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CLU screens 'Speaking in Tongues'

Documentary examines communication barriers
Thursday, March 29, 2012
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An African-American boy from public housing learns to read, write and speak Mandarin in "Speaking in Tongues."

(THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. - March 29, 2012) California Lutheran University will show a documentary that follows four diverse children on a journey to become bilingual.

"Speaking in Tongues" will be screened at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 17, in Lundring Events Center as part of CLU's Reel Justice Film Series, which examines the themes of equality and social justice. A panel discussion with a faculty member from CLU's Department of Languages and Cultures, and a former principal, current parent and student from Montalvo Elementary School in Ventura will follow. Montalvo has had a two-way immersion program since 2000.

Attitudes about language reflect much bigger concerns, with language as a metaphor for the barriers that come between neighbors, be they across the street or around the world.

"Speaking in Tongues" by filmmakers Marcia Jarmel and Ken Schneider showcases a world where these communication barriers are being addressed. The film features four pioneering families who put their children in public schools where, from the first day of kindergarten, their teachers speak mostly in a foreign language.

An African-American boy from public housing learns to read, write and speak Mandarin. A Mexican-American boy, whose parents are not literate in any language, develops professional-level Spanish while mastering English. A Chinese-American girl regains her grandparents' mother tongue, a language her parents lost through assimilation. A Caucasian teen travels to Beijing to stay with a Mandarin-speaking host family. Their stories reveal the promise of a multilingual America.

However, many Americans warn that the United States is becoming a modern-day Babel and our national identity is at risk. Thirty-one states and some cities have passed laws making English the official language. But in our diverse country and our increasingly international world, is knowing English enough?

Jarmel and Schneider founded PatchWorks Films in 1994. They specialize in films that explore contemporary social issues through intimate character stories. "Speaking in Tongues" is PatchWorks' third feature documentary.

Lundring Events Center is located in Gilbert Sports and Fitness Center at the corner of Olsen Road and Mountclef Boulevard on the Thousand Oaks campus.

CLU's Center for Equality and Justice, the Graduate School of Education, Multicultural Programs and International Student Services, and the Department of Languages and Cultures are sponsoring the free event. For more information, contact Sam Thomas at or 805-493-3693.


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