Linguistic Diversity in American Classrooms

Olga Yokoyama
UC Los Angeles

“Linguistic Diversity in American Classrooms: Perspectives on Grammar, Accent, and Fluency” is a public conference that was held on August 14-15, 2010 to engage all members of the community in open and meaningful discussion. This event was conceived partly in response to publicized reports alleging that the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) was instructing school districts to remove teachers who speak with “heavily accented” English from ESL classrooms out of concern that these teachers model incorrect language for new learners. As a recognized authority in questions of Teaching English as a Second Language, the UCLA Department of Applied Linguistics held this public conference to initiate collegial, well-informed, and balanced dialogue on the ADE’s alleged policies, as well as  broader issues in language related to accent, grammaticality, fluency, and intelligibility. The conference presented the most up-to-date scientific research on language learning and teaching, linguistic identity and interaction within public and institutional settings, bringing together scholars, students, legal analysts, media, the Los Angeles Unified School District, and the Arizona Department of Education for this dialogue. The presentations by various scholars were accessible to non-specialists and supplemented with testimonials and stories of firsthand experiences from other members of the community who spoke on the topic of linguistic diversity in relation to personal and professional experiences.The ultimate goal of the UCLA Department of Applied Linguistics in holding this public conference was to promote civic engagement in the community and to incorporate diverse and meaningful academic, administrative, professional, and personal voices and perspectives into scholarly conversations.