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

9 March 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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


Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism: 6th Edition

24 February 2017

This month we are very excited to be publishing the 6th edition of our international bestseller, Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism by Colin Baker and Wayne E. Wright. In this post we interview Colin and Wayne about where it all started, the collaborative process and what the future holds for Foundations…

 Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 6th EditionQ1: Colin, how does it feel to be handing over control of the book to Wayne?

It was a dream come true when Wayne agreed to work with me on the 6th edition of Foundations. Since the 1st edition in 1993, research and writing on bilingualism and bilingual education have mushroomed so much that revising the 2011 5th edition by myself made no sense at all.

Finding somebody with such an extensive knowledge of bilingualism, multilingualism and bilingual education, a broad and international understanding, totally sane and balanced, and much younger than myself was wonderful.

Wayne and I met in Bristol (UK) and instantly found we had very similar ideas about the future and contents of the Foundations book. A close academic and personal friendship became a wonderful part of my life. Within a few hours of meeting, I knew that the future of Foundations was in the best possible hands, and I am enormously grateful to Wayne for taking on this responsibility.

Q2: Wayne, how does it feel to be handed control of the book from Colin?

I read the 1st edition of Foundations as an undergraduate student, and the 2nd and 3rd editions in my graduate programs. Colin’s book inspired me throughout my career as a bilingual teacher, and was a key resource as I began conducting research. I’ve used the 4th and 5th editions in my own courses. I was thrilled when the 4th edition included citations to some of my work, and even more thrilled when I was invited to help update one of the chapters in the 5th edition. Foundations and many of Colin’s other excellent books and articles have been a guiding force for me and so many others in the field for a long time.

Needless to say, it has been a tremendous honor to join with such an esteemed and outstanding scholar as Colin as co-author of this 6th edition. Colin and I had friendly correspondence occasionally by e-mail for many years related to various academic tasks. It was a wonderful experience to finally get to meet him in person in Bristol to discuss our plans for this and future editions. I confess to feeling unworthy of such an important task, but Colin quickly put my fears to rest. Working closely with Colin on this edition has been one of the most enjoyable experiences in my academic career. Colin proved to be a great mentor and friend.

I feel a great sense of responsibility to ensure Colin’s original work remains an influential and beneficial resource for the current and next generations of students and scholars.

Colin and Wayne with Tommi in Clevedon, 2012

Colin and Wayne with Tommi in Clevedon, 2012

Q3: How did the collaborative process work with your being thousands of miles apart in very different time zones?

We both live almost 24/7 on email, and we both tend to answer each other’s emails very quickly. So communication has been highly efficient, focused and ever-friendly. It is also helped by Wayne getting up very early in the morning, and myself working quite late in the evening. So the time zone difference of 5 hours between Purdue and Bangor is hardly noticeable.

Q4: Wayne, was it difficult to take on Colin’s ‘voice’ and maintain the style of the previous editions?

Surprisingly no. Colin’s ‘voice’ is one of the things I have greatly enjoyed in the prior editions. Colin is very good at writing about complex issues in a way that is easy for readers to understand. So I was very accustomed to Colin’s engaging writing style and I suspect it has had a subliminal impact on my own over the years. I found I didn’t need to exert any particular effort to match our styles. In fact, when reviewing our final proofs it was sometimes hard for me to distinguish Colin’s original words from my own additions!

Q5: Did you disagree about anything along the way or did you both have the same ‘vision’ for the 6th edition?

It was really odd, but we always seemed to agree easily and rapidly, mostly because our vision, viewpoints and understandings are so similar. Also, we both have great respect for each other’s strengths, which are often complementary, and we both seem to be good at taking advice from each other and from the many experts who reviewed every chapter.

Q6: What is new in the 6th edition?

Since the 5th edition of 2011, there have been so many new publications and so much research, new ideas and evolving viewpoints that the 6th edition has been thoroughly revised and updated. With students in mind, the 6th edition provides an improved reading experience making a valuable resource for course instructors, professional development providers, study-group leaders and all readers.

Importantly, there are many new and more thoroughly covered topics including: translanguaging; dynamic bilingualism; transliteracy; multiliteracies; superdiversity; bilingual assessment; multilingualism; the nature of bilingual and multilingual identity; bilingualism and economic inequalities and advantages; digital tools for language revitalization; forces, mechanisms and counterweights in building bilingual education systems; recent developments in bilingualism and brain imaging research; bilingualism on the internet and in information technology. There is also a new or greater focus on a variety of instructional approaches and issues, as well as important policy developments in the US context.

To address the large number of citations and references that grew substantially with each edition, over 860 older and redundant citations have been removed. These have been replaced with over 350 citations to more recent research and current developments, most of which have been published after the 5th edition was published in 2011. All demographic and statistical information has been fully updated.

Figures, tables, and text boxes have been reformatted and are now numbered for easy reference. End of chapter recommended readings and study activities have been revised, plus discussion questions and many web resources have been added. We were especially pleased to include for the first time a comprehensive glossary with definitions for bolded key terms that appear throughout the book.

Q7: Which part of the book did you most enjoy working on?

Much has changed in terms of policy in the US and around the world. We enjoyed writing about the end of No Child Left Behind, the beginning of the transition to the Every Student Succeeds Act, and especially about current developments more favourable to bilingual and multilingual education such as the growing number of US states adopting the Seal of Biliteracy, California overturning Proposition 227 through the passage of Proposition 58, the expansion of CLIL across Europe, and developing nations around the world turning to multilingual education as a solution to challenges in providing a basic education for all children.

We also enjoyed revising and adding new end-of-chapter material, thinking of ways the contents of each chapter could be used to engage students in meaningful in-class or online discussions, providing practical ideas for short research activities, and connecting students with real-life examples via the internet.

The 1st edition of Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, published in 1993

The 1st edition of Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, published in 1993

Q8: Foundations has been hugely successful since the first edition was published in 1993. Why do you think it has been so popular and has continued to sell so well?

In 1993, there was no comprehensive introduction to bilingualism and bilingual education. Mike Grover, the founding father of Multilingual Matters, noticed that Colin’s 1988 book ‘Key Issues in Bilingualism and Bilingual Education’ was selling as a textbook even though it was not written for that purpose. Mike had the vision for an international textbook that was as comprehensive as possible. Colin took the challenge. Then, in the early 1990s, Ofelia García played a key role in broadening Colin’s understanding from the psychological and educational to the sociological and political. She has been central to reviewing the draft of every edition since 1993. The first edition of 1993 and the subsequent editions in 1996, 2001, 2006 and 2011, sold well particularly in the United States, but also with sales in almost every country of the world. Mike’s vision has been fulfilled.

Some very kind expert reviews have appeared over the years, particularly mentioning the multidisciplinary and international approach, the willingness to provide a balanced and critical view, the attempt to simplify the complexities without losing understanding, and the attempt to write in a relatively simple and straightforward style with international students in mind. These elements seem to be part of the character of the book and have made the book a bestseller.

Q9: Is the 2017 6th edition an ending or a beginning?

Multilingual Matters envisage that the book will go on from strength to strength to at least a dozen editions! Work on the 7th edition begins with the publication of this, the 6th edition. Wayne Wright is now in charge, and the authorship will naturally change to ‘Wright and Baker’.

We are always looking for ideas about new themes, so if you have suggestions, they are very welcome. You could influence the 7th edition and help us move this famous textbook into the next six editions.

For further information about this book, please see the video above and the book’s page on our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like The Assessment of Emergent Bilinguals by Kate Mahoney.


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

21 February 2017

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

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

Marjukka rowing on Enäjärvi

Marjukka rowing on Enäjärvi

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

Marjukka with Tommi and Sami

Marjukka with Tommi and Sami

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

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

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

Marjukka Grover


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

11 January 2017

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

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

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

Richard and Nancy

Richard and Nancy

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

Nancy H. Hornberger, University of Pennsylvania

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


Translanguaging in Higher Education

24 November 2016

This month we are publishing Translanguaging in Higher Education edited by Catherine M. Mazak and Kevin S. Carroll. In this post, Catherine describes how the book came together.

Translanguaging in Higher EducationOver the last several years the term translanguaging has gained traction in academia, particularly in the field of bilingual education. When I first encountered the term I was looking for a way to describe the bilingual classroom practices that were a taken-for-granted part of content learning at my university (the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez). It seemed to me that ‘code-switching’ just didn’t cover the complex, layered use of Spanish talk around English text, the use of diagrams labeled in English during a formal presentation in Spanish, or the common practice of using scientific keywords in English while defining them in Spanish. I became interested in understanding these practices as bilingualism, rather than dismissing them with a deficit perspective which treated them as simply strategies for coping with a lack of English skills.

Understanding the role of English as a real force in higher education globally, my colleague Kevin S. Carroll and I began to think about the ways that English in particular, and other colonial languages in general, must be inserting themselves into higher education classrooms around the world. We could imagine that some of the same translanguaging practices that we were seeing in our classrooms must be occurring in other socio-cultural contexts. We also knew that other practices may be taking place that were different from those we were seeing, and so might contribute to our understanding of translanguaging as a theory.

With this in mind, the idea for our book, Translanguaging in Higher Education: Beyond Monolingual Ideologies, was born. We envisioned it as a large cross-case analysis that would incorporate perspectives from diverse socio-cultural contexts around the world. By including chapters about South Africa, Denmark, Ukraine, Puerto Rico, Hong Kong, India, the United Arab Emirates, and the Basque Country, we hope we have accomplished this goal.

We also sought to contribute to the current academic conversation around translanguaging, which has tended to focus on K-12 education. As we attended conferences and presented our work, we kept hearing questions about translanguaging itself. What does it mean exactly? Is it really new? Isn’t it just code-switching?

In the book, I attempt to answer the question, ‘What is translanguaging?’ And here’s my answer from the book’s introduction:

(1) Translanguaging is a language ideology that takes bilingualism as the norm.

(2) Translanguaging is a theory of bilingualism based on lived bilingual experiences. As such, it posits that bilinguals do not separate their ‘languages’ into discrete systems, but rather possess one integrated repertoire of languaging practices from which they draw as they navigate their everyday bilingual worlds.

(3) Translanguaging is a pedagogical stance that teachers and students take on that allows them to draw on all of their linguistic and semiotic resources as they teach and learn both language and content material in classrooms.

(4) Translanguaging is a set of practices that are still being researched and described. It is not limited to what is traditionally known as ‘code-switching’, but rather seeks to include any practices that draw on an individual’s linguistic and semiotic repertoires (including reading in one language and discussing the reading in another, and many other practices that will be described in this book).

(5) As such, translanguaging is transformational. It changes the world as it continually invents and reinvents languaging practices in a perpetual process of meaning-making. The acceptance of these practices – of the creative, adaptable, resourceful inventions of bilinguals – transforms not only our traditional notions of ‘languages’, but also the lives of bilinguals themselves as they remake the world through language.

If you are interested in translanguaging as a developing construct, in bilingualism and bilingual education, in multilingual higher education, in Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL), the internationalization of higher education, educational language policy, or languaging across diverse socio-cultural contexts in general, I think you will find this book of interest. Kevin and I accept questions, concerns, and comments here on this post or by email at the addresses below.

Catherine M. Mazak catherine.mazak@upr.edu
Website: www.cathymazak.com 

Kevin S. Carroll kevin.carroll@upr.edu
Website: http://kevincarroll.weebly.com

For further information about this book, please contact the authors at the addresses above or see our website


Sociolinguistic Variation and Acquisition in Two-Way Language Immersion

12 October 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


L2 Learning, Teaching and Assessment

13 September 2016

This month we are publishing L2 Learning, Teaching and Assessment by Nihat Polat which explores second language learning, teaching and assessment from a comprehensible input (CI) perspective. In this blog post, Nihat writes about what inspired him to put the book together.

L2 Learning, Teaching and AssessmentGrowing up in the bilingual context of eastern Turkey, I struggled with understanding and communicating messages with different audiences on a daily basis. Some of these difficulties could be attributed to not knowing the vocabulary or the grammatical structures, which is not surprising for any bilingual person. Yet, often I knew the words and/or the grammar but I still had difficulty understanding what my Turkish or Kurdish family members or my friends or teachers were trying to tell me. For me, this was quite interesting. I became even more interested in ‘what it means to understand a particular linguistic sample’ or ‘know a foreign language’ while I was learning English at high school. However, my interest in technical aspects of ‘comprehension’, ‘comprehensibility’, and ‘input’ in second language (L2) learning, teaching and assessment peaked when I met Stephen Krashen at a conference in graduate school. Being on the conference organizing committee gave me additional ‘opportunities of exposure’ to Professor Krashen. As a big fan, I got to ask him a lot of questions to which he kindly offered detailed answers, often with a wonderful sense of humor.

In the process of doing research on different aspects of second language acquisition (SLA) and teaching graduate courses on SLA and L2 teaching and assessment it became clearer and clearer to me that the term ‘comprehensible input’ (CI) is used rather loosely in the field. Thus, I decided that a need is warranted (1) to define the term in light of current SLA research, and (2) explore SLA and L2 teaching and assessment from the perspective of CI. Taking a compressive blended approach that champions the intertwining of theory (Part I) and research (Part II) with L2 pedagogy and assessment (Part III), I particularly focused on the following questions:

  • What is the conceptual foundation of CI?
  • What are CI’s linguistic, cultural, semiotic and stylistic elements?
  • What are CI’s multimodal and dynamic interpretations in the subfields of psychology, anthropology and linguistics?
  • How is CI used/discussed in different SLA theories and research?
  • As far as its role in L2 teaching is concerned, what role do multimodal forms of CI play in different discourse and interaction patterns in different teaching settings around the world?
  • What factors (e.g. curriculum, learner, teacher, setting-related) do the classroom teachers need to consider in modifying CI for pedagogical purposes in different settings?
  • What role does CI play in terms of assessment modifications in different kinds of test techniques for receptive and productive skills?

In short, I hope this book helps students, teachers and researchers in the field to have a better understanding of L2 learning, teaching and assessment from the perspective of CI. I would like to conclude with this caveat that I highlighted in the Conclusion section: “If the ultimate goal of L2A is ‘authentically languaging one’s L2 self’, offering straightforward remedies as to how it happens would be no less unwise than trying to take a still picture of a constantly self-organizing dynamic system with countless elements.”

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


The Status of English in Bosnia and Herzegovina

31 July 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

Louisa Buckingham l.buckingham@auckland.ac.nz

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


Cognate Vocabulary in Language Acquisition and Use

17 November 2015

Last month we published Cognate Vocabulary in Language Acquisition and Use by Agnieszka Otwinowska. In this post, Agnieszka tells us a bit more about cognate vocabulary and explains the background to the cover image of her book.

Cognate Vocabulary in Language Acquisition and UseMy research interests lie in the broad area of bilingualism and multilingualism, defined functionally as the use of several languages for different purposes. The topic that I found particularly fascinating is the ways in which individual multilingualism (i.e. using several languages by one person) affects noticing and using crosslinguistic similarity. Such similarities in the area of lexis are known as cognate vocabulary (i.e. words that are formally and semantically very similar or even identical across different languages). We tend to notice them mostly in languages which are typologically close, and it is assumed that cognate words had a common ancestor word that they originated from (Lat. cognatus = blood relative). However, cognates also exist in typologically unrelated languages, such as Polish and English due to the historical processes of language contact and borrowing.

At a certain moment of my research and teaching career, I was quite amazed by the ‘discovery’ of cognates, which led me to studying the topic of crosslinguistic similarity and its role in multilingual language acquisition. I decided to investigate how cognateness ‘works’ across languages, because it is assumed that the existence of cognates should be helpful in learning. As a methodologist of language teaching, I was interested in finding out which factors influence noticing and using cognates, and whether sensitivity to crosslinguistic similarity, present in multilinguals, can be trained in other language learners.

I mainly focused on Polish and English because Polish is my native language, while teaching English is my main area of research. Thus, my entire research deals with the role of crosslinguistic lexical similarity and multilingualism with English as a part of a language constellation. My book Cognate Vocabulary in Language Acquisition and Use summarises my research on cognate Polish-English vocabulary, and on training vocabulary learning strategies, coupled with raising awareness of such words.

So, why is this book different from other books on multilingualism? I believe it is the focus on cognates and the scope of this work. Although cognates have been studied from various perspectives, there are also vast differences in methodological approaches, and even in the ways of defining a cognate, depending on the domain. Approaches to cognates differ in historical and applied linguistics, in psycholinguistics and in contact linguistics. My aim was to present those diverse perspectives in one volume and make use of the knowledge stemming from those different domains in my research.

The result is a unique monograph, which brings together linguistic, sociolinguistic, psycholinguistic and educational perspectives on the phenomenon of cognate vocabulary across languages. It predominantly deals with Polish-English cognates and their use by bilingual and multilingual Polish learners/users of English. However, since it discusses the universal processes of language contact in the macro scale (at the societal level) and the micro scale (crosslinguistic influences in the mind of an individual), the volume should appeal to international readers of numerous language backgrounds. Hopefully, the research presented here can also serve as an example for other language pairs and groups.

And just the final word about the image on the cover of the book. Aneta Pavlenko congratulated me on the choice, saying that there is a clear link between cognates and the photograph. Indeed, cognates are very much about certain repetitiveness of patterns (like the poles on the beach), and also about ‘giving a helping hand,’ in language learning (like the children). The photo was taken on holiday at the Polish seaside (actually not my favourite destination, as I prefer hiking in the mountains). Two of the children in the photo are mine, and they are rather proud to be featured on the book cover! All three kids are quite grown-up by now, and they all attend the same secondary school near Warsaw.

If you would like more ifnromation about this book please see our website. You might also be interested in New Perspectives on Transfer in Second Language Learning.


Assessing Multilingual Children

8 April 2015

This month we are publishing Assessing Multilingual Children edited by Sharon Armon-Lotem, Jan de Jong and Natalia Meir. In this post, Sharon tells us how the book came together.

Assessing Multilingual ChildrenAt the turn of the millennium, I was intrigued by an observation of a preschool supervisor who told me: “Bilingual children with Specific Language Impairment (SLI) are the worst.” I knew by then of the growing evidence for the advantages of bilingualism. I also realized that Speech and Language Therapists (SLTs) often recommend to parents of bilingual children with SLI to use just one language with the child, often the societal language. As I was looking for scientific evidence for the supervisor’s claim and for the SLTs’ recommendation, the research community around me thought that I was nuts. I was warned that studying SLI (a term used for children showing primary difficulty in acquiring language in the absence of other delays) was difficult. Studying bilingualism was even more of a challenge, as the population is heterogeneous. Why complicate life and study bilingual SLI (later termed BiSLI)?

There were many reasons.

From the societal perspective, the identification of SLI in children growing up in bilingual contexts poses a major challenge for researchers, and has clear clinical and educational repercussions: How do we know if a child’s language difficulties are due to SLI or to insufficient exposure to the language being assessed?

From the scientific perspective, the reported similarity calls for an explanation. What is it in the language development of these two populations that, at times, makes them look indistinguishable? Is there a theoretical or even empirical basis to what that supervisor said, and to the SLTs’ recommendations?

I was not discouraged by the reactions, but it felt lonely. I knew there were a few researchers in Canada and the US who struggled with this problem and one research group in Scandinavia. This was not much. And then, in 2004, I received an email from Jan de Jong (my co-editor). He was planning a mini-workshop on BiSLI (the term was coined by the Amsterdam group). I was not alone in this endeavor for disentangling bilingualism and SLI anymore. Following that workshop, our group of researchers began meeting at conferences to continue the discussions over dinner or lunch and gradually grew into a small community.

This was when the idea of applying for a COST Action emerged. We wanted to have our own meetings focused on the study of BiSLI. COST (Cooperation in Science & Technology see www.cost.eu) was the perfect framework for it. COST supports networking and cooperation among researchers across Europe. It helps bring together scholars to jointly develop new initiatives. A COST Action is such a network. We were fortunate to get one to study BiSLI.

In 2009 COST Action IS0804 “Language Impairment in a Multilingual Society: Linguistics Patterns and the Road to Assessment” (www.bi-sli.org) started its meetings. Our community grew. We became friends bound by a joint quest. We wanted to have a better grasp of the source of the similarity and figure out how bilingualism impacts the manifestation of SLI. We aimed at providing SLTs with better diagnostic tools. The outcome of this quest, dubbed LITMUS– Language Impairment Testing in Multilingual Setting, is presented in this book.

And if you ask yourselves whether the supervisor was right? No, she was wrong! Bilingual children with SLI are not the worst. Bilingual children are often misdiagnosed as having language impairment and treated for what is bilingual typical language development. In fact numerous studies repeatedly show that children with BiSLI are not different from monolingual children with SLI in their linguistic performance. This further implies that there is no need to stop a child with BiSLI from using one of her languages as there is no evidence that bilingualism aggravates the impairment.

Following this book of tools, we further plan a book of findings to corroborate the above recommendations.

For further information about this book please see our website.


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