Language education film

Monday, November 15, 2010

Promotional photo from the documentary

Promotional still from the documentary "Speaking Tongues."

An award-winning documentary on language education in the United States screens 4 p.m. Nov. 19 in the Miller Center auditorium.

"Speaking in Tongues" follows four students in Chinese language-immersion programs at a San Francisco public school. View the trailer.

Following the screening an expert panel will explore the national debate on language education.

The film asks the question "In the 21st century, is English enough?", suggesting that in a time where 31 states have passed English Only initiatives, speaking a foreign language is a national asset. Filmmakers Marcia Jarmel and Ken Schneider dig deeper, arguing that America's attachment to monolingualism masks deeper social tensions about diversity and difference.

“Language is a doorway to understanding,” said Jarmel. “In that way, language is kind of a metaphor for Americans opening their minds to other ways of thinking and being in the world.  It’s very concrete – you learn a skill that can help you communicate – but it also does something else to your worldview.  And we’re talking about both of those things in the film.”

Panelists are:

  • Bruce Watkins, superintendent, St. Cloud public schools
  • Paula Henry, principal, Madison Elementary, St. Cloud
  • Tim Wensmann, executive vice-president, Gold'n Plump
  • Warren Yu, professor, professor of mechanical and manufacturing engineering
  • Jeffrey Ernst, third-grader, Madison Elementary's Chinese Immersion Program
  • Elizabeth Weitzel, third-grader, Madison Elementary's Chinese Immersion Program
  • Brad Kuhlman, associate professor of counselor education, higher education and educational psychology
  • Ruth Kuhlman, vocational rehabilitation counselor, State of Minnesota

The four students featured in "Speaking in Tongues" are:

  • Jason Patiño is a first generation Mexican-American whose immigrant family embraces bilingualism as the key to full participation in the land of opportunity.
  • Durrell Laury is an African-American kindergartner whose mom hopes that learning Mandarin will be a way out of economic uncertainty and into possibility.
  • Kelly Wong is a Chinese-American recapturing the Cantonese her parents sacrificed to become American.
  • Julian Enis is a Caucasian eighth-grader eager to expand his horizons and become a good world citizen.

The film screening and panel are sponsored by the College of Education at St. Cloud State and St. Cloud Area School District 742. The organizations have collaborated since 2007 to deliver immersion programs in Spanish (Clearview Elementary, Clear Lake) and Chinese (Madison Elementary, St. Cloud). Learn more at

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