Multilingualism – An Asset or A Threat?

We recently published Multilingualism, (Im)mobilities and Spaces of Belonging edited by Kristine Horner and Jennifer Dailey-O’Cain. In this post the editors explain the themes covered in the book.

Like many others in our profession, the two of us are highly mobile people. Each of us changed countries in order to take up our current academic positions – Kristine commutes between the small European country of Luxembourg and the UK, and Jennie relocated from the United States to Canada – and of course our work as linguists is full of regular trips both of the “long-haul” and “short hop” variety.

Even as much of the world we live in considers this kind of mobility of privileged white professional academics as unremarkable, though, the mobility of other kinds of people – such as those from the global South – is often considered far more problematic. While some of us can claim the right to call ourselves “skilled worker immigrants” or even “expats” (a term that conjures up a sort of glamorous yet highly temporary “just passing through” lifestyle), others are dismissed by the societies we live in as “foreign workers” or “migrants”.

It is not all that different with multilingualism. Some forms of it are regarded as an asset or even as an essential skill (such as learning English or French in school and making use of those languages in an eventual work setting), while others can often be deemed problematic or even threatening to national unity. In the end, whether language is a resource, a barrier, or even a site of struggle will tend to come down to who you are, which languages you speak, and especially which contexts you are trying to use those languages in.

Our new book is about what mobility means in different circumstances, some of the different ways that language plays a role in those situations, and how complex social processes play a role in how these occasions and uses of language in those instances are perceived. In addition to our introduction, it includes nine previously unpublished research papers based on fieldwork in Africa, Asia, Australasia and Europe, and three insightful commentaries from experienced researchers that help tie the different papers together. Before publication, many of the contributing authors had the opportunity to discuss work in progress at workshops in Sheffield, England and Cape Town, South Africa. These meetings led to thought-provoking discussions that led us to reflect further on our positionality as scholars. This process was pivotal to the development of the book.

Divided into three thematic sections, the book explores the contestation of spaces and the notion of borders, examines the ways that heritage and authenticity are linked or challenged, and interrogates the intersections between mobility and hierarchies as well as the ways that language can be linked to issues of belonging. We believe that future research will benefit from connecting scholarship in sociolinguistics more closely to scholarship in migration studies and globalization studies. This book is a step along this pathway.

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Sociolinguistic Perspectives on Migration Control edited by Markus Rheindorf and Ruth Wodak.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s