Engaging Superdiversity? Yes, Very Engaging.

16 December 2016

This month we published Engaging Superdiversity edited by Karel Arnaut, Martha Sif Karrebæk, Massimiliano Spotti and Jan Blommaert. In this post, Jan explains more about the background to the book.

Engaging SuperdiversityAs all of us know, there is a tremendous pressure in the academic system at present to operate as an individual in a competitive ‘market’ of science focused on deliverables – or more precisely, a market of money for science and other more symbolic and status-related perks. All of these elements – individualism, competition and result-driven orientation – are fundamentally unscientific, and render our lives as science workers increasingly less interesting. Science is a collective endeavor characterised by solidarity and focused on processes of knowledge construction. Why else do we need references at the end of our publications, than to illustrate how we have learned from others in a perpetual process of critical and productive dialogue?

This critical reflex was the motive, almost a decade ago, for a small team of scholars to join forces in a consortium called InCoLaS (International Consortium on Language and Superdiversity) – a ‘dream team’ of people who decided to care and share, to explore domains only superficially touched by inquiry, mobilising each other’s resources in the process,  and to do all this without a pre-set target or road map. After all, exploration is not the same as driving in a limo on a highway with the GPS on: by definition, you don’t know where it will take you. There is no ‘draft proposal’; there are ideas.

This mode of collaboration turned out to be immensely ‘profitable’, to use the terms of the market. Several high-profile publications emerged, and our buzzword ‘superdiversity’ has become a modest celebrity in its own right, attracting what must be seen as the ultimate intellectual compliment: controversy. There are ‘believers’ and ‘non-believers’, and both camps have had, over the past years, sometimes heated debates over the value of the word ‘superdiversity’.

We ourselves don’t really care about that word. Sometimes one needs a new word simply to examine the validity of the older ones – the word is then just a sort of stimulus to shed some of the attributes and frames inscribed in the older ones; and it is not the word that is central, but the ideas it points to and the data it can help explain. Whether research is convincing or not rarely depends on which words are used to write it down; usually it depends on the quality of analysis and argument.

Engaging Superdiversity offers another set of studies on language and superdiversity, drawn from one of the key features of our collective mode of work: team workshops in which we listen to and discuss the work of our team members – senior as well as more junior researchers – and insert their results in the collective explorative process described earlier. In these workshops, all of us are ‘free’ – free to come up with unfinished ideas, unsolved problems, struggles with complex data. The joint work of critical dialogue, usually, results in products that are, to say the least, engaging.

This collection of essays, more than any other publication so far, gives people a sense of the ambience in InCoLaS activities. It covers the terrains we find important – inequality, the online-offline nexus, power – and expands the theoretical and methodological framing of the process of exploration. There is a very large number of new things in this book (for the benefit of the “non-believers” who question what is so new about superdiversity), and some of the chapters will, I believe, have considerable impact in the field.

I joined the editorial team rather late in the game, and my gaze is thus, perhaps, a bit more that of a detached spectator than Karel’s, Martha’s and Max’s. So let me say this: When reviewing manuscripts for journals, book proposals, or even student’s essays, I always make a distinction between work that is good and work that is interesting. Most work I see is good, in the sense that there is nothing wrong with it, other than that I would never read it: it’s not interesting. Engaging Superdiversity is good and interesting – extraordinarily so – and I am proud to see it in print.

Jan Blommaert

Ethnography, Superdiversity and Linguistic LandscapesFor more information about the book, please see our website. You might also be interested in Jan’s previous book Ethnography, Superdiversity and Linguistic Landscapes.


Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism: 6th Edition

24 February 2017

This month we are very excited to be publishing the 6th edition of our international bestseller, Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism by Colin Baker and Wayne E. Wright. In this post we interview Colin and Wayne about where it all started, the collaborative process and what the future holds for Foundations…

 Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 6th EditionQ1: Colin, how does it feel to be handing over control of the book to Wayne?

It was a dream come true when Wayne agreed to work with me on the 6th edition of Foundations. Since the 1st edition in 1993, research and writing on bilingualism and bilingual education have mushroomed so much that revising the 2011 5th edition by myself made no sense at all.

Finding somebody with such an extensive knowledge of bilingualism, multilingualism and bilingual education, a broad and international understanding, totally sane and balanced, and much younger than myself was wonderful.

Wayne and I met in Bristol (UK) and instantly found we had very similar ideas about the future and contents of the Foundations book. A close academic and personal friendship became a wonderful part of my life. Within a few hours of meeting, I knew that the future of Foundations was in the best possible hands, and I am enormously grateful to Wayne for taking on this responsibility.

Q2: Wayne, how does it feel to be handed control of the book from Colin?

I read the 1st edition of Foundations as an undergraduate student, and the 2nd and 3rd editions in my graduate programs. Colin’s book inspired me throughout my career as a bilingual teacher, and was a key resource as I began conducting research. I’ve used the 4th and 5th editions in my own courses. I was thrilled when the 4th edition included citations to some of my work, and even more thrilled when I was invited to help update one of the chapters in the 5th edition. Foundations and many of Colin’s other excellent books and articles have been a guiding force for me and so many others in the field for a long time.

Needless to say, it has been a tremendous honor to join with such an esteemed and outstanding scholar as Colin as co-author of this 6th edition. Colin and I had friendly correspondence occasionally by e-mail for many years related to various academic tasks. It was a wonderful experience to finally get to meet him in person in Bristol to discuss our plans for this and future editions. I confess to feeling unworthy of such an important task, but Colin quickly put my fears to rest. Working closely with Colin on this edition has been one of the most enjoyable experiences in my academic career. Colin proved to be a great mentor and friend.

I feel a great sense of responsibility to ensure Colin’s original work remains an influential and beneficial resource for the current and next generations of students and scholars.

Colin and Wayne with Tommi in Clevedon, 2012

Colin and Wayne with Tommi in Clevedon, 2012

Q3: How did the collaborative process work with your being thousands of miles apart in very different time zones?

We both live almost 24/7 on email, and we both tend to answer each other’s emails very quickly. So communication has been highly efficient, focused and ever-friendly. It is also helped by Wayne getting up very early in the morning, and myself working quite late in the evening. So the time zone difference of 5 hours between Purdue and Bangor is hardly noticeable.

Q4: Wayne, was it difficult to take on Colin’s ‘voice’ and maintain the style of the previous editions?

Surprisingly no. Colin’s ‘voice’ is one of the things I have greatly enjoyed in the prior editions. Colin is very good at writing about complex issues in a way that is easy for readers to understand. So I was very accustomed to Colin’s engaging writing style and I suspect it has had a subliminal impact on my own over the years. I found I didn’t need to exert any particular effort to match our styles. In fact, when reviewing our final proofs it was sometimes hard for me to distinguish Colin’s original words from my own additions!

Q5: Did you disagree about anything along the way or did you both have the same ‘vision’ for the 6th edition?

It was really odd, but we always seemed to agree easily and rapidly, mostly because our vision, viewpoints and understandings are so similar. Also, we both have great respect for each other’s strengths, which are often complementary, and we both seem to be good at taking advice from each other and from the many experts who reviewed every chapter.

Q6: What is new in the 6th edition?

Since the 5th edition of 2011, there have been so many new publications and so much research, new ideas and evolving viewpoints that the 6th edition has been thoroughly revised and updated. With students in mind, the 6th edition provides an improved reading experience making a valuable resource for course instructors, professional development providers, study-group leaders and all readers.

Importantly, there are many new and more thoroughly covered topics including: translanguaging; dynamic bilingualism; transliteracy; multiliteracies; superdiversity; bilingual assessment; multilingualism; the nature of bilingual and multilingual identity; bilingualism and economic inequalities and advantages; digital tools for language revitalization; forces, mechanisms and counterweights in building bilingual education systems; recent developments in bilingualism and brain imaging research; bilingualism on the internet and in information technology. There is also a new or greater focus on a variety of instructional approaches and issues, as well as important policy developments in the US context.

To address the large number of citations and references that grew substantially with each edition, over 860 older and redundant citations have been removed. These have been replaced with over 350 citations to more recent research and current developments, most of which have been published after the 5th edition was published in 2011. All demographic and statistical information has been fully updated.

Figures, tables, and text boxes have been reformatted and are now numbered for easy reference. End of chapter recommended readings and study activities have been revised, plus discussion questions and many web resources have been added. We were especially pleased to include for the first time a comprehensive glossary with definitions for bolded key terms that appear throughout the book.

Q7: Which part of the book did you most enjoy working on?

Much has changed in terms of policy in the US and around the world. We enjoyed writing about the end of No Child Left Behind, the beginning of the transition to the Every Student Succeeds Act, and especially about current developments more favourable to bilingual and multilingual education such as the growing number of US states adopting the Seal of Biliteracy, California overturning Proposition 227 through the passage of Proposition 58, the expansion of CLIL across Europe, and developing nations around the world turning to multilingual education as a solution to challenges in providing a basic education for all children.

We also enjoyed revising and adding new end-of-chapter material, thinking of ways the contents of each chapter could be used to engage students in meaningful in-class or online discussions, providing practical ideas for short research activities, and connecting students with real-life examples via the internet.

The 1st edition of Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, published in 1993

The 1st edition of Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, published in 1993

Q8: Foundations has been hugely successful since the first edition was published in 1993. Why do you think it has been so popular and has continued to sell so well?

In 1993, there was no comprehensive introduction to bilingualism and bilingual education. Mike Grover, the founding father of Multilingual Matters, noticed that Colin’s 1988 book ‘Key Issues in Bilingualism and Bilingual Education’ was selling as a textbook even though it was not written for that purpose. Mike had the vision for an international textbook that was as comprehensive as possible. Colin took the challenge. Then, in the early 1990s, Ofelia García played a key role in broadening Colin’s understanding from the psychological and educational to the sociological and political. She has been central to reviewing the draft of every edition since 1993. The first edition of 1993 and the subsequent editions in 1996, 2001, 2006 and 2011, sold well particularly in the United States, but also with sales in almost every country of the world. Mike’s vision has been fulfilled.

Some very kind expert reviews have appeared over the years, particularly mentioning the multidisciplinary and international approach, the willingness to provide a balanced and critical view, the attempt to simplify the complexities without losing understanding, and the attempt to write in a relatively simple and straightforward style with international students in mind. These elements seem to be part of the character of the book and have made the book a bestseller.

Q9: Is the 2017 6th edition an ending or a beginning?

Multilingual Matters envisage that the book will go on from strength to strength to at least a dozen editions! Work on the 7th edition begins with the publication of this, the 6th edition. Wayne Wright is now in charge, and the authorship will naturally change to ‘Wright and Baker’.

We are always looking for ideas about new themes, so if you have suggestions, they are very welcome. You could influence the 7th edition and help us move this famous textbook into the next six editions.

For further information about this book, please see the video above and the book’s page on our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like The Assessment of Emergent Bilinguals by Kate Mahoney.


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