Knowledge of How Language Works in Context
Children’s use of language to communicate is
influenced by their cultural funds of knowledge, social conventions of
expression, proxemics (gestures and body language) and style
of address, which can differ among cultures. Therefore,
children who are learning English as a new language may
exhibit communication behaviors that are different from those
of children raised in a single majority culture. Certain rules that
apply in American schools may be quite different for children who are from
homes where English is not yet understood or spoken. Six major differences in communication
behavior (based on differences in culture) are highlighted below:
Comparison of Culturally
Appropriate Portuguese Behavior and the Possible Implications
in U.S. Majority Cultural Context.
|Culturally Appropriate Pragmatic
||Possible Implications or Misinterpretations
in Majority-Cultural Context
|Teachers are expected
to address parents or other adults by their title such
as Senhor (Mr.) or Senhora (Ms./Mrs.)
Addressing Portuguese parents by their first
name may be seen as less than respectful.
In addition, children address the teacher as “Teacher”
because in Portuguese they are expected to say, “senhora”
peoples often initiate a conversation on a personal note.
When they ask a personal question it does not mean they
want to pry, it is instead a sign of consideration and
This is important information to better establish a culturally
responsive relationship with Portuguese families.
|When asked a question
or given an explanation, Portuguese parents or other adults
tend to offer a lot of details surrounding the context
before they make the point.
At team evaluation meetings or interviews, Portuguese
relatives will give a lot more contextual information
than required. An interpreter may not translate everything
because a lot of the information that is being provided
may be seen as irrelevant in the US majority-cultural
|When adults are talking,
children usually do not interrupt.
Child may be viewed as passive and unengaged.
|Children show respect
by avoiding eye contact thus looking down or away when
talking to parents, teachers or other adults.
Teachers or administrators viewing this through
the eyes of the U.S. majority-cultural perspective may
assume that such behavior demonstrates something other
than respect. It is possible to cause unintentional shame
or a feeling of humiliation by pointing it out. For the
unknown observer this may also be misinterpreted as a
sign of a disability such as ADHD, pervasive developmental
disorder or autism.
|Sequence in story
telling or narration is usually not linear.
Teachers and other educators may perceive this
as disorganized, but it is appropriate according to Portuguese
rhetorical logic and must be understood in that context.
Linear organization is a skill that is easily acquired
as the student progresses through the stages of second