Gen 1.5

On a surprising number of Comp 1 papers this week, I find myself writing about the Gen 1.5 experience and how excited I am to have students with first-hand knowledge. This could be an topic for the SRTOL paper.

Generation 1.5 refers to students with the characteristics of both 1st generation immigrants and 2nd generation immigrants. They typically entered the U.S. in their childhood – though some sources say true Gen 1.5 students enter between the ages of 3-5, and other sources say they enter the country as teenagers. All agree that the experience involves public schools during a pre-adolescent or early adolescent stage.

Kids seem to learn language better than adults, and partly because kids play. Gen 1.5 youth learn language more from the playground, or extra-curricular activities, than the classroom. Their oral skills rival native born English speakers, which can cause problems. Other native speakers assume Gen 1.5 are fully fluent and cultural insiders. Sometimes people have less patience for Gen 1.5 learners because on the surface they look and sound fully “American,” and yet they don’t catch every word or cultural reference that a student born to 2nd or 3rd generation Americans might. I see this with how people treat my wife – tho she’s 1st generation with phenomenal language skills.

Gen 1.5 face particular challenges with writing. At least 6 of my Gen 1.5 students have told me stories this week of being laughed at by students and mocked by teachers. Generally the Asian students smile and laugh with the group.

Therese Thonus, now Writing Center Director at KU, wrote an interesting piece on the essential role of writing centers for Gen 1.5 students. It’s titled, “Serving Generation 1.5 Learners in the University Writing Center,” published in TESOL Journal in 2003. Look for it in the Eric Database or thru google scholar. Gen 1.5 students need to disclose their linguistic background to the peer consultant at the WC and ask them to function as a cultural informant. Most people assume Gen 1.5 students can hear grammatical anomalies as well as native English speakers, but they don’t.

Mark Roberge explains it in easy-to-understand language, but I disagree with him on a couple key points. 1) age is much more flexible than he suggests and 2) they do have a home language – though it may be defined as an interlanguage (see also creole, pidgin, etc). Interlanguages count as “a language of nurture” for the Students Right to Their Own Language paper, though academics have been slow to realize and acknowledge that.

What American location is most famous for it’s creole? New Orleans – They just won the Superbowl and everyone’s yelling, “who dat.” Ever wonder what that means or where it came from?

I’d like to share research at the social bookmarking site.

5 thoughts on “Gen 1.5

  1. Prof Dixon I have been to a NO Saints game and i wondered who came up with this unusually catchy phrase and an elderly black man told me that it dates back to the 1800's to some old folk song, and there is a huge to who has exclusive rights to it.

  2. I love that someone posted a comment in Chinese. I translate that to, "The behavior of a simple pleasure of others minds, than thousands of people to bow their heads Prayer" which is a good example of why i don't get paid for translation work. I'll be consulting with a native speaker and get back to this. And thanks for the info Jsmooth. Anyone find out the name of the song?

  3. Head's up – 2 Comp 2 students have a similar language experience – so at least 8 of the 88 students (or 9%) originally enrolled in my classes for the SP 2010 semester are Gen 1.5. Oh, and on reflection and study – I think the idiomatic translation of the Chinese is, "the Lord helps those who help themselves."

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