Fordham’s Demystifying Language Project (DLP) unveiled a new website at a June 4 celebration, the latest phase in its multiyear effort to make academic articles about language accessible to students at the high school level.

Begun in 2019, the DLP connects Fordham students and New York City high school students with professors from around the country who have written academic articles about the politics of language and how it can be used to exclude or empower. Working in teams, the students and professors created new versions accessible to readers at the high school level.

Professor Ayala Fader
Ayala Fader at the June 4 event

“We’re becoming a multilingual, multicultural society as we speak, and we think that students have a right to have access to academic tools that help them think critically about the ways they’re taught language,” said Ayala Fader, Ph.D., professor of anthropology and founding director of the DLP and Fordham’s New York Center for Public Anthropology, at the website launch.

Held at the Lincoln Center campus, it brought together the Fordham students and high schoolers with the DLP’s leadership for the debut of the website where their work will be housed. Also present were DLP co-organizers from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and other universities, as well as a UMass student participant.

Changing Ideas About Language

Grants from the Spencer Foundation and the Wenner-Gren Foundation funded the project, enabling collaborations like a three-day workshop last summer.

The teams produced 12 plain-language versions of the professors’ articles. One of them has been uploaded to the site. Titled “Speech or Silence?,” it’s an adaptation of academic writing by Ariana Mangual Figueroa, Ph.D., a professor at the City University of New York Graduate Center and DLP participant, about language used by children who are undocumented immigrants. 

Someone's cell phone showing the Demystifying Language Project's website.
Participants viewed the new website and gave feedback on June 4.

The other 11 adapted articles produced by the teams will be uploaded this summer. Over the next few years, the center will hold workshops for New York City high school students and teachers to help them put the articles to use in their classrooms and in their lives, as well as workshops to help other academic authors adapt their articles for high schoolers, said the DLP’s co-director, Johanna Quinn, Ph.D., assistant professor of sociology.

Nicolle Jimenez, soon to graduate from Harvest Collegiate High School in Manhattan, enjoyed working with the academic authors and looking at language in new ways. “You don’t really think about these things” on your own, she said, referring to how language “plays a part in your life and how you can help change these ideas of language and create something new out of it.”

Unlocking Doors with the Liberal Arts

Her teammate Ashira Fischer, FCLC ’24, who studied anthropology and acting at Fordham, said the program is “unlocking a whole lot of doors for everybody.”

“The scholars get to re-understand their article in a new way, and make sure it hits a wider audience,” and the high school students get exposure to college-level work, she said.

DLP co-director Britta Ingebretson, Ph.D., an assistant professor in Fordham’s languages and cultures department, said it was “immensely rewarding” to take part in the project and “to be cognizant of how much work and effort goes into making writing simple.”

Student participants in the Demystifying Language Project at the project's June 4 website launch

Chris Gosier is research news director for Fordham Now. He can be reached at (646) 312-8267 or [email protected].