Olga Vásquez is an associate professor in the Department of Communication at the University of California, San Diego. Her research examines the intersection of literacy, language, and culture in intercultural settings. As an ethnographer of education, her work covers bilingual education, culturally responsive curriculum, and access to educational resources by underrepresented groups. Over the last five years, she has been increasingly interested in the ways institutional linkages between the university and community facilitate the exchange of knowledge between two dissimilar cultural groups while focusing on how language and culture influence learning and development in after-school educational settings. Currently, she is involved in the study of sustainable innovative educational activities that provide a range of literacy activities through computer and telecommunication technology.
Every year, I teach a course called Bilingual Communication offered through the Department of Communication at the University of California, San Diego. Every year, language diversity in this class gets ever more pronounced and more interesting. Over the last ten years, I have noticed a very visible shift from a majority of Anglo and Latino students with a sprinkling of Asian students to a high percentage of Asian students with a sprinkling of Anglos and Latinos. Today, Asian students make up 48-52% of the student population at UCSD and a slightly higher percentage in this class. Forty of the 70 students enrolled in the course during the first quarter of 2010 represented a variety of Asian language groups with varying degrees of English fluency. In total, 18 languages were spoken fluently among class members. A total of 20 languages were used at home, and among class participants’ grandparents there were a total of 27 languages spoken. Only three students were monolingual English speakers. Spanish was the second most spoken language in the classroom following English. The visibility of Spanish was not because Latinos were highly represented but because Asian students and students of others ethnicities typically chose Spanish as their language of choice in high school.