Transfronterizo Talk: Conflicting Constructions of Bilingualism on the US-Mexico Border

Ana Celia Zentella, Lang Visiting Professor of Social Change, is a recognized leader in building appreciation for language diversity and respect for language rights. Her research shows that fluency in Spanish and English is both a product and facilitator for students who spend years living and studying on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. It is also the most visible cultural marker of the identity of students who frequently travel between San Diego and Tijuana. Interviews in Spanish and English with eighty transfronterizo college students indicate that, despite their proficient bilingualism, many struggle with language and identity conflicts. The cultural and social obstacles transfronterizos encounter in ESL programs, including criticisms of their Spanish by Mexican citizens and feelings of shame about their Spanish-accented English may undermine their avowed commitment to Spanish. Her research has led her to advocate for educational and governmental language policies in the USA and Mexico that build on the principles of anthro-political linguistics.