Exploring the living experiences of Confucius Institute Chinese teachers in the UK

This month we published Taking Chinese to the World by Wei Ye. In this post the author gives us an insight into her own experience of living in the UK as a Confucius Institute Chinese teacher.

At chilly spring dusk, like any of the after-work Friday afternoons in the past few months, I was sitting in a small tavern named “El Guapo” among my chuffed American social circles, sipping a margarita while half-listening to their chattering. I had no interest in Super Bowl or Sarah Palin. Or let’s be frank, I couldn’t fully catch their words. Savouring Chinese food and watching Chinese drama were the treats I yearned for after peanut butter jellied buzzing weekdays. Some of my associates, who had been abroad and had experience dealing with foreigners, would kindly slow down and ask which team I support, or have a few words with me from time to time. For the rest, I was an excellent companion. What else could I do? If I wish not to become “unsociable, eccentric and maladjusted” like my predecessors, as I had been reminded upon arrival, I should be cheerful, sweet, devoted, always say Yes, why not? Great, let’s do it! And smile.

I didn’t realize what Super Bowl and margaritas had done to me until a year later I was entrenched in the research of study abroad. The daily life in Britain immersed me into the intangible power relationship between language, culture, capital, and identity. I was also amazed at the changes that had taken place for my expatriates and me.

My book explores the work and living experiences of Confucius Institute Chinese teachers in the UK through their accounts and reflection, and how this context and the wider globalised social environment have impacted on their understandings and their personal growth.

To sum up, this book germinated from Super Bowl and margaritas but fermented in English ale, might be of interest to those focused on identity and interculturality in the context of globalization.

For more information about this book please see our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like Soft Power and the Worldwide Promotion of Chinese Language Learning by Jeffrey Gil. 

Mother tongue education or flexible multilingual education?

Jean-Jacques Weber, author of Flexible Multilingual Education (published this month), discusses why a flexible multilingual education system is the best option for multilingual children in Luxembourg.

Mother tongue education is often advocated as the ideal system of education for all children in our late-modern, globalized world. However, this blog post provides a critique of mother tongue education, arguing that it is not always the panacea it is frequently made out to be. This is also the theme of my new book, Flexible Multilingual Education, where I criticize mother tongue education programmes for being too rigidly fixed upon a particular language (the ‘mother tongue’), and explore more flexible and more child-focused forms of multilingual education.

Flexible Multilingual EducationFor example, a flexible alternative which would have a better chance of moving policy towards social justice and educational equity would be the establishment of literacy bridges. I have used this concept in relation to the education system of trilingual Luxembourg, where large numbers of Romance languages speaking children are forced to go through a German-language literacy programme.

Indeed, in the Luxembourgish school system, it has been a long tradition that Luxembourgish – a Germanic language – is used in pre-school education, while basic literacy skills are taught via standard German. Yet the school population has changed dramatically over the last few decades, with children who speak Romance languages at home often forming the majority in today’s primary classrooms, especially in Luxembourg city.

My ethnographic work with these youngsters has shown that it would be counter-productive to call for education in the standard variety of the assumed ‘mother tongue’ of each child, irrespective of the question whether the children actually master this particular variety or not. On the contrary, it would be much more productive to look for the ‘common linguistic denominator’ of children whose home linguistic resources may well include varieties of French, Portuguese, Cape Verdean Creole, Italian, Spanish, Romanian, etc. and, in this particular case, set up a French medium of instruction option as an alternative to the existing German one.

The French medium of instruction option would make sense within the Luxembourgish context, as French is one of the officially recognized languages and a widely used lingua franca in the country. For the Romance languages speaking children, it would act as a literacy bridge providing a link with, and building upon, their actual linguistic repertoires.

In my book, I explore numerous other case studies from around the world and show that such flexible and child-centred multilingual education programmes would be preferable to mother tongue education, in that they would allow a full acknowledgement of the hybrid and transnational linguistic repertoires that people actually deploy in our late-modern, superdiverse societies.

Jean-Jacques Weber is based at the University of Luxembourg and his latest book is available here.

Hybridity and Global Flows: The Fusion of Language and Culture

Earlier this month we published Rani Rubdy and Lubna Alsagoff’s book The Global-Local Interface and Hybridity and we asked them to tell us a bit about how the book came together.

The Global-Local Interface and HybridityWhy you may ask, did we choose to write about hybridity? Well, in this age of global flows and social networks, with so much give and take going on between people, cultures, ideas and ideologies, we think, as do many other researchers, that it is simply inconceivable to think of languages and cultures as separate anymore. The mixing and fusing that is part of globalisation is not just of food, dress, music, art, fashion or decor, or lifestyles, but percolates every aspect of language and culture.

With the global spread of English, English is in the thick of these global flows! The hybrid mixing of languages typical of local and regional multilingual settings has created new constellations for English, as speakers creatively play with, blend, stretch and refashion their language resources in numerous fascinating ways. Our book tries to capture just this allure, richness and creativity of the varied realizations of English-based hybridity found in different parts of the world. Of particular interest to us is the way these hybrid formations open up avenues for exploring the subtle connections between language, culture and identity.

We’ve divided the book up into four sections, each focusing on specific aspects of linguistic and cultural hybridity. The chapters in the first section illustrate how hybridity can be significant in dismantling conventional, narrow views about linguistic norms and canons that define language as bounded, fixed, and separate. Whether occurring as inventive strategies in advertising and on billboards and shop signs in Tanzania, India and the Philippines, or in bilingual educational contexts involving Latinos in the US, or in the mundane conversations among colleagues in an Australian workplace, the manifestations of English-based hybridity is found to be more in tune with the view of linguistic fluidity and flow in a globalizing world.

The second section of the book focuses on hybridized discourses in the media. Here the chapters describing instances of codeswitching between English and Hindi, Punjabi, French and Korean, respectively, depict the way they are in fact reflective of a fusion between local and global, old and new, traditional and modern speaker identities, often exploited as marketing strategies. The chapters in the third section set out to examine the linguistic practices of online communities such as Facebook, Internet and YouTube users, who develop hybrid vernaculars in forging new identities and remaking social relationships. How hybrid language use becomes a means of enacting glocal hybrid identities that can be both celebratory as well as conflicting is the theme of our fourth section, exemplified by chapters dealing with adolescent girls of Japanese and White mixed parentage, by Singaporean student teachers weaving their global and local identity orientations through online discussions and even through narratives of subjective introspection of the inner space in the context of the Filipino diaspora.

Although the central theme is about hybridity, our authors are by no means presenting a “romantic” view of hybridity and offer a critical and balanced view of hybridity, acknowledging, in particular, the problematic dimensions which see corporate and market forces using hybridity to serve their own capitalist purposes. However, as we acknowledge that hybridity may not be able to fully address issues of social inequality or even notions of linguistic and cultural essentialism, we argue in our book that at its heart lies an attentiveness towards agency and voice for those who dare to break the bounds of convention!

For more information on this title and for ordering information, please visit the book’s page on our website here