Volleyball – An Ethnographic Drama

We recently published Volleyball – An Ethnographic Drama by Adrian Blackledge and Angela Creese. In this post, the authors introduce their uniquely-presented research.

Volleyball – An Ethnographic Drama is made out of selected audio-recordings, video-recordings, field notes, interviews, summaries and vignettes. It is also made out of imagination. The drama is not naturalistic. In Act I, unable to keep the attention of a government minister, three academic researchers burst into passionate, rhythmic discourse about the game of volleyball. Throughout, the researchers speak directly to the audience, removing the ‘fourth wall’ which conventionally separates stage and audience. Dance is introduced into the drama, as the volleyball coach and players briefly become characters in a Broadway musical chorus line, or a ballet company. The researchers speak aloud their observational field notes, which in performance are spoken stage directions, pre-empting the actions of the players. At times, the researchers speak simultaneously with the character of the player or coach they are observing, completing their lines. They also synchronise their movements with the actions of players and coach.

Simultaneous action and speech show the researchers showing the action to the audience. The play script is principally to be performed rather than read. It is not a literal or realistic account of ethnographic research conducted in the sports hall with the volleyball team. It is an artistic means of making visible the social practice of ordinary life, and revealing it to the audience. By creating an artistic representation of social action, ethnographic drama intensifies and clarifies observed experience. It is here that drama has rich potential for the future of ethnographic research.

This is theatre which removes the illusion of the audience as the unseen spectator at an event that is really taking place. The presence of the researchers on stage emphasises that the audience is being shown aspects of human relationships and practices, and enables the audience to take a critical position in relation to them. In considering the most appropriate means of showing the multifaceted social action of a volleyball team, we saw that ethnographic drama offers a way of showing that can do more than the conventional research monograph. Ethnographic drama seems to offer a creative and critical means of representing the outcomes of ethnographic research.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like the authors’ previous books: Voices of a City Market and Interpretations – An Ethnographic Drama.

How Can Educators Promote School Success for Immigrant-Background Multilingual Learners?

We recently published Rethinking the Education of Multilingual Learners by Jim Cummins. In this post the author looks at how best to promote educational success among immigrant-background students.

Population mobility is at an all-time high in human history. The movement of people across national boundaries has resulted in significant increases in linguistic, cultural, ‘racial’, and religious diversity among school populations in countries around the world. Many of these students, whether born in the host country (second generation) or outside the host country (first generation) are experiencing academic difficulties according to multiple large-scale studies carried out over the past 20+ years by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Unfortunately, despite an abundance of research data on the nature and scope of underachievement, there is still no consensus among policymakers, educators, and researchers about which instructional practices will be effective in reversing the academic difficulties experienced by immigrant-background students.

In my recent book Rethinking the Education of Multilingual Learners, I proposed a framework that identified a series of evidence-based instructional strategies that educators, individually and collectively, could pursue to promote educational success among immigrant-background students. A first step in rethinking these issues was to ask the obvious question: ‘Which groups or categories of students are underachieving in our schools’? If we exclude students with special educational needs, international research identifies three groups that experience educational disadvantage: (a) students whose home language (L1) is different from the language of school instruction, (b) students from low socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds and (c) students from communities that have been margin­alised or excluded from educational and social opportunities because of discrimination in the wider society. Not surprisingly, students who fall into all three categories experience the most persistent educational disadvantage.

The relevance of this for educational policies and instructional practices is that teachers, individually and collectively, must go beyond simply linguistic support and respond also to the constriction of students’ opportunities to learn brought about by economic exclusion and societal discrimination. Unfortunately, however, no consensus has emerged among researchers or educators about how schools can ‘push back’ against the societal conditions that give rise to ‘opportunity gaps’ associated with poverty and racism.

With respect to socioeconomic disadvantage, the OECD research suggests that schools could push back about one-third of the negative effects of low-SES if they could maximize students’ access to print and engagement with reading from an early age. For more than 20 years, the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) has documented strong relationships between reading engagement and reading achievement, but unfortunately, these findings have been largely ignored by policymakers, and even by the OECD itself.

Schools can also counteract the effects of racism and other forms of discrimination by implementing identity-affirming instruction focused on decolonizing curriculum and connecting instruction to students’ lives and the funds of knowledge of their communities. The essence of this instruction is that it challenges coercive relations of power operating in schools and society.

Additionally, language support should include not just scaffolding of L2 instruction but also engaging students’ multilingual resources and reinforcing their awareness of how academic language (ideally both L1 and L2) works across the curriculum.

These whole-school instructional directions are not just ‘theoretical’ – they are derived from inspirational instructional initiatives implemented in countries around the world. These initiatives reflect teachers’ role as knowledge generators working collaboratively with university-based researchers both to promote identities of competence and confidence among multilingual students and to enable them to use language powerfully to support their learning, and ultimately make a difference in their worlds.

An Integrated Approach to Testing and Assessment

This month we published Multilingual Testing and Assessment by Gessica De Angelis. In this post the author explains what inspired the book.

Most education systems around the world have dealt with the problem of accommodating immigrant children into their classrooms and teaching academic content using languages that children do not speak or speak very little. The challenge becomes even greater when immigrant children live in multilingual communities and attend bilingual or trilingual programs, as teachers must find appropriate ways of introducing content in different languages, and children are asked to learn several languages from an early age.

Although immigration has helped bring to light many issues related to testing and assessment in school settings, and particularly in multilingual school settings, immigrants are not the only multilinguals for whom testing and assessment practices need to be improved. Having observed assessment processes in multilingual contexts for many years, I have found that multilingual language minority students are often invisible subjects, particularly on standardized tests which are not set up to accommodate their language backgrounds nor exposure to different languages in the living community. It is my work with these populations that led me to look into multilingual testing and assessment further and ultimately inspired this book.

In recent years, I have worked on a project that focused on how multilingual children in primary and lower secondary school develop narrative skills in three languages of instruction. The project took place in Ladin trilingual schools of South Tyrol, Italy. As the students in the schools were either of immigrant origin or local minority language children, this work led me to reconsider the boundaries posed by monolingual testing practices typically found in standardized tests, as well as those of holistic approaches to testing and assessment, which call for the inclusion of all students’ languages in testing. Because none of these approaches seemed inclusive enough for the population of students I was working with, I began to think of alternative ways of conceptualising testing and assessment that would be better suited to a broader range of multilinguals. This led me to propose the integrated approach to testing and assessment which is presented in the book – an approach that shifts the focus from how students use language in everyday communication to who the students are, what their language background is, and where they live.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Assessment for Learning in Primary Language Learning and Teaching by Maria Britton.

How Meanings are Made and Why They Matter

This month we published Transmodal Communications edited by Margaret R. Hawkins. In this post the editor introduces the main concepts covered in the book.

As applied linguists, we explore how language works in the world.  More recently, a number of us attend to languaging – seeing ‘language’ not a named, monolithic entity, but rather as a mobile, fluid resource leveraged in communication (in tandem with many other resources), replete with intentions, actions and effects. Central to the work of many is semiotics, or how meanings are made, which expands a focus on the act of leveraging resources to create (or assemble) messages to include the ‘arc of communication’ – or the ways in which messages are assembled, travel across time and space, and are received, interpreted and negotiated interactionally. While these aspects are always present in communication, they are perhaps especially prevalent (and generally less well attended to) in our current era of globalization, where messages move with increasing frequency and speed, through ever-changing modes and media, and across greater distances and diversities of people.

A central premise of this book is that communications matter, because they are the foundation of relations between people. And, as is perhaps obvious at the moment, relations between people (both translocal and transglobal) are rife with mistrust, misunderstanding and bias. We are all positioned by and within every communicative act – at both small and large scales – based on representations and interpretations, who interactants perceive themselves and others to be, and how these play out in situated interactions. All of these interactional components are in part shaped by our histories and trajectories, and our communicative means and modes, as well as by outside forces and ideologies that ascribe differential values to varied ways of knowing, being, believing, inter/acting, and so on. We (all contributing authors) start from a social justice stance – that communications and research across diversity must have the goal of fostering equitable and positive relations. We call this critical cosmopolitanism – we work to foster stances of openness, inquiry and care toward others both near and far.

Two additional concepts that this new book introduces (in addition to critical cosmopolitanism) are transmodalities and transpositioning. Transmodalities, at core, provides a framework for exploring and understanding communications among diverse interlocutors, including in (although not limited to) digital environments. It is comprised of five ‘complexities’, attending to the ways that human and material resources are fully entangled in communication; the above-mentioned arc of communication; and the centrality of both culture and context (including place and space) and of power and positioning in the construction of meanings. It is a conceptual structure that sees meaning-making as the totality of ever-shifting signs and symbols, fully entangled with people and things, moving across time and space, and continuously re-interpreted within and across multiple contexts. Each thing/person/sign/context is imbued with its own history and trajectory that shape what it is and means. We posit that each entity is caught up in these movements and mobilities, and is continuously positioned and re-positioned vis-à-vis one another. This is transpositioning, and its role in communications and relations is vital from a social justice perspective.

The book is comprised of multiple chapters that explore semiotics and relations through the lenses of critical cosmopolitanism and transmodalities across a range of domains, illustrating transpositioning in action and its implications. Chapter authors are part of a global research team, live in disparate geographic locations, and are connected in various ways to a project (Global Storybridges) that connects youth in sites across the globe to digitally share and discuss their lives and communities through videos and chats. While the first chapter lays the conceptual groundwork, each chapter thereafter (except the coda) utilizes different theoretical framings and ethnographically-informed exploratory approaches to consider data from the project – both site-specific and transglobal – to examine, at micro- and macro-levels, what exactly constitutes and impacts meaning-making, emerging notions of self and others, and the construction of relations among youth, among youth and adults, and among researchers. In this volume we demonstrate both how we might come to know and why it matters.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Figures of Interpretation edited by B.A.S.S. Meier-Lorente-Muth-Duchêne.

Three Myths About Technology Use in Africa

We recently published Rethinking Language Use in Digital Africa edited by Leketi Makalela and Goodith White. In this post Leketi busts three myths about technology use in Africa.

The use of technology in Africa is often treated with suspicion and doubt especially when it comes to its impact on language development.

Myth number 1: Technology will kill African languages

Due to the history of marginalization of African languages at various stages of colonialism, anything that is perceived as coming from the West is treated with caution surrounded by belief systems about the unknown. Well, it makes sense. But is digital technology all that bad that it will kill African languages? There is a public opinion that the more technology is used, the more leverage it will give to the already dominant languages such as English and French. In this way, the local languages will be decimated due to their low presence in communication systems mediated via technologies.

But if we pause and think about the current status quo, there is very little hope that the governments are willing or have resources to place these languages in high domains of African lives. Languages of parliament, school and the media have remained Westo-phone for a period of more than 50 years. The greatest challenge for these countries has been the legacy of divide and conquer through “misinvention” of many languages. In this book, we show that languages keep evolving, mirroring society. Since digital technology has become a new normal in the 21st century, it is important that African languages adapt and digitize to overcome the stigmas associated with them. Through their use in technology they cross traditional boundaries created in the past and reflect the multilingual competence that their users have. Where African governments have failed, digital technology is able to succeed – to decolonize boundaries and to provide room for innovation based on local cultural competence.

Myth number 2: Africa isn’t plugged in technologically

The economic divide between the Global North and Global South is often cited as critical in future developments that are enabled by digital technology. It is often believed that most countries in the global South will be left behind because they are not plugged into technology with predictions that are pessimistic about the competitiveness of Africans in the global scene. This is only one side of the coin.

Here is a fact worth knowing. Mobile phone subscriptions and use are higher in Africa than other parts of the world. Africans are leading the world in leveraging cell phones to enhance everyday life. Money transfers using mobile technology called M-Pesa in Kenya, USSD in Nigeria are now more common than cash. Jamila Abass is using cellular technology to empower small-scale farmers in Kenya. The examples of innovation via cellular phones are countless. So in the end, it comes down to using what we have!

Myth number 3: Africa is lacking technological innovation

One of the strongly held misconceptions about technology in Africa is the idea that it is behind the rest of the world, lacking in innovative technology. While it is true that people in some African countries lack access to education and resources, but as we have shown above, they make the most of what they have. Consider the following African technological inventions as examples:

Traffic-Regulating Robots. Thérèse Izay from Congo-Kinshasa invented humanoid traffic robots to regulate traffic in Kinshasa. The robots function as a traffic light combined with a crossing guard. In March 2015, there were five robots regulating traffic in Kinshasa.

Drone in Nigeria. In December of 2013, Nigeria’s first unmanned aerial vehicle, commonly referred to as a drone called ‘Gulma’ (Gossip), was created at the Nigerian Air Force Institute of Science & Technology. It can fly nonstop at 3,000 feet for nearly four hours. This is a significant accomplishment because it was Nigeria’s first indigenous drone flight.

In brief, Africans are undoubtedly resourceful and innovative. This book is precisely about this. It couches an uncommon perspective of hope and debunks the often untested myths about Africa and language use in the digital era. In the book we use new concepts such as Digital African Multilingualism (DAM) to ‘bring home’ new and innovative ways of thinking about multilingualism based on the African cultural competence and the one re-dressing imbalances that were created over a long period of linguistic colonization. So, we should mind the language of talking about technology in Africa. Undoubtedly, where there has been epic failure in the post-colonial era, technology offers a panacea for leapfrogging Africa into a developed zone. This is a new book drawing this line.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Creating Digital Literacy Spaces for Multilingual Writers by Joel Bloch.

Decolonising Multilingualism in Africa

This month we published Decolonising Multilingualism in Africa by Finex Ndhlovu and Leketi Makalela. In this post the authors introduce the book.

It is often easy to perceive common sense assumptions about the nature and use of language in society as something of a natural kind – that it has always been the way it is. Yet, as we have come to know, we live in a world that has been invented or created following particular ideologies, belief systems and ways of knowing. Languages; our understandings of language diversity (multilingualism) and their practical applications in social and educational policy settings are not immune from ideological habits and practices that are traceable to the Euro-modernist colonial order of the world.

In Decolonising Multilingualism in Africa, we interrogate the problematic nature of common sense assumptions about languages and language diversity. We draw on data from the Global South, and specifically from diverse African communities, to illustrate the particular point about how popular and dominant understandings of multilingualism are tied to the colonial project of categorising languages and identities for the purposes of domination, control and the exercising of power. The packing of languages – through such instruments as national language policies – in a hierarchical order: minority vs major; official vs non-official; standard vs non-standard and so forth, is symptomatic of this logic of what we call global coloniality of language.

In this book, we present alternative approaches for re-imagining multilingualism. We introduce a promising avenue for unsettling colonial ways of knowing by taking into account diverse local knowledges about language and what living with multiple languages means for ordinary people in their everyday lives.

The book emphasises the importance of looking at multilingualism from the perspective of ‘languages of the people’ (the real everyday language practices of real people). This is a counter-narrative to the dominant understanding of language diversity that puts emphasis on ‘languages of the state’ (those countable language-things that were co-constructed with the modern nation-state). We re-visit the precolonial archive and draw attention to previously undocumented and often ignored knowledge traditions about language diversity, what we call ‘socially realistic multilingualism’.

Our goal is to enrich conversations about language diversity among both academic and non-academic communities; and to inform policy frameworks in such domains as language and literacy education, social service provision, intercultural dialogues, immigration and citizenship, and related areas where language is implicated. The book seeks to inspire an audience from differing social, cultural, political and ideological backgrounds to think outside the box; to appreciate that there are diverse ways of knowing about languages and multilingualism. Some such traditions of knowing, particularly those from the Global South, are currently marginalised and not present in mainstream conversations about what it means to live life and live it well with multiple language resources.

The book joins contemporary conversations on this topic in arguing that Southern ways of knowing are equally valid and legitimate. It is important for us to learn in partnership with the subaltern communities of the Global South and to re-centre their stories in our efforts to co-create alternative approaches to valuation of knowledge.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Rethinking Language Use in Digital Africa edited by Leketi Makalela and Goodith White.

Responding to Cries for Help from Teachers in Need of Support in Linguistically and Culturally Diverse Classrooms

We recently published Migration, Multilingualism and Education edited by Latisha Mary, Ann-Birte Krüger and Andrea S. Young. In this post Latisha explains the inspiration behind the book.

I recently listened to a number of teacher education students presenting their research projects conducted in linguistically diverse classrooms. Even though national curriculum documentation now specifically addresses the question of teaching in linguistically and culturally diverse classrooms, teachers are still struggling with this complex challenge. I was particularly struck by the intensity with which these students, in their final year of teacher education, were still sending out a clear ‘cry for help’: more information, more training and more support were needed if they were to be able to provide the inclusive classrooms in which their bi- and plurilingual pupils could thrive. Even more striking is that this is the same cry we have increasingly been hearing from practicing teachers, echoed by colleagues around the world as migration, displacement and mobility among families continue to increase. According to the OECD Education GPS approximately 5 million permanent migrants entered OECD countries in 2016. In addition, these statistics show that 13% of school pupils in 2018 were from a migrant background, which represents a 10% increase from 2009.

Recent research in a variety of contexts continues to show that teachers of all disciplines frequently lack the knowledge and pedagogical strategies to enable them, on the one hand, to take into account the linguistic and cultural diversity of learners and, on the other, to support the child, adolescent or young adult in her/his plurilingual development. The volume Migration, Multilingualism and Education, co-edited with my colleagues Ann-Birte Krüger and Andrea Young, emerged out of our desire to collectively and critically reflect on the field of inclusive teaching and learning in a variety of migration contexts from pre-school to university whilst focusing on the needs of both students and practicing teachers. Over the years, pre-service and in-service teachers have continually stressed upon us the need for teacher educators to link theory to practice, explicitly relating it to the lived realities of the classroom and to teachers’ everyday concerns.

We have endeavoured to meet these needs in this volume by including the voices of 14 experienced professionals working in multilingual contexts. Placed at the end of each chapter, these individual personal perspectives allow practitioners from diverse contexts around the world to relate their everyday experiences to the theoretical perspectives and empirical research presented in the preceding chapter. It is our hope that this approach will provide vivid examples of innovative practices, open doors to discussion and encourage reflection around such key questions as ‘how can I provide learning support to children whose home language I do not speak’?, ‘which language should I encourage parents to use at home’?, ‘what strategies have proven effective in fostering collaboration with parents who speak another language?’ or ‘how can educators empower multilingual learners in diverse migration contexts?’. These practical testimonies in conjunction with the chapters in the book are our way of endorsing the mantra, initially proposed by Jim Cummins, which has continued to inspire us over the years: Actuality implies possibility.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Multilingual Literacy edited by Esther Odilia Breuer, Eva Lindgren, Anat Stavans and Elke Van Steendam.

Disability, Language and Mothering

This month we published (M)othering Labeled Children by María Cioè-Peña. In this post the author explains the inspiration behind the book.

I never sought to study mothers. To be honest, mothers were never really a part of my professional circle. Yes, I worked with women who were mothers and I also engaged with my students’ mothers, but I rarely saw mothers as an asset; truth be told, I probably didn’t really see them at all. I remember many of my former students but very few of their mothers – the ones I do remember often tended to be the “squeaky wheel” mothers – the ones who came across as “irrational” and “demanding”.  As an educator, I didn’t really think about mothers, not the way I do now.

To be clear, I thought about parents. As a special education teacher, I had been trained to communicate with parents, to consider their emotional capacities, particularly around disability diagnosis or program placements, as well as their education level when communicating information and interacting with them. I was taught to be a co-conspirator, always working with parents towards more inclusive placements. As a bilingual educator I was trained to be culturally responsive and to consider parents’ cultural identity and language practices when communicating. All of this was under the guise of compliance and rarely under the umbrella of collaborative partnerships. After all, I had been trained to believe that culturally and linguistically diverse families needed teachers like me to advocate for them.

My relationship with parents in many ways took on similar characteristics to my relationships with children in special education – I was a helper to the helpless, a voice for the voiceless, an advocate for the powerless. Thus, my relationship to parents took on the same deficit framing that plagues emergent bilinguals and students labeled as dis/abled. So it makes perfect sense that parents, especially mothers, were outside of the scope of my inquiries. This is not to say that I did not have beautiful and meaningful relationships with mothers. On the contrary, I credit those relationships with my growth both as an educator and as a researcher, but at the time I did not recognize them as a part of my practice, rather I saw them as another feather on my cap; another thing that I did that made me great.

I was really interested in studying the ways in which my teacher training had failed me. I recognized that my teacher training had been an amalgamation of parts (special education training with a bilingual extension or a bilingual education training with a special education extension) and as such had failed to prepare me, and others like me, for the unique challenges that a bilingual special education teacher might encounter. It wasn’t until I did a pilot study centered on teachers that a participant made a claim that shifted my whole perspective. When speaking about changes that had arisen as a result of special education reforms in NYC, changes that encouraged Emergent Bilinguals Labeled As Disableds’ (EBLAD) placement in monolingual English Inclusive Co-Teaching (ICT) classrooms over bilingual self-contained special education settings, she commented that she felt badly for the mothers because they had no say in this transition. The bilingual special education classrooms were closed and students were placed in monolingual ICT classes, and while the children could adjust, the mothers had lost a huge connection to their children’s learning. While in the bilingual special education setting they could encounter a teacher who spoke their home language – that was not true in the monolingual ICT classes.

That comment sat and rattled around my head for weeks and months, until finally I realized that the problem didn’t lie in my training. It originated from the fact that these children were being treated as the sum of their classifications: English language learners, students with disabilities, culturally and linguistically diverse, Latinx, etc. My training was a hodgepodge of programs because the students were being viewed as the sum of their parts rather than as whole. Thus, in order to foreground children as whole, I needed to step out of the classroom and into the home. I needed to center their foremost teacher: their mothers. They are the ones who saw their children as whole first. They are the ones who rooted their children’s differences in a disabilities studies perspective. They are the ones who saw their children’s bilingualism as a linguistic human right central to survival not just capitalism. In order to help EBLADs, I first needed to center mothers’ expertise and experiences.

This book, (M)othering Labeled Children, does just that. It centers mothers, their successes, their struggles (inside and outside of their children’s schooling), their ideologies on disability, language and mothering. In order to see children as whole, we need to see their parents, especially their mothers, as whole first. In doing this work, I have come to better understand myself as a teacher and as a mother. In these women’s testimonios I see my mother, my aunt, and myself. I hope that in reading this book others will see the complexity that is motherhood and the ways in which schools can make this work both easier and significantly more difficult. I hope that this book becomes a step towards a more inclusive school model.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Bilingualism for All? edited by Nelson Flores, Amelia Tseng and Nicholas Subtirelu.

How are Pre-service Teachers Being Prepared to Work in Multilingual Contexts?

This month we published Preparing Teachers to Work with Multilingual Learners, edited by Meike Wernicke, Svenja Hammer, Antje Hansen and Tobias Schroedler. In this post the editors discuss the project that inspired the volume as well as the research initiatives currently emerging from the project. 

Among the many challenges, the current COVID-19 global pandemic has brought to light a heightened need to take into account the reality of language diversity in our societies, especially in a time of crisis. Conveying rapidly changing information related to public health cannot only happen in the dominant or official language. Local communities require reliable, consistent access to relevant information in the languages they use, including minoritized languages that have historically been devalued and continue to be marginalized across many regions of the world. This sense of urgency is also a reality in educational contexts, where teachers are confronting an ever wider range of culturally and linguistically diverse students in their classrooms. This past year, with repeated lockdowns making home-schooling and online learning and teaching the only options, the importance of home languages has become all the more salient as teachers are navigating daily communication with students and their parents. An ever-important question that both pre-pandemic and the current realities raise is, “how are pre-service teachers being prepared to work in multilingual contexts?”

This edited volume responds to exactly this question. The chapters presented here discuss in detail the kinds of multilingual approaches that are being developed in teacher education programs and professional learning in countries across Europe and North America, in response to the national and regional language-in-education policies implemented over the past several decades.

What makes this volume unique is that it is not merely a collection of research studies centered on a common theme. Rather, the volume is the culmination of an international research project initiated at the University of Hamburg in Germany in 2018, bringing together emerging researchers from Canada, Croatia, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Russia, Sweden and the United States for the purpose of exploring key approaches to linguistic diversity in current pre-service teacher education. Two webinars and a face-to-face workshop in Hamburg resulted in an exceptionally rich exchange of ideas on multilingualism, producing not only a much-needed overview of different international perspectives on multilingual teacher preparation, but also providing an opportunity for project participants to take a step back from their own educational setting and to situate their practices and perspectives within a larger context.

Notably, the chapters highlight the complexity of each educational context and the role that history, language policies, and institutional and programmatic priorities play in the development and implementation of a multilingual focus in teacher education. Of particular interest are the country-specific issues that have evolved due to the history and ongoing presence of multiple languages in educational contexts. The authors who have contributed to the volume take a critical view of how multilingualism itself is conceptualized within and across these settings, while considering not only migrant-background learners but also students from Indigenous, autochthonous and heritage language backgrounds, or speaking minoritized regional varieties. Overall, the book highlights the positive and valuable impact that explicit instruction on theories of multilingualism, pedagogies in multilingual classrooms, and lived realities of multilingual children can have on beliefs and practices of pre-service teachers.

To date, the MultiTEd project has already led to further collaborations for a number of the researchers in their respective contexts. For example, the book has prompted countrywide discussions among teacher educators, practitioners and researchers in Canada with an emphasis on “Centering multilingual learners in teacher education.” A Germany-Sweden collaboration is exploring pre-service teachers’ beliefs about multilingualism in different national settings while research partnerships between Italy, Germany and Estonia are working to expand cooperation in teacher education and are focused on inclusive linguistic practices and the promotion of social equity in educational settings through translanguaging pedagogies. Research extending from the study described in the US context is currently investigating multilingual, inclusive approaches in remote contexts, including online instruction during the pandemic and in teacher education. In response to the ideological and structural challenges highlighted by students and teachers in this research, the group is now exploring advocacy efforts to address state-level education policies as they relate to languages in the classroom. The MultiTEd project also underpins work in Finland connected with the research alliance FORTHEM Multilingualism in School and Higher Education. Moreover, it has initiated further international cooperation to commonly analyze the role of multilingualism in teacher education in Austria as well as South Africa. And not only is the volume providing a useful comparison for ongoing empirical investigations about teachers attitudes toward multilingualism or the volume’s contributors, the chapters are also being built into future research projects, seminars, and teacher education courses. In that regard, the authors and editors are happy to share their experiences and collaborate with interested scholars to further explore the subject in other national or regional contexts.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Preparing Teachers to Teach English as an International Language edited by Aya Matsuda.

What is ‘Ultralingualism’?

This month we published The Performance of Multilingual and ‘Ultralingual’ Devotional Practices by Young British Muslims by Andrey Rosowsky. In this post the author explains the concept of ‘ultralingualism’, which is central to his book.

One of the words in the title of my book may be unfamiliar – ultralingual. And I could be accused perhaps of introducing a new term unnecessarily. And, moreover, without a significant degree of academic consensus. Yet, as a word, and as a concept, it is born out of nearly a quarter century of research which has focused, primarily, on what I would now call ‘ultralingual’ practices. My research into language practices in, primarily, minority religious communities, which I originally called ‘liturgical literacies’ (Rosowsky, 2008), regularly came up against the issue of how to account for reading and other language practices (artful recitation, memorisation, singing, for example) which appeared, on the surface, to be divorced from meaning, or from referential meaning to be more precise.

Fishman (1989) famously coined the term ‘religious classical’ to denote language varieties which were exclusively used for liturgical purposes such as Lutheran German, Geez and Ecclesiastical Greek. Such varieties are invariably linguistically distant from the spoken languages of their congregations and so understanding of what is being read or recited is often absent or incomplete. It is this which I am calling ‘ultralingualism’ and is an attempt to capture the experience of, usually, very accurate decoding accompanied by a, sometimes heightened, experience which could be considered spiritual or emotional and which is achieved beyond the words performed – thus ultralingual. However, in more recent and very detailed and useful categorisations of linguistic competences (Blommaert & Backus, 2012), there is still no obvious place for the near universal practice of ultralingualism. If it isn’t ‘full’ competence, then is it ‘partial’ or ‘minimal’?  Both the latter terms seem inadequate.

And although much of my research has featured ultralingualism in a religious context, there are many other contexts where it appears. Singers in all shapes and sizes often end up being very comfortable singing in an ultralingual way. How many choir members understand the Vulgar Latin of Carmina Burana? I recall a former colleague of mine, Professor Greg Brooks, working in east Africa in the 1960s, relating to me how he would often be asked to read out letters in Kikuyu (written in Roman script) to his Kikuyu speaking caretaker whilst not understanding the language himself. This could be called another form of ultralingualism, albeit a more prosaic one.

This book offers a fresh look at language practices of young British Muslims and provides ample support for ultralingualism as a useful term to account for such practices.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Language Maintenance, Revival and Shift in the Sociology of Religion edited by Rajeshwari Vijay Pandharipande, Maya Khemlani David and Miriam Eisenstein Ebsworth.