“You don’t speak Spanish in the cafeteria”: An Intersectional Analysis of Language and Social Constructions in a Kindergarten Dual Language Immersion Class

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Dual language immersion (DLI) programs have emerged in the U.S. as effective ways to bring together language minority and language majority speakers in school settings with the goal of bilingualism and bi-literacy for all. However, the proliferation of these programs has raised concerns regarding issues of inequity and dissimilar power dynamics in these spaces (Cervantes-Soon, 2014, “A Critical Look at Dual Language Immersion in the New Latin@ Diaspora.” Bilingual Research Journal 37 (1): 64–82; Flores, 2016, Do Black Lives matter in Bilingual Education [Web log post]. Accessed May 1, 2017. https://educationallinguist.wordpress.com/2016/09/11/do-black-lives-matter-in-bilingual-education/; Valdes, 1997, “Dual language immersion programs: A cautionary note concerning the education of language-minority students.” Harvard Educational Review 67: 391–430, 2018, “Analyzing the curricularization of language in two-way immersion education: Restating two cautionary notes.” Bilingual Research Journal). With this in mind, this study aims to shed light on the intricate social processes at work in DLI contexts. In particular, this paper examines first, how notions of language use, race, and ethnicity are socially constructed and intersect in DLI settings; and second, it explores how these ideas are discerned and re-shaped by young children into their own social and linguistic norms. Employing qualitative research methods, this year-long ethnographic case study uses the intersectional lens of raciolinguistics (Alim, Rickford & Ball, 2016, Raciolinguistics: how language shapes our ideas about race. New York, NY: Oxford University Press; Rosa & Flores, 2017, “Unsettling race and language: Toward a raciolinguistic perspective.” Language in Society 46 (5): 621–647), to examine the intricate cross-cutting dynamics at play in bilingual spaces. The exploration of these ideas helps to illuminate the ways in which language practices and interactions are shaped by social constructions from a very early age. Furthermore, it contributes to understandings of social perceptions and relations in multilingual/multicultural/multiethnic contemporary school settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1467-1483
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2022


  • Bilingual education
  • bilingualism
  • childhood bilingualism
  • dual language immersion
  • dual language programme
  • two-way immersion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language


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