Intercultural Communication

Professor Julia Menard-Warwick is conducting research that sheds light on multilingual practices and ideologies in California, where linguistic inequality persists despite the strong value placed on diversity in education and public life.
Intercultural Communication

Julia Menard-Warwick

Julia Menard-Warwick and several of her students have volunteered since 2011 with a parent language program called Intercambio at a bilingual elementary school, which she has given the pseudonym Live Oak Elementary (LOE). There they teach English to Spanish-speaking parents and Spanish to English-speaking parents, and then bring both groups together for bilingual conversation. From 2014 to 2016 Menard-Warwick used the interactions as an opportunity to collect ethnographic data on all the parent programs at the school, at which approximately 50 percent of students come from Spanish-speaking families and 50 percent come from English-speaking families. Significant social class, linguistic and cultural divisions exist between these two demographic groups.

With the help of bilingual undergraduate research assistants, Menard-Warwick investigated several questions, including: What programs and factors within programs facilitate the bilingual engagement of parents at LOE — that is, what facilitates the engagement of Spanish-speaking parents with the school community. What facilitates the engagement of English-speaking parents with Spanish-speaking parents?

Since finishing data collection, Julia Menard-Warwick has been working with two collaborators to explore the data on translation and interpretation within parent programs at the school, and to prepare conference presentations that eventually will become articles on these topics. That’s in preparation to writing a book, in which she intends to analyze interactions within four overlapping parent communities at the school: Intercambio, the Parent Teacher Association, the Site Council, and the English Learner Advisory Committee. She also plans to examine interview narratives from parents and school staff members who are active in these four groups. Intercambio continues to present students with opportunities for volunteering and even undergraduate research projects, especially for those who are fluent in Spanish.