Citizenship Classes for Bhutanese-Nepali Elders: From Cognitive Deficits to Cultural-Historical Understandings

Document Type: Research Paper

Author

The Ohio State University, USA

Abstract

This article focuses on home-based citizenship classes for Bhutanese-Nepali elders in Central Ohio in the United States. As part of a larger longitudinal study centered in the ethnographic, language socialization, and discourse analytic traditions, the article focuses on data, particularly regular audiovideo recordings, gathered over a five-month period and tracks one student’s progress towards competence in answering a routine personal information question required in the citizenship interview. Although many learners and teachers center cognitive difficulties in preparing for this task, the complexities of this process are explored more broadly by using both the microanalysis of classroom discourse across time and social and cultural-historical explanations for why a Bhutanese-Nepali elder may struggle to respond appropriately, in English, to a seemingly simple question such as What is your date of birth?. The results of this article have implications for reflexive approaches to learning and teaching, community-based inquiry, and research on diversity and demographic change.

Keywords