Crosslinguistic Influence in Multilinguals

20 December 2016

Earlier this month we published Wai Lan Tsang’s book Crosslinguistic Influence in Multilinguals which studies Cantonese, English and French multilinguals in Hong Kong. In this post, Wai Lan tells us how her own experience as a multilingual learner inspired further examination of the influence of other languages on the language being learned. 

The fact is that if you have not developed language,
you simply don’t have access to most of human experience,
and if you don’t have access to experience,
then you’re not going to be able to think properly.
Noam Chomsky

Chomsky’s quote tells us how important human language is in formulating our experience and thoughts. But what happens when we know more than one kind of human language? How do we think these different human languages influence or interact with each other?

Born into a cosmopolitan city like Hong Kong, I have the privilege of being exposed to different languages. As a native speaker of Cantonese (a variety of Standard Chinese), I have acquired English, French and Japanese. During the acquisitional process, I have become more and more aware of how the languages I know might influence each other – as expected or to my surprise. For example, once in a Japanese course I was taking, my French was activated quite a number of times when I was trying to figure out the pronunciation of some Japanese words. It was a surprise to me because those moments of activation came unconsciously, and I would expect languages similar to Japanese, for example Chinese, to be activated, but it was not. This kind of amazing experience has inspired me to explore more about how different languages in a multilingual’s mind may interact with each other.

Crosslinguistic Influence in MultilingualsThis book on crosslinguistic influence among three languages, namely Cantonese, English and French, in multilinguals, draws on the notions of ‘interface’ and ‘reverse transfer’ in second language acquisition. In particular, it addresses the possible positive or negative transfer effect from French as a third language (L3) to English as a second language (L2):

Does the acquisition of a later acquired language (i.e. French) have any effect on the reception and production of an earlier acquired language (i.e. English)?

The answer to the above query is not an unequivocal ‘yes’ or ‘no’, possibly because of a number of factors at play: L3 proficiency, linguistic feature or structure involved (which in turn relates to the notion of ‘structural linguistic complexity’), typology/ psychotypology and receptive and productive use of L2. These factors may in turn make the acquisitional process most intriguing.

In order to relish and excel in this fascinating acquisitional process, both language learners and language educators are encouraged to become more aware of the different factors and the resulting potential interaction among languages. The book will show them how those factors might have worked among a group of speakers of Cantonese with knowledge of English and French. The discussions in the book will also highlight other issues that are worth investigating in our quest for how crosslinguistic influence among three languages may take place.

Hope you all enjoy reading it and find it useful!

Crosslinguistic Influence in Second Language AcquisitionFor more information about the book, please see our website. If you found this interesting you might also like Crosslinguistic Influence in Second Language Acquisition edited by Rosa Alonso Alonso.


Language, Identity and Education on the Arabian Peninsula

17 November 2016

This month we are publishing Language, Identity and Education on the Arabian Peninsula edited by Louisa Buckingham. In this blog post, Louisa explains more about the background to the book and the complex language situation on the Arabian Peninsula.

Qasr Al Sarab © Sarah Hopkyns

Qasr Al Sarab © Sarah Hopkyns

The nations on the Arabian Peninsula are home to increasingly urban, networked, ethnically and linguistically heterogeneous societies. Their youthful demography, and the relatively elevated levels of population growth provide impetus to an expanding education sector. The high proportion of foreign recruited employees in the secondary and particularly in the tertiary sectors, provides domestic students with exposure to diverse cultures and languages during their formal education. Complementing this, government scholarship schemes enable many Gulf Arab graduates opportunities for immersion in foreign cultures and languages while pursuing a higher degree. These factors contribute to a widespread appreciation of the role of foreign languages for academic and professional purposes. While English has for decades occupied a privileged position in education and administrative professional contexts, the extensive use of Asian languages, in addition to Arabic and English, in street commerce encounters, in professional activities related to technology, infrastructure and logistics, and the health sector, reflects the multilingual and multi-ethnic profile of the region’s demography.

Signage in Oman (Languages: Arabic, English, Bengali, Urdu, Hindi, Malayalam). ©Louisa Buckingham

Signage in Oman (Languages: Arabic, English, Bengali, Urdu, Hindi, Malayalam). © Louisa Buckingham

As contributors to this volume, we have observed the role and the reception of foreign languages in the lives of our students over many years. We continue a nascent tradition in book-length studies on the Arabian Peninsula which take a critical view of the status of English in educational contexts and professional lives, and we extend previous work by documenting the importance of Asian languages in public and private spheres.

Language, Identity and Education on the Arabian PeninsulaFour main themes run through the book. The opening theme explores the multilingual nature of many households and the different spheres of use assigned to particular languages experienced in the domestic domain. In many homes, the presence of domestic migrant workers (employed to perform the duties of drivers, gardeners, household help and nannies) contributes to an early awareness among young Gulf Arab nationals of their linguistically and culturally diverse communities and, in some cases, provides opportunities for second language acquisition in early childhood. Gender roles may influence the degree to which oral proficiency is developed in particular languages. For instance, as interaction with South Asian labourers and tradesmen is more typically undertaken by males in the household, these may develop a degree of oral competence in particular South Asian languages. Less well-known is the influence of South Korean cultural production. The popularity of Korean soap operas and pop music among some young Gulf Arab females has prompted the inclusion of Korean words or phrases into in-group talk among peers.

The subsequent two themes in the volume are devoted to issues regarding identity construction and academic achievement in sectors of Gulf Arab societies which have strongly promoted English-medium education. The early introduction of English immersion has sometimes come at the expense of Arabic. The perceived neglect or marginalization of Arabic has sparked much public debate in the media.

On the wall of a university in the UAE. © Sarah Hopkyns

On the wall of a university in the UAE. © Sarah Hopkyns

The assimilation of English as an additional language into the linguistic repertoire of many educated Gulf Arabs, and the widespread daily exposure to South Asian varieties of English, means that the wholesale adoption of English language assessment systems which were devised primarily for usage in inner-circle country educational or professional contexts, is problematic. Such proficiency examinations not only include cultural references which may not be readily comprehended by test takers in the Gulf Arab context, but they also often require a form of engagement with texts that is not necessarily commonly practised in the domestic educational context.

The final theme in this volume concerns the role of English as a transmitter of cultural practices in teaching and research careers. The promotion of international study opportunities facilitates the exposure to a wide range of pedagogical traditions; however, Gulf Arab students may experience the need to critically evaluate the degree to which assimilated practices may be applicable in their domestic teaching contexts. In the final study, we examine how international mainstream scholarly journal publishing practices have been adapted to an Omani context to support a culture of research and inquiry in the region, and facilitate the international visibility of local researchers.

Contributions come from five countries on the Arabian Peninsula: Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Yemen. All studies were specifically undertaken with a view to their inclusion in this volume. Both quantitative and qualitative research traditions are represented and the methodological approaches used to document language practices encompass interviews, focus groups and surveys, policy analysis and linguistic landscape methodology.

Louisa Buckingham, University of Auckland

Qasr Al Sarab. © Sarah Hopkyns

Qasr Al Sarab. © Sarah Hopkyns

The Status of English in Bosnia and HerzegovinaFor more information on the book, please see our website. You might also be interested in Louisa’s previous book The Status of English in Bosnia and Herzegovina.


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.


Language Policy and Mother Tongue Debate in Iran

17 August 2016

This month we are publishing Who’s Afraid of Multilingual Education? by Amir Kalan which explores multilingual education in Iran through a series of conversations with leading multilingualism scholars. In this post, Amir explains why the language situation in Iran is so unique.

Who’s Afraid of Multilingual Education?More than 70 languages are spoken in today’s Iran, yet by law all school textbooks are written in Farsi (Persian). Farsi is also the only language of instruction throughout the country, even in non-Persian areas with vibrant linguistic lives and solid cultural identities. My new book, Who is Afraid of Multilingual Education?, tries to discover how ideological discourses in Iran have allowed the dominance of monolingual schools despite empirical evidence that advocates otherwise. The book examines arguments that doubt the effectiveness of mother tongue-based multilingual education in Iran and, through conversations with four respected international scholars, it compares the Iranian situation with global experiences with challenges of establishing multilingual educational systems that regard students’ plurilingualism as a valuable resource rather than an obstacle.

A focus on multilingualism in the Iranian context is worthwhile due to a number of reasons. Despite the current official systematic resistance against the demands of Iranian ethnic minorities for classroom instruction in students’ mother tongues (which has left Iran well behind India and even China, Iran’s civilizational cousins) Iran has a long history of multiculturalism and multilingualism. Diversity has always been an integral part of social life in the Iranian Plateau since the very beginnings of the formation of greater Iran (through Iranian empires) up to the contemporary Iranian society. On the other hand, minoritized Iranian populations – to the best of our knowledge – have not experienced the violence similar to what has been imposed on minority cultures in the West through colonialism and imperialism, such as attempts to eradicate aboriginal cultures and racial segregation in education systems. Up until the early 20th century, when the Iranian government of the time imported Western educational models along with European nation state ideologies, Iranian languages organically mingled and interacted in learning centers as well as everyday social interactions. Who is Afraid of Multilingual  Education? asks what discourses advocating mother tongue-based multilingual educational have rendered a heresy over the past 100 years in Iran despite the multilingual fabric of the country. Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, Jim Cummins, Ajit Mohanty and Stephen Bahry critique these discourses in the book drawing upon examples of the experiences of minoritized students in different parts of the world.

The arguments against mother tongue-based multilingual education discussed in this book include nationalistic one-language-one-nation discourses that deem the dominance of a single language a necessary factor in creating a national identity; political visions that advocate that imposing one single language on minorities would empower them by providing them the ability to communicate and to trade their skills and products in larger markets and thus “succeed” in life; linguistic theories that attempt to prove some languages are naturally wired to be superior to other languages and thus are to be shared by all the members of society regardless of their linguistic backgrounds; economic speculations proposing that mother tongue-based multilingual education is an appealing and perhaps moral idea but too expensive to put into practice; and finally, post-colonial and anti-imperial anxieties that help the state treat legitimate demands for receiving education in the medium of students’ mother tongues as separatist desires.

Unfortunately, empirical evidence supporting the benefits of multilingual education for students and society at large is often comfortably ignored by politicians and mainstream media. Traditional academic publications also often fail to find their way out of closed professional circles and remain unread by the public, typically fed by more popular but less accurate forms of dissemination such as TV shows and mainstream news websites. As a result, Who is Afraid of Multilingual Education? reviews the issues that the international language research community has struggled with in a more accessible interview format. Hopefully, the inter­views offered in this book and the analyses that follow them can open new horizons in the mother tongue debate in Iran, establish better communication between Iranian and international educators, and contribute to the ongoing conversation about multilingualism in the inter­national research community.

LDLR covers 2016For further information about this book please see our website. For other books in our Linguistic Diversity and Language Rights series take a look at the series page on our website.


Are languages dying out or just becoming more diverse?

28 July 2016

This week we published Linguistic Genocide or Superdiversity? edited by Reetta Toivanen and Janne Saarikivi. In this post, Janne discusses the question of whether languages are dying out or whether, in fact, the world is just becoming more linguistically diverse.

Linguistic Genocide or Superdiversity?Since the 1990s linguists and anthropologists have become increasingly aware of the fact that most of the world’s languages are under threat of extinction. The main threat for languages comes from the erosion of their traditional communities due to urbanisation and changing ways of life, as well as improved standards of education and new working environments.

Languages today are used for entirely different purposes than in primordial societies. In communities characterised by agriculture, fishing, hunting or gathering, all the members of a community typically worked the same way and inherited their social roles from their parents and family. Language was primarily used as a means of oral communication.

A postmodern society, by contrast, is dependent on an elaborate division of labour, and also on the different social identities of their members. The most important tools for this identity creation are reading, writing and studying, i.e. activities carried out within language. For an increasing number of people around the world, language is both the main working tool as well as the main outcome of their work.

Languages are often measured and compared by the number of their native speakers. But for some purposes a more adequate way to ascertain the size of languages would probably be to measure the number of different texts composed in a particular language. For instance, languages such as Icelandic or Estonian have far fewer native speakers than languages such as Kanuri (in Nigeria) or Uighur (in China) but since they are national languages of independent states, countless texts are produced in them every day by language specialists in schools, ministries and media. This language use is currently evolving into an endless stream of text in social media, where practically every speaker of the language community is also an author of new text. Meanwhile other languages with more speakers but fewer elaborate societal functions have little use outside oral intercourse.

The modern language situation has been characterised as a genocide of languages, because so many languages have disappeared, but it has also been called unprecedented plurilingualism, where languages are used in more diverse ways than ever. In a modernising society some minority languages disappear within a few generations, sometimes almost without a trace. But in many contexts they also change, become creolised to a mixed code that carries and creates new types of modern identities in urban and virtual environments. For some minority languages this means more variation than before instead of disappearing.

The new social situation with more interaction in global networks and new media accelerates the pace of language change and creates new pidgins, creoles, mixed and intertwined codes. The languages of east and west are used in the growing multicultural urban centres of Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas in countless new mixed genres, some of which are bound to a particular city, others to a particular music style and clothing, still others to particular professions and education.

Is the world of languages thus becoming more or less diverse? Is the new linguistic variation somehow different from the variation that has been described in dialectological and sociolinguistic investigations for decades? There are some grounds to suggest that this is indeed the case. The difference is not so much that languages interact on a global scale, but that much of this interaction takes place in a written medium and is affected by standards and ideologies learned through ever more common formal education. Much of what happens in language contact has been described many times in studies concerning dialects, but other things are new: the fact that language use is now work for many, or the fact that language choice is one of the primary ways to create modern identities.

But can the new linguistic variation compensate for the languages of the hunters, gatherers, fishermen and nomads, many of which are already gone forever? And will it be long-lasting?

It is still fair to say that much of the world’s linguistic diversity is under threat. But its disappearance might not just be voices vanishing to silence. More likely, it is going to be like a star shining brighter than ever just before it explodes into a vacuum.

Ethnography, Superdiversity and Linguistic LandscapesFor more information about the book please see our website. If you found this interesting you might also enjoy Jan Blommaert’s book Ethnography, Superdiversity and Linguistic Landscapes.

 

 

 


English as an Additional Language Conference

22 July 2016

Last week I popped up the road to the University of the West of England where the English as an Additional Language Conference was taking place. This day event was run in partnership between the University, local councils and organisations to explore how schools can ensure learners of English as an additional language make the maximum progress possible and how their presence can have a positive impact on schools and settings.

The MM stand at the conference

The MM stand at the conference

The day was mainly targeted at teachers and educators working in schools in the area and it was great for us to have the opportunity to meet people working in these contexts. While a lot of our publications are targeted at researchers working in educational contexts or students training to become teachers, and we meet these readers regularly at research conferences, we do also have some books aimed at a more general readership and so the conference was a rare but valued occasion for us to meet the other groups of people who are actually using our books.

The day was an opportunity for teachers to refresh their thinking on the subject and take the time to think about topics that their busy daily schedule may not allow, to keep EALs at the forefront of their minds and to share expertise. I was really impressed with the positivity that flowed through the day and how teachers were encouraged to help their pupils feel that they have something extra and not to feel that they have to keep quiet or be embarrassed about the skills that they have. It was also stressed that it is important to make EAL pupils feel safe following on from the EU referendum result, which is a new challenge for schools.

Professor Simon Burgess from the University of Bristol

Professor Simon Burgess from the University of Bristol

Speakers at the conference included Professor Simon Burgess from the University of Bristol who discussed “The London Effect” which is a term coined to describe how EALs in schools in London, where the proportion of EALs in schools is much higher than in the rest of the country, perform much better in terms of progress made from age 11 to 16, compared with their white British peers and with pupils in the rest of the country. When asked why EALs make such good progress he spoke of high aspirations, positive attitudes, effort and engagement. One quote that stuck with me from his talk was that migrants often have a “get up and go for it” attitude, after all, they did “get up and go for it” to take the plunge in moving to a new country.

MM author Anne Margaret Smith's workshop

MM author Anne Margaret Smith’s workshop

I also attended a workshop run by Anne Margaret Smith (author of Teaching Languages to Students with Specific Learning Differences) on how to tell if an EAL student is struggling due to the language learning process or because of underlying cognitive differences and another led by Bharti Joshi and Stephen Bray from the consultancy company Kick Start on how to ensure more advanced learners of English achieve their potential in both primary and secondary schools.

The final keynote was by Mark Sims from Ofsted and he spoke of how Ofsted inspectors are looking for pupils understanding, accepting, respecting and celebrating diversity, as shown by their tolerance and attitudes. This was followed by a session during which delegates could ask any of the speakers for their answers to questions they had. One of the most inspirational questions was when one of the delegates asked for examples of best practice and members of the audience chipped in with things that they are doing in their schools. Examples I heard throughout the day included a Somalian dads and children reading group, older EALs acting as buddies for new arrivals of the same language background, a school in Middlesbrough where new EALs are automatically put in the top set, breakfast reading groups, coffee mornings and many other ideas. It was, as one delegate put it, great to hear of all the initiatives already in action and the conference was a fantastic opportunity to share them with those who were looking for fresh ideas.

Laura


Talking About Global Migration

4 May 2016

This week we published Talking About Global Migration by Theresa Catalano which explores the narratives of 70 migrants and examines the language they use when talking about their experiences. Here, Theresa introduces some of their stories.

Talking About Global MigrationMartez was born in Mexico City to Spanish parents. He met his wife in veterinary school in Costa Rica. They then moved to Alabama, then Canada, back to the US and eventually back to Canada. Even though he has lived in four different countries and gone back and forth among them, he has always felt Mexican. Martez has noticed how different countries have different terminology to talk about the legal status of migrants in their country such as calling migrants “legal aliens” (US) versus “landed immigrants” (Canada). The latter makes him feel more welcome.

Even though Thinh was very young when he arrived in the US, he remembers what a ‘struggle’ it was. He and his family did not speak English, and they had to rely on others for translations. Thinking back, Thinh recalls how shocked they were by everything in their new home, ‘bright city lights….Everything was amazing.’ Thinh was enrolled in English as a second language classes but when he was in third or fourth grade, he decided he did not want to be in those classes anymore because he felt that he had ‘grasped the language’.

Xui moved from China to Qatar for three years and then followed her husband to the US. She found it difficult to adapt to her new environment, but says that once you understand the culture of your new home, you might realize that your life there is more meaningful and colorful.

Cristina always dreamed of seeing the world. Born in Colombia, she moved to Spain for a job and then later moved to the US where she is now a professor. Cristina believes that immigration is a great risk, but it is a risk she would be willing to take again, even though she often feels as if she is living ‘in a limbo’— part of her in Colombia, part in Spain, and part in the US.

The above vignettes demonstrate the very diverse and complicated lives of globally mobile people in an increasingly mobile global landscape. This dynamic interplay of migrants of multiple-origin has changed city and rural environments around the world (referred to by Vertovec [2010] as ‘super-diversity’) and the increased movement of transnational migrants underscores the need for educational responses to migration that attend to the linguistic and cultural diversity of demographically changing student bodies and address the educational needs of newcomer students.

Hence, Talking About Global Migration attempts to re-complicate the often simplified and stereotyped stories of migrants who reside in increasingly diverse places in diverse contexts by talking with over 70 participants in 12 different countries, and providing useful information for language teachers (as well as anyone who comes into contact with migrants). In addition, I examine the metaphors and metonymies (see bolded words above) that migrants use when talking about their experiences. In doing so, I hope that people can better understand the way migrants perceive themselves and the migration experience and how this differs greatly from the way they are portrayed in the media. Furthermore, I hope to shed light on how migrants are affected by the way others refer to them, such as how Martez notes the different effect on him that the terms “legal alien” vs. “landed immigrant” have. In this way, I aim to raise consciousness about our own way of thinking and talking about migration.

If you would like to contact me about the book I can be reached by email: Theresa Catalano, tcatalano2@unl.edu

References:
Vertovec, S. (2010). Towards post-multiculturalism? Changing communities, contexts and conditions of diversity. International Social Science Journal 199, 83-95.

migration booksFor more information on Theresa’s book please see our website. You might also be interested in some of our other migration titles Refugee Resettlement in the United States edited by Emily M. Feuerherm and Vaidehi Ramanathan and Language, Immigration and Naturalization edited by Ariel Loring 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.


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