Filmmaking Couple Shed Light on Speaking in Tongues

Posted on August 24, 2010
The award-winning ITVS film, Speaking in Tongues, tells the stories of four diverse kids becoming bilingual in the public school system. Filmmakers Marcia Jarmel and her husband Ken Schneider, will present the documentary at a special screening and panel discussion hosted at KQED in San Francisco — Thursday, September 2nd (6:30 to 8:30 PM). Our idea in making Speaking in Tongues was to showcase a world where communication barriers are being addressed. An African-American boy from public housing learns to read, write, and speak Mandarin. A Mexican-American boy, whose parents are not literate in any language, develops professional-level Spanish while mastering English. A Chinese-American girl regains her grandparents' mother tongue, a language her parents lost through assimilation. A Caucasian teen travels to Beijing to stay with a Mandarin speaking host family. Their stories reveal the promise of a multilingual America.


We've witnessed this transformation in our own home. Our sons are in their fourth and eighth year in a public school Chinese immersion program. They cause a stir when they order in accent-less Chinese at local restaurants. But they also have translated for a confused Chinese speaker lost at the doctor, visited shut-in Chinese speaking elders, felt at home in a traditional Chinese home, and very important for us, helped us understand our film footage. When spoken to by a native speaker, they don't pause to translate; they think in Chinese, having learned it like a baby, by hearing it spoken around them. Their experience prompts the telling of these small stories that in turn provoke one of the most compelling questions of our day: what do we as a nation need to know in the 21st century?

We truly believe that the promise of a multilingual America can be fulfilled. Support for multilingualism comes from a unique cross section of America. Community leaders, teachers, policymakers, and advocates from organizations at the forefront of multilingual education, in addition to parents of bilingual children, bring a range of perspectives that when brought together, generally makes for a lively and meaningful discussion. It is a honor to have the opportunity to share this film with communities nationwide. To find out where you can see it, how to bring the discussion to your community, or to learn more about the benefits of multilingualism, please join our mailing list or Facebook group, read our blog, and check out the resources on our website. You can also join us for an online conversation on September 13th at the Movie Night Salon, on from 8:00 pm - 9:30 pm ET/ 5:00pm - 6:30 pm PT.


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