“As Diversity Grows, So Must We”: Teaching and Learning in the Multilingual Classroom

This month we published Using Linguistically Appropriate Practice: A Guide for Teaching in Multilingual Classrooms by Roma Chumak-Horbatsch. In this post the author tells us what to expect from the book.

“You can banish the mother tongue from the classroom – but you cannot banish it from students’ heads.” [1] 

Schools, early learning centres and educational programs worldwide are becoming increasingly language-rich. This means that learners in these contexts come from a variety of language backgrounds. It also means that many have little (or no) proficiency in the language of program or curriculum delivery. In response to this linguistic diversity, teachers are reviewing and rethinking their tried-and-true teaching strategies and asking the following questions:

  • What is the best way to teach learners from different language backgrounds?
  • I am not a language teacher. What do I do?
  • How do I communicate with silent newcomers?
  • How can I integrate them into the life of the classroom?
  • How can I help them learn the school language and participate in the curriculum?

This book directly addresses these questions and provides teachers with direction and concrete guidance. It builds on and extends the original Linguistically Appropriate Practice, or LAP[2], a multilingual teaching approach that upsets and challenges the traditional separation of languages, restores home languages to their rightful place as important language learning “allies”[3] and uses learners’ prior knowledge as a starting point in learning.

Here are the highlights of Using Linguistically Appropriate Practice: A Guide for Teaching in Multilingual Classroom.

  • Explains multilingual pedagogy, provides LAP basics and characterizes the LAP teacher
  • Helps readers better understand the theory-practice connection: a tree image (LAP Tree) is used to explain the link between multilingual practice and the language and learning theories that support this inclusive and open teaching approach.
  • Includes voices from the field: the numerous testimonials, journeys and classroom experiences of over 50 professionals (teachers-in-training, classroom teachers, special program teachers, school principals and a language consultant), working in language-rich schools and specialized programs in seven countries (Canada, Finland, Germany, India, Luxembourg, Iceland and Sweden) showcase how multilingual teaching plays out in real learning contexts
  • Invites teachers working in language-rich classrooms to rethink and review their current practice, shift their teaching from the local to the global and adopt Linguistically Appropriate Practice
  • Facilitates the adoption of multilingual pedagogy: the LAP guide is intended to help teachers identify, position and plan their multilingual work. Each of the six blocks of the guide includes “how to” suggestions and tips. Beginning with practice review and reflection, the LAP map guides teachers to retool their teaching, move away from monolingual practice and take the multilingual turn
  • Provides invaluable discussion about the following issues and challenges identified and raised by multilingual teachers: the “silent period”, a largely misunderstood and never-before explained behaviour of newcomer learners; engaging all children in the multilingual agenda; children’s unwillingness to use their home language in the classroom; understanding speakers of “little known” languages and partnering with families
  • Contains a treasure trove of resources: the book’s lists, websites, suggestions and ideas found in the Resources chapter and also in the Appendix will enrich and extend teachers’ multilingual agendas

This is an exciting time to be a teacher! The language richness found in schools is changing the way teaching and learning happen. It is a call for action, inviting teachers to review their current practice, discover the language richness of their learners, change their teaching direction, open their hearts and their doors to languages and transform their classrooms into multilingual hubs where the languages of all learners are seen, heard and included in the curriculum. Using Linguistically Appropriate Practice: A Guide for Teaching in Multilingual Classrooms is a teaching tool that will help teachers in this multilingual teaching adventure.

Share your multilingual journey with the author:

Roma Chumak-Horbatsch – rchumak@ryerson.ca

[1] Butzkamm, W. (2003). We only learn language once. The role of the mother tongue in FL classrooms: death of a dogma. Language Learning Journal, 28, 29-39.

[2] Chumak-Horbatsch. R. (2012). Linguistically Appropriate Practice: Working with Young Immigrant Children.  Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

[3] Butzkamm, W. (2003). We only learn language once. The role of the mother tongue in FL classrooms: death of a dogma. Language Learning Journal, 28, 29-39.

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like A Parents’ and Teachers’ Guide to Bilingualism by Colin Baker.

Second Language Learners in a Study Abroad Context

This month we published Study Abroad, Second Language Acquisition and Interculturality edited by Martin Howard. In this post the editor tells us what we can expect from the book.

As its title indicates, this volume focuses on second language learners in a study abroad context, an ever-growing student cohort in our education institutions. Students who embark on study abroad, be it over a couple of weeks or a much longer period, do so with the folk-belief that study abroad is highly beneficial in various respects, such as for language learning, educational and academic development, social and personal development, and intercultural development. However, research has shown that the experience on the ground during the students’ stay abroad is often complex and challenging. In the context of international education, there is growing awareness of the necessity to address the needs of study abroad learners, as well as to better inform all involved in the study abroad enterprise of the challenges of a study abroad experience, and in so doing, contribute to enhancing the student’s experience abroad.

Against this background, this book adds to the existing literature in the field which has grown from an initial primary focus on language development during study abroad, to subsequent research efforts to capture the wide-ranging factors underlying the student’s experience abroad. Such more recent work highlights the individual nature of the student’s experience abroad, with multiple individual personal and social factors shaping the experience. This book presents a mix of both empirical studies and discussion chapters which showcase recent work in the field with a focus on innovative issues and themes across students from a range of language backgrounds. The focus includes, for example, social network development and integration during study abroad, study abroad in a lingua franca context, identity development, and language engagement in relation to input and interaction issues in a study abroad context. Other innovative areas of focus include students on an international work placement and cultural migrants, while intercultural issues are also considered.

Taken together, the chapters highlight the interface between study abroad research and the fields of second language acquisition and interculturality, where there are mutual insights to be gained. These include not only better informing study abroad practitioners and participants, but also offering insights into theoretical and applied questions across the fields, such as in relation to the more global impact of learning context on language acquisition and intercultural development, as well as factors at play like language input and interaction issues and the role of individual and social factors.

In a world where foreign language and intercultural skills assume increasing importance in our globalised world, the book reflects work by members of and participants in the SAREP Project (Study Abroad Research in European Perspective), funded in 2016-20 by the European COST agency (Cooperation in Science and Technology). This pan-European project is a think-tank for study abroad research in a European context where the flagship Erasmus+ programme celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2017, and has seen well over three million participants. Along with the large number of study abroad participants around the world, they highlight the need for ongoing research in the area. In this regard, the book includes a chapter which identifies a number of areas for future research. The enterprise continues…

Martin Howard, University College Cork

m.howard@ucc.ie

 

For more information about this book please see our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like International Students’ Challenges, Strategies and Future Vision by Anas Hajar. 

Shedding Empirical Light on Complex Dynamic System Theory

We recently published Profiling Learner Language as a Dynamic System edited by ZhaoHong Han. In this post the editor explains why the book is important.

Profiling Learner Language as a Dynamic System was born out of an intense interest in contributing to the empirical basis in SLA of the new theoretical paradigm now known as Complex Dynamic System Theory (CDST) (de Bot, 2017; Larsen-Freeman, 2017; Lourdes & Han, 2017). Much of the work so far on CDST has remained rhetorical, and while a concerted effort has been made to push for empirical understandings, methodological insights are as yet incipient, though broad pointers are on the horizon. For example, the study needs to be longitudinal, and should focus on individual learners.

Many of the extant empirical studies have, however, tended to narrowly focus on one or a small number of linguistic elements, taking, a priori, each as part of a (sub)system, producing findings that are limited in scope and do not convincingly demonstrate, in one breath, the ‘complex,’ ‘dynamic,’ and ‘systemic’ nature of learner language.

This book seeks to help fill some of these gaps, by subjecting individuals’ systems to multiple lenses. Recognizing that revealing these properties necessitates a much larger undertaking than an individual study, the book has its five main chapters each target a particular aspect of interlanguage, traversing the domains of morpho-syntax, semantics, pragmatics, and discourse. The uniqueness of this approach lies also in employing the same longitudinal corpus involving two dyads interacting over a shared course requirement. The data analyses tracked both within-dyad and between-dyad similarities and differences, yielding both general patterns and idiosyncrasies. Together, the five sets of data analyses shed light on, and even go beyond, core claims of CDST.

For more information about this book please see our website.

 

If you found this interesting, you might also like Motivational Dynamics in Language Learning edited by Zoltán Dörnyei, Peter D. MacIntyre and Alastair Henry.

What is the Action-oriented Approach to Language Education?

We recently published The Action-oriented Approach by Enrica Piccardo and Brian North. In this post the authors explain what is meant by the action-oriented approach.

Many people seem to be convinced that language methodologies have not progressed beyond the communicative turn, and that all more recent developments are just a refinement or extension of the communicative approach. In particular many who are familiar with the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) think that it simply promotes the communicative approach and provides a set of levels to define competence in the four skills. In fact, by seeing the user/learner as a social agent engaging in different types of language activities, the CEFR introduced rich concepts like the action-oriented approach, mediation and plurilingualism, which called for further development.

Our book The Action-oriented Approach explains the distinct characteristics of the approach and shows the way in which, over the past thirty years, different complementary theories and bottom-up experimentation have enabled the development of an innovative, holistic form of language education.

The action-oriented approach is growing significantly on the ground as a means to provide motivating, realistic, project-based language teaching linked to the promotion of interculturality and Competences for Democratic Culture (CDC).

 Whilst it is difficult to summarise the action-oriented approach in a few lines, and not all aspects listed below are present in all examples, the main tenets of the overall approach are:

  • Backwards design of teaching modules (3-10 lessons) working towards ‘can-do’ aims (learning outcomes)
  • Acceptance rather than avoidance of complexity, with scaffolding as necessary
  • Authenticity/credibility of the scenario for the task/project in the module, with a focus also on the authenticity of materials, and autonomy to research different source materials
  • A unifying task at the end of the module, which probably contains several phases including: reception, interaction, mediation, and the (co-)production of an artefact, plus a reflection phase at the end
  • A pluri-/ inter-cultural focus at some point in the module
  • Agency to decide how to go about accomplishing the task/project; collaboration: and co-construction of meaning through the mediation of concepts and/or communication
  • Increasing language awareness
  • Integration of additional languages, in terms of openness to learners’ linguistic (and cultural) resources and support to plurilanguaging within and beyond the language classroom
  • Feedforward and feedback in a iterative approach adopted to build self-efficacy
  • (Self-)assessment of the outcomes, informally, both at the level of the individual user/learner and as regards the scenario/module itself

The recently published CEFR Companion Volume with new descriptors has further supported the definition of the Action-oriented approach with its focus on mediation, strategic learning and plurilingualism.

Further information can be found on the following Council of Europe websites:

Language Policy

CEFR

Enrica Piccardo: enrica.piccardo@utoronto.ca

Brian North: bjnorth@eurocentres.com

 

For more information about this book please see our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like From Principles to Practice in Education for Intercultural Citizenship edited by Michael Byram, Irina Golubeva, Han Hui, Manuela Wagner.

Why LARSP?

This month we published Grammatical Profiles: Further Languages of LARSP edited by Martin J. Ball, Paul Fletcher and David Crystal. In this post the editors explain what LARSP is and where it came from.

The questions I’m most often asked about LARSP are about its origin. How did it start? Where did the idea come from? In a word: Why LARSP?

The answer is very simple. It met a basic clinical need and, judging by the papers in this collection, a need that still exists in many parts of the world. It all began a few years after the Department of Linguistic Science was established at the University of Reading in 1965. Nearby was the Royal Berkshire Hospital, and one day Dr Kevin Murphy from the Audiology Unit phoned the Department to ask if we could help. A speech therapist attached to the Unit was working with a three-year-old child with a language delay, and they were discussing how best to treat her. As I was teaching the course on child language acquisition, I volunteered to go and see what was up. I had never met an audiologist or a speech therapist before!

I was both thrilled and disturbed by what I encountered. After observing a therapy session with the little girl, and making notes, I could see what the nature of the language delay was. It was primarily in her grammar, and moreover in specific grammatical areas. I started to describe to the clinicians the issues to do with her clauses and phrases, her verbs (or rather, lack of them) and prepositions, and the places where speech therapy would be most beneficial…and realized after a few minutes that I had lost my listeners. None of them knew enough about English grammar to be able to take my terminology on board and build on my suggestions. At that time, linguistics and its various branches didn’t form a part of any speech therapy training course. That wouldn’t happen until after the government report into speech therapy services in the UK in 1972 (the ‘Quirk Report’).

I said I would write up my observations in a way I hoped would be helpful, and back in the Department drafted a very primitive grammatical assessment procedure. It was clear that it would need to have two dimensions: descriptive, which would identify the grammatical features children acquire; and developmental, which would show the stages through which children acquire them. This, I felt, would meet the clinical need, which was how to get patients from where they are to where they ought to be. In the Department, Paul Fletcher and Mike Garman joined in, and after much discussion and decision-making, and much clinical testing of draft versions, both on children and adults, the chart was finally published in 1976.

What to call it? We had learned that the clinical profession was full of acronyms, and we needed a succinct and pronounceable one. LARSP (Language Assessment Remediation and Screening Procedure) ticked both boxes. But why an L for Language and not a G or GR for Grammar? Well, at the time the study of grammar was felt to be at the heart of the study of language, so it seemed appropriate. But there was a more practical reason. We knew that clinicians would in due course say such things as ‘This child has been LARSPed”. Try that sentence out with the L replaced by a G or a GR, and you’ll see why we made our choice!

And now there are 34 full and preliminary versions of LARSP in languages other than English. After all, it is not only English-speaking children who have problems learning language – it is estimated that about 5% of children anywhere will struggle. So over time the idea spread. The development happened quite gradually. The first adaptation was for Hebrew, in 1982, and the later ’80s then saw versions in Welsh and Dutch. Irish soon followed, and since 2000 there has been a steady accumulation in other languages from around the world. The latest volume adds another twelve versions, for languages as different as Slovenian, from the Balkans, and Inuktitut, which is spoken by the Inuit people of the eastern Canadian Arctic.

It is interesting to see how authors have modified the original acronym to identify their versions. Perhaps the neatest is the label for Welsh – LLARSP. By adding a single letter to the original, this both ties this version to the original and proclaims its new affiliation, as it recalls the pronunciation of the double ‘L’ in Welsh place names like Llandudno and Llanrwst. For other languages there is the option of just using the initial letter of the name of the language in front of the original label – this is the option taken for Irish (ILARSP), French (F-LARSP) and Chinese (C-LARSP). Other authors prefer distinct labels – GRAMAT for Dutch, PERSL for Spanish. PERSL is the acronym of the Spanish translation of the full name of the English original – Language Assessment Remediation and Screening Procedure. But whatever the label, the adaptations maintain the original nature and purpose of the system: to use a developmentally organised framework to identify gaps in the grammatical repertoire of children at risk of language impairment.

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like the editors’ previous book on the topic of LARSP, Profiling Grammar: More Languages of LARSP

Summer Reads

The sun has finally come to Bristol and we’ve already published an array of exciting new books this summer, with plenty still to come! Here’s a round up of all the new titles for your summer reading list…

June

Decolonising Multilingualism

In this groundbreaking text, Alison Phipps pulls together ethical approaches to researching multilingually in contexts of pain, conflict and crisis; the position of the researcher; and the question of multilingualism and anglonormativity. It is both global and local in scale, ranging from Scotland to Ghana, Aotearoa / New Zealand to Sudan.

The Legal Recognition of Sign Languages

This book presents the first comprehensive overview of national laws recognising sign languages, their impacts and the advocacy campaigns which led to their creation. Each chapter is grounded in a collaborative writing approach between deaf and hearing scholars and activists involved in legislative campaigns.

 

Theorizing and Analyzing Language Teacher Agency

This volume examines the agency of second/foreign language teachers in diverse geographical contexts. It offers new understandings and conceptualizations through a variety of types of empirical data. It also demonstrates the use of different methodologies to analyze the multidimensional, dynamic and complex nature of language teacher agency.

Mandarin Chinese Dual Language Immersion Programs

This book discusses multiple aspects of Chinese dual language immersion programs, focusing on the Utah model. Themes include how to build a supportive classroom, the views of those involved, teacher identities, strategy use, corrective feedback, Chinese-character teaching, and the translanguaging phenomenon.

 

Critical Perspectives on Global Englishes in Asia

This book addresses the incorporation of Global Englishes into language policy and curriculum, pedagogy and assessment practices, and focuses on a wide range of geographical and language contexts. It will be of interest to policymakers, curriculum developers and practitioner-researchers in the area of English language education.

 

July

The Action-oriented Approach

This book presents the background to the current shift in language education towards action-oriented teaching and provides a theorization of the Action-oriented Approach (AoA). It contains a research-informed description of the AoA and explains its implications for curriculum planning, teaching, assessment and pedagogy.

Grammatical Profiles

This collection brings together language profiles of the Language Assessment Remediation and Screening Procedure (LARSP) from 12 languages around the world. It will be an invaluable resource for speech-language pathologists in many countries and for those wishing to analyse the grammatical abilities of clients of many linguistic backgrounds.

Using Film and Media in the Language Classroom

This book demonstrates the advantages and impact of using film and audiovisual material in the language classroom. The chapters are evidence-based and address different levels and contexts of learning around the world. It will be of interest to practising teachers as well as those on teacher training courses.

 

Profiling Learner Language as a Dynamic System

This volume sheds empirical light on Complex Dynamic Systems Theory by providing analyses of two longitudinal, interactional datasets. The individual analyses traverse the domains of morphosyntax, semantics, pragmatics and discourse. As a whole, the collection demonstrates the impact of the ecosystem on individuals’ use of language.

Objects, Bodies and Work Practice

In this volume, contributors focus on how professionals organize their embodied conduct with material objects. The book concentrates specifically on connections between ongoing courses of interaction within work practices, object materiality and mobility in space, bodily movement and manipulation of objects, and language.

 

August

Using Linguistically Appropriate Practice

This book provides an accessible guide to multilingual teaching in diverse classrooms world-wide. It is grounded in the latest research and takes a realistic approach to the challenges found in the modern school. The author argues that multilingual teaching is an option for all teachers, and that it has benefits for every child in the classroom.

Integrating Assessment into Early Language Learning and Teaching

The volume unites research and practice on integrating language learning, teaching and assessment at pre- and early school age. It provides useful case study insights for policymakers, teacher educators and researchers, and practical ideas for practitioners who wish to implement greater integration of assessment and learning in their own contexts.

Study Abroad, Second Language Acquisition and Interculturality

This book unites studies on second language acquisition and interculturality in a study abroad context, providing timely perspectives on research in each area while also exploring the interface between them. Chapters highlight innovative themes such as social networks, input matters, learner identities and study abroad in lingua franca contexts.

Voices of a City Market

This book breaks new ground in its representation of the voices of people in a superdiverse city. Poetic and compelling, it places the reader at the heart of the market, surrounded by the voices of people from all over the world. Based on four years of ethnographic research, it is a book that reimagines the conventions of ethnographic writing.

 

For more information about any of these titles or to place an order, please visit our website.

I attended my third Critical Tourism Studies (CTS) conference last month and it was yet again a hopeful and optimistic experience – and included the usual singing and colouring 🙂

The week kicked off with a brilliant keynote from Alison McIntosh and Paul Lynch on the concepts of welcome and hospitality in relation to refugees and asylum seekers.

I managed to get to a few of the sessions – highlights included papers on Lego, homeless tours, Indigenous tourism, and air passenger shaming! And a brave and open dialogue around academia and careers from Catheryn Khoo-Lattimore, Keith Hollinshead and Meghan Muldoon.

The highlight of the evening activities was definitely dinner and the beautiful sunset at Café del Mar – thanks to the organisers, Ana and Kellee!

Sarah

Laura and Anna Explore the Canadian Rockies

Laura and Anna recently made the most of a trip to Alberta for the International Symposium on Bilingualism (ISB) by having a few days’ holiday in the Canadian Rockies beforehand. Highlights included bears, early morning lake swimming, a hike near Lake Louise and a drive up the Icefields Parkway. They stayed on a farm near Lake Mara and in a very secluded cabin between Jasper and Edmonton (that they’d probably never be able to find again if they tried!) It was a very pleasant way to get over the jet lag before the conference. Below are some photos of their travels!

Early Language Learning in School Contexts Series – Looking Back, Looking Forward

It’s two years since the first book in our Early Language Learning in School Contexts series was published. In this post the series editor, Janet Enever, reflects on how the series began and what the future holds.

The inspiration for this book series began a long time ago – working as a language teacher educator in eastern Europe in the mid-1990s I found it very difficult to identify any research collections which focused on the 3-12 years age group, despite the needs of my students. Bringing the series to fruition however, has spread over a long period of gestation – teaching MA students in London, leading the ELLiE research project in Europe, then taking up a professorial position in Sweden where it became possible to work with colleagues to launch a conference event focusing on Early Language Learning: Theory and Practice in 2014. The event proved seminal, precipitating my proposal to AILA for the launch of a global research network in early language learning (ELL-ReN) and my proposal to Multilingual Matters for the launch of the Early Language Learning in School Contexts series (launched in 2015).

I’m thrilled now to be able to say that the Multilingual Matters book series Early Language Learning in School Contexts has really taken off, with three titles already published, at least one more expected in 2019 and a further four being written as we speak!

The aim of the series from the start has been to take a very global look at how early foreign, second and additional language learning is developing in many parts of the world. We have really fulfilled this promise with publications on:

Mixed methods research: Early Language Learning: Complexity and Mixed Methods (Eds. Janet Enever & Eva Lindgren, 2017);

Pre-school language learning: Early Instructed Second Language Acquisition: Pathways to Competence (Eds. Joanna Rokita-Jaśkow & Melanie Ellis, 2019);

Teacher education: Early Language Learning and Teacher Education (Eds. Subhan Zein & Sue Garton, 2019);

Coming in August 2019: Integrating Assessment into Early Language Learning and Teaching (Eds. Danijela Prošić-Santovac & Shelagh Rixon, 2019).

Other themes in the pipeline include: assessment for learning, issues in researching young language learners in school contexts, and policy – no promises as to when these will be published yet though!

Looking back and looking forward:

Reflecting on the three years since the series was launched, I can remember initial questions about whether such a series was needed. Some suggested that a separate strand of publications focusing only on language learners from 3-12 years was unnecessary. However, for teachers, teacher educators and researchers working in this field it has been difficult to know where to look for research which really focuses entirely on young children’s foreign/ second and additional language learning experiences. With the ELLSC series we have at last established a ‘home’ for this specialist area.

The series has proved timely, as more and more young children begin their journey of learning additional languages in schools and kindergartens around the world, so teachers and teacher educators are seeking research-based evidence to guide them in implementing age- and context-appropriate approaches to teaching and learning. With every new volume published in the series we are aiming to provide this support.

However, we still need much more! There are still many gaps in the collection! So, if you have an idea that you would like to discuss – either formally or informally, do get in touch with the Multilingual Matters editor, Laura Longworth at: laura@multilingual-matters.com. Alternatively, contact me directly at: j.h.enever@reading.ac.uk.

 

For more information about this series please see our website.

Academia and Academic Writing Need Liberating

This month we published Decolonising Multilingualism by Alison Phipps, the first book in our new series Writing Without Borders. In this post Alison explains how the idea for the book came about.

“If you have come here to help me you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

― Lilla Watson

‘You have to write a book about this.’ ‘When are you writing the book about this?’ If I had a penny for every time someone said this I’d be a very rich woman.

The last 15 years of my life have been spent gradually shifting a life lived predominantly with those in the metaphorical global north, to being predominantly surrounded by those in the global south. My family is a family of refugees, not everyone, but a large number these days. My work as an academic, advocate, activist and artist all revolves around themes of refuge, and the stories of what it means to live as a refugee or to have had your homeland destroyed or taken away or threatened by violent or powerful, oppressive forces. This means there are people in my office and conversations in my phone and email and social media everyday, asking me for accompaniment, advice, support. Every hour there is an interruption, a need to react, regroup, pause, and precious little time to think.

But writing, of course, is thinking, and it can be freedom. And the more the pressure to write a book about my worklife/lifework has grown, the clearer it became to me that this could not and would not be within the usual genre of an academic monograph or journal articles. Raymond Williams says that ‘Form always has an active material base.’ It’s no accident that the long novel was born with the creation of the bourgeois and the first really partially leisured, educated class, with the time, and therefore means, to read. The new forms in this age of social media are the tweet, the blog, the image, the Facebook post. These ways of micro-journaling and sharing have stood in for me, for a while, as a proxy for carving out the time and energy to write that ‘academic monograph’. As the 2015 crisis of hospitality hit Europe and people from Syria, especially, began crossing the Mediterranean, the pressure to write grew considerably, and I found myself developing the form of the essay, the newspaper article, and poetry, out of the social journaling.

‘You should write a book.’

For a while I’ve been referring to these present times as structurally similar to times of war. My poetry anthology, published last year with Tawona Sitholé, The Warriors Who Do Not Fight, contains the refrain ‘It is war time’, over and over as a way of prompting the poet and reader to remember that things are not as they were. That whilst the bodies may not be piling up in our own country, they are piling up where people are seeking sanctuary, and on those journeys of flight. And if you live your life with people who have suffered war and oppression and have sought refuge in other lands, then the aftermath and enduring consequences bring the consequences of war and the necessities of peace-making actions very much to your own shore. And in war time the forms which have emerged in the past are essays, pamphlets, poetry, play scripts. I have found myself defending my lack of a monograph by saying ‘There are not times for the luxury of the long book. Those are for peace time work, when we can think without a gun to our heads.’

I eventually plucked up the courage to speak to Anna Roderick at Multilingual Matters about this feeling and the suggestion that a short book series might be formed. She was open, willing and pointed to many early career researchers wanting more subjective, autoethnographic and creative ways of writing which would reflect their subjective, autoethnographic and increasingly creative ways of undertaking research. To this I added the work I’d been doing, before it became the trend in academic discourse, on decolonising research. It’s hard to be serious about any form of indigenous studies without being serious about decolonising research.

What would decolonial forms look like, which also reflected the urgencies of the times and the material and affective realities of the relationships from which ‘fieldwork’ is born? Anna invited me to answer my own question and this short book is my answer.

Alison reading from her book at the SOLAS festival

The experience has been liberating. Liberating from the metricised yet utterly outdated forms of assessment which represent the Research Excellence Framework; liberating as it gives me something I know I can share with participants without it being so necessarily long winded and academic that only someone with a doctoral training can access the text; liberating as I could bring my creative writing and essay and journalistic modes to bear; liberating because I could still work theoretically and think with the page; liberating because I could cite beyond the frameworks of my training; liberating because I could walk right over borders set for me when I first began becoming a researcher.

The quotation from Lilla Watson is one I return to regularly to check in with myself and those I am working with, to guard against the assumptions of ‘helping’ and ‘needing to save’. And to guard against the perpetuation of too many colonial habits, though these cannot be entirely erased from a life lived under colonial, imperial assumptions. But in writing this piece for Multilingual Matters, who have graciously published my work for nearly 20 years, I realise that this is something they have done for me. Academia and academic writing needs liberating. And there are some very exciting manuscripts forthcoming on their list. Writing Without Borders as a series is a way, perhaps small and not the on the global scale we might expect, of mutually liberating work, by working together on something a bit different, but of its time.

“If you have come here to help me you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

 

Here’s an extract from the book, read by Alison:

For more information about this book please see our website. Alison will be donating all royalties earned from the book to the Scottish Refugee Council and Forest Peoples Programmes