lin 2 writing assignment 3

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Speaking in Tongues’ is a biblical expression that refers to a phenomenon known as glossolalia, which denotes incomprehensible speech, canonically ascribed to a mental state of trance or ecstasy.

The documentary ‘Speaking in Tongues’(56 mins) that you will watch for the third write-up takes the biblical expression and puts it in the context of English-Only vs. English-Plus debate in the USA. This 2009 film tracks the dual-language journeys of four students from different social, racial, and ethno-linguistic backgrounds in the San Francisco Unified School District, while exploring other issues pertaining to attitudes towards languages other than English, language shift, and policies centered around dual-language programs in SFUSD schools. (I have used ‘dual-language’ as a term encompassing both immersion and bilingual programs.)

For your write-up, divide it into 2 parts – Summary and Opinion. However, this time your opinion section carries more weightage, about one-third summary and two-thirds opinion.


For the summary part, briefly describe the linguistic journeys for the four children –Durrell, Jason, Julian, and Kelly, and touch on the issues given below, as presented in the film:

  • Linguistic diversity in the US
  • Bilingualism
  • Language shift
  • Attitudes of parents towards heritage language maintenance
  • Attitudes of parents and other people towards dual-language education in SFUSD schools
  • Policies surrounding dual-language programs in SFUSD

Note: The film mentions that 31 out of the 50 states in the US have English-only laws, which was the number when this film was made. The current number is 32.


In the film (time stamps 3:23 – 4:00), Dr. Ling-chi says “There’s no country [the USA] that has more linguistic assets, but we seem to take pride in being monolingual. And we even try to amend our constitutions to make sure we remain monolingual, when the rest of the world under globalization, everybody is learning second and third languages while we are essentially shooting at our own feet. It is a national question, what does it mean to be an educated person in America today?”

For the opinion part, you will address Dr. Ling-chi’s concern regarding monolingualism in the US, building your arguments in favor of either English-only or English-plus sentiments (or take a middle of the road approach, if that’s what you prefer). While presenting your arguments make specific references to the film. You can also refer to topics discussed in class, or you can do your own research to support your arguments. You won’t be graded on which side you take, but on how compelling and justifiable your arguments are.

If you are referring to secondary resources, make sure you cite them properly – both MLA and APA formats are acceptable, as long as you are consistent.

Word limit: minimum 500 words and maximum 1000 words

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