Multicultural/Multilingual Issues Courses: A Resource for Instructors


The study of multicultural/multilingual issues (MMI) is a virtual neonate within the field of communication sciences and disorders (CSD). Even newer is the inclusion of MMI content in the professional education of speech-language pathologists (SLP) and audiologists. As a result, courses specifically focused on MMI are not being offered on a widespread basis at this time. The intent of this meta-analysis is to provide an overview of various types of possible courses that address MMI within our field. The following is primarily based on 13 sample syllabi from MMI courses in CSD departments/programs collected from the World Wide Web as well as from fellow CSD colleagues specializing in MMI education. Our analysis was further informed by write-in responses from a nationwide survey probing faculty members about their methods and attitudes concerning infusion of MMI within the CSD curriculum (Stockman, Boult, & Robinson (2003), a Poster Presented at the 2003 ASHA Convention).

General Focus of MMI Courses

Although both theoretical and applied aspects of MMI were addressed by all of the course syllabi that were examined in this analysis, these two areas were never equally addressed. All the course syllabi examined tended to focus more strongly on either theory or application. The syllabi with a theoretical focus tended to address general principles of language and social structure and how they varied across cultural groups. In contrast, the syllabi with a more applied focus tended to address differences specifically as they relate to disorders and clinical methods. The following is a list of course titles in this dichotomous paradigm:

I. Theoretical
A. Generally Theoretical
1. Culture, Language, and Learning
2. Social-Cultural Aspects of Communication
B. Specifically Theoretical
1. Bilingualism Seminar
II. Applied
A. Generally Applied
1. Language Dialect Differences in Applied Contexts
2. Multicultural Issues in Communicative Disorders
3. Multicultural Issues in Language Disorders
4. Multicultural Issues in SLP
5. Communication Disorders in Multicultural
6. Multilingual Language Disorders
7. Cultural and Linguistic Diversity in Communication
8. Seminar: Multicultural Issues in Communicative Disorders
B. Specifically Applied
1. Clinical Practicum: Communication Disordersin

Innovative Methods

The information about an instructor's methods of instruction is severely limited when simply reviewing a syllabus. Therefore, the information in this section was informed by write-in responses from the aforementioned nationwide survey regarding MMI infusion into communication sciences and disorders curricula (Stockman, Boult, & Robinson, 2003) as well as the personal methods used in courses taught by the researchers of the above study.

  • Include different tracks of education about multicultural/multilingual infusion (MMI) (e.g. a bilingualism track, African American English track) to cater specifically to those students interested in specializing in these areas after graduation.
  • Co-teach a course in the field with an instructor from a foreign university.
  • Seek bilingual Spanish-English certification.
  • Obtain clinical practicum experience on a Native American reservation.
  • Use of guest lecturers from diverse backgrounds or organizations (e.g., gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered organizations, Arabic student organizations).
  • Organize course topics by disorder types, racial/ethnic groups, or clinical procedures (e.g., assessment, intervention, report writing).
  • Integrate clinical practicum experiences with a MMI course, such that each student enrolled in the MMI course is treating a client from a nonmainstream background. Each student's clinical experiences are discussed within the framework of the course.
  • Use a variety of activities to allow students to experience the myriad of topics discussed in an MMI course (see the list of "Enriching MMI Activities" elsewhere in this report).

Methods of MMI Course Instruction

Some central topics emerged from this analysis that were related to the primary focus of the courses. Below is a listing of some topics that were addressed under these two types of courses:

General Focus

  • General, overarching principles regarding the impact of culture on communication
  • General information regarding speech-language development and disorders across cultural groups
  • Theories and findings concerning cognitive processes of bilingualism
  • General information about language/dialect differences

Applied Focus

  • Social, political, and organizational policies regarding culture and language (including ASHA policies)
  • Theoretical and historical backgrounds of language/dialect differences
  • Pragmatics of discussing race/ethnicity in social, professional, and classroom interactions
  • Least biased assessment/intervention practices
  • Future developments in research and policy of MMI
  • Patterns of disease and etiology in different racial/ethnic groups
  • Knowledge about attitudes and tolerance of hearing, speech, and language disorders in different cultural groups
  • Knowledge about language/dialect differences
  • Methods of accent modification and how ASHA policy relates to the practice

Analysis of Racial/Ethnic Groups Addressed

Many of the syllabi identify the different cultural groups that are discussed during the course. Below is a list of the different groups mentioned along with a frequency count of how many syllabi included each particular group.  

Cultural Group Frequency
Bicultural/Bilingual 8
Black 7
Hispanic 7
Asian 7
Native American 5
Deaf 3
Pacific Islander 3
Middle Eastern/Arabic 3
Rural 3
Anglo-European 2
Various Religious 1
Appalachian 1
Amish 1

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