Bilingualism as a Meaning-Making Resource for Learning Engineering
Part of a large-scale study on Hispanic engineering students at a university on the U.S./Mexico border, this paper focuses on participants' reported use of language in learning activities in engineering. Specifically, we call attention to the meaning-making resources that engineering undergraduates brought to learning activities. Semiotic (or meaning-making) resources include oral and written language (in one or more languages) as well as visual, gestural, or auditory modalities. Whereas border Hispanic students could be (and often are) positioned from a deficit perspective, we highlight the wealth of resources that participants avail themselves to in learning engineering. Drawing on ethnographic interviews and observations over a two-year period, we examine participants' reported multimodal and multilingual resources. We found that participating students 1) have a wide variety of language and literacy practices; 2) show a high awareness of language itself and how they use it and learn it; and 3) use bilingualism and biliteracy as a resource for learning in engineering.