Lost in translation: Negotiating meaning in a beginning ESOL science classroom

Aurolyn Luykx, Okhee Lee, Una Edwards

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Language ideologies shape educational practices in ways that can either limit or expand students' engagement with academic content. This article examines science lessons with third and fourth grade English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) students, focusing on (a) regular lessons, in which the monolingual teacher speaks English while a bilingual coteacher interprets, and (b) an atypical lesson without the coteacher, in which the teacher relies on a few, more English-proficient students to interpret for the others. Analysis of classroom discourse suggests an underlying ideology that views languages as neutral, semantically equivalent vehicles for science concepts that are themselves viewed as independent of language and context. This ideology must be critically examined if educational policy and practice are to productively engage the interpretive work demanded of ESOL students in science classrooms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)640-674
Number of pages35
JournalEducational Policy
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2008


  • Classroom discourse
  • ESOL education
  • Language ideology
  • Science education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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