Illegal Alphabets and Adult Biliteracy : Latino Migrants Crossing the Linguistic Border, Expanded Edition book cover
2nd Edition

Illegal Alphabets and Adult Biliteracy
Latino Migrants Crossing the Linguistic Border, Expanded Edition

ISBN 9781138804296
Published March 5, 2015 by Routledge
192 Pages

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Book Description

How do "illegal aliens" chart the speech sounds of colloquial English? This book is timeless in offering an unusually direct entry into how a group of Mexican fruit pickers analyze their first encounter with local American speech in a tiny rural Midwestern community in the United States. Readers see close up how intelligently migrant workers help each other use what they already know—the alphabetic principle of one letter, one sound—to teach each other, from scratch, at the very first contact, a language which none of them can speak. They see how and why the strategies adult immigrants actually use in order to cope with English in the real world seem to have little in common with those used in publicly funded bilingual and ESL classrooms.

What’s new in this expanded edition of Tomás Mario Kalmar’s landmark Illegal Alphabets and Adult Biliteracy are in-depth commentaries from six distinguished scholars—Peter Elbow, Ofelia García, James Paul Gee, Hervé Varenne, Luis Vázquez León, Karen Velasquez—who bring to it their own personal, professional, and (multi)disciplinary viewpoints.

Table of Contents


Note on the Second Edition


1 No Man’s Land

I Líricamente

II The Death of Leonardo

III Doló Dasnt Protect As

2 The Cobden Glossaries

I Constructing a Hybrid Alphabet

II A Kind of Algebraic Notation

III New Contexts, New Texts, Same Moves

IV A Scene of Writing: The Village Hall

V The Cobden Glossaries

3 Some Laugh, Others Frown

I "Is This Text a Joke, or What?"

II Cracking the Ninth-Century Code

III Three Ways of Reading a Cobden Glossary

IV Freirean Dilemmas

V Wallerstein on the Case of the Cobden Glossaries

VI Conclusion

4 Making It Legal:

The Social Construction of Hybrid Alphabets

Strictly Speaking: Emic vs Etic

II Writing in the No-Man’s Land Between Languages

III How to Legitimize a Hybrid Alphabet

Epilogue: A Game as Old as the Alphabet?


Opting for the vernacular

Peter Elbow

Translanguaging and abecedarios ilegales

Ofelia García

Ways with letters and sounds

James Paul Gee

The power of the single case

Hervé Varenne

Ethnomethodology and mestizaje: the Cherán Connection

Luis Vázquez León


Karen Velasquez


Tomás Mario Kalmar

List of Contributors


Author Index

Subject Index

View More



Tomás Mario Kalmar organized Paulo Freire’s visit to Sydney in 1974 and served as his interpreter. He has helped to launch a wide variety of innovative educational projects for children and adults, ranging from Su Casa Migrant Head Start in southern Illinois to California State University Monterey Bay. Currently he is Co-Director, Community Learning Center, International Sonoran Desert Alliance, USA.