The Multilingual Nature of Higher Education

21 March 2017

This month we published Academic Biliteracies edited by David M. Palfreyman and Christa van der Walt. In this post, David and Christa discuss their experience of coediting the book. 

Christa: There were some initial signs that this book was not meant to be. Firstly, David’s e-mails to me disappeared in cyberspace and it was only when Nancy Hornberger contacted me to enquire very diplomatically whether I had received the e-mails, that we found out his institutional e-mails were not delivered, for some unfathomable reason. Secondly, this was an under-researched topic and we were not sure that we would get any contributions; and thirdly, both of us dealt with serious interruptions of a personal and professional nature. And yet, here we are, three years later, with chapters that showcase the multilingual nature of higher education in all its complexity.

Our first (academic) challenge was to agree on what we understand ‘literacy’ to mean, so that we can evaluate contributions on ‘biliteracy’. Going through our Skype notes, I’m struck by the terminology issues in every conversation. Is there a difference between ‘translanguaging’ and ‘translingual’; between ‘multiliteracies’ and ‘multilingual literacies’? Is ‘translanguaging’ the overarching concept in which ‘biliteracy’ needs to find its place, or should they be seen as separate phenomena in multilingual contexts? We still do not have a definite answer; or maybe it is better to say that we have many answers!

David: Yes, the email bug almost put a subtle end to the project before it started, and I’m very glad that Nancy intervened! I was keen to work with Christa on this book because her previous publications had focused on multilingual higher education in a way that I hadn’t come across before: questioning assumptions about English as the medium of instruction in so many universities worldwide.

Christa: We both wanted a variety of chapters from all corners of the world, but of course we had to be selective within the scope of one book.  We aimed to cover both majority and minority languages in contexts where language is a medium for developing knowledge rather than necessarily a focus of the course; in the end, the chapters highlight the use at university of literacy in Afrikaans, Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, isiXhosa and other African languages, Korean, Maori, Polish, Spanish and Welsh.

David: Some of the contributors had already published in the area of biliteracy; some had been working with biliterate students and issues of biliteracy in university courses for some years, but came to engage with the issues in new ways through their involvement in the book. As the book developed, we encouraged contributors to read and comment on each other’s chapters, which brought some mutual adjustments and helped bring out common themes. All of us became aware of new perspectives to understand the experience of students and scholars, and fresh options for working with and for biliteracy. Guillaume Gentil, whose previous work provided inspiration for the book, kindly sprang into action once the rest of the book was complete, contributing a concluding chapter which draws themes together and points out some ways forward for research in academic biliteracies.

I’m grateful to Zayed University (UAE) for their support in travelling to Australia, Jordan and the UK in the course of preparing the book. Among many learning experiences along the way, I remember especially meeting up by coincidence with Christa at the AILA Congress in Brisbane – it was good to have a face to face meeting near the beginning as most of our later work together was by email or Skype. Another unforgettable and educative experience was taking part in a research conference at Cardiff University where most communication was in Welsh or Basque: having to rely on simultaneous interpreters and finding my usual language of academic/social communication suddenly minoritized, I suddenly found myself a ‘lurker’ in academic discussions!

Christa: For me, as a lecturer who code switches and uses two languages when teaching at Stellenbosch University, the active development of biliteracy in academic contexts is an important acknowledgement of the multilingual nature of twenty-first century higher education. Many students arrive at higher education institutions with a fully developed academic language that is not English and it would be a waste to ignore the enormous potential of that resource when making meaning of academic material.

We’ll look forward to hearing from readers of the book about how the issues relate to their own experiences as learners or teachers.

 

David M. Palfreyman: david.palfreyman@zu.ac.ae

Christa van der Walt: cvdwalt@sun.ac.za

 

For more information about this book, please see our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like Multilingual Higher Education, which Christa published with us previously.

 


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.


Prescription and Tradition in Language

1 December 2016

Last month we published the book Prescription and Tradition in Language edited by Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade and Carol Percy. In this blog post, Carol tells us more about what inspired her and Ingrid to put the book together.

Carol Percy presenting her plenary at the Prescription conference, introduced by Ingrid Tieken

Carol Percy presenting her plenary at the Prescription conference, introduced by Ingrid Tieken

The academic study of linguistic prescriptivism is relatively new. Historical linguists like my co-editor Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade and me, Carol Percy, have both hosted conferences on the topic. My bilingual conference in Canada inspired essay collections that focussed mostly on English and on French. Ingrid’s meeting in the Netherlands was truly multilingual in scope, and realizing the significance of this we commissioned chapters on a wide range of languages for Prescription and Tradition in Language. Our multilingual mandate and our English-language medium really highlight how the codification of language norms needs to be considered in unique cultural contexts, across Time and Space.

Some of our contributors consider prescriptive traditions for English. We see journalists and academic linguists contributing to the formation and dissemination of norms. In a chapter contrasting the prescriptive traditions of English with French, the pronunciation guide compiled by lexicographer Robert Burchfield for the BBC (1981) underscores the broadcaster’s “semi-official status” in the absence of a state-sponsored language academy for English. In reviews of Burchfield’s supposedly ‘descriptivist’ edition of Fowler’s Modern English Usage (1996), we can compare the opinions of journalists and linguists. And in what is actually a very depressing chapter, we see that pervading popular ‘news’ about language (whether the Middlesborough dialect or immigrant children’s bilingualism) is an inflexibly unwelcoming ethnolinguistic nationalism. Indeed, another contributor makes the case that traditional prescriptive rules define communities, naturalize assumptions (about rules and the people who observe them, or don’t), and thus ultimately validate prescriptive rules. This argument is probably not English-specific!

Prescription and Tradition in LanguageMore contributors consider prescriptive traditions for other countries and languages—and we are delighted to be disseminating this material in English. For major languages including French, Russian and Chinese, our contributors synthesize traditions and analyze challenges posed by globalization and new media. In the state’s official Dictionary of Modern Chinese (2012), the inclusion—and exclusion—of words referring to economic and social changes is discussed in the media. English delivers technological terms to languages including French and Russian. In France, official committees devise French equivalents to English terms and disseminate them on websites as well as in print. For Russian, shifts in its status and its norms are particularly visible (and open to debate) as the rise of new media coincides with the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Some of our chapters contrast the status and standardization of the ‘same’ language in different contexts. Nineteenth-century Dutch in the temporarily-reunited Low Countries varied less in practice than in commentators’ imaginations. But the Russian written officially in Kazakhstan or spoken as a lingua franca in Dagestan is diverging from what is known as ‘Moscow Russian’. And although Macedonian is now recognized as a national language, elsewhere it is a minority language, with official recognition differing from country to country. Basque is recognized as a minority language in Spain but not yet in France: a committee is currently crafting a standard that can be spoken colloquially in multiple contexts. And (how) do sociolinguistic norms for German change when it is taught to foreigners?

While our collection can’t consider every language, it contains general and theoretical chapters. (How) do language norms vary by writing system? (How) does a language’s multilingual vs monolingual contexts or spoken vs written use relate to establishing its norms? Pam Peters recontextualizes these and other issues in her generous Epilogue to the volume. Both Ingrid and I learned (Ingrid “learnt”!) a lot from our contributors when we edited this volume, and we hope you enjoy it.

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


Getting to know the Channel View team: Flo

15 January 2016

Flo is the latest member of staff to join the Channel View Publications/Multilingual Matters team.  She joined us as an intern in September 2014 and she fitted in to our office so well that we asked her to become our full time Publishing Assistant from January 2015. In this post we get to know more about our newest member of the team…

Flo What was it that first attracted you to apply to work for CVP/MM, was it the books, the topics of our publications, or something else?!

After teaching English as a foreign language in France for nearly two years post-university, I was ready for a new challenge and decided to pursue a job in the publishing industry. I had assumed there wouldn’t be much in the way of publishing in Bristol, but a quick Google of ‘publishing internships, Bristol’ took me straight to the CVP/MM website. At the time, there weren’t any positions available, but the sorts of books you were publishing instantly piqued my interest: appealing to me as a language learner, EFL teacher and lover of travelling! When an opportunity to join the team came up just a few weeks later, I jumped at the chance and applied straight away.

Sounds like your interests fit with those of the rest of us very closely! I take it that you already speak French, do you speak any other languages, or are there any that you’d like to learn one day?

I studied Russian at university as well as French, and lived there for a semester in the third year of my degree. At that point I could speak Russian fairly well, having been plunged in at the deep end in a homestay with a Russian ‘babushka’ (grandmother) who didn’t speak a word of English. As you can imagine, my Russian improved pretty quickly…although I’m very rusty now! Other than rekindling my Russian, I’d like to learn Spanish one day – I hear it’s not too difficult if you already speak French and English.

Wow, living with a Russian babushka must have been quite an experience! As an office full of foodies, I’m sure we’d love to know if she cooked you any unusual meals or if you tried any exotic dishes during your stay in Russia?

Well, the typical breakfast in Russia is ‘kasha’ (каша), the Russian take on porridge, which is delicious. But the bane of my Saturday morning was the variation on this that my host called ‘molochniy sup’ (молочный суп), literally ‘milk soup’, consisting of a bowl of cooked spaghetti in warm milk – not quite the weekend treat it was meant to be! More importantly, as a result of my constant coughs and colds brought on by the -30 degree Russian winter, she introduced me to the medicinal properties of vodka. Consequently, it was an exciting day when I could reciprocate in the cultural exchange with my discovery of Heinz beans in the supermarket, which I brought home to my host. She put the unopened tin in a pan of boiling water to cook and we ate tepid beans that were pronounced ‘delicious’ for dinner!

Sounds like you had some interesting culinary experiences! If you could invite 6 well-known people to dinner (be it for baked beans or something more appetising!), who would you ask?

That’s such a tricky one… there are so many people I’d want to choose! I think I’ll go for: Louis Theroux for some good stories, Morgan Freeman or David Attenborough (I can’t choose!) ditto and also just to listen to them speak, even if it’s only ‘Please pass the potatoes’, Dawn French for her sense of humour and to create a fun, positive atmosphere, Eddie Izzard for some slightly eccentric and multilingual(!) comedy, Laura Marling for a lovely musical interlude between courses and Nigel Slater to ensure that the ‘dinner’ part of the dinner party is a success!

Quite a diverse selection, I’m sad this isn’t going to actually happen! Thank you for answering all our questions, Flo. To round off the interview, here are a few quick-fire questions:

Sweet or savoury? I’m a self-confessed chocoholic and always have room for pudding – so, sweet!

City stroll or country ramble? If I’m in the UK I’d probably opt for a walk in the countryside, but when I’m abroad I love exploring new cities.

Cats or dogs? Difficult to choose, but I grew up with a hilariously dim cat who I loved, so I’ll stick with cats.

Chat on the phone or handwritten letter? Much as I like a lengthy phone catch-up, there’s nothing quite like a handwritten letter – my friend’s been living in Australia for the past year and I’ve loved sending letters back and forth (even if the news in them is out of date by the time they get there!)

Neon or monochrome? The only neon things I own are highlighters, so I’d have to say monochrome.

Television programmes or films? Although I enjoy a good sitcom or drama (or episode of Bake Off), you can’t beat a great film.  One of my favourites is L’Auberge Espagnole, which inspired me to study abroad.


Minority Populations in Canadian Second Language Education

2 October 2013

Earlier this year we published Minority Populations in Canadian Second Language Education edited by Katy Arnett and Callie Mady. Here, Katy tells us a bit more about the field of Canadian Second Language Education.

For many decades within the field of second language education, Canada has been known for the development and growth of its French immersion program. The model has been positively replicated in many corners of the globe and thus led to very esteemed views of the country’s language education initiatives.

Minority Populations in Canadian Second Language EducationYet, French immersion is not the only dimension of second language education in the country. There are other programs for French study (Intensive French and Core French), programs for immigrants who want to remain connected to their heritage languages and perhaps pass them on to their children, and programs seeking to revive Aboriginal languages. The changing faces of the Canadian immigrant population have led to considerations of English and French as “Additional,” rather than second languages. Changing views about who can and should study language has shifted the population of learners in traditional French Second Language classrooms. Thus, this volume seeks to bring to light some of these lesser-known facets of Canadian second language education, which may end up challenging Canada’s positive global reputation in the field.

Within this volume four groups are considered: Allophone students in Anglophone regions of the country studying French as an additional language, students with disabilities who are in French immersion programs, newcomers to and residents of Canada who are seeking to maintain ties to their heritage languages and cultures, and Aboriginal communities hoping to revive the languages and language traditions that were suppressed (often violently) by the Canadian government. The collective work of the authors—who range from doctoral candidates to esteemed scholars in the field—shows that Canada remains a vibrant locale for questioning and promoting language education, even if not all of the stories celebrate successes.

To find out more about this book please see our website.


Bilingual Immersion Education Network

21 June 2012

Conference in Wandsworth where BIEN was launched in March 2012

We were interested to discover the recently founded Bilingual Immersion Education Network (BIEN) and got in touch with its organiser Gabriela Meier to tell us a bit about what the network aims to achieve. 

BIEN was set up as part of a research project (funded by Esmée Fairbairn Foundation) at Wix Primary School which runs an English-French stream.

Bilingual immersion education means teaching some subjects in one language (e.g. in English) and other subjects in another language (e.g. in French) in a state or private school at primary and/or secondary level. Teaching school subjects through two languages can be a very successful method to teach language and content. There are different types of bilingual immersion education. These are described on the BIEN website.

BIEN has the following aims:

BIEN joins people: It connects teachers, parents and policy makers, who are interested in bilingual immersion education in the UK.

BIEN informs: It is the first port of call for any questions regarding bilingual immersion education in the UK. It offers information, resources, FAQs, discussions, research findings, etc.

BIEN charts the trend: There is an increasing number of interesting bilingual immersion education projects around the country and BIEN keeps a directory of such programmes. If you know of a bilingual immersion programme, please let us know.

The website is publicly available, but some information is reserved for members. Additionally, through membership numbers we can assess the level of interest in this educational model around the country. So if you are interested, please join the network and keep up to date with developments. Go to www.bien.org.uk, click on the network tab and register. You will have to enter a registration code, which is: 2lingual.

Comments from BIEN members:

timely and needed” (researcher)

I feel I’m part of a movement now” (teacher)

For further information please go to the BIEN website www.bien.org.uk or contact Dr Gabriela Meier, Lecturer of Language Education, University of Exeter (g.s.meier@exeter.ac.uk).


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