Using ESL Students’ First Language to Promote College Success : Sneaking the Mother Tongue through the Backdoor book cover
1st Edition

Using ESL Students’ First Language to Promote College Success
Sneaking the Mother Tongue through the Backdoor

ISBN 9781138296770
Published January 2, 2019 by Routledge
136 Pages

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Book Description

Emerging from a critical analysis of the glocal power of English and how it relates to academic literacy and culturally responsive pedagogy, this book presents translanguaging strategies for using ESL students' mother tongue as a resource for academic literacy acquisition and college success. Parmegiani offers a strong counterpoint to the "English-only" movement in the United States. Grounded in a case study of a learning community linking Spanish and English academic writing courses, he demonstrates that a mother tongue-based pedagogical intervention and the strategic use of minority home languages can promote English language acquisition and academic success.

Table of Contents


Chapter I: Linguistic Diversity and the Achievement Gap in the U.S.

Chapter II: Language Inequality. Theoretical Perspectives and Implications for Academic Literacy

Chapter III: Using Spanish as a Resource at Bronx Community College

Chapter IV: Impact on Learning Outcomes

Chapter V: Conclusion

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Andrea Parmegiani is a Distinguished Fellow at the CUNY Advanced Research Collaborative and Associate Professor of English at Bronx Community College (CUNY).


"Andrea Parmegiani describes a new and intriguing approach to developing academic literacy in multilingual students. In this innovative model, the students’ mother tongue is employed as a resource rather than being regarded as an impediment to learning. Drawing on his own multilingualism and supported by a thorough theoretical rationale, Parmegiani has developed a program suitable for adoption in many different contexts. Through a series of case studies, readers see how students gain confidence in themselves as college students when their teacher becomes a language learner alongside them. This book suggests a powerful approach for helping language minority students succeed in the academy."

-- Rebecca Mlynarczyk, Professor Emerita of English, Composition & Rhetoric, The Graduate Center, City University of New York (CUNY)


"I learned so much by reading this book. The carefulness with which it establishes the background and contexts for the learning community, the way in which it situates the specificity of the population, yet fanned back out again to encompass many possible teaching scenarios and contexts--are all remarkable. I feel I learned so much about my field as well as about the author, his experience, and his students. This is a book!

This book greatly impresses me, no less, for how it blends genres practically seamlessly. I believe the skilled use of personal voice and narrative make that blending work. Parmegiani’s explanation of how he culled from the data of student input in light of coding theory, including limits and cautions, is truly a model for others in composition-rhetoric looking to do the same.

I loved how this book tells the story getting the Spanish-English learning community program together. Sharing the first steps of a new or intricate process is crucial for establishing credibility and trust--while also adding great narrative interest."

--Hope Parisi, Professor of English, Kingsborough Community College (CUNY) and Co-editor, The Journal of Basic Writing


"In this book, Parmegiani has demonstrated that utilising knowledge of mother tongue in ESL classrooms can enhance learners’ proficiency and overall academic success. The books sets an interestingly new pedagogical agenda by offering a set of teaching strategies that maximise the resources of mother tongue in ESL teaching. This book is a useful resource for all researchers, TESOL professionals, language instructors and language students interested in second (or additional) language teaching and learning methods, especially from a translingual perspective."

--Kingsley Oluchi Ugwuanyi, Lecturer, Department of English & Literary Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka and Ph.D. Candidate and Lecturer (Sociolinguistics), Northumbria University at Newcastle, U.K.


"Andrea Parmegiani offers an engrossing account of the complex sociolinguistic and pedagogical benefits of allowing Spanish to enter English language tertiary education. Written in a self-reflective and lucid style, the book represents a manifest for overcoming linguistic and ethnic differences through the linking of translanguaging practices with a cosmopolitan educational spirit."

--Stephanie Rudwick, Researcher, University of Leipsig, Germany