Taiwan’s Gendered Language Learning Ideologies

This month we published Gender, Neoliberalism and Distinction through Linguistic Capital by Mark Fifer Seilhamer. In this post the author talks about the research that informed the book.

The title of my new book just out this month is Gender, Neoliberalism and Distinction through Linguistic Capital: Taiwanese Narratives of Struggle and Strategy, with ‘Gender’ prominently foregrounded as the first element of this title. But while ‘Neoliberalism’ and ‘Distinction through Linguistic Capital’ had been dominant themes since the very beginning of the manuscript’s preparation, the extent to which my focal participants’ (female) gender impacted their experiences is an issue that was addressed only fleetingly in the manuscript I originally submitted to Multilingual Matters back in 2016. This early version featured a fairly straightforward class-focused Bourdieusian analysis of my participants’ narrated experiences, seemingly (in retrospect) oblivious to the fact that gender does indeed play an outsized role in my participants’ stories, as well as in the dynamics of multilingualism in Taiwan more generally.

The centrality of gender to my participants’ experiences as language learners was pointed out by a reviewer, who asked what I made “of the fact that some students are quite successful at making friends with foreigners, getting free language practice, lining up Skype partners, having boyfriends to talk English with and to pay for trips abroad”. This reviewer went on to pose other questions that served to guide my radical overhaul of the manuscript: “Are young women considered ideal candidates for the sorts of international marketing/public relations/sales jobs many of the women get? How are ideologies of language acquisition gendered in Taiwan, and are these women seen as compromised in terms of their relationships and friendships with foreigners?”

Ideologies of language acquisition are indeed highly gendered in Taiwan, with the idea that males are simply no good at learning languages regarded by many as a commonsensical notion. This common belief results, of course, in language study beyond minimum requirements being almost exclusively the preserve of females. At the start of this research, I did not set out to include only female participants. In the junior college program specializing in languages that I was recruiting participants from, male students were, however, very much in the minority and my pool of possible participants consisted almost entirely of female students. Because it is commonly believed that female brains are specifically wired for learning languages, young women are encouraged to study foreign languages and pursue careers in international marketing, public relations, and interpreting – the sorts of occupations that my participants did, in fact, wind up in. My participants, in their interviews, had indeed addressed Taiwan’s gendered language learning ideologies and the notion of gendered language work, as well as positioning by others due to their relationships with foreigners. In my revisions, the focus on gender and the intersectional questioning that this focus necessitated really did change the fundamental character of the book.

In what now seems to be a glaring omission, I neglected to include an ‘Acknowledgements’ page for this book. This can be attributed to the extreme sense of relief I felt when the editors allowed me to go over the stipulated word limit with my final revised manuscript. Looking back now, I’m pretty sure they would have had no problem with my adding an ‘Acknowledgements’ page, but at the time, I was reluctant to request any more words for anything. I will take this opportunity now then to acknowledge the assistance and contributions of numerous individuals: my study’s participants, without whom the research and book would not have been at all possible; my doctoral thesis supervisors, Lionel Wee, Joseph Sung-Yul Park, and Mie Hiramoto; and everyone at Multilingual Matters, who were all incredibly patient with me, granting me extension after extension as I struggled to address reviewer concerns. And I am also immensely grateful to the anonymous reviewer who alerted me to the inadequacies of the earlier version of my manuscript – before gender was prominently brought to the fore.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Language, Education and Neoliberalism edited by Mi-Cha Flubacher and Alfonso Del Percio.

Multilingualism As Lived Through Visual Means

This month we published Visualising Multilingual Lives edited by Paula Kalaja and Sílvia Melo-Pfeifer. In this post the editors explain how they used visual methodologies to examine multilinguals’ emotions and their expression of those emotions.

It is only gradually being acknowledged that multilinguals, or people who use more than one language, form the majority of people in the world, not monolinguals. However, multilinguals find themselves in different contexts and for different reasons, and their knowledge of the languages varies. In addition, becoming and being multilingual are quite heterogeneous and individual achievements are experienced very differently by subjects, depending on their contexts and life trajectories.

There are two approaches to multilinguals. The objective approach attempts to figure out the mechanisms inside a multilingual’s mind and trace developments in his or her knowledge of any language (and possible stages in the process) in terms of mastery of a linguistic system or in terms of an ability to communicate or interact with others in the language. In contrast, the subjective approach attempts to find out how a multilingual feels about becoming or being multilingual, or what the different languages and their use mean to him or her personally. In other words, the second approach focuses on multilinguals and their lives as subjectively experienced or as lived, including positive and negative emotions, attitudes, beliefs, visions and identities.

Traditional methodologies (such as questionnaires, interviews and observation) may not be the most suitable options when tackling issues like this, as they may suffer from a “linguistic bias” in their attempts to describe or explain emotions, which are not always easy to put into words. So, to address these sensitive issues, we decided to make use of visual methodologies of various kinds, including drawings and photographs, as mediators between emotions and their expression by multilinguals. However, as a rule, visual data were complemented with other types of data, and the starting points and ways of analysing the pools of data for form and/or content vary from one study to another. But even if visual materials are not always used as the only pool of data, they bring to the foreground aspects that individuals choose to visually represent and comment on. So, using visual methodologies may also be about what is not visible, not represented or not valued by the multilingual subject.

As editors of Visualising Multilingual Lives, we invite the readers to learn about visual narratives accounted by multilinguals in different parts of the world, printed in full color. The different chapters of the book offer coherent, original and individualized insights into multilingualism as experienced in three domains: the multilingual self, the multilingual learner and multilingual teacher education. With a preface by Claire Kramsch, the volume acknowledges the potential of arts-based methodologies in grasping the singularities of multilinguals and their linguistic biographies.

Paula Kalaja paula.kalaja@jyu.fi
Sílvia Melo-Pfeifer silvia.melo-pfeifer@uni-hamburg.de

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also enjoy Language Teacher Psychology edited by Sarah Mercer and Achilleas Kostoulas.

Filling the Gap in Research into Teacher Education for YL Language Teachers

We recently published Early Language Learning and Teacher Education edited by Subhan Zein and Sue Garton. In this post Sue explains the inspiration behind the book.

Up until recently, I think it is fair to say that Teaching English to Young Learners (TEYL) was very much a neglected area of research in English Language Teaching (ELT) and Applied Linguistics. It was even more neglected if we look at languages other than English. Fortunately, as Fiona Copland and I noted in our introduction to the 2014 ELT Journal Special Issue, that has changed quite rapidly over the last few years, for English at least, to the extent that we can perhaps say that the field has experienced something of a coming of age. This can be seen, I think, in such milestones as that ELTJ Special Issue as well as a Language Teaching’s 2015 State-of-the-Art article by Yuko Butler reviewing research in East Asia from 2004-2014 and the recent Routledge Handbook of Teaching English to Young Learners published last year.

However, in all this very welcome activity, one area that still seems to attract less attention is that of teacher education for teachers of young learners (YLs), and it is this lack of attention that was the inspiration for this volume. There are, of course, some very notable exceptions, such as Helen Emery’s 2012 report for the British Council, and the work of my co-editor, Subhan Zein. However, the body of published research remains limited and yet the education, development and training of language teachers in primary schools is of paramount importance.

So that is why we decided the time was ripe for a volume of research into teacher education for YL language teachers. Note here that we say ‘language teachers’ not ‘English language teachers’. From the start, we were committed to preparing a volume that recognised that language teaching is not only English language teaching. Chapters about English teaching dominate because that is the reality we live in, but there are also chapters about teacher education for teachers of French, German and Spanish in the UK and for teachers in bi-lingual/multi-lingual education in Turkey (Turkish-Italian), Kazakhstan (Kazak -English–Russian) and the USA (Spanish–English). A global perspective was also important to us. Following my involvement in the 2011 British Council project on Investigating Global Practices in Teaching English to Young Leaners, I was ever more strongly convinced of the relevance of the local to the global and the importance of the idea of resonance – that the experiences of teachers and teacher educators in one context can resonate strongly with those in an apparently very different context, and that we can all learn a lot from each other. That is why we have chapters from Australia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Vietnam, Taiwan, Turkey, the UK, the USA.

The diversity and variety of the chapters in the book are, I feel, one of its biggest strengths and, although this might seem contradictory, its biggest unifying factor, and we sincerely hope that the research presented will resonate with readers both in similar contexts and in very different ones.

For more information about this book please see our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like Early Instructed Second Language Acquisition edited by Joanna Rokita-Jaśkow and Melanie Ellis. 

World Book Day 2019

It’s World Book Day! In this post we talk about what we’re reading at the moment and what’s on our to-read pile. You might want to add to yours after reading this!

Laura

What are you reading at the moment?

I’m currently reading Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling by Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen which is actually the book that I mentioned wanting for Christmas on our Christmas books blog post (hurrah to my sister for giving it to me!). It is every bit as funny, light-hearted and enjoyable as I hoped (I’ve just read the complete Narnia collection and desperately needed some light relief!), but also full of astute descriptions of very relatable characters and situations. It’s set in Ireland so I have to keep my phone handy as I read so that I can get translations of some of the Irish English and pronunciations of the foreign names! I have a very nice hardback edition so I am desperately trying to finish it before my next conference trip; that shouldn’t be difficult as it’s so good!

What do you want to read next?

Next on my reading list is The Librarian by Sally Vickers, which was another Christmas present, this time from my mum, who works in a library so the title obviously appealed to her.  I didn’t actually enjoy the last book I read by this author (The Cleaner of Chartres) but the blurb says “The Librarian is a moving testament to the joy of reading and the power of books to change and inspire us all” so it sounds good and I am going to start it with an open mind!

Tommi

What are you reading at the moment?

I am currently reading: Regions of the Heart: The Triumph and Tragedy of Alison Hargreaves by David Rose and Ed Douglas – It’s an interesting biography of a British climber who died climbing K2. She was strongly criticised for climbing risky mountains and leaving her young children at home. I haven’t yet read enough to give an opinion of it. I’m also reading Autarktis by Tommi Liimatta, which seems to be about lives in Northern Finland. I’m finding it a bit too disjointed and feel it’s trying to be too clever if I’m honest, rather than having a smooth narrative. But I’ll struggle on a bit further! Finally, I’m reading The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson which is thoroughly entertaining and informative in equal measures.

What do you want to read next?

On my “guilt pile” of books to read next are: Wise Children by Angela Carter. Having just seen a fantastic stage production at the Bristol Old Vic, I really wanted to read the novel. All the Presidents Men by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward is also on the list, as is The Battle to Do Good: Inside McDonald’s Sustainability Journey by Bob Langert. What I would really love to read next is something by Miika Nousiainen. An easy reading, gently amusing Finnish writer whose most recent book Juurihoito had me in stitches. So if Miika is reading this blog I’d really appreciate him finishing off his next novel whatever that might be…

Anna

What are you reading at the moment?

I’m currently reading I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell. She is one of my favourite writers, and this is her (highly unconventional) memoir in which each brief chapter centres around a brush with death or disaster. I would highly recommend it, as well as all of her novels.

What do you want to read next?

I always have a huge to-be-read pile but with a trans-Atlantic flight coming up I’ll be able to make a bit of a dent in it. In my hand luggage will be Blood and Sugar by Laura Shepherd-Robinson, Learning to Die in the Anthropocene and Uninhabitable Earth (just to make me feel REALLY bad about being on that plane) and for some light relief the latest Jack Reacher novel.

Rose

What are you reading at the moment?

I am eking out the last few pages of Susan Fletcher’s Let Me Tell You About a Man I Knew; I am loving it so much I don’t want it to end! Fletcher recounts Vincent van Gogh’s year in the Saint-Paul Asylum, Saint-Rémy, where he admitted himself, and was a patient from May 1889-May 1890, painting some of his most loved, intense paintings during that time, through the eyes of Jeanne Trabuc, the Asylum warden’s wife. It’s an absolutely wonderful, moving and lyrical novel.

The heart, she thinks, is the painter. Love, and moments like this, are the art. The Dutchman taught her that.

What do you want to read next?

Next on the list is Kate Atkinson’s Transcription as she is one of my faves; I especially loved her other two novels set around World War II (Life After Life and A God in Ruins) so I’m excited to get stuck into this one.

Elinor

What are you reading at the moment?

I’m currently reading In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende which was a Christmas present. Three characters are brought together by a car accident in a snowstorm in Brooklyn and end up embarking on a dangerous journey. The story switches between the current day and each of the character’s pasts and how they came to be in Brooklyn. I was immediately drawn in by the characters’ narratives and am keen to know how the book will end.

What do you want to read next?

I always have a shelf full of books to read, in fact I start to get a bit panicky if I have fewer than ten books lined up! While I also have the book I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell and am looking forward to reading it, I think my next book will be Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie. It was recommended by both my mum and mother-in-law so I have high hopes!

Sarah

What are you reading at the moment?

I’m currently reading On the Come Up by Angie Thomas. I’ve only just started but I like it so far. I also read the author’s first YA novel, The Hate U Give. The protagonists of both books are young black women in the US and deal with some heavy issues – far removed from anything I’ve ever experienced. Though you can get a similar feeling from TV and films, I love that books make you appreciate different perspectives and experiences in-depth. I hope World Book Day encourages lots of people to get reading!

What do you want to read next?

Next on the list is Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield.

Flo

What are you reading at the moment?

I’ve just started Wise Children by Angela Carter, having seen the same theatre production as Tommi at Bristol Old Vic. It’s the story of twin chorus girls, Dora and Nora Chance, and their strange theatrical family – it’s surreal and full of sets of twins and mistaken identities, just like a Shakespeare play. It’s a bit odd reading the book having already seen the play, as that’s all I can picture (and it seems like the script was very faithful to the original text)!

What do you want to read next?

I’ve actually come to the end of a big backlog of books so I will be making notes from this blog post – I’ve already got my eye on I Am, I Am, I Am!

A Tour of English Learning and Teaching Around the World

We recently published Conversation Analytic Perspectives on English Language Learning, Teaching and Testing in Global Contexts edited by Hanh thi Nguyen and Taiane Malabarba. In this post the editors take us on a world tour of English learning and teaching…

This book offers a tour around the world, but unlike the casual tourist, you will get right into the scenes that take place daily at each stop. So, put yourself in the shoes of the people there to appreciate for a moment the constraints they are under, and the possibilities they find.

In Denmark, you are a child in an integrated-grade class of first- and second-graders. Your government has just mandated that students must learn English from first grade. First grade! You’re barely finding your way around in class, and now you’re learning a foreign language. But your teacher is creative – she has a game for the children. You and a classmate walk outside while the other kids stay inside and each chooses a clothing item drawn on the board (later you hear that some kids try to choose a diaper and a jockstrap, but the teacher doesn’t allow those!). When you and your partner come back in, you have to name two clothing items on the board, in English, and the two kids who chose those items are supposed to swap seats. It turns out that you mostly learn “swap seats,” and how you acquire this phrase reveals quite a lot about how language is learned.

In Vietnam, you are a hotel staff member in charge of escorting guests to their rooms. You need to tell them about the WiFi in the hotel, but the problem is, every time you pronounce “password,” people seem really confused! How you ‘crack the code’ here shows the creativity that users of English as a lingua franca exhibit on a daily basis as they learn language ‘in the wild.’

In China, you’re teaching a large high-school class of 70 students. Keeping them focused and engaged requires clear routines. Yet, you need to encourage their participation as well. How you approach this dilemma exemplifies the tricky balance between structure and expansion.

In Turkey, you are a teacher in training. You have your lesson plan all laid out and you have prepared your instructions in advance. But what to do when your students say, “Sorry, what are we doing?” or “We don’t understand!”? You soon realize that the lesson’s success depends more on how you respond in these moments than on the lesson plan in your mind.

Image derives from original world map in acrylic by Lara Mukahirn, photograph by Nicolas Raymond, http://www.freestock.ca

In Japan, you teach engineering students, and you need to assess their speaking abilities. So you ask your students to tell you how to draw geometric shapes in English, step by step. What you then wonder is, whose competence is being assessed? Yours or theirs? In another class, also to assess speaking abilities, you ask your students to talk in pairs. To be fair and to manage your class time, you put a timer in front of them. It turns out that they pay a lot of attention to the timer, and you are surprised to notice how the timer has become an integrated part of their interaction.

In South Korea, you are an American co-teacher assigned to assist a Korean host co-teacher. This co-teaching business is tricky since there are no clear rules about who’s supposed to do what. One moment you are giving out heart sticker awards to student groups and the host teacher says something. Another time you tap a student on the head with a folder and the host teacher says something (well, maybe he has a point there, but you are a teacher, too!). You soon learn that co-teaching, in practice, often involves a lot of tension and negotiation.

In Iran, you teach a college-level class, and you want students to participate in open discussions about controversial issues, such as capital punishment, body piercing and charity donation. The problem is, sometimes what the students say resonates with your beliefs and fits with your lesson plan, but sometimes it doesn’t. Now, you must face a fundamental problem: how much control do you want and how much freedom do you give?

In Brazil, you’re teaching a beginner-level class, and your students can’t speak a lot of English yet. However, the school promotes an unspoken ‘English-only’ policy in the classroom. How do you stick to English when explaining new words or when students talk to each other in Portuguese? It turns out that even the constraints of the rule can sometimes open up opportunities.

In Mexico, you teach English at a boarding school to indigenous children of Mixe (ayüük) ethnicity. What this means is that your students are learning English as a third language, besides Spanish. Furthermore, what is the relevance of English in this remote, rural village? The adolescent students are a lively bunch (they don’t call you ‘Teacher Bikwahet’ for no reason!) and you are devoted to bettering their lives through education.

Reading this book, you will leave your tourist binoculars behind and join the authors to look at these scenes through the lens of Conversation Analysis. Your close-up observations will connect to concepts such as interactional competence, centrifugal and centripetal forces, embodied actions, power relationship and social relevance, which are at work in many other global contexts.

So welcome on board!

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also enjoy English as a Lingua Franca for EFL Contexts edited by Nicos C. Sifakis and Natasha Tsantila.

Language, Identity and Education in Multilingual Contexts conference in York

I recently attended the Language, Identity and Education in Multilingual Contexts conference in York. The papers at the conference considered all aspects of the linguistic and sociolinguistic competences and practices of bi-/multilingual speakers and the keynote addresses were given by Simone E. Pfenninger, Andrea Young and David Singleton.

Laura at the stand with the conference organisers

Simone Pfenninger highlighted to the audience that older learners are among the least studied groups, yet they are also one of the fastest growing as societies are changing and ageing. She discussed how the profile of older learners is also changing as there are increasing numbers of older, new migrants; increasing numbers of migrants ageing in their ‘new’ country and increasing numbers of healthy older adults who are taking on new (language learning) challenges. She talked about the extent to which research on older language learners has been successful thus far and where it might go in the future.

Next, Andrea Young presented her work with emergent bilinguals and spoke about how deficit discourse is still common in French schools, where terminology such as ‘non francophone’ is widely used rather than the more positive term ‘emergent bilingual’. She discussed translanguaging and how it can be used as an inclusive pedagogical tool; we watched a number of insightful videos which showed that when a teacher makes an effort with the child’s mother tongue, the child is inspired to make an effort to learn French.

David Singleton giving his keynote

David Singleton, who stepped in at the last minute due to another speaker pulling out because of illness, also touched on the topic of translanguaging and shared his opinion that it can be a positive pedagogical tool but that the term is too widely used in other contexts. His talk was followed by several interesting questions and some discussion on the topic. After the morning sessions it was no surprise that our books on translanguaging were keenly sought out!

I spent the rest of the conference selling books and attending a range of interesting sessions. Local Bristol author and series editor, Jane Andrews, presented the research that she is undertaking together with Maryam Almohammad on using visual arts and crafts to support creative welcoming. They explored issues of language, identity and belonging within communities and explained to us how they are taking a new materialistic approach to their applied linguistics research.

Another memorable session was that of Anita Bright who presented an interesting and interactive talk about ‘trigger words’. These are words that we may use in our everyday speech without perhaps thinking about the background to these words, their connotations and the reaction that they may provoke in the listener. She situated her talk in research on language power and prestige and encouraged us to think about the language we use in educational settings. One example we discussed was that of the word ‘master’ often used in educational settings in terms such as the ‘master timetable’ or the ‘master copy’ but how this term has connotations of gender and slavery.

Aside from the interesting conference, the city of York was a fantastic destination for a conference and I enjoyed wandering the medieval snickelways of the city and eating local fare, especially Yorkshire rhubarb and parkin.

Laura

Mother Tongue – The Most Beautiful Gift We Have

Today is International Mother Language Day. To celebrate it, we have a blog post from one of the editors of our book, New Perspectives on Translanguaging and Education, Boglárka Straszer. In this post she reflects on the importance of our mother tongues.

Many years ago, I took the bus every morning to my office at the university in my home town Uppsala. One sunny spring morning I noticed unusual graffiti on the ground in front of my feet at the bus stop. It was a mysterious statement in Swedish: “Jag gav den orden” – “I gave words to it”. I was mesmerized. After that day, I found myself studying this graffiti on the concrete every morning for a long time, enormously fascinated. My thoughts always seemed to roam wildly when I stood there at the bus stop waiting for my bus. What did the scribbler mean? What was he/she thinking? What were the words? A linguistic act was suggested; and it was something that made me reflect on the power of words and language, the strength of this short sentence in front of my feet in this public space. A little graffiti that we can interpret in many ways. Words we give to each other, words we get and take from each other, and words we use are significant. They transform people into thinking and communicating beings.

Language deserves attention and especially today on International Mother Language Day.

30 years ago I got the opportunity to learn Finnish. In this picture I am with my host and good friend Ilpo in Riihimäki, Finland, in July 1992 at the end of my year as Rotary Exchange Student.

Many writers have tried to describe mother tongue with beautiful words and emotional expressions. Therefore, there is no point for me to try to describe mother tongue more exquisitely. Instead, I will simply allow myself to state that for me, the mother tongue is intimate – one of the most beautiful gifts an individual can have, and also the most important tool for communication and the way to the soul. Our mother tongues and languages are our treasures that no one can take away from us, as long as we care about and use them. But, is the mother tongue really the most important tool for communication and the most important key to the soul for everyone and in every circumstance?

I think that there is no one truth about languages and there is no single way to define mother tongue, although in my own case it is quite simple to argue that I have Hungarian as my mother tongue. Hungarian was the only language that my family used during my childhood and it was the only language that everybody used in my surroundings. It was also the majority language in Hungary, even though some other languages were visible in various contexts in Hungarian society.

Today, however, I can and want to add that happily enough I have two other named languages with me in my everyday life as well as in my heart. These two languages, my first second language Finnish and my second second language Swedish, which I learned later on in my life, are as equally close to my mind and heart as my Hungarian. I love them each just as much and they are equally important for me for to be able to express all my thoughts and all my feelings. In some situations it can be easier to choose and use one of my languages. Sometimes I benefit more from using one, while in other situations I benefit more from another one. And this is the joy with multilingualism! Also, these three languages – Hungarian, Finnish and Swedish – are my children’s first languages, which they have been socialized in since birth. I hope with all my heart that they feel that all three languages are their own mother tongue.

Most of the people around the world use more than one named language in their everyday life and many of them have more than one mother tongue, making them all the richer. In my research, I have met, among others, many second generation Hungarians in Finland and Sweden, people who were born and grew up in another country and in another linguistic environment than their parents did. I also have friends with Sámi origin, who speak or have connections with South, North or another Sámi language. All these people have varied attitudes towards languages, defining mother tongue not only as a language they know best in all kinds of situations and not either as the language of their childhood. Instead, many of them argue that Sámi is their mother tongue, regardless if only their parents or grandparents used it and they themselves do not have skills in the language at all. They do so because of strong emotional ties to the language and the associated culture. Their relationships to their parents, relatives and roots play an important role.

Today Boglárka has a multilingual repertoire and is Assistant Professor in Swedish as a Second Language at Dalarna University in Sweden

Roots, however, are not always the most crucial aspect when you define mother tongue, as every individual who has some kind of connection to one or more languages has the right to determine what to call that language or these languages. For example, some years ago I carried out a study where I interviewed elderly Hungarians who had moved to Finland or Sweden as young adults more than 40 years ago. Some of them have a purist view of language and have clear opinions on mother tongue, such as “the mother tongue is the language you are born with” or “the language you use without any obstacles in all domains”. However, these people could also contradict themselves and say that Finnish or Swedish was already or “almost” like their mother tongue – despite the fact that they had not learned these languages since birth nor did they use these languages in every situation. Many of these people do not draw boundaries between their languages. Rather, their languages are natural parts of their life and they use them unhindered in different situations and in different contexts. All of their languages are integrated in their repertoire.

I share the same feelings with them. I want to emphasise that it is wonderful to celebrate mother tongues and every mother tongue today, delighting in the fact that we all have right to determine which languages we want to celebrate as our own mother tongues. I personally do not want to only celebrate my Hungarian, but also my Finnish and my Swedish, too.

Finally, these words are for my beloved, old, and always wise close friend in Finland, who unfortunately does not have much time left to share with us in this life. This is for you who opened a way for me to find new linguistic and cultural spaces and gave me many wonderful years to speak about languages and enjoy the bilingual and, nowadays, multilingual lifestyle. With you, I started to understand the meaning with my mother tongue. And with you, I learned to love both Hungarian and Finnish deep in my heart. With more languages than one mother tongue, I am stronger and have more self-confidence than ever before. This happiness with languages is the most valuable thing individuals can give to each other. Your work, my friend, to give me a new language gives pleasure and joy forever. Mitä lämpimimmät kiitokseni siitä! / Thank you with all my love!

Boglárka Straszer, Uppsala, Sweden

Brexit Update: What are we Doing to Prepare?

On the 29th September 2016, exactly 18 months before the UK was due to leave the European Union, I wrote in a blog post entitled Brexit and its Implications for Channel View Publications & Multilingual Matters: Since the UK referendum result to leave the European Union, I have often been asked what effect this will have on our business. These questions have come from authors, colleagues, interested friends and my mother. The honest answer to all has been “I really do not know”.

We are now only five and a half weeks away from the “Brexit date” of 29th March, and I am afraid to say that my answer has not changed very much. I have had more sleepless nights than normal and lost countless hours of productive work time in the past three months as I’ve tried to gain some understanding of what sort of impact the various different versions of Brexit will have. Many different options are still being talked about and have gained traction, lost popularity, been proposed, negotiated and discarded, but what will actually happen, we still do not know.

Immediately after the Brexit vote in June 2016, I was relatively confident that Brexit would not happen as there was just a very slim chance of the various different factions agreeing what kind of Brexit they wanted. Unfortunately I had not predicted that our government would launch down the road of negotiating a Brexit deal with the European Union before knowing what kind of a deal the UK parliament would accept. The past few months of political intrigue and inaction at Westminster have been entertaining, dispiriting and terrifying in equal measures.

Given that we are now facing a potentially very disruptive no-deal Brexit, we at Channel View Publications have had to take steps to plan for the future. We are actively talking to our European trade customers suggesting that we will support them with a small extra discount and longer payment terms should they feel able to stock up on our titles before the 29th March. We are looking to work with printers outside the UK in order to print directly in our major markets like the USA and Japan. We are talking to our printers and distributors to make sure that we understand the likelihood and scale of any serious delays at the EU/UK customs border, and whether this will have a knock-on effect at our airports. We are making sure that our UK distributor has all of the agreements and IT systems in place to provide efficient information to Customs should they need to. We are tightening our belts and building up an emergency fund so that in the event of a drop in sales, or an increase in production costs, or most likely both, we are able to work through this. Whatever happens, we will do our utmost to ensure that our authors and customers continue to receive the same level of support from us as always.

Our hoped-for outcome at the moment is that the government will come to their senses, realise the very real damage that is being done to our economy, and withdraw Article 50 until such a time as those planning for Brexit can achieve a majority for what sort of a future we want with the EU. If that is agreed, and if Brexit is still what the country wants in the full knowledge of how difficult it might be, then resubmit the letter and negotiate properly with the full backing of parliament. This, I suspect, is rather like hoping for Christmas in March…

Tommi

Understanding the Language of Our Daily Lives

This month we are publishing Critical Inquiries in the Sociolinguistics of Globalization edited by Tyler Andrew Barrett and Sender Dovchin. In this post the editors talk about what inspired them to put the book together.

The contemporary world is full of different languages. These languages are everywhere: Signage, advertisements, popular culture, social media, streets, classrooms, offices, gossip – you name it. These languages are chaotic, messy, unexpected and cluttered. They are part of our everyday lives, whether you want it or not. They are, in fact, quite ordinary! Many of us, however, seem to simply ignore or disregard the messiness and ordinariness of these diverse languages. Because, they are – “SCRUFFY!” After all, who cares about the scruffy language, right? We somehow tend to take seriously ‘the standard’, ‘the official’ and ‘the formal’, while disregarding the most intimate part of our daily communications. Nonetheless, our book strives to show how developing an intimate relationship with ‘the unconventional’, ‘the scruffiness’, and ‘the messiness’ of our daily language practices may see us realize who we are indeed as human beings, as individuals, and as social members. This very messy side of language is, in fact, part of our identities, selves, natures, and characteristics.

Inspired by research in the debate of ‘sociolinguistics of globalization’ (Blommaert, 2010), we wanted to present a collection of research aimed at addressing this very messy, albeit ordinary, side of language. Since language can be understood from several different perspectives, as it is part of just about everything we do in daily life, this meant that our research would address several academic disciplines that include Linguistics, Sociology, Political Science and even Philosophy. However, these fields are often used to reinforce traditional ideas about ‘the standard’, ‘the official’, and ‘the normal’, which meant that we had a big task ahead of us as we were essentially suggesting, along with Blommaert (2010), that our traditional approaches of understanding the language of our daily lives were at times imprecise and in need of a makeover.

While rethinking our understanding of the language of our daily lives was indeed a challenge, although the data kind of spoke for itself in many ways, our biggest challenge was perhaps tying the interdisciplinary themes together as cohesive contributions to the discussion and debate of the ‘sociolinguistics of globalization’. Although we are often conveniently able to casually discuss the complexities of the debate using idealist and very general descriptions of culture, language, politics, and identity, it was challenging to present cutting-edge research that contributed to knowledge in such a way that it is worthy of publication. We hope we have achieved this aim with this project.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Aspiring to be Global by Shuang Gao.

What’s It Like Growing Up With Three Languages?

Last month we had a work experience student with us from Germany. Loïc grew up speaking three languages (his father is one of our authors and you can read about his multilingual journey in our book Raising Multilingual Children), so we wanted to ask him about his experience of being multilingual.

How many languages do you speak?

Loïc (left) and Laura on a tour of our distributor’s warehouse with our account manager, Matt

I would say that I fluently speak three languages: German, Dutch and English.

Did you grow up learning all those or did you learn any later in life?

The first language I learnt was Dutch, as my mom is a Dutch native speaker. Shortly after that, through my father speaking English with me, I became proficient in English as well. Then lastly by living in a German environment, going to German kindergarten and having mostly German friends, German was the third language I learnt.

Do you think of any one language as your ‘mother tongue’ or do you count them all?

I would count all of them as my ‘mother tongue’ even though I speak some better than others and also feel more comfortable depending on the language I speak.

Do you feel your personality changes depending on the language you’re speaking?

I personally can only refer to me feeling most comfortable whilst speaking English. From my friends and family I have heard that I get annoyed a lot faster, and on account of that, curse a lot more, when I speak German.

Which language do you find most difficult and why?

It is most difficult for me to speak Dutch, because I don’t often have the opportunity to speak it. My mom and I stopped speaking Dutch to each other about five years ago as I usually just responded in German. The reason for that I still haven`t figured out (ultimate act of teenage defiance?) I must say that I do regret that, but if I stay with my Dutch family for more than 3 days I usually get the hang of it again.

Which is your favourite language to speak and why?

Loïc on a visit to Sarah’s new house in Dawlish with Tommi and Laura

My favourite language to speak depends a lot on who I’m talking to – with my friends I feel the best speaking German, with my family English or Dutch (depending on what they would rather speak). Overall I must say though that English is my favourite language and usually that is the language I go with when I am emotional.

You live in Germany – how do you maintain your other languages?

I do live in Germany, yes. Maintaining my German is understandably easy and my English also mainly easy, as I practice in school, with foreign friends, online, with media and with my father most of all. My Dutch on the other hand is somewhat more difficult to maintain, but I recently starting speaking more Dutch with my mom and some of my Dutch friends. Mainly I practice my Dutch though when I am in the Netherlands or in Belgium.

What are the advantages of being multilingual?

The range of people I can speak to is a lot bigger. In general, all the benefits you gain from speaking other languages, just that I didn’t have to undergo the time-consuming process of learning a different language… which is supremely helpful. I think every person who has tried to learn a language knows the frustration of not being able to express yourself correctly in that language, because of a lack of proficiency. So I am very happy and lucky that my parents brought me up to be trilingual.

There are also some disadvantages of being multilingual. These disadvantages for me would be that I often switch words in languages or sometimes forget to address a person in the correct language. Generally speaking though I think the cons are strongly outweighed by the pros.

 

Raising Multilingual Children is available on our website.