Educational Resources for Teachers of Marshallese Students

Li Post is a fourth-year student at Bowling Green State University; she is currently finishing her degree in Integrated Language Arts Education. For the 2021 CURS Symposium, Li completed a research project entitled “Ñe juon enaaj jeḷā kōkḷaḷ eban peḷọk: Educational Resources for Teachers of Marshallese Students.”

9 Questions with Li

Through my research, I was hoping to discover which resources and pedagogical practices can help Marshallese immigrants succeed in the American education system; as a future English teacher, I was interested in this question on both a cultural and linguistic level.

After researching the Marshallese language, I compared it to English using a process called contrastive analysis, which aimed to determine where Marshallese students may struggle with learning English. I also researched important distinctions between the Marshallese and Western cultures to examine where cultural differences might create barriers in American classrooms.

When speaking to a local teacher, she noted that she was having difficulties finding any information about the Marshallese language when working with her Marshallese students. This sent me down a rabbit hole of research about the Marshallese language, then later, the Marshallese culture, which ultimately led me to my research.

I was amazed by how different the Marshallese language is from the English language. For instance, although the newest orthography of Marshallese is written using the Latin alphabet, some of the letters have entirely different pronunciations from their English counterparts.

A major challenge that I faced was grappling with the linguistic jargon in my research. Although I find linguistics fascinating, I quickly found that I had much to learn about the terminology associated with speech production and syntactic structures. However, with a little help from a knowledgeable friend, a lot of reading, and—most importantly—a healthy dose of patience, I was to continue researching.

Before starting this project, I did not know where the Marshall Islands were, let alone the swept-under-the-rug history between the United States government and the Islands. With the help of Marshall Islanders in my community, I was able to learn so much about their heritage, struggles, successes, language, and much more; this has made me far more aware (and grateful for) the privileges I have.

Beyond just improving my writing and researching skills, I was able to gain a better understanding of how I can better support students from backgrounds unlike my own, so as an education student, this has prepared me to be a better teacher.

Try to connect with other scholars in your field, even if they seem a bit intimidating! After reading a Marshallese case study written by a professor halfway across the world, I emailed her on a whim and ended up learning far more about the Marshall Islands than I ever expected. Really, other researchers may be just as excited about your ideas as you are!

I can say supercalifragilisticexpialidocious backwards.


"Try to connect with other scholars in your field...[they] may be just as excited about your ideas as you are!"

Updated: 03/07/2021 05:07PM