English in the Barrio: The Quality of Contact among Immigrant Children

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Findings from a two-year, sociolinguistic study of the use of English among five school-age immigrant children are reported. Data collection included participant observation of natural language use in the everyday lives of the children. The five children in the study are recent Mexican and Central American immigrants living in a Northern California barrio, a community populated primarily by other Spanish-speaking immigrants. Thefindings regarding the children's use of English discussed in this article allow a contrast between examples of what is called substantial or minimal contact with English. These selected findings illustrate how each of the five children's use of their second language could be facilitated or hindered, and how contact with English depended principally upon the children's English abilities. Implications for educational practice that concern Spanish-speaking immigrants who live in a relatively segregated community of a barrio are drawn from these findings.