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This ethnographic study has followed a cohort of students from K through 3rd grade to examine the practices and attitudes of bilingual and “emergent” bilingual learners in a Michigan dual-language immersion elementary school. In our society, American-accented English predominates and has greater prestige over Spanish or Spanish-English bilingualism — a situation that sociolinguists describe as “diglossia.” The school’s mission is to develop balanced bilingualism (idealized as dual monolingualism) and to instill pride in Spanish language and Hispanic culture. And yet, bilingual speakers in the school often share a “code-switching” or “interlanguaging” norm rather than two monolingual norms. It is these differences and the tensions between beliefs (language ideologies) and speaking and listening practices that my study explores.

Here, the school’s mission statement is compared to student (and parent) interview results about reasons to be bilingual. In the full paper, I argue that these show that linguistic inequality is salient, even to young students. As Joshua Fishman (2006: p.72) puts it, diglossia “can [itself] be an object of organized social consciousness.” What interests me is what happens when it does. For example, teachers emphasize Spanish use as resistant to English monolingualism, which underscores the already-salient role distinction between adults and kids and de-emphasizes kids’ playful “interlanguaging” practices (for which see examples).