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The International Bilingual City: How A University Meets the Challenge

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Abstract  Can language departments in schools on the U.S.-Mexico border take advantage of bilingual situations, expanding their programs through a creative serving of diverse publics, or must they be constrained by cross-ethnic taboos and restrictive local “rules of speaking”? These and kindred questions are addressed in this essay, which, following a sociolinguistic description of the El Paso-Ciudad Juarez metropolitan area, relates how placement tests, multiple tracking, trans-institutional program articulation, and an honest appraisal of weaknesses as well as strengths have contributed to improvement. Various topics discussed include the role of women in ethnic language maintenance, some intra-ethnically segregative consequences of language-dominance-based tracking in the elementary school, the pitfalls and the benefits of establishing a mandatory placement system, and the price that is paid for failing to finely articulate FLES at the district level.

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