Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Max, A Case Study

We interviewed Max (a pseudonym) about his experience as an English language learner. Explore the case study using the following links:

Student History: Max is a Spanish-speaking 13 year old going into the eighth grade. He moved from Colombia with his mother in 2010. They came to Tampa to be near family, which includes grandparents and cousins, and also to escape the violence of their native country. His father stayed behind in Colombia.

Max attended school in Colombia but finds school here in the U.S. to be easier. He knew no English when he came to this country, but bilingual peers and family members helped him as he began to learn the language. Max lives with his grandparents and mother. His mother does not speak any English. His grandfather speaks very limited English and works as a pastor providing services in Spanish to the community.
It was clear from our time together that Max’s family places great importance in being polite and courteous. As we left out interview, Max’s grandfather reminded him to take my bag which he brought all the way to my car and even put inside. Max’s grandfather also folded my stroller and put it in the back of my car. This was all evidence of the type of values Max’s culture holds.

Country/Culture of Origin:

Colombia is a country in South America with indigenous Indian, Spanish, and African roots (BBC, 2012). Colombia provides a number of important exports including petroleum, coffee, and coal. However, the country has been better known for many years for the danger posed by drug-related violence and kidnapping.
Colombians value good manners and proper etiquette (Árquez & Broadfield, 2006). Women and elders are treated with great respect. Colombians also prefer to maintain personal space, so it is appropriate to keep an arm’s length distance.
Their educational system is similar to what we know in the U.S. Children go to elementary school on through secondary school to acquire a diploma (Árquez & Broadfield, 2006). At that point, ideally students go to university, but often only the middle- and upper-class citizens can afford to attend.

While the official language of Colombia is Spanish, there are differences in cadence and dialect depending on the region (Árquez & Broadfield, 2006). Those living in the interior portions of the country speak in a more grammatically correct fashion, while those on the coast speak with more rapidity.


While Max’s English is improving, he does find it to be a barrier at times in school. His teachers try to help him by giving him extra wait time, but he still needs more CALP to be successful. Max also does not like to read because he has difficulty understanding English writing. He lacks confidence, as demonstrated by his decision to read a picture book instead of a chapter from a longer book for his reading sample. Improving Max’s reading skills can help him learn to enjoy literature more and perform better in school overall.


Max’s mother and grandparents. Max’s mother does not speak English, and both she and his grandparents wish for Max to do well in school so he can continue his education at the collegiate level.