April 2023
Bilingual Basics



Clara Vaz Bauler, Adelphi University, New York, USA
Zhongfeng Tian, The University of Texas, Texas, USA
Ching-Ching Lin, Touro College, New York, USA

Clara Vaz Bauler

Zhongfeng Tian

    Ching-Ching Lin

Dear readers,

This special issue of our newsletter is the culmination of three years of work towards expanding our own understandings, ideas and practices of bi-multilingualism within TESOL contexts. As a special interest session of TESOL, we have been invested in exposing, challenging, and resisting harmful ideologies that frame multilingualism as abnormal while positioning multilingual individuals as inferior, deficient and/or in constant need to be fixed. These ideologies have for long permeated our field(s), shaping and sustaining much research, teaching and assessment practices that elevate specific varieties of standardized US and UK English over natural localization (Pennycook, 2012) and embodiment of hybridized language practices that are the very fiber of our multilingual, multifaceted, multimodal and even messy human social relations (Canagarajah, 2021).

We have been inquiring about what it means to language and what the implications could be for more inclusive, flexible and just teaching and assessment practices in our language-related fields and communities of practice. We started with promoting conversations that would shift the perspective from language as an object to language as a verb. The #LanguageIsAVerb campaign held by our @TESOLBiMulti Twitter social media account in October 2021 became a platform for us all to involve the larger communities, teachers, students, parents, and other interested individuals to advocate for the naturalization of multilingualism in all of its varieties and potentials. #LanguageIsAVerb received contributions from people all across the globe, joining us all with the common goal of fighting linguistic discrimination and affirming multilingual ways of being, knowing and doing.

At the inception of our campaign, we started with Blommaert’s definition of multilingualism, which we felt captured our need to be expansive and inclusive:

Multilingualism, I argued, should not be seen as a collection of ‘languages’ that a speaker controls, but rather as a complex of specific semiotic resources, some of which belong to a conventionally defined ‘language’, while others belong to another ‘language’. The resources are concrete accents, language varieties, registers, genres, modalities such as writing – ways of using language in particular communicative settings and spheres of life, including the ideas people have about such ways of using, their language ideologies. (Blommaert, 2010, p. 102)

As a result of our campaign, we felt that, besides Blommaert’s definition, which helped us move beyond objectifying language to focus on natural variation and multimodality, we also needed to emphasize the crucial importance of centering often marginalized, silenced voices and bodies in language learning and teaching fields. We fostered conversations that would name, identify and disrupt any form of categorization that would frame perceived “nonconforming,” “nonnative” or “not normal” ways of languaging as deficient, wrong or disordered. Our last special issue of Bilingual Basics published in the Winter of 2022 featured our first round of conversations with contributions from Tasha Austin on countering antiBlack racism in language education, Kirti Kapur on the mundane and wonderfully rich ways of World Englishes, Cynthia Carvajal on advocacy for immigrant families, students and communities and Lihn Phung on the use of Discord as a collaborative, multimodal tool that joined together 100 multilingual students from five different countries.

Building upon this important work, this current special issue features our second attempt at broadening our understandings and enactments of what it means to language. JPB Gerald, Jon Henner, Laura Ascenzi-Moreno and Erin Quirk highlight the central role traditionally marginalized languaging practices play in resisting and dismantling ideas about language that directly exclude multilingual and multimodal ways of being, knowing and doing. JPB Gerald uses his voice and podcast to promote academic ideas outside of academia, defying the notion of what “academic” is and what it does, Erin Quirk zooms in on family language practices as a locus of heritage language maintenance and resistance, Laura Ascenzi-Moreno challenges the popular Science of Reading monolingual approach to literacy development, drawing attention to affirming multilingual ways of reading, and Jon Henner calls for the centering of multimodality as justice for multilingual, disabled, deaf children in the fight to naturalize multilingualism for all.

We would like to thank our contributors from the bottom of our hearts in helping us continue to grow and be able to question our own assumptions, ideas and practices in language-related fields. To be inclusive, open, flexible requires humility and the conviction that learning is never finished. We hope to keep the conversations going. We would love for you to join us.


Clara, Zhongfeng, and Ching-Ching


Blommaert, J. (2010). The sociolinguistics of globalization. Cambridge University Press.

Canagarajah, S. (2021). Diversifying academic communication in anti-racist scholarship: The value of a translingual orientation. Ethnicities, 14687968211061586.

Pennycook, A. (2010). Language as a local practice. Routledge.

Clara Vaz Bauler is an associate professor of TESOL/Bilingual Education at Adelphi University, New York. As a language educator and applied linguist, she is committed to unveiling and resisting unjust and often hidden educational practices that propagate language shaming and discrimination.

Zhongfeng Tian is Assistant Professor of TESOL/Applied Linguistics in the Department of Bicultural-Bilingual Studies at the University of Texas at San Antonio, USA. Theoretically grounded in translanguaging, his research centers on working with teachers to provide bi/multilingual students with equitable and inclusive learning environments in ESL and dual language bilingual education contexts, and preparing culturally and linguistically competent teachers with social justice orientations.

Ching-Ching Lin, Ed.d is a New York City based teacher educator. Her research interests mainly focus on engaging diversity as a strategic action plan for change. She is Co-Editor and a contributing author of the following volumes: Inclusion, Diversity, and Intercultural Dialogue in Young People's Philosophical Inquiry (Brill Publishers, 2018) and Internationalization in Action: Leveraging Diversity and Inclusion in the Globalized Classroom (Peter Lang Publishing, 2020) and Reimagining Dialogue on Identity, Language and Power (Multilingual Matters, forthcoming).


Kirti Kapur, NCERT, New Delhi, India Laura B. Liu, Indiana University Columbus, Indiana, USA

Kirti Kapur

Laura B. Liu

The articles in this newsletter highlight need to foster societal perspectives, teaching practices, and language policies that reflect the multilingual realities of learners and families served by education systems around the world. Each of these articles challenges a particular linguistic ideology, shaped by particular social, historical, political, and economic conditions. The first article (Quirk et al.) challenges bilingual education policies that compartmentalize language, without recognizing the fluidity with which bilingual families engage language and maintain blended linguistic identities in their homes. This article recognizes that multilingual education must be grounded in a foundational respect for learner identity and family relationships, which are central to language development. The second article (Ascenzi-Moreno) challenges the Science of Reading (SOR) movement in that it promotes literacy development that primarily supports English language speakers, while bi/multilingual learners and their linguistic strengths and needs, are not addressed or even seen. This article highlights the importance of developing literacy skills in ways that honor bilingual learners and the unique ways in which they learn to read, such as learning word meaning before word sound, or comparing sounds across languages. The third article (Gerald) challenges standardized English as the status quo, and recognizes the limitations that this imposes on all individuals to participate in society with their full linguistic identities and repertoires. This article recognizes the need to celebrate diverse perspectives, voices, and languages in academia, as well as society more broadly. The fourth article (Henner) challenges the culture of captioning to consider and respect the captioning needs of both bi/multilingual and Deaf communities, globally. This article claims that centering disability and multimodality in languaging is a social Justice issue in multilingual contexts.

Together, these articles challenge societal, pedagogical, and political status quo views on language. Rather, these articles reflect the linguistic ideology of transglossia, defined by García (2009) as a “stable, and yet dynamic, communicative network with many languages in functional interrelationship” (p. 79). This dynamic communicative network recognizes linguistic identity as fluid, and sees language as a site of agency, resistance, and solidarity (Pavlenko & Blackledge, 2004). Language is active, always moving and changing. In this newsletter, monolingual ideologies are examined alongside multilingual ideologies. We extend our gratitude to each of the authors for contributing to this shared publication!


Garcia, O. (2009). Bilingual Education in the 21st Century: A Global Perspective. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

Pavlenko, A., and Blackledge, A. (eds.) (2004). Negotiation of Identities in Multilingual Contexts. Multilingual Matters, Clevedon.

Kirti Kapur is a Professor of English at NCERT, New Delhi, India. As a Fulbright Fellow 2021, she conducted research in multicultural education and TESOL at Hawaii Pacific University, USA. Her areas of work are the development of syllabi, textual materials, comparative research, and teachers’ handbooks. She has led over 100+ teacher training workshops across all stages of school education. She has contributed to over 90 papers (national and international) on cultural contexts and language learning. She has trained teachers from Afghanistan, Tibet, and Mauritius on making ELT effective and learner-centric in their context.

Laura B. Liu is an assistant professor of teacher education and English as a New Language program coordinator at Indiana University Columbus. Her key research areas focus on glocalization, diversity sustaining teaching practices, and international teacher professional development. Laura also served as faculty at Beijing Normal University’s Center for Teacher Education Research (2014-2015) where her postdoctoral work focused on teacher education faculty international professional development.



Many parents want to raise their children multilingually, yet this can be challenging. The challenge can be especially great for those parents wanting to transmit a heritage language, a language not spoken widely in the community. Prior research finds that family language policy — caregivers’ beliefs, practices, and planning with respect to their family’s languages — are related to important outcomes of multilingual development, such as children’s identity, family relationships, and eventual language fluency.

In December of 2021, in a webinar hosted by the TESOL Bi-/Multilingualism Special Interest Group, we presented two connected studies of family language policy (FLP) involving parents raising children under 4 years of age with multiple languages in Quebec, Canada. In Quebec, French is the sole official language, but there is a sizable English-speaking minority. Thus, English and French serve as societal languages. Adding to this linguistic diversity, the province is home to a large number of heritage language speakers, including Indigenous and immigrant languages.

In the first project, we analyzed FLP data from focus groups and interviews with parents raising young multilingual children in Montreal, Quebec’s urban center (Ballinger et al., 2020). There were 27 participants, including parents raising children with societal languages only (i.e. English and French) and parents raising children with a heritage language in addition to one or both societal languages. As a whole, these parents showed tempered optimism for their children’s multilingual development. Many talked about the benefits of multilingualism for their children, such as increased employability, cognitive advantages, and ease of communication. Many also said that their own use of the languages was guided by what felt “natural” to them. However, families of children acquiring a heritage language showed less optimism and expressed some concern for their ability to support their children’s development in the heritage language.

The second project included a collection of studies based on responses to an online questionnaire from approximately 850 Quebec-based parents raising a child, under four years of age, with multiple languages. The questionnaire targeted different aspects of FLP, including beliefs (attitudes and concerns) related to their children’s multilingual development, parents’ engagement with resources as a form of language management, and families’ language practices. In the webinar, we presented the main findings from four studies, each targeting one of these aspects of FLP. Here we will only briefly summarize the findings, with a focus on one common theme that emerged across studies: differences in families transmitting a heritage language from those transmitting only societal languages.

Overall, parents held positive attitudes towards their children’s multilingualism with respect to its utilitarian value (i.e. status), its importance for in-group communication (i.e. solidarity), and its effect on children’s cognitive development (Kircher et al., 2022). They expressed only low levels of concern, in particular with respect to children experiencing confusion or delay due to their multilingualism (Quirk et al., under review). Differences, however, emerged when we compared those families raising children with societal languages only and those raising their children with at least one heritage language. Among parents transmitting a heritage language, attitudes were less positive than those of other parents with respect to the status dimension (i.e. the utilitarian value of multilingualism), and more positive with respect to the solidarity dimension (i.e. the benefits of multilingualism for in-group communication). The same dichotomy emerged in our analysis of parents’ concerns: parents transmitting a heritage language expressed higher levels of concern regarding their children’s exposure to and attainment of fluency in their languages, and regarding the possibility of children experiencing cognitive difficulties as a result of their multilingualism.

Another study from the second project, which is ongoing, examines how families use their languages in and outside of the home, and what predicts which languages are used (Quirk et al., in prep.). In this study, we examined how language practices are related to the extent to which the language is commonly used among household members, parents' attitudes towards childhood multilingualism, caregivers’ proficiency in the language, and its status outside of the home (i.e. whether it is a heritage or societal language).

Finally, with respect to how parents engage with resources to support their children’s multilingual development, we found that parents had a stronger desire for child-directed resources (e.g. storybooks) than parent-directed resources (e.g. informational websites), and that the most desired resources were material resources such as books (Ahooja et al., 2022). This study also found that parents raising children with a heritage language expressed a stronger desire for all kinds of resources supporting their children’s multilingual development.

In sum, our findings from both projects suggest that parents value multilingualism and are optimistic about their children’s multilingual development. This may be linked to the context of Quebec, where multilingualism is the norm, or it may be true across diverse contexts. Future studies might use similar methods to ours to test this. However, within that larger picture, we also found that FLP differs depending on the social status of the languages being transmitted, i.e. whether it is a heritage or societal language, with heritage language families reporting less optimism and a stronger need for support.

Our research has several implications. First, while all multilingual families need support in their efforts to transmit their languages, these needs may differ based on the characteristics of the family, especially the languages being transmitted. Also, given that parents generally express positive attitudes and little concern regarding their children’s developing multilingualism, efforts to support children and families can concentrate on families’ practical needs. For example, parents need support in accessing material resources in a range of languages and having sufficient time with their children to foster their children’s language development.

We believe that our findings can be informative for researchers, policy-makers, and practitioners who support multilingual families all over the world. We also hope that our findings can form the basis for developing a framework of thinking about multilingualism in infancy and toddlerhood more generally.

Finally, we would like to thank the TESOL Bi-/Multilingualism Special Interest Group for the opportunity to participate in the webinar. We greatly enjoyed and benefited from engaging with your community of teachers, learners, and researchers.


Ahooja, A., Brouillard, M., Quirk, E., Ballinger, S., Polka, L., Byers-Heinlein, K., & Kircher, R. (2022). Family language policy among Québec-based parents raising multilingual infants and toddlers: A study of resources as a form of language management. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 1-20. https://doi.org/10.1080/01434632.2022.2050918

Ballinger, S., Brouillard, M., Ahooja, A., Kircher, R., Polka, L., & Byers-Heinlein, K. (2022). Intersections of official and family language policy in Quebec. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 43(7), 614-628.https://doi.org/10.1080/01434632.2020.1752699

Kircher, R., Quirk, E., Brouillard, M., Ahooja, A., Ballinger, S., Polka, L., & Byers-Heinlein, K. (2022). Quebec-based Parents’ Attitudes Towards Childhood Multilingualism: Evaluative Dimensions and Potential Predictors. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 41(5), 527-552. https://doi.org/10.1177/0261927X221078853

Quirk, E., Brouillard, M., Ahooja, A., Ballinger, S., Polka, L., Byers-Heinlein, K., & Kircher, R. (Under review). Quebec-based parents’ concerns regarding their children’s multilingual development. Preprint: https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/583ge

Quirk, E., Phillips, N. , Brouillard, M., Ahooja, A., Polka, L., Ballinger, S., Byers-Heinlein, K., & Kircher, R. (In preparation). A study of the language practices of Quebec-based parents raising multilingual infants and toddlers.

Erin Quirk is a FRQSC Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Psychology at Concordia University. She researches various aspects of the multilingual home environment, including family language policy and children’s language exposure, and their relationship with children’s language development.

Alexa Ahooja is a PhD candidate in the Language Acquisition Program at McGill University. Her research interests include the inclusion and experiences of bi/multilingual students in Québec schools. Her doctoral project will examine these students’ L2 socialization, their linguistic identity positionings, as well as official and unofficial language policies.

Susan Ballinger is an Associate Professor of Second Language Education at McGill University. Her research focuses on bilingual education contexts. Specific interests include cross-linguistic and plurilingual pedagogies, content and language integration, classroom interaction, peer collaboration, and the impact of societal and classroom environments on students’ engagement, identity, and holistic achievement.

Melanie Brouillard is a Doctoral student in Clinical Psychology at Concordia University, where she holds a prestigious Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Her research investigates how to best support bilinguals’ language development across the lifespan.

Krista Byers-Heinlein is a Professor in the Department of Psychology at Concordia University, where she holds the Concordia University Research Chair in Bilingualism and Open Science, and directs the Concordia Infant Research Lab. Her research focuses on language acquisition and cognitive development, with a focus on bilingual infants and toddlers.

Ruth Kircher is a researcher at the Mercator European Research Centre on Multilingualism and Language Learning, which is part of the Fryske Akademy in Leeuwarden (Netherlands). Her research focuses on societal multilingualism, with a particular interest in language attitudes and ideologies, language practices, and language policy and planning – especially in relation to minority language communities.

Nicola Phillips is a PhD Student in Communication Sciences and Disorders at McGill University. She is interested in the qualitative aspects of adult-infant interactions in multilingual families. Her doctoral thesis will make use of naturalistic daylong audio recordings to examine the diversity of early bilingual language environments.

Linda Polka is a Professor in the School of Communication Sciences & Disorders at McGill University where she trains clinical and research students. Her research focuses on development of speech perception and production during infancy with a special interest in infants growing up in bilingual families.


JPB Gerald, EdD, Momentus Capital, Long Island City, NY, USA

On my podcast, Unstandardized English, I say that I do the show to seek justice for the racially, linguistically, and neurologically minoritized, or I would say that if my ADHD ever allowed me to remember the script I wrote for myself. I bring this up because, for one reason or another, I’ve come to occupy a very, very small corner of the scholarly world, mostly by myself, not necessarily because of talent or quality – I think my work is good but it’s just not my point, and meritocracy isn’t real – but, because of the way academia forces most people to behave, my restlessness and curiosity mean my work just bounces around to different semi-related topics whenever I feel like it, and I’ve developed a little world as the scholar who writes about whiteness, language, ability, and education, usually all at the same time. I absolutely don’t claim expertise in very many topics – if I claim it in anything, it’s the way all of my chosen topics intertwine, and how to teach and talk about these interconnections; that is, a form of pattern recognition that’s tied to what I see as justice. But I absolutely know a fair bit about a lot of things, all loosely classified under the language umbrella, and I expect that those who are resistant to what I try to do see me as something of a dabbler rather than a legitimate scholar.

Academia would rather we all stick to our corners and never evolve, lest the entire system be forced to grow and change. Hiring, promotion, and prestige are still largely dependent on traditional/archaic measures of career success, metrics that place closed-access and barely-read journals on the top of the pyramid. I could understand this stubbornness if the most prestigious journals were consistently promoting work that was challenging the status quo, but if you’ve read any non-special-issue of most journals, you know quite well that this isn’t the case. Indeed, we are often trained less in how to sit with challenging ideas and more in how to ensure our ideas, whatever they may be, fit into a format that is likely to be approved of. I actually think that this insistence on form and structure is rather insulting to editors and readers, as it implies that they are unable to find innovation compelling and/or worthwhile. Additionally, this is hardly a two-way street, especially in the language world, as we make little effort to ensure accessibility – both in the sense of ability and also in our use of jargon – for anyone outside of our corners. In other words, it feels to me like we're just taking our data, dressing it up into an acceptable format, and attempting to get it published for our careers – for which I fault no one who needs a job – and to add our work to our CVs. Because few people can really understand what is written in journals, and even fewer have access to them, our findings are often misinterpreted if they are shared outside of journals at all, even if we are trying to convey something new, and we are not supported when we communicate differently. There are a lot of us who have podcasts and engage in other forms of public engagement, but you’re not getting a job off of that – we have to do this sort of extra work for fun.

It would be easy for me to say all this an embittered person who had struggled through the job market, and admittedly it didn’t go well for me when I half-tried last year, but I never really expected it to go well, and I really didn’t want to write “diversity” statements for white hiring committees as a scholar of color. But no, I got a different job since I’d been working through my degree, and it’s far more affirming, more stable, and more interesting than moving to a small, white town with a Black child would have been.

I sit here and I think that the fact that I have a very small but passionate fanbase, no real professional obligation to follow any particular rules, and an ADHD-derived restlessness pushes me to delve into subjects far afield from my formal training – my doctorate isn’t even in language, after all, though my MA is – and through this work I am realizing I have an opportunity to help us bust up some siloes in our field, siloes that prevent a solidarity we need to push back against the structures under which many of us live. Indeed, since I’m out of academia and have no plans to rely upon it for my primary income, this doesn’t even directly affect me, but I talk to a lot of academics who are struggling, usually scholars of color or other axes of oppression, and it’s all rather sad how many brilliant people are just having their passion and creativity sucked dry in service of what is needed to persist in an industry so dishonest it classifies everything else as “industry.”

I’m getting off-track here – I warned you! – and haven’t said much about language, but that’s fine, because much of my scholarship uses other concepts to touch on language ideologies, or vice versa. Staying tightly focused on one thing is, uh, not my strong suit, but people who are like me should absolutely have a place in academia (if they want one) and indeed I do what I do so that there may someday be more voices that rhyme with mine and grow in volume to the point that the archaic part of the field is finally drowned out. I’m not going to say it’s not pragmatically useful to learn Journal-Publication English and all it entails, if only so you can see through the nonsense and expose it for what it is, but outlets like this one, podcasts, books written with a different audience in mind, anything that allows humanity to shine through, is what we need to prioritize. I feel fortunate that my niche popularity has allowed me to take note of this and share it with you. Hope you find it useful.

JPB Gerald is a 2022 graduate of the EdD program in Instructional Leadership from CUNY - Hunter College. His first book, Antisocial Language Teaching: English and the Pervasive Pathology of Whiteness, was recently published by Multilingual Matters, and he hosts the Unstandardized English podcast. In his day job, he works in curriculum development and instructional leadership - using that degree! - for a national nonprofit. He lives on unceded Munsee Lenape territory (Queens) with his wife, toddler, and dog.


Jon Henner, University of North Carolina, Greensboro, NC, USA

In February of 2023, a Puerto Rican rapper named Bad Bunny both spoke and sang at the CBS Grammy Awards show. The captioning for the Spanish speaking read [Speaking non-English] and for the singing, [Singing non-English]. Reactions from linguistic and social justice communities were swift. Many of the responses on social media were similar to this tweet shown in Figure 1 from the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice where the jokes were focused on the English/Not-English dichotomy. In response to the situation, CBS/Paramount went back and provided appropriate Spanish subtitles, and hundreds of linguistics professors screen capped the subtitles for future courses. The controversy, like many, was quickly left behind in social discourses.

Figure 1: A screen cap of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice twitter account. @LatinaInstitute. [screaming about abortion rights in non-english]. 10:12 AM . Feb 7, 2023, 6,224 Views. 25 Retweets. 1 Quote Tweet. 123 Likes.

For deaf and disabled people, the controversy about [Speaking non-English] was just another in a long history of struggles for access to video-based media both on television and elsewhere. Not until 2010 did the Federal Government of the United States require that redistributors (e.g. Netflix) caption their content (Zdenek, 2011). Although subtitles and captioning technically refer to two different mechanisms of access, in this article, we use them interchangeably. Given the limitations of the 21st Century Telecommunications and Video Accessibility Act and the expense in both time and money of creating captions, most online media was still not captioned even after the law was passed. About the same time the new online captioning law passed, YouTube premiered automated captions (themadprogramer, 2020). By 2019, the state of YouTube automated captioning was so bad that it prompted an Atlantic feature on the topic, and a No More Craptions campaign by noted deaf activists like Rikki Poynter (Besner, 2019). The challenge with the captioning is that YouTube could not decide for whom the captioning services were: the content producers, deaf and disabled people, or international audiences. YouTube’s inability to decide for whom captions were for created controversy when they began auto-censoring cuss words in their auto-captioning in response to their software falsely transliterating racially triggering words into the captions (O’Dell, 2020). Protests by the deaf and disabled communities failed to change this policy.

In spite of the law, not everything is required to be captioned. Music, for example, is not required to be captioned under the 2010 law. Following a 1992 lawsuit against Disney, studios are required to pay additional for captioning songs (Stanton, 2015). Accordingly, most studios choose not to caption songs when possible, in spite of multiple lawsuits including one filed most recently in 2015. Captioners are also not required to caption spoken languages other than the language of distribution. This is evident in Figure 2.

Figure 2 is a small screen cap from the recent Dreamworks movie, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish. Puss in Boots is a spin off character from Dreamwork’s Shrek series. Puss is a cat voiced by Antonio Banderas, based in both Perrault’s 17th century European fairy tale about a cat who wears boots and helps the youngest son of a miller, and Zorro, an early 20th century pulp fiction hero based in Spanish California. Puss, as a Spanaird, often speaks Spanish instead of English. The captioning, rather than showing the Spanish language, reads “speaks in Spanish.”

Figure 2: A screencap of captions from Puss in Boots: The Last Wish. (speaks in Spanish). Start digging.

The point of this is that Captioning has always been a political movement fraught with issues about accessibility, target audience, access friction with hearing people who are distracted by text on the screen (which is why open captioned movies basically do not exist), cost to implement, and yes, raciolinguistics. [Speaking in Non-English] was only one small incident in a long history of incidents, yet it appeared to seize the attention of those attuned to linguistic justice in a way that [speaks in Spanish] does not. The why is important.

[Speaking non-English] was a nexus of racism and ableism and a larger representation of the struggle of Captioning as an access means, particularly access for whom. A recent Preply survey of 1,200 Americans indicated that half of them watch captioned shows most of the time (Zajechowski, 2023). Gen Z respondents, which covers people born roughly between 1997 and 2013, responded that 70% of them prefer to watch captioned shows. Given that the majority of users of captions are hearing, and likely international viewers, captions are probably seen as not about access needs for deaf and disabled viewers but about language cueing. Hearing people do not generally need spoken language transliterated for them. They mostly need language cues. For them [speaks in Spanish] may not be problematic because it either cues them to listen for the Spanish, or it helps them realize that they don’t speak the language and can ignore it. [speaking in Non-English] is different for them because it sets up the spoken language as inferior to English.

For deaf and disabled viewers, both [speaking non-English] and [speaks in Spanish] are extremely problematic. First, it makes the assumption that deaf and disabled people do not read languages other than the majority spoken and written language of their communities. Yet, in the UK, at least 13% of deaf people speak a language other than English (Wright et al., 2023). In the United States, statistics on that are harder to come by, but Cannon et al. (2016) estimate up to a third of deaf students come from homes where English or ASL is not the primary language of the home. However, like Henner & Robinson (2023) point out, the only language that has value in deaf education is the spoken and written language of the community, which in the UK and the US is English. Moving towards justice requires that deaf and disabled children be given access to languages other than the primary spoken and written language of the communities. Ensuring that they have access to accurate captions of all spoken languages is therefore a disability rights issue.

Zdenek (2011) writes, “If we wish to provide robust accounts of multimodal composition, we need to inform our understanding of sound with an accessibility-infused sensitivity to the broader questions about sound, writing, and rhetoric…”. What is “accessibility-infused sensitivity” in this context? Kicking up a fuss about [speaks in non-English] but not [speaks in Spanish] of accessibility-infused insensitivity. Neither method of captioning is accessible for deaf and disabled viewers. The latter way of transcribing spoken Spanish is sensitive, but not accessible. The purpose of this article was to highlight what happens when people forget disability issues when working against raciolinguistic injustice. Raciolinguistic justice cannot be achieved without including disabled people in the advocacy.


Besner, L. (2019, August 19). When is a caption close enough? Retrieved 2/21/203 from https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2019/08/youtube-captions/595831/

Henner, J., & Robinson, O. (2023). Crip Linguistics Goes to School. Languages, 8(1), 48. https://doi.org/10.3390/languages8010048

O’Dell, L. (2020, September 19). New YouTube automatic captions setting criticised by deaf campaigners. Retrieved 2/21/2023 from https://liamodell.com/2020/09/19/new-youtube-automatic-captions-setting-criticised-by-deaf-campaigners-community-captions-twitter-petition-rikki-poynter-creator-insider/

Staton, J. (2015). [SONG ENDS] - Why movie and television producers should stop using copyright as an excuse not to caption song lyrics. UCLA Entertainment and Law Review, 22 (2). https://doi.org/10.5070/LR8222027684

themadprogrammer. (2020, September 12). Scaling the waterfall, captions for all: YouTube CC History pt. 3. Retrieved 2/21/2023 from https://datahorde.org/a-history-of-youtubes-closed-captions-part-iii-scaling-the-waterfall/

Wright, E., Stojanovik, V., & Serratrice, L. (2023). Deaf children with spoken language bilingualism: Professional guidance to parents. Deafness & Education International, 25(1), 21–39. https://doi.org/10.1080/14643154.2022.2062096

Zajechowski, M. (2022). Survey: Why America is obsessed with subtitles. Retrieved 2/21/2023 from https://preply.com/en/blog/americas-subtitles-use/.

Zdenek, S. (2011). Which sounds are significant? Towards a rhetoric of closed captioning. Disability Studies Quarterly, 31(3).

Jon Henner is an associate professor in the Interpreting, Deaf Education, and Advocacy Services concentration in the Specialized Education Services department at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. He likes cats.


Laura Ascenzi-Moreno, Brooklyn College, CUNY, Brooklyn, NY, USA

How can we attune our instruction to support the reading development of multilingual students? This complex question has become even more tricky given the current thrust of media messages about the “best way” about how reading should be taught. The Science of Reading (SOR) movement has been highly successful in messaging teachers, administrators, and the public about the need for specific components of foundational reading and corresponding instructional moves to support early readers. But do all students, including multilingual students, need the same reading instructional techniques to become successful readers? If not, what kind of adjustments to foundational reading instruction need to be considered for multilingual students?

Let’s start by clarifying what I refer to reading in this short piece. I refer to reading as the complex orchestration of reading words, understanding their meanings, and understanding the meaning of words in relation to larger pieces of texts. This is a departure from how reading is commonly currently conveyed by SOR advocates. In the current discourse word reading or decoding is commonly the only portion of the entire reading puzzle being referenced. Decoding is the ability to use knowledge about letters and their sounds to read a word and is, undoubtedly, a foundational aspect of reading. However, for multilingual students decoding a word does not necessarily mean that they “read it.” In other words, while multilingual students may have the knowledge of sound-letter relationships to sound out a word, decoding does not mean that multilingual students can understand the word on its own or in relation to the words around it. Clarity about what educators mean when we refer to reading is always essential because it impacts what instructional practices educators design and how much time we dedicate to the instructional practices we choose to employ.

For multilingual students learning to read, phonemic awareness exercises can have an extra layer of complexity. Phonemic awareness is the ability to play with sounds of a word and to manipulate them. It is considered one of the cornerstones of early reading abilities. Ideally young readers should engage in short, intentional, and powerful instruction to support students’ acquisition of phonemic awareness. For young children who are asked, “if I say seat, change the s to a ch,” and who have ample experience with English, the exercise can target their phonemic awareness. But for multilingual students, it’s not that simple. Did the teacher say, “ch” or “sh?” And what do these words mean?

These layers of complexity are consistently present throughout a range of different foundational reading experiences for multilingual students. Take for instance the following anecdote: in a first grade classroom, teachers are working with multilingual students through foundational skills curriculum. Students are instructed to pick out the word that is different from the others. They are given the following three words: “pepper, letter, and perfect.” While for many students, it is clear that the word, “letter" is different from the others because it starts with the letter, “l,” for many multilingual students there are a range of confounding factors that may make this simple exercise much more than identifying an initial letter sound. For example, when the teacher says to identify something different about one word, what kind of difference is he/she referring to? Students may be confused if they should identify a difference in letters at the beginning or the end? They may think, should I look for which word means something different? Exercises like this are meant to be fast paced, yet, multilingual learners may still be processing what is exactly required of them, thus not actually engaged in the targeted skill that these exercises intend for students to practice.

In another instance, the teacher sends students to a table to work in a small group reading nonsense words like, “puk, jaf, kuf.” Before starting the activity, one of the students, a Latinx boy, asks the teacher, “can we use sounds in Spanish?” This example demonstrates that for many multilingual students, they may have knowledge of letter sounds across the languages that they use daily. In the case of nonsense words, it’s important for students to know if the teachers want them to employ all of their knowledge of sounds, even if it goes beyond English, or do they need to keep within the confines of English sounds?

As these types of foundational exercises have become increasingly popular and even mandated by law for students, it is important for educators who work with multilingual students to be reminded that their professional expertise is fundamental to “skillful implementation” (professional communication, Melissa Lambert, 2/1/23) of these foundational instructional techniques for multilingual readers. These proceeding anecdotes demonstrate that multilingual learners approach tasks that are meant to target foundational reading skills in a way that differs from monolingual students. Assuming that the same instructional tasks will activate the same type of learning for all students including multilingual students is reflective of the monolingual bias in activities such as these (Ascenzi-Moreno, unpublished manuscript).

The vast research on bilingualism and reading indicates that there are differences between monolingual and multilingual students as they develop to be readers (Reyes, 2012). It is critical that research on biliteracy sits alongside and on equal ground with research promoted by SOR advocates. While SOR advocates argue for universality or of the claim that all readers need the same instructional techniques regardless of their profiles, it is clear that multilingual students need something different in developing to be successful readers.

What exactly do we know about how multilingual students and monolingual students differ in how they learn to read? While there are many ways that multilingual students’ reading development differ from monolingual students, in this short piece, two ways in which they differ will be highlighted. First, language and literacy are intertwined (Razfar & Rumenapp, 2014). For multilingual students this means that while we may try to isolate reading skills from language, this only works for students who already are quite adept in knowing the meaning of words. For multilingual students, the danger when we engage in these types of practices is that we are missing an opportunity for language development. Secondly, multilingual students operate across named languages or use their translanguaging abilities - meaning that they have knowledge about different components of reading in two or more named languages. Therefore, they may know a variety of sounds associated with a given letter in more than one named language. They may also have knowledge of words and texts in languages in addition to English. Therefore, the need for students to understand their resources cross-linguistically becomes critically important (Cárdenas-Hagan, 2020). For example, multilingual students may benefit from discussing and practicing similarities and differences between sounds in the named languages that they use.

So what does a multilingual approach to teaching early reading looks like? Because language and reading are intertwined for multilingual students there are a couple of shifts that can take place for multilingual students to account for their rich linguistic and cultural resources. Reading is both cumulative and componential (Lesaux, 2015). For multilingual students, this means that not only do multiple experiences need to add up to continually develop a thoughtful and skillful reader, but also that the skills need to relate to each other. One of the first things that teachers can consider is how foundational exercises are related to meaning? For multilingual students when meaning is not integrated into learning, there is a lost opportunity for language development. When reading skills are compartmentalized, then multilingual students’ overall comprehension may be impacted in the long run, because the relationship between word reading and language is not made over time.

For example, before asking students if they know the sound the word starts with, it’s important that students know what the word means. This can be accomplished by asking students what the word means in the languages that they use or even by showing visuals, if applicable. A second way to support multilingual students’ acquisition of foundational skills is to integrate a space within foundational reading skills to explore the ways in which their named language works - the similarities and the differences - between the languages that they use. This means that students have the opportunity to hear how the “th” sounds in English and compare it, let’s say for a Spanish speaker, to how the medial “d” sounds, “media” (or sock), which has similarities. The vast body of biliteracy research emphasizes the importance of metalinguistic awareness in the development of biliteracy for multilingual students (Reyes, 2012).

Calls for universality in the teaching of foundational skills makes a complex instructional landscape for multilingual students invisible. When the actual learning of multilingual students is not perceived, then their needs cannot be attended to adequately, and in the end multilingual students will lose out on crucial reading instruction that is attuned to their profiles. An overemphasis on word work unconnected to meaning, in the long run may cumulatively lead to weaknesses in meaning-based reading abilities. Of course, multilingual students need foundational skills - all students do - however, the ways that word reading and meaning come together for multilingual students during foundational skills development deserves both dedicated attention and a different approach that matches the research base on multilingual students. Educators will need to advocate for multilingual students by exercising their professional expertise to adapt foundational skills based on what research says about how multilingual students learn.


Ascenzi-Moreno, L. (Unpublished Manuscript). Bilinguifying reading instruction through a translanguaging perspective on reading and readers.

Cárdenas-Hagan, E. (2020). Literacy foundations for English learners: A comprehensive guide to evidence-based instruction. Brookes.

Lesaux, N. (2015). Cultivating knowledge, building language: Literacy instruction for English learners in elementary school. Heinneman.

Razar, A. & Rumenapp, J. (2014). Applying linguistics in the classroom: A Sociocultural approach. Routledge.

Reyes, I. (2012). Biliteracy among children and youths. Reading Research Quarterly, 47(3), 307-327.

Dr. Laura Ascenzi-Moreno is a professor of bilingual education and bilingual program coordinator at Brooklyn College, CUNY. Brooklyn, NY, USA



2023-2024 Chair
: Naashia Mohamed

Building on the valuable work on developing critical perspectives and adopting humanizing approaches, our focus for the year ahead will be on exploring the intersections of multilingualism, equity and identity. We’d like to unpack these concepts and their connections to counter deficit discourses and adopt culturally sustaining pedagogies as an integral aspect of education at all levels. We’d like to invite scholars and practitioners from different parts of the globe to lead webinars and online workshops to enrich our thinking and practice. We also envisage engagement with the wider community through social media.

Naashia Mohamed is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. Her work contributes to understanding how school and society can adopt culturally sustaining approaches to empower linguistically marginalised children, youth, and families to achieve greater social equity.

2022-2023 Chair: Zhongfeng Tian

Call for Inputs on a new name for the B-MEIS Newsletter, Multilingual Connections, previously named Bilingual Basic

The Bilingual-Multilingual Intersection Section (B-MEIS) of TESOL International is seeking your input on a new name for our Newsletter. We believe that the current name, Bilingual Basic, does not capture multilingual individual’s and children’s dynamic and multimodal (trans) languaging practices as well as the critical role of bilingual education in their lives, we invite you to suggest a name change for The B-MEIS’s newsletter that will bring us closer to reflect and articulate the community’s key values, priorities and goals.

We have continued to examine the intersections between equity and assessment for multilingual learners in our collective effort to move towards inclusive assessment practices. To this end, Ching-Ching Lin, Zhongfeng Tian and Clara Bauler co-hosted a joint panel discussion with NYS TESOL, featuring “Should We Expand or Diminish the Role of Assessment for Multilingual Learners?” This panel was inspired by this article by Dr. Margo Gottlieb published by the Center for Applied Linguistics, and aims to unravel the complexity of this issue through juxtaposing diverse perspectives in practitioner friendly terms and making recommendations on future directions. We have invited four panelists (Dr. Laura Ascenzi-Moreno, Dr. Luciana de Oliveira, Dr. Jamie Schissel, and Dr. Aída Walqui) to share their research and experience in this area.

Furthermore, faced with the evolving TESOL landscape (e.g., a growing need for more humanizing practices that value multilingual learners’ local realities and funds of knowledge in TESOL teaching and learning) situated in today’s changing world (a series of social and political events such as the COVID-19 pandemic, racial justice movements, and global migration and refugee crisis), we believe that it is more important than ever to cultivate space for criticality and critical perspectives in TESOL as a means to fight for social, racial and linguistic justice. Therefore, we launched a webinar series “Cultivating Critical Language Awareness in TESOL” which features three emerging and early career scholars’ work, with one webinar per month from January to March 2023. The details of their talks are:

LEADERS, 2022-2023

Chair: Clara Bauler

We have been inquiring about what it means to language and what the implications could be for more inclusive, flexible and just teaching and assessment practices in our language-related fields and communities of practice. We started with promoting critical and reflective conversations that would shift the perspective from language as an object to language as a verb. The #LanguageIsAVerb campaign held by our @TESOLBiMulti Twitter social media account in October 2021 became a platform for us all to involve the larger communities, teachers, students, parents, and other interested individuals to advocate for the naturalization of multilingualism in all of its varieties and potentials. #LanguageIsAVerb received contributions from people all across the globe, joining us all with the common goal of fighting linguistic discrimination and affirming multilingual ways of being, knowing and doing. More events and details can be found here.

LEADERS, 2021-2022

Chair: Ching-Ching Lin

As the pandemic uncovered, exacerbated, and challenged flawed social structures and enduring racial hierarchy, it has also opened up opportunities for us to engage in constructive dialogue and meaningful action to advance social justice. Reflecting on the role language plays in responding to cultural and linguistic diversity, we tapped into multilingual education as a resource for pushing empathy, building heritages and pursuing equitable courses of action. Within the B-MEIS leadership, we have made it as our goal to explore diverse ways of constructing criticality as communities of practice in the field of multilingual education and beyond.

B-MEIS Monthly Webinars

Mission Statement Refresh
: We revised the IS’s mission statement to reflect and demonstrate its commitment to multilingualism as a tool to advance and promote justice, equity and diversity. We invited the public to comment on a draft mission statement before finalizing it:

  • Support: The purpose of the Bilingual-Multilingual Interest Section (B-MEIS) is to support and promote all multilingual learners' linguistic repertoires and multiliteracy skills as fundamental to the acquisition of a second or additional language.
  • Elevate: The IS believes that additive and dynamic approaches must be endorsed and implemented in educational institutions in the interests of students from diverse backgrounds.
  • Sustain: The IS supports the opportunity and right of all individuals to develop, construct and maintain a diverse range of cultural, linguistic, and literate repertoires of practice. inequitable power relations in society and empower minority students to use their own
  • Transform: The IS works to foster collaborative relations of power and address repertoires of practice.
  • Interest Section Sessions with other Interest Section at the upcoming Virtual TESOL 2021 Convention
  • B-MEIS Academic Session: “Centering and Normalizing Diversity and Equity in Multilingual Education”, 25 March, 2021 at 3:00 AM (EST).
  • B-MEIS/EFL Intersection Session: “A Glocal Framework for Literacy Curriculum in EFL/Multilingual Classrooms”, 27 March, 2021 at 3:00:00 PM.
  • NNEST/SLW/B-MEIS Intersection Session: “Affirming Multifaceted Identities in TESOL", 25 March, 2021 at 6:00 AM (EST).

LEADERS, 2020-2021