chapter  4
“I’m Speaking English Instead of My Culture”: Portraits of Language Use and Change among Native American Youth
ByTERESA L. McCARTY, MARY EUNICE ROMERO-LITTLE, LARISA WARHOL, AND OFELIA ZEPEDA
Pages 30

The statements above, by a bilingual teacher and a bilingual youth, highlight the complex sociolinguistic and ideological forces underpinning language practices in communities in which a minoritized language is losing ground to a dominating one-in this case, Navajo to English. Language shift is occurring at an escalating pace in American Indian and Alaska Native communities, and indeed, is cause for grave concern worldwide. Yet even as more Native students enter school speaking English as a primary or only language, they often speak a variety influenced by the structure and use patterns of the Native language, leading them to be stigmatized as “limited English proficient” (LEP) and placed in remedial tracks. Native American students are 237 percent more likely to drop out of school than their White peers-an astounding and deeply troubling statistic (National Caucus of Native American State Legislators, 2008, p. 5). Thus, the shift from the Native language to English does not in itself guarantee that students will acquire academic English or fare better in school, or that educational inequities will be redressed.