A Fresh Look at an Old Question: The Age Factor in a New Methodological Light

20 April 2017

This month we’re publishing Beyond Age Effects in Instructional L2 Learning by Simone E. Pfenninger and David Singleton. In this post Simone and David discuss the controversial topic of the age factor in second language learning, as explored in their book.

Both of us – from the beginning of our respective careers – have been fascinated by the question of the age factor in second language learning. As we all know, this is a controversial topic; for example, the debate surrounding the Critical Period Hypothesis (CPH) has not gone away and is not likely to any time soon. There is, however, more consensus than many people realize between CPH sceptics (like Carmen Muñoz) and CPH advocates (such as Robert DeKeyser). The area in which this happy consensus reigns is that of the effects of an early start to L2 instruction in school, which most SLA researchers of all affiliations have for many decades agreed does not yield the advantage one might expect.

There is a sharp difference between the CPH debate and the discussion concerning the optimal age in a formal, educational context. Whereas the CPH question is interesting theoretically, the issue of the best age for starting a foreign language in school (to which, for various reasons, most CPH supporters these days see the critical period notion as irrelevant) is not just intellectually teasing but is also heavy with practical, socio-economic, political and ideological implications. Clearly, for educators, teachers and policy-makers it is of compelling interest to know more about the end state of foreign language instruction, since such research has important implications for multilingual education when making decisions about (1) early teaching of different languages in elementary school and (2) later instruction in different languages in secondary school.

Our book reports on some further long-term findings to this effect, which we explore and expatiate on in relation to a range of variables which, in the instructional context, turn out to be markedly more influential than age. We talk about recent developments and improvements in the methodological aspects of investigating individual difference variables such as age, as well as our observation that in the formal educational setting the age variable is overshadowed to the point of invisibility by other factors. Such factors include contextual effects (e.g. school effects and the transition from primary to secondary school), the effects of instruction-type and intensity of instruction, effects of extracurricular exposure, the influence of literacy and biliteracy skills, and the impact of socio-affective variables such as motivation. A role for starting age is in fact extremely hard to establish. With regard to the school situation, in other words, we can blithely put aside the maturational question, and all agree that when instruction happens is incomparably less important than how it proceeds and under what circumstances.

Actually such findings regarding the effects of early instruction go back a long way. Thus the idea of introducing L2 instruction into primary/elementary schools in the 1950s and 1960s was dealt a severe blow by the findings of research in the 1970s which cast doubt on the capacity of early instruction to deliver higher proficiency levels as compared with later instruction (e.g. Burstall, Jamieson, Cohen, & Hargreaves, 1975; Carroll, 1975; Oller & Nagato, 1974). The disillusionment occasioned by such findings seems, however, to have been rather short-lived, and more recent and continuing negative results in this connection have also been largely ignored. Our own endeavour has been (1) to try to convince the members of the general public that the time is ripe for closer integration between SLA research and L2 pedagogy and (2) to educate them about recent trends in the age factor tradition in SLA research. Our strong view is that consistent and intensive collaboration between practitioners, politicians and researchers is needed in order to understand and address mutual interests and concerns through shared discussions, data collection, analysis and interpretation.

For more information about this book, please see our website. If you liked this, you might also be interested in Key Topics in Second Language Acquisition by Vivian Cook and David Singleton and Future Research Directions for Applied Linguistics edited by Simone E. Pfenninger and Judit Navracsics.


The Pleasure of Raising Multilingual Children

4 April 2017

Last month we published Raising Multilingual Children by Julia Festman, Gregory J. Poarch and Jean-Marc Dewaele. In this post, Jean-Marc discusses his own experience of bringing up a multilingual daughter and explains what inspired him and his co-authors to write the book.  

Parents everywhere in the world want the best for their children. It means looking after their physical and psychological health as well as their education. I remember reading books with my wife when she was pregnant with Livia about the best ways to raise children. We felt a little overwhelmed by the amount of information and the occasionally contradictory suggestions on how to be good parents. We were also struck by the strong opinions people had about early multilingualism. Many expressed doubts about it being beneficial for the child “before a first language” settled in: wasn’t there a risk of the child ending up with a “muddled” linguistic system, unable to distinguish between the languages? Others wondered whether growing up with multiple languages might lead to an absence of clear linguistic and cultural roots for the child.

Having read my former PhD supervisor, Hugo Baetens Beardsmore’s (1982) book, Bilingualism: Basic Principles, my wife and I decided that the potential benefits of early multilingualism outweighed the potential drawbacks, and when Livia was born in London in 1996, my wife used Dutch with her, I used French, with English spoken all around us. She picked up Urdu from her Pakistani child-minder, who spoke English and Urdu with the English-speaking children. We were a bit concerned that the introduction of a fourth first language might be too much for Livia, but this fear turned out to be unfounded and her languages developed at a normal pace – though Urdu faded away after the age of two and a half when she moved to an English nursery school. From the moment she started speaking, she was perfectly capable of separating her languages, and switching from one to another effortlessly depending on the linguistic repertoire of her interlocutor. She still sounds like a native speaker in her three languages and consistently got some of the highest marks for English during her primary and secondary education. The brain of a baby is like a sponge: sufficient and regular linguistic input will allow it to absorb the languages in its environment. There is no danger of the brain ‘overheating’ because of exposure to too many languages.

Livia’s case is the first story in the book Raising Multilingual Children that has just come out. It includes Livia’s own view on her multilingualism at the age of ten and sixteen. My co-authors Greg Poarch and Julia Festman tell the story of their trilingual children. Greg’s son, Loïc, speaks two minority languages (English and Dutch) at home and uses German outside of his home. Julia’s daughter and son, Aya and Noam, grew up as trilinguals from birth, with two minority languages (English and Hebrew) at home and German outside. The situation changed when Julia’s husband passed away and the input in Hebrew dried up. Now German is the majority language spoken inside and outside of their home and English is the language used at school. Greg, Julia and I decided to pool our family experiences with three languages to produce a book for the general public informed by the academic research. We adopted an issue-related approach and agreed that we would present tips based on examples from our daily lives to highlight things that worked, and strategies that backfired with our children. The book contains concrete and practical ideas to implement multilingualism in the household.

For more information about this book, please see our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like A Parents’ and Teachers’ Guide to Bilingualism by Colin Baker, Language Strategies for Trilingual Families by Andreas Braun and Tony Cline, and Xiao-lei Wang’s books, Growing up with Three Languages and Maintaining Three Languages.

 


The Multilingual Nature of Higher Education

21 March 2017

This month we published Academic Biliteracies edited by David M. Palfreyman and Christa van der Walt. In this post, David and Christa discuss their experience of coediting the book. 

Christa: There were some initial signs that this book was not meant to be. Firstly, David’s e-mails to me disappeared in cyberspace and it was only when Nancy Hornberger contacted me to enquire very diplomatically whether I had received the e-mails, that we found out his institutional e-mails were not delivered, for some unfathomable reason. Secondly, this was an under-researched topic and we were not sure that we would get any contributions; and thirdly, both of us dealt with serious interruptions of a personal and professional nature. And yet, here we are, three years later, with chapters that showcase the multilingual nature of higher education in all its complexity.

Our first (academic) challenge was to agree on what we understand ‘literacy’ to mean, so that we can evaluate contributions on ‘biliteracy’. Going through our Skype notes, I’m struck by the terminology issues in every conversation. Is there a difference between ‘translanguaging’ and ‘translingual’; between ‘multiliteracies’ and ‘multilingual literacies’? Is ‘translanguaging’ the overarching concept in which ‘biliteracy’ needs to find its place, or should they be seen as separate phenomena in multilingual contexts? We still do not have a definite answer; or maybe it is better to say that we have many answers!

David: Yes, the email bug almost put a subtle end to the project before it started, and I’m very glad that Nancy intervened! I was keen to work with Christa on this book because her previous publications had focused on multilingual higher education in a way that I hadn’t come across before: questioning assumptions about English as the medium of instruction in so many universities worldwide.

Christa: We both wanted a variety of chapters from all corners of the world, but of course we had to be selective within the scope of one book.  We aimed to cover both majority and minority languages in contexts where language is a medium for developing knowledge rather than necessarily a focus of the course; in the end, the chapters highlight the use at university of literacy in Afrikaans, Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, isiXhosa and other African languages, Korean, Maori, Polish, Spanish and Welsh.

David: Some of the contributors had already published in the area of biliteracy; some had been working with biliterate students and issues of biliteracy in university courses for some years, but came to engage with the issues in new ways through their involvement in the book. As the book developed, we encouraged contributors to read and comment on each other’s chapters, which brought some mutual adjustments and helped bring out common themes. All of us became aware of new perspectives to understand the experience of students and scholars, and fresh options for working with and for biliteracy. Guillaume Gentil, whose previous work provided inspiration for the book, kindly sprang into action once the rest of the book was complete, contributing a concluding chapter which draws themes together and points out some ways forward for research in academic biliteracies.

I’m grateful to Zayed University (UAE) for their support in travelling to Australia, Jordan and the UK in the course of preparing the book. Among many learning experiences along the way, I remember especially meeting up by coincidence with Christa at the AILA Congress in Brisbane – it was good to have a face to face meeting near the beginning as most of our later work together was by email or Skype. Another unforgettable and educative experience was taking part in a research conference at Cardiff University where most communication was in Welsh or Basque: having to rely on simultaneous interpreters and finding my usual language of academic/social communication suddenly minoritized, I suddenly found myself a ‘lurker’ in academic discussions!

Christa: For me, as a lecturer who code switches and uses two languages when teaching at Stellenbosch University, the active development of biliteracy in academic contexts is an important acknowledgement of the multilingual nature of twenty-first century higher education. Many students arrive at higher education institutions with a fully developed academic language that is not English and it would be a waste to ignore the enormous potential of that resource when making meaning of academic material.

We’ll look forward to hearing from readers of the book about how the issues relate to their own experiences as learners or teachers.

 

David M. Palfreyman: david.palfreyman@zu.ac.ae

Christa van der Walt: cvdwalt@sun.ac.za

 

For more information about this book, please see our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like Multilingual Higher Education, which Christa published with us previously.

 


What is “the best” way to assess emergent bilinguals?

9 March 2017

Last month we published The Assessment of Emergent Bilinguals by Kate Mahoney. In this post, Kate explains how she came to dedicate her research to this topic and introduces us to her decision-making framework, PUMI (Purpose, Use, Method, Instrument), that can be used to better inform assessment decisions for bilingual children.

Since my first days as a teacher, I wanted to answer questions about how language and culture impact learning and schooling. I found myself teaching in Puerto Rican communities in New York, Navajo communities in New Mexico, Mexican communities in the Southwest, and in bilingual communities in Belize. Each experience drove an awakening clarity: assessment was an incredibly powerful influence on schooling and success, and language and culture strongly influenced assessment. In 1999, my then-advisor Dr. Jeff MacSwan at Arizona State University (ASU) suggested I adopt the study of tests and the testing process – within the context of bilingual learners – as a research topic. Admittedly, I was reluctant to begin a formal study involving psychometrics, language assessment and related methodologies, but I needed a multidisciplinary approach to answer questions. I was reluctant because the topic of testing seemed so frustrating and unfair, and seemed to privilege some students over others, based primarily on the relationship between culture and language. It was this reluctance that led me to begin my study of assessment, and from multiple disciplines. At the same time, I began teaching graduate courses in assessment for the multilingual programs at ASU. I’ve continued to teach this course throughout my career and today teach and conduct research at the State University of New York at Fredonia.

As I think back over the past 15-plus years of researching this topic, I’m continually struck by its complexity, and how difficult it can be for classroom teachers to learn about and stay abreast of the evolving methodologies. There is so much more to assessment than simply establishing a rubric and giving the test. Because of the complexity and multidisciplinary nature of assessment, it was difficult to deliver a course on assessment in a connected way to university students. That’s why I developed PUMI (Purpose, Use, Method, Instrument) for my first class on the subject back in 1999. I didn’t call it PUMI back then, but my students and I always discussed assessments within this framework, and it became an important way to make decisions and select appropriate assessments, while also understanding the complexities of emergent-bilingual assessment.

This book about the assessment of emergent bilingual learners is the culmination of teaching a university course for the past 18 years. I use the PUMI framework across the whole book; it’s a decision-making process teachers can use to make better assessment-related decisions. Also included are more in-depth topics in assessment that warrant full attention, such as validity as a theory, the history of the assessment of bilingual children, as well as testing accommodations and accountability topics.

Over the years, many people have approached me to ask about “the best” assessment or test for assessing Spanish or assessing math with emergent bilinguals. The answer is definitely not prepackaged, and not easy for that matter either. To begin to understand the answer to these types of questions, one must ask PUMI questions, and in that order. So, my response to questions about the best assessment is always first, what is the purpose “P” of the assessment and how will you use “U” the results. After considering the purpose and use, then we can begin to consider the best assessment method “M” and instrument “I”. Selecting an appropriate assessment for emergent bilinguals is not an easy task, but PUMI can guide us toward better assessment for this unique group of students.

For more information about this book, please see our website. If you liked this, you might also be interested in Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism (6th Edition) by Colin Baker and Wayne E. Wright.


The start of a busy conference season for Multilingual Matters

7 March 2017

Laura at NABE 2017Last month I kick-started our 2017 conference attendance with a trip to the National Association of Bilingual Education
conference. Last year’s conference was in Chicago and this year the gathering moved south to the warmer climate of Dallas, Texas. Fresh off the press (so much so that I had to take them in my suitcase!) and highlights of the Multilingual Matters’ stand were Mahoney’s new book The Assessment of Emergent Bilinguals and the 6th edition of our bestselling textbook Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, which is now co-authored by Colin Baker and Wayne E. Wright (you can read more about that collaboration on our blog here).

Click to enlarge

Next up on the Multilingual Matters conference schedule come the American Association for Applied Linguistics (AAAL) and TESOL conferences and our editorial team will be heading to those gatherings which are due to take place on the west coast in Portland and Seattle later in March. We very much enjoyed our last trip to Portland for AAAL in 2014 and are looking forward to a bustling few days at the conferences. A particular highlight of the AAAL calendar will be the celebration that we’re hosting during the Monday afternoon coffee break at AAAL, to which all delegates are invited.

On return to the UK, Anna will be attending the iMean conference which is hosted right on our doorstep at the University of West of England, in Bristol. Jo Angouri is one of the organisers of the conference and also one of the series editors of our new Language at Work series. We are looking forward to introducing the delegates to the first book in the series, Medical Discourse in Professional, Academic and Popular Settings edited by Pilar Ordóñez-López and Nuria Edo-Marzá, which was published last year.

Later in the spring we’ll be exhibiting at the American Educational Research Association (AERA) conference in San Antonio, Texas and then in the summer we’ll be crossing the waters to Ireland for the International Symposium on Bilingualism, which is to be hosted by the University of Limerick.

We very much hope to see you at a conference somewhere this spring – please drop by the stand and say hello if you see us!

Laura


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.


My Mother Tongue and Me: Staying Unapologetically Foreign in the Land I Proudly Call Home

21 February 2017

In celebration of International Mother Language Day, we’re delighted to share this post written by Tommi’s mum, Marjukka, about what her mother language, Finnish, means to her.

The best description I have heard of mother-tongue was made by Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, when she described it as being like skin. The second language, by contrast, is like a pair of jeans, which fits well and feels comfortable but will never replace the skin.

Marjukka rowing on Enäjärvi

Marjukka rowing on Enäjärvi

My mother-tongue, Finnish, is the language of my identity, and the language of my deep feelings. Through it I can describe my joys and sorrows, anger and delight much better than I could in any other language. If I hit my thumb with a hammer, nothing releases the pain better than “voi perkele” (devil) and when I get Sudoku numbers wrong, the frustration is vented with “voi paska” (oh shit). Just recently I remembered a word “hämäränhyssy” – the twilight time when my parents would sit silently in semi darkness just relaxing and waiting for the evening to come. Even now, at the age of 67, the word brings to my mind a beautiful sense of peace and harmony.

Marjukka with Tommi and Sami

Marjukka with Tommi and Sami

So how could I have ever spoken soft, caressing, loving words of baby talk to my two sons in English, since I hadn’t heard them from my mother and father? My language to my children had to be Finnish! And it still is. The best thing, however, is that it can now be Finnish, English or Finglish – since some things are easier described in the language they occur.

I have a strong Finnish identity, despite having happily lived in beautiful Great Britain for over 45 years. My accent reveals me to be a Finn even if I say just “yes”. Could it be that I want to be noticed as a Finn? My parents raised me with a love of the language: the happy memories of my father reading Moomin adventures, or my mother chatting and laughing with her numerous sisters. As a teenager, the romantic words of the Finnish melancholy tango songs moved me to tears. And there are so many words which just can’t be translated into English. Just like there are words in English which are hard to translate into Finnish.

So my mother tongue is my identity, my soul, and my tool. English is my very useful second tool, and I am very grateful I have learned to use that tool well, but it will never be my soul or my identity.

Marjukka Grover


Honoring Richard Ruiz and his Work on Language Planning and Bilingual Education

11 January 2017

Honoring Richard Ruiz and his Work on Language Planning and Bilingual EducationAt the end of last year we published Honoring Richard Ruiz and his Work on Language Planning and Bilingual Education edited by Nancy H. Hornberger. The book brings together a selection of the late Richard Ruiz’s work as well as reflections from his former students and colleagues. In this post, Nancy writes about her own personal memories of Richard and how he inspired the work of others.

Honoring Richard Ruiz and his Work on Language Planning and Bilingual Education is special and unique for me. I’ve edited many books before, including books in my own Bilingual Education and Bilingualism series, and even readers of selected works of distinguished scholars in my field such as Jim Cummins and Joshua Fishman, as this book started out to be too. But what began as a reader featuring selected works of a distinguished scholar who was, uniquely for me, also my own dissertation mentor, became still more special and unique when it evolved to be also a collective testimonial and testament from many of Richard’s own students and colleagues, as we experienced the untimely loss of this most remarkable scholar and human being.

Every contributor and commentator in the volume knew and worked with Richard Ruiz closely as his student or colleague or both, and each one repeatedly expressed to me how grateful and honored they felt to be part of the volume – and though I have always enjoyed working with contributors to every volume I have edited, the abundance of gratitude and heartfelt emotion this volume generated has been truly profound and moving. The spontaneous desire of these authors to include photos capturing their personal relationships with Richard, and Multilingual Matters’ generosity in working with us to do so, conveys some of the warmth that characterized the project as we brought it to fruition.

Richard and Nancy

Richard and Nancy

I am especially pleased that Richard and I worked together to identify the works he wanted to include in the volume, both published and unpublished pieces, including the section he named Language Fun, containing a sample of his wonderfully pithy and humorous ‘take’ on serious and troubling language planning moments and events of our times. We had no inkling that the volume would become a posthumous collection in his honor, and I would have much preferred for him to be here to hold the book in his hands, but as things turned out, it has been a special and unique way for me to remember and contribute to the legacy Richard leaves behind, not just through his remarkable thinking and writing but also through capturing some of the voices of the many whose lives he deeply touched.

Nancy H. Hornberger, University of Pennsylvania

For further information about this book, please see our website.


Sociolinguistic Variation and Acquisition in Two-Way Language Immersion

12 October 2016

This autumn we are publishing Sociolinguistic Variation and Acquisition in Two-Way Language Immersion by Rebecca Lurie Starr. The book explores how children in a diverse language immersion school environment negotiate language variation and acquire sociolinguistic knowledge.

As language teachers and learners all know, learning a language is not just about mastering vocabulary and grammar. Native speakers of a language also understand how to phrase things appropriately in different situations, and have an awareness of how different types of people are likely to speak – what types of language use patterns sound educated, feminine, casual, and so on. These sorts of competencies, referred to as communicative competence and sociolinguistic knowledge, are normally acquired by native speakers through everyday interactions in a community of other native speakers. For learners studying a second language, particularly in a school environment in which their exposure to native speakers is limited, acquiring this sort of competence is a daunting task. This challenge may be even greater for young children studying a second language, as they are still developing an understanding of their social world in their native languages. How can a child whose only access to a language is via school come to understand the connections between language features and social meaning? Do children in this situation use their second language to reflect and construct their social identities?

Sociolinguistic Variation and Acquisition in Two-Way Language ImmersionMy book focuses on children’s development of sociolinguistic knowledge in two-way language immersion, an increasingly popular educational model in the US, in which children from different language backgrounds spend part of the school day learning content via each language, with the goal of becoming bilingual, biliterate, and bicultural. One of the theorized benefits of two-way immersion relative to conventional language immersion is that students have the opportunity to receive native-speaker input from their classmates who speak the other language at home; this expands the potential range of situations in which children are exposed to a second language, perhaps helping them acquire greater communicative competence. The book presents a case study of first and second graders in a Mandarin-English two-way immersion program in the US, in which some children speak Mandarin Chinese at home, some speak English, and others speak a third language.

As Eliane Rubinstein-Avila has pointed out in her work on Portuguese-English two-way language immersion, the assumption of “two languages” in these two-way programs is problematic: often, this terminology obscures a significant range of dialectal variation within each language present in the program. This is particularly the case for two-way language immersion programs involving widely-spoken heritage languages such as Mandarin Chinese, in which immigrants from a variety of regions (Taiwan, Northern Mainland China, Malaysia, etc.) and their descendants come into contact. In these programs, it is not only students who may speak in a range of dialects, but teachers as well; in fact, some teachers may find themselves teaching students who are native speakers of a more prestigious dialect, or using teaching materials from a dialect with which they are unfamiliar. In this work, I investigate how teachers tackle this sociolinguistically perilous situation, as well as what students learn from how their teachers—and classmates—use and discuss language variation.

My research examines how teachers and students in this dialectally-diverse Mandarin-English program develop shared practices and navigate sociolinguistic variation within each language. I analyze three sources of sociolinguistic information in children’s school environment: teacher language use, classmate language use, and metalinguistic discourse (focusing on corrective feedback initiated by both teachers and students), bringing together quantitative variationist analysis and ethnographic observations.

I argue that, rather than mirroring the language use patterns of their teachers or classmates, children who are learning a second language in two-way language immersion can and do exploit sociolinguistic information in their environment to acquire a more standard language variety than those used by the native speakers around them. To put it more plainly, these children are avoiding acquiring the accents used by their teachers and classmates. Over the course of my analysis, I provide insight into how and why children might be doing this, and discuss how two-way language immersion programs function as communities of practice in which members develop conventions for how language is used, corrected, and negotiated.

For more information on Rebecca’s book, please see our website. You might also be interested in some of our other titles on immersion education: Immersion Education edited by Diane J. Tedick et al, The Sociolinguistic Competence of Immersion Students by Raymond Mougeon et al and Pathways to Multilingualism edited by Tara Williams Fortune and Diane J. Tedick.Immersion titles


The Complexities of Arizona’s Restrictive Language Policies

5 October 2016

Later this month we are publishing Amy Heineke’s book Restrictive Language Policy in Practice which explores the complexities and intricacies of Arizona’s language policy in practice. In this post, Amy discusses the impact of these policies on English Language Learners.

Restrictive Language Policy in PracticeThink back to your experiences as a young person in school. What did you enjoy? With whom did you spend time? What challenges did you face? What pushed and prompted you to develop as an individual? How did those experiences influence who you are today?

Now consider this reality. After starting school, you are given a language proficiency test. Based on your score, you are placed in a separate classroom apart from your friends. While they read novels and conduct science experiments, you learn the discrete skills of the English language: one hour of grammar, one hour of vocabulary, one hour of reading, 30 minutes of writing, and 30 minutes of conversation. You listen, speak, read, and write in another language, but the message is clear: English is the priority – learn it, and learn it fast.

This is the educational experience for tens of thousands of English learners (ELs) in the state of Arizona. After Proposition 203 nearly eradicated bilingual education in favor of English-medium instruction for ELs in 2000, state policymakers and administrators further restricted language policy with the shift to the English Language Development (ELD) model. Implemented in schools in 2008, the policy required that students labeled as ELs (based on standardized tests of language proficiency) be separated from English-proficient peers and placed in ELD classrooms for four hours of skill-based English instruction.

The statewide implementation of ELD policy in practice has yielded various challenges for local educators working in classrooms, schools, districts, and communities. Lacking rigorous preparation or pedagogical support, teachers must maneuver complex classrooms with learners from a multitude of cultural and linguistic backgrounds with various abilities, strengths, and needs. Due to this complexity, leaders struggle to staff ELD classrooms, often resulting in a revolving door of underprepared teachers. Students see themselves as being in the “stupid class,” as they fall behind their peers in math, science, and social studies in the push for English proficiency.

Whether a first-year teacher or an administrator with decades of experience, local educators struggle with how to ameliorate this complex situation. Policymakers and state administrators believe in the ELD model, and as such provide staunch compliance measures to ensure rigid implementation of instructional mandates. As local educators and other stakeholders encounter the on-the-ground repercussions in their daily work, they make decisions to maneuver policy in practice to effectively reach and teach ELs.

This book analyzes the complexities of restrictive language policy in practice. Conducted five years after the shift to ELD instruction, this qualitative study investigates how Arizona teachers, school and district leaders, university teacher educators, state administrators and legislators, and community leaders engage in daily practice to navigate the most restrictive language policy mandates in the United States. Overall, the book demonstrates that even in the most restrictive policy settings, educators and other stakeholders have the agency and ability to impact how policy plays out in practice and influence the education of ELs, so that all learners may one day fondly recall their schooling experiences.

Dr. Amy J. Heineke, Associate Professor of Education, Loyola University Chicago, School of Education
Email: aheineke@luc.edu
Twitter: @DrAJHeineke
Linkedin: amyheineke

arizona-booksIf you would like more information about this title, please contact Amy using the contact details above or see our website.

You might also be interested in a couple of our other titles: Language Policy Processes and Consequences edited by Sarah Catherine K. Moore and Implementing Educational Language Policy in Arizona edited by M. Beatriz Arias and Christian Faltis.


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