Translanguaging: from a little acorn a mighty oak grows

26 May 2017

This month we published New Perspectives on Translanguaging and Education edited by BethAnne Paulsrud, Jenny Rosén, Boglárka Straszer and Åsa Wedin. In this post the editors explain how the book came about and introduce us to the metaphor of the “translanguaging tree”.

Research on translanguaging has often been centred in superdiverse cities and urban spaces. Thus, Dalarna University in Falun, Sweden, may not have come to mind first when exploring new research in the dynamic field of translanguaging as theory and pedagogy ‒ until now! Dalarna University has proven to be the springboard for a collection of innovative international research on translanguaging. How did this happen?

Let us back up a bit! The four of us editors have all been teaching and researching language in education in the Swedish context for many years, focusing on both policy and practice. With approximately 20% of Sweden’s population comprised of immigrants and at least 140 languages spoken by pupils in the compulsory school system, language use in and out of educational contexts is a stimulating field. Our research led us naturally to the concept of translanguaging.

The Translanguaging conference at Dalarna University

Translanguaging offered a new way to explore language ideologies, policies, and processes. After a study visit by Åsa to Canada, where she spent time with Jim Cummins and Thornwood Primary School in Mississauga, the idea of a small workshop on translanguaging grew. While we first imagined that perhaps a dozen or so Swedish researchers would join us in Falun, we soon realized that the thirst for discussing translanguaging as a theoretical and pedagogical concept was great. That informal workshop developed into an international conference, “Translanguaging – practices, skills and pedagogy”, with more than 150 researchers from around 20 countries as well as numerous in-service teachers. Bryn Jones, in his presentation at the conference, aptly described the spread of translanguaging as a useful concept in education research with the metaphor “from a little acorn a mighty oak grows”.

The editors at a writing workshop

The metaphor of the acorn even describes the momentum which followed the conference in Falun. Inspired by the amazing research taking place in different contexts, we knew that a volume was needed to share this surge in the field. With a fantastic group of scholars from seven countries, the volume took shape in record time. For us editors, the period of time from April, 2015, to the present will always be remembered as a blur of texts to read, long editor meetings, contact with fantastic authors spread across the world, and appreciation of the great efforts made by everyone involved in the book. A highlight was a two-day writing workshop in the wintry countryside outside of Stockholm, where all the authors gathered for two days of peer-reviewing and mingling.

Many branches of the ever-growing ‘translanguaging tree’ are represented in our volume. Here are just a few:

  • agency
  • language ideology
  • language policy
  • social justice
  • translanguaging space
  • transliteracy
  • critical views on translanguaging
  • young learners to young adults
  • sign languages
  • national minority languages

Organizing a conference on translanguaging in the small town of Falun in Sweden highlights the fact that linguistic and cultural diversity is part of everyday lives in most places in the world. With the publication of this timely collection, we have made one contribution to tending the flourishing ‘translanguaging tree.’ We hope that the field will continue to thrive, and that future research will benefit from this first volume dedicated to new perspectives of translanguaging in education.

For more information about this book, please see our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like Translanguaging in Higher Education edited by Catherine M. Mazak and Kevin S. Carroll.


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.


Exploring the US Language Flagship Program

8 November 2016

This month we published Exploring the US Language Flagship Program edited by Dianna Murphy and Karen Evans-Romaine. In this post, the editors explain how the book came together.

Exploring the US Language Flagship ProgramThis book is the result of years of collaboration among a community of language educators and researchers who responded to a call by The Language Flagship, a federal program of the National Security Education Program in the US Department of Defense, to create new pathways for US undergraduate students in any specialization to reach a professional level of competence in a second language by graduation. Our own experience with the Language Flagship began in 2010, when we received a federal grant to establish an undergraduate Russian Flagship Program at our university, the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Establishing that program involved working across traditional disciplinary and institutional boundaries to develop new advanced courses and new curricular models, expand co-curricular language and culture learning opportunities on campus and overseas, better coordinate articulated programs of domestic and overseas study, and enhance assessment practices to provide students with ongoing feedback on their developing proficiency in Russian. Unlike more traditionally designed US undergraduate majors that are based on the completion of a sequence of required and elective courses, our Russian Flagship Program is oriented to the student’s achievement of proficiency-based targets and on the completion of a key set of learning experiences, culminating in a capstone year overseas that includes intensive advanced coursework and a professional overseas internship.

We understood that in addition to the resources on our home campus, we could greatly benefit from tapping into the experiences and expertise of colleagues in Russian at the three US colleges and universities with existing Russian Flagship Programs (Bryn Mawr College, Portland State University, and the University of California, Los Angeles); with the American Councils for International Education, which administers Russian overseas programs for all Russian Flagship programs; and with overseas host universities: Saint Petersburg State University (2010-13) in Saint Petersburg, Russia, and Al-Farabi Kazakh National University (2014-present), in Almaty, Kazakhstan. We learned a great deal from these colleagues and found the opportunity to collaborate across institutions to be exhilarating. As time went on, our community grew to include faculty and staff with Language Flagship programs in other languages as well: the federal Language Flagship initiative currently supports undergraduate Flagship programs in Arabic, Chinese, Hindi and Urdu, Korean, Persian, Portuguese, Swahili, and Turkish (languages that are considered to be critical to US national security and competitiveness). These colleagues are now among those we turn to for ideas on curricular innovation and for research on advanced language learning in the context of US undergraduate education.

Editing this book has been our greatest learning experience so far. Contributors to the book are directors or other scholars affiliated with Language Flagship programs in many different languages and from many different colleges and universities, as well as from the US government. Their contributions to the volume include research-based studies as well as descriptions of instructional practice, on topics ranging from the genesis of this federal program to models for innovative program, course, and co-curricular design; strategies to promote learner independence; and research on heritage language learners, oral proficiency development in telecollaborative learning, and alumni perceptions of the impact of the program. The contributions to the book are from a variety of languages and perspectives, but reflect shared goals: to provide new opportunities for US undergraduates to reach a level of proficiency in the language and to develop advanced cultural knowledge and abilities that will enable them to use the language in their chosen profession. This book was the first volume on the relatively young US Language Flagship Program. We know that it won’t be the last!

Dianna Murphy, University of Wisconsin-Madison, diannamurphy@wisc.edu
Karen Evans-Romaine, University of Wisconsin-Madison, evansromaine@wisc.edu

For further information on the book please contact the authors at the addresses above or see our website.


The Status of English in Bosnia and Herzegovina

31 July 2016

This month we published The Status of English in Bosnia and Herzegovina edited by Louisa Buckingham which explores how English learning and teaching changed in Bosnia and Herzegovina following the break up of former Yugoslavia. In this post, Louisa explains how the book came together.

The Status of English in Bosnia and HerzegovinaThis collection of 13 chapters traces the status of foreign languages, in particular English, and the conditions in which foreign languages were learned in the changing socio-political contexts of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) from the Yugoslav era, through the war period (1992-1995), and continuing to the present day. The book was timed to appear shortly after the 20th anniversary of the signing of Dayton Accords, which marked the end of the independence war in BiH.

With 16 authors contributing, the book is the result of collaboration with academics in BiH over approximately four years. This collaborative relationship reaches back to the early 2000s, when I worked as a lecturer in the newly established Department of English and German at the University of Tuzla in northern Bosnia. Some contributors to this volume were at that time the first generation of students to graduate from this Department. Many students had delayed their studies due to the difficult conditions during the early post-war period, and many worked full-time parallel to their studies as English teachers in state schools or as translators and interpreters for non-governmental organizations. During those years, I was privileged to experience a generation of students who were highly motivated to complete their degree and who brought to their university studies invaluable practical experience related to language teaching and translation/interpreting, together with enviable levels of bilingualism.

The students at that time, and even some lecturers (whether Bosnians or visiting lecturers from Croatia or Serbia) were, in a sense, the bridging generation, in that they had begun (or even completed) their schooling during the Yugoslav era, but had commenced their university studies or their careers during the war or immediate post-war era. Through their studies, the authors articulate the experiences of people who became quiet heroes of the provisional wartime arrangements which ensured the continued functioning of state institutions. Today, these same people have become participants in a comprehensive state-driven reform process which endeavours to align the education and legal system of BiH with European Union requirements. Capturing and recording these lived experiences in an enduring form, and ensuring they became accessible to a broad audience were important objectives for me as editor of this volume. In many cases, this meant working individually with authors as they designed their studies and supplementing the often scant bibliographic resources available in BiH.

The volume also includes three contributors (including myself), who do not originate from the former Yugoslavia. As I explain in the Introduction, we each spent extended periods of our professional lives working in BiH (or the former Yugoslavia). Our contributions bear witness to the diverse range of experiences and the privileged insights we were afforded by virtue of our professional roles.

The book has much to say about social change in countries which have undergone profound political transition. I believe one of the unique strengths of the volume is that the contributors were participants in the realities described and most have chosen to remain in BiH to the present day. Their studies thus provide a critical insider view from the perspective of individuals committed to the social and educational development of BiH in the early 21st century.

Louisa Buckingham l.buckingham@auckland.ac.nz

Language, Identity and Education on the Arabian PeninsulaFor more information about this book, please see our website or contact Louisa at the address above. You might also be interested in Louisa’s other forthcoming volume Language, Identity and Education on the Arabian Peninsula which is due to be published in November.


Language, Immigration and Naturalization

5 April 2016

This month we are publishing Language, Immigration and Naturalization edited by Ariel Loring and Vaidehi Ramanathan. In this post, Ariel introduces the main themes of the book

Language, Immigration and NaturalizationLanguage, immigration, and naturalization – the title of this book in fact – are three topics with a steady influence across both time and space. Historically, language policies and ideologies have affected, and continue to affect, immigration and naturalization laws, immigration quotas, citizenship tests and nationalistic discourse. Geographically, recent world events have ignited impassioned disagreements concerning im(migration) and national borders. Prior research on citizenship has been embedded in numerous fields of inquiry (including applied linguistics, sociology, education, legal studies and policy studies) and often views “citizenship” through its legal definition of “rights and responsibilities.” What characterizes this volume is its holistic consideration of citizenship in terms of access, participation, engagement and culture.

Our edited volume not only considers the everyday legalities of naturalization but also broader identity and sociopolitical concerns. Its chapters are organized into three subsections – Policies, Pedagogies and Discourses – and includes discussions about:

  • The means by which a particular country accepts naturalized citizens
  • The language of citizenship tests and classes
  • The labeling of who is or isn’t a “citizen” or “member” of society
  • The lived experiences of immigrants in bordered areas
  • The depictions of citizenship and immigration in media discourse

The authors pursue these topics from various research backgrounds and in different areas of the world. Collectively, they explore the experiences of immigrants/outsiders as they make a life in their adopted/native country. In addressing these issues, the following three questions come to light:

  • What does the process of becoming a citizen look like?
  • In what ways are people excluded from full participation?
  • How does language position and frame insiders and outsiders?

We, the editors, are drawn to this research because of the universality of immigration and naturalization issues and the debates and policies that ensue. We realize that even those who live far from a national border are still exposed to political language that dehumanizes migrants and fears differences. And those who themselves are descendants of immigrants are able to rationalize the exclusion of new immigrants. As ramifications of citizenship and naturalization are infused in everyday meaning-making and constructions of identity, this volume brings a needed critical and linguistic lens to these topics.

Ariel Loring, University of California, Davis and California State University, Sacramento, USA
afloring@ucdavis.edu

Refugee Resettlement in the United StatesFor more information about this book please see our website or contact the Ariel Loring at the address above. If you found this interesting, you might also like Refugee Resettlement in the United States edited by Emily M. Feuerherm and Vaidehi Ramanathan.


The Widely-Cherished Myths of Language Equality and Language Diversity in Europe

15 March 2016

This month we published Towards Openly Multilingual Policies and Practices by Johanna Laakso, Anneli Sarhimaa, Sia Spiliopoulou Åkermark and Reetta Toivanen. The book explores language policy and use of minority languages in Europe. In this post, the authors discuss the many misconceptions about language diversity in Europe.

Europeans know languages. Being highly educated means speaking many languages, being a well-integrated immigrant means having a good command of the national language. Being a good member of an ethnic minority means mastering both the state language and the ‘ethnic’ language – which, of course, is never subject to discrimination in a democratic European state. On the contrary, lots of taxpayers’ money goes to supporting it.

In brief, Europeans have firm and clear opinions about languages, language learning and language use, about which languages should be promoted, supported, taught, used, or tolerated and in what context. That’s why, from time to time, these issues provoke emotional and heated debates.

Often, the debates reveal that Europeans also firmly believe in linguistic fairness established by the law. It’s true that most European countries have language laws or general legislation concerning the use and promotion of the national language and the protection of minority languages, or at least their non-discrimination. There are even attempts to create general European language policies, which try to implement the Council of Europe’s treaties protecting minorities, their languages and cultures. However, there are also several questions which are seldom asked in the debates. How accepted and empowered do people speaking minority languages feel in Europe? How successful is language-related legislation, after all? How well-informed are citizens and decision-makers about the law and how justified are their firm opinions on language issues?

In brief: Do we really know enough about how well the widely-praised and even legally-established commitments to minorities’ linguistic rights are fulfilled in Europe today?

Picture the following examples – all authentic, by the way:

  • A is a hospital patient with Alzheimer’s disease at an advanced stage who no longer understands what the doctors and nurses are saying. He reacts with nervousness and speaks back to the staff in a language nobody at the hospital understands. It turns out that the hospital staff is not even aware that A’s mother tongue is spoken in their country and that it is a distinct language which is not intelligible to the speakers of the majority language. This is what recurrently happens, for example, to speakers of Karelian in today’s Finland and Finns in today’s Sweden.
  • B is a healthy and lively child, who at the age of five could already read and write fluently in her language. When she is six-and-a-half, her parents take her to a paediatrician for a standard school maturity test. The family comes home with a recommendation to take B to a neurologist because of her low test scores: according to the paediatrician, “B didn’t even seem to understand the questions we asked her”. Things like this happen to members of numerous minorities and migrant groups in Europe all the time.
  • C and D, a young couple, wish to transmit their heritage language to their child. However, their own parents have always spoken the majority language to them: C and D have only learnt their heritage language in childhood contacts with their grandparents. Speaking the heritage language to their own child feels ‘somehow artificial’, it feels ‘like a joke’. And even when relatives and friends praise and enthusiastically support the young family’s decision, nobody can tell them what they should do to make parenting in the heritage language ‘feel right’ and they get no support in the local daycare. This we have heard from Karelian-speaking parents in Finland and Meänkieli-speaking parents in Sweden.
  • During a coffee break, E receives a phone call from her mother. She talks in a low voice in order not to disturb her colleagues. However, it is not the tone that disturbs – her colleagues tell her that speaking a language which the others don’t understand is discriminatory and offensive and is therefore forbidden at all premises of the workplace. Such regulations have been reported, for instance, by Finnish speakers in Sweden and by Hungarian speakers in Austria.
  • F teaches extracurricular heritage language classes in a European city. His pupils come from different schools and backgrounds, and some of them don’t speak the heritage language at home on a regular basis and are not very confident language users. F cannot find really suitable teaching materials for his classes – all available textbooks have been created either for native speakers in a traditional speaker community or for foreign language learners. Although F is a trained teacher, during his education he was never prepared for or confronted with the special needs of a heritage-language learner. This is what teachers of innumerable minority and migrant languages struggle with daily everywhere in Europe.

As the examples above reveal, the reality of how Europeans use and experience their possibilities to use minority languages is much more complicated than the smooth and glossy surface of European language policies and the numerous measures to support language teaching and learning, the proclaimed non-discrimination and the copious lip service paid to ‘multilingualism’ and ‘diversity’ let us believe.

Despite all existing research, the multilingual reality is still not widely known, especially as it concerns the multilingualism of Eastern European and non-Indo-European-speaking minorities or migrant groups. Most notably, laws and policies do not cover all the dimensions of the real, multilingual world and citizens are surprisingly poorly-informed even of the existing laws and institutional arrangements.

Towards Openly Multilingual Policies and PracticesReporting and analysing the results of a large-scale European research project, our new book, Towards Openly Multilingual Policies and Practices, dives under the glossy surface. As the project investigated the forms and prerequisites of multilingualism among twelve very different language-based communities from the Barents Sea coast to the Mediterranean area, the book offers insights into a wide variety of geographical and socio-historical contexts and will, hopefully, make you re-evaluate your own beliefs about the European myth of linguistic equality and fairness.

We invite you to read the book and follow our quest to create a tool for assessing the maintenance of a minority language by way of its speakers’ personal experiences!

Johanna Laakso, Anneli Sarhimaa, Sia Spiliopoulou Åkermark and Reetta Toivanen

For further information about this book please see our website.


Why are multilingual cities so important in today’s globalised world?

27 January 2016

This month we published The Multilingual City edited by Lid King and Lorna Carson which explores the reality of urban multilingualism in a network of cities researched by the the LUCIDE team – part of a European project funded by the European Commission’s Lifelong Learning Programme. In this post, the editors tell us more about multilingual cities and what we can learn from their research.

The Multilingual CityWhy are cities such a useful laboratory for the study of multilingualism?

In many ways, cities are working models of the future, and powerful generators of new ideas on managing and benefiting from new patterns of mobility and diversity. They are places where new policy discourse can be created, where the constraints of national policies and limitations of national discourse may be modified or overcome.

What does the literature on urban studies have to say about multilingualism?

To be honest, not much! While the city has long been a topic of academic, policy and development discourse, and in recent years there has also been significant interest in the potential of the city to resolve social and economic problems, there has also been a persistent underestimation of the importance of linguistic diversity as a catalyst for such creativity and change. This volume seeks to rectify this lack of attention by examining the realities of multilingualism in the eighteen cities represented by the LUCIDE network.

Are there any common themes which might indicate the future for multilingual cities? Or does every city tell a different tale?       

Despite the homogenisation of globalisation, it would appear that diversity is the one striking characteristic of our urban world. The model is not one of ‘the multilingual city’, but of a more complex typology of cities, which are essentially distinct and rooted in particular landscapes. So for many cities, an image as multilingual is seen as highly desirable. Utrecht, for example, presents itself as a multilingual hotspot, and the administration of the city presents this as a positive thing and sign of a better way of life. Other cities, however, downplay their multilingual aspects, some not even recognising the realities of their language diversity.

Yet there are also some common themes which emerge from the cities, despite their economic, demographic and historical differences.

What about the experiences of individual citizens?

Just as authorities choose to promote their city’s image in different ways, so too do individual inhabitants’ reactions to multilingualism differ. Even in the most cosmopolitan cities, not all of the inhabitants share positive and optimistic attitudes. For some, their city is a vibrant, cosmopolitan, creative place where they want to live. For others, it is a more uncomfortable place where the very speed of change has been unsettling rather than inspirational.

The economic crisis has only exacerbated this uncertainty.

How has the political class responded?

In recent years politicians across the spectrum have joined a chorus of concern about the consequences of globalisation and have stressed the need to reaffirm national identities. Many of the accepted liberal consensual views about the value of diversity and the role of the state, particularly in promoting inclusive education, are being called into question. The inability of European leaders to respond to the current influx of refugees is the most vivid and tragic indication of where such negativity could lead.

And what about the future of the multilingual city?

Despite this narrow and inward-looking discourse of politicians, there is an inescapable logic to reality, especially in the more or less democratic and open cities of our network. The strength of urban multilingualism lies in the activities of citizens – in the initiatives and structures which grow up from the ground. These happen because of need and in response to community aspiration. At policy and political level, multilingual vitality will be maintained and will flourish in cities which allow freedom and give support to these communities, rather than seeking to suppress or homogenise growth and diversity. Together, the chapters in our book articulate a rationale for multilingual vitality and for promoting the value and strength of the diverse city.

Linguistic Landscapes titlesFor more information about this book please see our website. If you liked this post, you might also be interested in a couple of our other titles: Ethnography, Superdiversity and Linguistic Landscapes by Jan Blommaert and Linguistic Landscape in the City edited by Elana Shohamy, Eliezer Ben-Rafael and Monica Barni.


How are refugees’ experiences shaped by language and policy?

19 January 2016

In December we published Refugee Resettlement in the United States edited by Emily M. Feuerherm and Vaidehi Ramanathan. In this post, Emily introduces the main themes of the book and examines the discourse of refugee resettlement in the US.

The plight of refugees and asylum seekers has been making headlines for the past couple of years. In the summer of 2014, the unprecedented number of unaccompanied Central American minors crossing the Southern US border reignited the moral panic about ‘illegal’ immigration and the validity of asylum cases. In 2015, images and stories of Syrian refugees fleeing a violent war in their home country was juxtaposed against receiving countries’ attitudes towards this vulnerable, displaced population.

Refugee Resettlement in the United StatesThe US is geographically removed from many of the effects of the wars in the Middle East, and so has seen fewer refugees and asylum seekers from this region than Europe has over the past year. Nevertheless, the recent terrorist attacks in Paris pushed US politicians and policy makers to redouble their concern over borders and migrants, particularly focusing on refugees and asylum seekers from Syria, Yemen and other Middle Eastern countries. Now, politicians are calling for a ban (or at least more stringent background checks) on refugees being accepted from the Middle East, while at the same time there is a surge in raids identifying and deporting Central Americans seeking asylum in the US.

With all of these discourses around refugee resettlement, this volume uncovers and critically analyzes the language, policies and pedagogies that contextualize refugees’ experiences in the US. The volume brings together researchers from several fields within the social and educational sciences with original research on the state of refugees in the US. Although several of the chapters are situated in specific geographical locations, their insights elucidate the contested nature of the language, policies, and pedagogies that position refugees and asylum seekers within (and outside of) our society.

The language around refugeehood is explored in several contexts in this volume: the use of refugee, alien and immigrant in US media compared to the Immigration and Nationality Act (chapter 2); the various ways that the word refugee is appropriated or rejected by populations to which it is ascribed (chapter 3); and the discursive construction of refugees used by organizations responsible for their resettlement (chapter 9). Educational policies are also discussed at many scales: national and state educational policies directed specifically to refugees (chapter 4); higher education policies meant to support refugee background students (chapter 7); and local classroom policies in an elementary school English Language Development class (chapter 8). The chapters on pedagogies of teaching refugee adults highlights the need for building upon refugees’ strengths at the programmatic (chapter 5) and individual levels (chapter 10), as well as critically examining refugees’ “need” for English (chapter 6).

Ramanathan titlesYou can find more information about the book on our website. You might also be interested in Vaidehi’s other books on refugees: Language Policies and (Dis)Citizenship and Language, Immigration and Naturalization.


Urban Diversities and Language Policies in Medium-Sized Linguistic Communities

5 August 2015

In August we are publishing Urban Diversities and Language Policies in Medium-Sized Linguistic Communities edited by Emili Boix-Fuster. Here, Emili explains how he became so interested in the subject of urban diversity.

Having been born and raised in a big city, Barcelona, I’ve always been fascinated by its linguistic diversity, and above all, by the interrelation of this diversity with social inequality. Language, by means of its endless nuances mirrors the distribution of power and solidarity in society. In my city, for example, Catalan and Spanish coexist and compete in all domains in everyday life. My father, one of the first Catalan sociologists, always encouraged me to observe this heterogeneity.

Urban Diversities and Language Policies in Medium-Sized Linguistic CommunitiesMy new book, Urban Diversities and Language Policies in Medium-Sized Linguistic Communities, resonates this initial motivation. I wanted to compare the linguistic landscape of my native city with other urban areas in similar medium-sized linguistic communities. This endeavour has resulted in seven chapters dealing with this intermingling of language in society, namely Brussels (French/Dutch), Vigo (Galician/Spanish), Valencia (Catalan-Valencian/Spanish), Barcelona (Catalan/Spanish), Copenhagen (Danish/English), Helsinki (Finnish/Swedish/English) and Tallinn (Estonian/Russian/English). In all of them a competition takes place not only between the local languages, but also increasingly with the global language, English.

I am convinced that observing and studying linguistic diversity through the lens of cities, allows researchers and citizens alike to understand and improve linguistic coexistence.

9781847698346For more information about this book please see our website. You might also be interested in one of our other titles: Survival and Development of Language Communities edited by F. Xavier Vila.


Language Policy in Higher Education

16 December 2014

English is becoming more and more common as the language of instruction in universities all over the world. However, in many countries efforts are being made to preserve indigenous languages. In this post, F. Xavier Vila and Vanessa Bretxa, the editors of our recent book Language Policy in Higher Education outline the recent debates within language policy that form the basis of their book.

In 2012, the leading Italian public university Politecnico di Milano attracted headlines from all over the world when it announced it would move to all-English instruction. The announcement stirred the growing debate going on all over Europe about the convenience of increasing the role of English as the vehicular language in non-English-speaking countries. One year later, it was France’s turn to discuss the issue of the Franglais row: Is the English language conquering France?, to the extent that the national government had to make a decision about the role of English in French universities. Simultaneously, on the other side of the ocean, in the now economically booming Bolivia, the first promotion of students from the three recently created indigenous universities were preparing their graduation theses neither in Spanish or English, but rather in the indigenous Aymara, Quechua and Guarani languages. Their graduation in August 2014 was welcome as a crucial step in order to promote social cohesion and wealth redistribution and overcome centuries of external and internal colonialism.

What’s going on in the field of language policies in higher education? Once the realm of Latin, in the 19th and 20th centuries universities adopted massively the national and colonial languages following the heyday of the Western nation states. Universities formed the intellectual elites that led the cultural and scientific progress of the last century, and produced the leaders and the cadres that ruled the world. But globalization and the commodification of knowledge are transforming the environment for higher education also in its linguistic dimension. English-medium courses are proliferating all over the world, sometimes due to the genuine desire to attract international talent, partly also as a strategy to obtain resources from abroad. But is the development of English-medium education just part of a more complex story?

Language Policy in Higher EducationIn a context where the major languages are said to be succumbing to the urge of English, what are the prospects of medium-sized languages that have achieved the status of lingua academica to retain it? Will they find a place in the new world of higher education, or will they rather be reduced to the status of mere vernaculars in a near future? And what about those that have still not made it? Is it still sound to spend time and money to raise their status or would it be more adequate to try to content their speakers with a reasonably stable functional distribution of languages? Is it still worth increasing the number of linguae academicae?

These and other related questions are tackled in the volume Language Policy in Higher Education: The Case of Medium-Sized Languages by a team of well-renowned specialists in language policy. Based on the close examination of a number of medium-sized languages from Finland to South Africa and from Israel to Catalonia, the volume compares the trajectories of languages that have made it in higher education and others that didn’t, analyses their current state, and seeks to extract lessons of general applicability. And while their results may be read from different perspectives, one of them seems to be clear: in the era of globalization, there seems to be ample room for multilingualism in academia, but it will probably never be the way it used to be.

Survival and Development of Language CommunitiesFor more information on this book please see our website. You might also be interested in Survival and Development of Language Communities edited by F. Xavier Vila.


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