Second Language Acquisition & Teaching GIDP
Immigrant Languages in the Americas
Octrober 27-29, 2016
The Herbert E. Carter Travel Award made it possible for me to attend the 7th annual Workshop on Immigrant Languages in the Americas at the University of Georgia campus in Athens, Georgia. The Workshop lasted from October 27th to October 29th, 2016 and it included presentations on a variety of topics ranging from syntactic analyses of the Spanish spoken in Mexican immigrant communities to the development of an orthography for Wisconsin Walloon, an endangered language spoken by Belgian immigrants who arrived in the U.S. more than 100 years ago. What is unique about this workshop is that researchers who study the nature and development of immigrant languages in the Americas were not just from the U.S. Participants came from Wisconsin, Georgia, Oregon, California, Iceland, Denmark, and Norway – all with the common interest of understanding the trajectory of immigrant languages in various host countries along with the factors that influence and reinforce language change in these communities. Researchers from Denmark studied the language features of Danish speakers in Argentina or the plural use of Haredi Satmar Yiddish in New York. American researchers tracked the use of syntactic agreement in the Spanish of Mexican immigrants in Chicago or the use of differential object marking among Spanish speakers in Mexican immigrant communities.
My wife and I presented our project during the poster session of the Workshop. Many of the attendees were interested in our Tucson based project and wanted to learn more about the process of putting it together. Some expressed the desire to recreate the project in their home institutions. Others recommended relevant and related research that could help the development of our project in Tucson. The best part was to meet more people who look at minority languages from the immigrant’s perspective. Many of the attendees did not only research the language features of their speech, but they were also engaged in activities that promoted the preservation and revitalization of minority immigrant languages. Many wanted to adopt the project to in the language classroom for heritage learners. Others were working with international students and saw the value of the project as a networking resource. Lastly, other researchers were doing case studies on the last remaining speakers of an immigrant language variety. In many cases, there were no records of such languages due to a general lack of interest in surrounding communities. This was a somber reminder of how the pressures of a dominant culture and society can extinguish many of these innovative and interesting varieties of language. It added a new purpose to the collection of media as a source of data for researchers who want to study the development of these languages so that they can better understand factors that preserve their existence. All in all, the workshop allowed us to meet peers, join new networks of research, and also share our ideas with people from around the world. This was only possible with the help of the GIDP’s Herbert E. Carter Travel Award, the encouraging kindness of Dr. Andrew Carnie who wrote the letter of recommendation, and the hard work of Dr. Joshua Bousquette from the University of Georgia who organized the workshop and accepted our submission.