseank. “Code Meshing v. Code Switching.” Tousean King, 20 Oct. 2016, tkingsite.wordpress.com/2016/08/29/first-blog-post/.
  4. Lin, Angel. “Classroom Code-Switching: Three Decades of Research.” Applied Linguistics Review, vol. 4, no. 1, 2013, pp. 195–218., https://doi.org/10.1515/applirev-2013-0009, 2008.
  5. Rampton, Ben. “Language Crossing and the Problematisation of Ethnicity and Socialisation.” Pragmatics, journals.linguisticsociety.org/elanguage/pragmatics/article/view/474.html.
  6. “English Dictionary, Translations & THESAURUS.” Cambridge Dictionary, dictionary.cambridge.org/.
  7. Pidgin and Creole Languages, ccat.sas.upenn.edu/~haroldfs/messeas/handouts/pjcreol/node1.html.
  8. “Home.” Community of Practice, www.communityofpractice.ca/.
  9. Language As Culture - Spring 2011. “Language as Culture - Spring 2011.” Language As Culture - Spring 2011, 1 Jan. 1970, languageasculturespring11.blogspot.com/.
  10. Blommaert 2005; Silverstein 1996. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/333871245_Monoglot_Standard_in_America_Standardization_and_Metaphors_of_Linguistic_Hegemony
  11. Lorne Foster: HOME, www.yorku.ca/lfoster/.
  12. “NAD.” National Association of the Deaf, www.nad.org/.
  13. “ThoughtCo.com Is the World's Largest Education Resource.” ThoughtCo, ThoughtCo, 22 May 2019, www.thoughtco.com/.
  14. Language as Bourdieuan Capital in the Era of Globalization, languageascapital.wordpress.com/.


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