Speaking in Tongues
Airing on KLCS, this documentary about four children learning to be bilingual and bicultural raises questions about what it means to be American in the 21st century. It begins with an ordinary first day of public school kindergarten—except that the teacher speaks only Chinese. Most of her primarily white and Asian American students look confused but curious; a few nod knowingly. They are all in a language immersion class, where, from day one, they will receive 90% of their instruction in Cantonese. Jason is a first generation Mexican-American whose immigrant family embraces bilingualism as the key to full participation in the land of opportunity. Durrell is an African-American kindergartner whose mom hopes that learning Mandarin will be a way out of economic uncertainty and into possibility. Kelly is a Chinese-American recapturing the Cantonese her parents sacrificed to become American. Julian is a Caucasian 8th grader eager to expand his horizons and become a good world citizen.