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Ana Celia Zentella, Ph.D Gives a Lecture on Linguistic Intolerance in the USA

Center for Research and Families (CRF) recently hosted a lecture by Ana Celia Zentella, Ph.D of The University of California, San Diego. Her talk was titled “The American Dream is Not Dreamt in English Only: Latin@s and Linguistic Intolerance in the USA.”  As an expert in her field, Zentella was chosen by CRF Scholar Jonathan Rosa to collaborate on his research on linguistic characteristics that influence culture and identity in the Latino community.

Ana Celia Zentella lectured on the growing hostility towards immigrants and other languages, resulting in a remapping of race from a solely biological perspective to one of language and culture.  Zentella explains this movement as “English only fever”, which has led to a proposed federal legislation called the “English Unity Act”. Although efforts have failed at the national level, individual states have passed English only laws.  The linguistic racialization of immigrants has created an atmosphere where Latinos are treated as alien to the American; causing an increase in linguistic profiling and discrimination in schools, workplaces, and law enforcement.  Because of linguistic profiling and discrimination, the US is experiencing widespread language, particularly Spanish, loss, where first generation immigrants are not teaching their children native languages in order to protect them from becoming a target.  This creates a significant loss of culture and way to connect with elders from their communities.

Zentella is a leading advocate of building appreciation for linguistic diversity.  Zentella has labeled her work an “anthro-political linguistic” perspective, which looks at the importance of linguistic diversity among immigrants, and what it offers to the US as a nation, it’s economy, and to the identity of American-ness.


Jonathan Rosa’s research focuses on the creation of the ethno-racial and linguistic categories that shape Latina/o identities and experiences. As a CRF Family Research Scholar, Rosa is developing a grant entitled, “Learning Latina/o Ethno linguistic Identities across the U.S.” for the National Science Founding Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program. For this project, he plans to conduct ethnographic and sociolinguistic fieldwork throughout the nation’s most distinctive Latina/o contexts, including New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Miami.

Photographs provided by Manuel Frau-Ramos, El Sol Latino


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