New series: Translation, Interpreting and Social Justice in a Globalised World

We are very happy to introduce this new book series on Translation, Interpreting and Social Justice in a Globalised World edited by Philipp Angermeyer and Katrijn Maryns. In this post, the series editors introduce their series and explain what topics it will cover.

Series flyer
Series flyer – Click to enlarge

In our era of globalisation and migration, translation and interpreting are ubiquitous phenomena wherever speakers of different languages come into contact, and are inextricably linked to questions of social power and inequality. In contexts as varied as courts, schools, hospitals and workplaces, or in interactions with police or refugee services, translators and interpreters variously take on roles as institutional gatekeepers, intercultural mediators, or advocates for members of marginalised communities, with evident implications for the encounters and the participants whose communication is thus mediated.

This international series welcomes authored monographs and edited collections that address translation and interpreting in settings of diversity, globalisation, migration and asylum. Books in the series will discuss how translation and interpreting practices (or their absence) may advance or hinder social justice. A key aim of the series is to encourage dialogue between scholars and professionals working in translation and interpreting studies and those working in sociolinguistics, linguistic anthropology, or other fields related to linguistics.

Books in the series will cover both translation and interpreting services provided by state and corporate entities, as well as informal, community-based translation and interpreting. We welcome proposals covering any combination of languages (including Sign languages) and from a wide variety of geographical contexts. A guiding aim of the series is to empower those who may be disadvantaged by their lack of access to majority or official languages. Proposals which bridge the gap between theoretical and practical domains are particularly encouraged.

Topics which may be addressed by books in the series include (but are not limited to):

  • Translation and language rights
  • Access to democracy and citizenship
  • Asylum and migration procedures
  • The media and minority-language broadcasting and publishing
  • Educational settings (including community-based education)
  • Medical settings (including care settings and provision of public health information)
  • Legal settings (law enforcement, court, prison, counselling)
  • Cultural translation
  • Interactions with business and private-sector institutions
  • Translation and intercultural relations and conflict
  • Ethical and political considerations in translation

We welcome proposals on research that contributes to these themes. Proposals should be sent to Laura Longworth, Commissioning Editor. For more information about the new series please see our website or download a flyer for the series here.

The Bilingual Advantage

Next month we are publishing Rebecca Callahan and Patricia Gándara’s book The Bilingual Advantage. Here, we have a short interview with Rebecca and Patricia which gives further insight to the themes of their book.

Why did you feel this was an important book to write?

We were driven by two very strong interests: what we perceived to be a strong need to revisit the existing research on bilingualism in the labor market, and if that research yielded new findings, to frame it in such as way that it might capture the attention of policymakers.

We were both aware that the literature to date has shown that there is no real advantage to bilingualism in the US labor market, and in certain cases even a bilingual penalty, something that is counter-intuitive to most people, especially in an increasingly globalized world. This raised questions in our own minds about whether past research may have suffered from data and analytical problems, or if looking at the issue with younger cohorts, or in different geographic areas might yield different results. The studies in the The Bilingual Advantage draw on relatively new data, on longitudinal samples of young people, and attempt to more carefully define balanced bilingualism. And, indeed, we find very different outcomes for young balanced bilinguals, both in the labor market and in education.

If there are so many advantages to bilingualism, and if many of the young people in the US today who are most likely and able to achieve bilingualism are also those individuals who have little access to the rigorous schooling that would support biliteracy development, it seems that policy makers should be re-thinking these counterproductive education policies. However, we have seen that the research on the cognitive and social advantages of bilingualism has not been sufficiently compelling to motivate change in educational policies. It occurred to us that perhaps the economic arguments would be more compelling and bring the world of business in as allies in attempting to re-fashion policy.

The Bilingual AdvantageHow did the two of you come to collaborate on this book?

We had both discussed the importance of bilingualism, and the disconnect between what we saw as the value of bilingualism and the research suggesting there was little labor market advantage to mastering two languages. With the Civil Rights Project, Patricia had commissioned a series of studies to investigate the value of bilingualism. Once we decided that we wanted to do a book, Rebecca immediately came to mind as the ideal person to lead the shepherding of this set of studies toward a coherent volume.  She was familiar with the methods and datasets, she knew the area substantively, and had published in this area. Her background and interest in the value of bilingualism helped to shape the arguments at the core of The Bilingual Advantage.

Who do you hope will find your book interesting/useful?

Everyone from monolingual and bilingual parents and community members, to classroom educators and educational policy makers. The Bilingual Advantage is important to consider in the many decisions we make about how to educate the growing language minority, or more specifically, emergent bilingual population, as well as all other students who should be prepared for a global economy. To date, the educational policy that governs the instruction of this growing population is not aligned with the research.

What are three main points you hope readers of your book come away with?

Policy: There is a cost to not maintaining this national resource. An established base of effective instructional practices and programs exists to guide the successful education of the emergent bilingual population; failure to take advantage of the linguistic resources these students bring with them to the classroom will cost the national economy greatly in the long run.

Research: These studies make it clear that researchers in the field must carefully consider how they define ‘bilingualism’; most available data are not designed to answer questions about literacy and language proficiency in one, much less two languages. Lack of data in this area results in conclusions that may be inaccurate. Determining the true value of balanced bilingualism in the labor market is as much a question of measurement and empirical methods, as it is of the economy. Additionally, these studies point up the fact that the demographic changes occurring so rapidly in the US require that we revisit research findings based on data that reflect a different population in our schools and in the society.

Conventional wisdom: As we enter into a new era, the generations that have grown up in the information age are acutely aware of the new global economy. In this realm, everyone’s child really can benefit from proficiency in two or more languages.

Have you gained any surprising or unexpected insights from writing the book?

The impact of the methods was astonishing. Using appropriate measures, Santibañez and Zárate were able to show that balanced bilinguals were more likely to go to a four-year college, and were less likely to drop out compared to monolinguals. In addition, it was striking to note how clearly employers’ preferences drive the economic effects – which we see very clearly in the Porras chapter, but is also hinted at in the Alarcón chapters which allude to a muffled advantage, tempered by a context historically defined by its racial stratification. Also, Agirdag’s thesis that rather than just asking about economic advantages to bilingualism one should actually consider the costs of not educating students bilingually caused us to think of this issue in a whole different way!

What do you find rewarding about authoring and editing books?

Contribution to the larger field—shaping how we ask questions and having the opportunity to move the field forward. In addition, the whole process of getting to know other colleagues’ work intimately; forming what are really very lovely relationships with colleagues.

What other books on bilingualism have you enjoyed recently?

I really enjoyed Bialystok’s Bilingualism in Development, and we use Baker’s Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism in our graduate and undergraduate courses. I repeatedly draw on and refer students to Menken’s English Learners Left Behind, her seminal work investigating how standardized testing has resulted in a de facto language policy in K-12 schools. Some books you read once, others you go back to over and over. The Education of Language Minority Immigrants in the United States, edited by Wiley, Lee, and Rumberger, is one of those books. I recently re-read several chapters. The selection of works for that volume is exceptional.

What is your next research project?

Rebecca will be working on two projects, one which investigates the role of science efficacy in EL students’ middle to high school transition, and the other teachers’ use of an innovative engineering curriculum in the elementary age classroom. Patricia is working on bilingual, multinational open access secondary math curriculum to facilitate immigrant students’ high school completion and is about to launch a national survey on what teachers of English learners know, have been trained to do, and need support in doing to effectively educate EL/emergent bilingual students.

If you would like more information about this book please see our website.

 

 

Sabrina Billings on Language and Tanzanian Beauty Pageants

Sabrina Billings, author of  Language, Globalization and the Making of a Tanzanian Beauty Queen, describes how she came to research Tanzanian beauty pageants.

When people learn that I have just written a book about language and Tanzanian beauty pageants, one of several questions typically surfaces. Those who are not familiar with the often relatively obscure research interests of anthropologists, including linguistic anthropologists such as myself, ask, How did you become interested in such an unusual topic? Others wonder, What do beauty pageants have to do with language? Many query, How are standards of beauty different in the US and East Africa? And sometimes, people sheepishly ask, Did you yourself ever participate in beauty pageants?

Language, Globalization and the Making of a Tanzanian Beauty QueenI am taking this invitation to blog about my book as an opportunity to set the record straight: No, I never participated in beauty pageants! In fact, I grew up seeing pageants as a rather antiquated and sometimes disturbing, albeit occasionally entertaining, form of quintessentially American popular culture. And beyond watching with some delight the question and answer portions of the events on TV, it never once occurred to me to consider the happenings at pageants from a scholarly, let alone sociolinguistic, point of view.

Rather, my interest in beauty pageants began as a fluke during my first ever visit to Tanzania as a graduate student participating in an intensive Swahili language program in the lovely, mid-size city of Morogoro. After seeing banners advertising an upcoming pageant I convinced several of my classmates to come with me, purely for the novelty of the experience. From the moment I stepped in the doors, I knew I would have to rethink my assumptions about beauty pageants. While sharing many of the trappings of pageants familiar to me – a decorated stage, bantering MCs, choreographed dance numbers, and besequined contestants – what was going on at these events was vividly different. Perhaps most surprisingly, the audience had come for a party. Young people, dressed to the nines in fashionable clothing, mixed and mingled, enjoying bar drinks and lively dance music. Well-dressed older people were there too, visiting, laughing, or waiting patiently.

After the event got started, I started paying attention to language use. One of the MCs engaged in a lot of English-Swahili codeswitching, while the other one used mostly pure Swahili. At one point, with my fledgling Swahili skills and the ample amount of English used by the one MC, I was able to understand them discussing the fact that Swahili was the national language and important for everyone to know, though contestants were allowed to speak either English or Swahili. I also picked up on threads of a discussion between the two MCs about the relative importance of each language, a topic which struck me as unusual for such a jovial atmosphere. Some of the comments seemed to be grappling with the fact that one of the contestants was from East Asia and did not know Swahili at all. Though there was much that night I did not understand, two main points became clear to me: 1) that these pageants were hip, which in my mind, was the antithesis of those with which I was familiar, and 2) that these pageants allowed for some kind of display and negotiation of local linguistic practices, policies, and ideologies.

For a couple of years, while I was completing my coursework and exams for my PhD, I ruminated over the events of that night, and as I learned more about language ideologies, East Africa, and beauty pageants, I decided to run with it and make these events the focus of in-depth fieldwork on pageants in three cities across Tanzania, research which would culminate in my dissertation.

While my original fieldwork and dissertation focused primarily on language ideologies exhibited in and around pageants, the present book is much expanded in scope and moves well beyond strictly linguistic considerations. The book reflects a decade of engagement with pageants and their participants, allowing, among other things, for a longitudinal glimpse of women’s lives after pageants. Most broadly, my book addresses how young Tanzanian women attempt to craft satisfying lives for themselves, how pageants play a role in their efforts, and how language use facilitates or constrains these dreams.

Three main themes are threaded through the book: education, globalization, and opportunity. In terms of education, I consider how contestants are able to manipulate their often rudimentary knowledge of English to present themselves as elite, and how such contestants often win over their fluent Swahili-speaking counterparts. In terms of globalization, I examine how global norms for language, dress, and beauty circulate in Tanzania and get reinterpreted in locally meaningful ways, and also how linguistic and non-linguistic signs are linked together in clusters to convey recognizable identities. Finally, in terms of opportunity, pageants provide contestants the occasion to engage in a cosmopolitan femininity, and speaking English is often a key component. Most importantly, for many contestants, the primary reason they compete is the hope of winning money in order to return to school, and especially, to continue learning English.

In the end, while participating in pageants is a positive experience for many young women, it does not provide the opportunity for upward and outward mobility that many seek. Unequal access to education, to elite varieties of language, as well as to preferred models of femininity, means that at the highest levels of national competition, only those contestants who have been raised in elite urban households have any chance of winning the crown. The irony then is that at the Miss World competition, the best contestant in all of Tanzania tends to find herself ranked very low, as her linguistic skills become commonplace there while other structural inequalities have resulted in her being much less prepared than competitors from other nations.

The book is informed theoretically and thematically by broad topics such as language ideologies, language in education, and language policy. I have attempted to write an accessible, engaging, and pertinent book, of wide interest to students and teachers of sociolinguistics, applied linguistics, anthropology, cultural and gender studies, and more. I hope readers enjoy it!

To find out more about Sabrina’s book take a look at our website

Introducing our new book series ‘Language, Mobility and Institutions’

To tie in with the publication of the first books in our new series, the series editors Melissa Moyer (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona) and Celia Roberts (King’s College  London) have written this post presenting the series.

We are very happy to introduce this new series on ‘Language, Mobility and Institutions’. The theme of this series and the manuscripts we seek to publish address a new sociolinguistic reality brought about by globalization. This worldwide social process challenges researchers dealing with language to adopt innovative perspectives in order to provide an improved understanding of how language is implicated in the various institutions of society. ‘Institutions’ in the title of the series is not just limited to established social, administrative, political or economic entities in the public, private or non-governmental sector but also to sites and contexts where institutionalized practices are produced and reproduced in the daily undertakings of people who move around the world.

Communicative Practices at Work

The first books in the new series are being published this autumn. We hope these will be the first of many which aim to link the experience of being mobile with the institutional responses to increasing diversity. Institutions, understood in a wide sense, are grappling with the conundrum of national or institutional ideologies which assume standardization or homogenous ways of thinking in situations of superdiversity. Meanwhile, migrants see their social and cultural capital leeching away or look for ways to resist and develop alternative strategies to gain agency and cope with inequality and social exclusion.

Sitting on the train in any major city in the world, it is commonplace to hear five or six different languages in a carriage. In everyday life multilingualism is a banal event. But how does this play out in institutions? Much of the time, it is swept under the carpet as a largely unrecognised and rarely remunerated workforce of multilingual people is expected to act as interpreters and translators. At the same time, linguistic gatekeepers are at work in selection panels, designing an oh-so-narrow gate for the few to pass through.

The present series seeks to bring forth the innovative ways people are pushing at these very gates which are being safeguarded by powerful institutions and how they are finding creative ways of contesting exclusionary practices by setting up their own businesses. Similarly, some organisations are championing communicative flexibility within their own workforces.

Language, Migration and Social Inequalities

And this is one of the themes of Jo Anne Kleifgen’s book which was published last week. Communicative Practices at Work is an ethnographic and sociolinguistic account of how one US firm is drawing on the multilingual and multimodal resources of its staff. In November Language, Migration and Social Inequalities edited by Alexandre Duchêne, Melissa Moyer and Celia Roberts takes a critical look at sites of control, selection and resistance across settings in Europe, Africa and Australia.

Both these books draw the reader into research sites quite far removed from the majority of books on sociolinguistics which tend to focus on language rights, education or local communities. With this new series, workplace settings such as high-tech factories, the marketplaces of South Africa or the world of the airline stewardess are explored. Similarly, light is shed on the backstage work of institutions where language use is negotiated as migrants’ lives are made bureaucratically processable.

We are finding the editorship of this series a pretty exciting experience since any one aspect of language, mobility and institutions is nested in wider contexts, discourses and interactions. Local and national politics, the forces of the neo-liberal economy, the multiple networks of migrant groups and the contact they maintain with their countries of origin and transit are all part of the tangled web which has language as its centre.

We welcome manuscripts or book projects that presents research that would contribute to the widely defined themes of the present series. If you think you have a proposal to make then do get in touch with Anna Roderick at Multilingual Matters and we will get back to you soon.

Celia and Melissa