DVD Review: Speaking in Tongues

December 8, 2010

Image from Speaking in Tongues

Speaking in Tongues follows four students in the U.S. who are learning Chinese or Spanish. Sounds simple, but the debate around “speaking English” has inflamed political discourse for years, with some states adopting English-only laws. This narrow view is quietly being challenged in immersion classrooms, where kids learn second languages, such as Durrell, an African American in San Francisco who is learning Mandarin. The film, moving at times, shows that becoming bilingual is more than just about creating a competitive workforce in the global economy. Rather, it’s about building confidence, creating meaningful relationships and making connections. The film shows that learning a different language helps children, academically and personally. Kids who know more than one language eventually do better on standardized tests than their monolingual counterparts, debunking the popular myth that being bilingual hurts one’s English skills. And Durrell is able to talk with an elderly Chinese woman in Mandarin, making a personal connection that would’ve been unlikely otherwise. The DVD is subtitled in English, Spanish and Chinese, and the film’s website has ample resources for those interested in the issue. 

Directed by Marcia Jarmel and Ken Schneider


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Momo Chang

Senior Contributing Editor

Momo Chang is the Content Manager at the Center for Asian American Media, and freelances for magazines, online publications, and weeklies. Her writings focus on Asian American communities, communities of color, and youth culture. She is a former staff writer at the Oakland Tribune. Her stories range from uncovering working conditions in nail salons, to stories about “invisible minorities” like Tongan youth and Iu Mien farmers. She has freelances The New York Times, WIRED, and East Bay Express, among other publications.