U.S. Department of Education Grant to The Graduate Center Will Help CUNY’s Bilingual Students

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More than 86,000 CUNY undergraduates — 38 percent of CUNY’s nearly 230,000 undergraduates — speak a native language other than English. Many of them stand to benefit from a recent U.S. Department of Education grant of $169,450 to the Institute for Language Education in Transcultural Context (ILETC) at The Graduate Center. ILETC is using the funding to launch an initiative to enhance language education for bilingual college students. 

The grant-funded project, called Investigating Pedagogies for Advanced Proficiency (IPAP), will initially focus on students who immigrated from Spanish-speaking countries, or whose parents did, and who speak Spanish at home, but were educated in English in the U.S. As a result, the students’ dominant language is English, while Spanish remains their home language. IPAP will analyze and develop effective strategies for teaching college-level Spanish courses to bilingual students so that they become proficient in reading and writing in Spanish as well as speaking it. In its third year, IPAP will focus on learners who are bilingual in Japanese and English. 

As part of the work, IPAP will study how students’ English writing skills affect their ability to write and learn to write in Spanish. Professor Alberta Gatti (Linguistics), director of ILETC who is leading the IPAP project, says she and her collaborators want to learn what strategies will help lower-level writers become more developed writers. 

“We have many language classes at CUNY for bilingual learners, but we could do better in terms of having curricula that we know for sure is helping these learners use their non-dominant language in professional and academic settings,” Gatti said. The project’s ultimate aim, she said, “is to develop research-based recommendations for instruction that are truly accessible to the professors, lecturers, and adjuncts who are teaching CUNY’s numerous bilingual students.” 

Project collaborators include ILETC Assistant Director Syelle Graves, several CUNY faculty members, and specialists from outside CUNY. Graduate Center doctoral and master’s student fellows will also be involved. (Student fellowship application information will be available soon.) Central to the project is a collaboration with the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures at John Jay College. 

Submitted on: OCT 26, 2020

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