How can we overcome language barriers in health care?

25 April 2017

This month we published Providing Health Care in the Context of Language Barriers edited by Elizabeth A. Jacobs and Lisa C. Diamond. In this post the editors tell us about the inspiration behind the book and what we can expect from reading it.

Have you ever had to seek health care in a country where you did not speak the language? Have you ever thought about what the experiences of the patient, care provider and, if present, interpreter are?

As immigration continues and grows across the globe, this has become a frequent experience for patients around the world. Many patients and their health care providers have to communicate across a language barrier, often in collaboration with an interpreter, formal or informal. In this situation, patients’ needs may not be understood or met because of lack of adequate communication. The nature and complexity of language barriers in health care vary within and across nations due to the culture and political nature of the nation and/or the linguistic groups seeking health care in those countries. With this diversity of contexts comes a need for diverse approaches to overcoming language barriers in health care. The goal of our book is to provide a collection of chapters describing these different approaches, their advantages and disadvantages, and special issues which need to be considered in particular contexts or linguistic groups.

This edited volume provides an excellent overview of the global challenge health care providers and linguistically diverse patients face when they seek health care in settings where it is delivered in a language other than their own. The contributing authors provide a diverse set of insights into these challenges and means for overcoming them and highlight how the likely best solutions to the problem of language barriers in health care vary depending on where you are in the world, what means of overcoming them are available, how policy shapes or does not shape these solutions, and the culture, language, and language abilities of the patients being served. They also provide a number of practical ideas and recommendations as to how to address these challenges, from how to work effectively with informal interpreters to developing a means for measuring physician language proficiency. These recommendations sometimes conflict, indicating that, while the challenge is consistent and global, the means for addressing language barriers in health care settings are varied and context-dependent.

We hope you find valuable evidence for the diversity of linguistic needs in the health care setting around the world in this book and that it serves you as an important resource for understanding this increasing global challenge, the different means for addressing it, and issues that must be addressed when developing solutions.

Patients worldwide deserve to be heard and understood and we hope this work helps make this happen.

For more information about this book, please visit our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like Medical Discourse in Professional, Academic and Popular Settings edited by Pilar Ordóñez-López and Nuria Edo-Marzá and Ideology, Ethics and Policy Development in Public Service Interpreting and Translation edited by Carmen Valero-Garcés and Rebecca Tipton.


Language, Immigration and Naturalization

5 April 2016

This month we are publishing Language, Immigration and Naturalization edited by Ariel Loring and Vaidehi Ramanathan. In this post, Ariel introduces the main themes of the book

Language, Immigration and NaturalizationLanguage, immigration, and naturalization – the title of this book in fact – are three topics with a steady influence across both time and space. Historically, language policies and ideologies have affected, and continue to affect, immigration and naturalization laws, immigration quotas, citizenship tests and nationalistic discourse. Geographically, recent world events have ignited impassioned disagreements concerning im(migration) and national borders. Prior research on citizenship has been embedded in numerous fields of inquiry (including applied linguistics, sociology, education, legal studies and policy studies) and often views “citizenship” through its legal definition of “rights and responsibilities.” What characterizes this volume is its holistic consideration of citizenship in terms of access, participation, engagement and culture.

Our edited volume not only considers the everyday legalities of naturalization but also broader identity and sociopolitical concerns. Its chapters are organized into three subsections – Policies, Pedagogies and Discourses – and includes discussions about:

  • The means by which a particular country accepts naturalized citizens
  • The language of citizenship tests and classes
  • The labeling of who is or isn’t a “citizen” or “member” of society
  • The lived experiences of immigrants in bordered areas
  • The depictions of citizenship and immigration in media discourse

The authors pursue these topics from various research backgrounds and in different areas of the world. Collectively, they explore the experiences of immigrants/outsiders as they make a life in their adopted/native country. In addressing these issues, the following three questions come to light:

  • What does the process of becoming a citizen look like?
  • In what ways are people excluded from full participation?
  • How does language position and frame insiders and outsiders?

We, the editors, are drawn to this research because of the universality of immigration and naturalization issues and the debates and policies that ensue. We realize that even those who live far from a national border are still exposed to political language that dehumanizes migrants and fears differences. And those who themselves are descendants of immigrants are able to rationalize the exclusion of new immigrants. As ramifications of citizenship and naturalization are infused in everyday meaning-making and constructions of identity, this volume brings a needed critical and linguistic lens to these topics.

Ariel Loring, University of California, Davis and California State University, Sacramento, USA
afloring@ucdavis.edu

Refugee Resettlement in the United StatesFor more information about this book please see our website or contact the Ariel Loring at the address above. If you found this interesting, you might also like Refugee Resettlement in the United States edited by Emily M. Feuerherm and Vaidehi Ramanathan.


Language Policies and (Dis)Citizenship

22 August 2013

Earlier this month we published Language Policies and (Dis)Citizenship edited by Vaidehi Ramanathan. Here Vaidehi tells us a bit more about the book and how she came to write it.

Language Policies and (Dis)CitizenshipThe primary impetus for this edited volume is my growing dissatisfaction with the ways in which the term ‘citizenship’ is being conceptualized and used both by the media and by scholars in the discipline. It seems to me that much discussion ends up in debates about ‘border controls,’ ‘citizenship tests,’ and ‘tighter immigration checks.’ Visas, passports, and securing territories undergird these arguments, and while these are important, missing from the deliberations is the idea that perhaps concerns around refugee resettlements or (illegal) immigration cannot be the object of purely juridical treatment (at legislative or regulatory levels). Perhaps we need to shift our foci to where we begin openly engaging with what is at stake in the articulations and tensions around terms such as ‘citizens’ and ‘citizenship,’ issues that can emerge only through grounded explorations. Certainly, the various essays in this volume prompt us into doing exactly this. Focusing on the backstory behind ‘citizenship’ allows us to zoom in on what citizenship permits, namely access to fuller participation. It also allows us to address (dis)citizenship and local contexts where fuller participation does not happen. This term—(dis)citizenship—is one used by Pothier and Devlin (2006) in their work on disability rights and policies, and while I have drawn on it in my research on disabilities, I find that it fits well in my current thinking about language policies and citizenship. It permits one to ask: What contexts of (dis)citizenship are we blind to? What roles do language policies and pedagogies play?

Because the focus of the volume is on ‘(dis)citizening,’ I wanted it comprised of authors who have known what it is like to not be able to participate fully. Toward this end it seemed fitting to have the contributors be primarily women (there is one male co-author) since women the world over have a historicized understanding of what it is like to not have access to full participation. Furthermore, I was trying to bring several different research domains together to address (dis)citizenship, including scholarship on pedagogies and language policies, and I found as I was making my list of possible contributors that female applied linguists have done some of the best work. (I was surprised to find that we don’t have more volumes made up only of women authors!)

Regarding each of the essays: ‘(Dis)citizening,’ flows thickly as a subtext through each piece. Every essay articulates nuanced language-related political and historical concerns. Each one, in a very different way, addresses larger political questions around modernizing, late modernity, or postcolonial concerns. The authors situate their scholarship in diverse parts of our planet (Zimbabwe, Australia, the UK, and the US, among others) and offer situated accounts about very local contexts (courtrooms, refugee centers, classrooms, teacher-education contexts, heritage centers) that point to the inter-relationality between languages, policies, pedagogies and citizenship. The volume consists of two sections, with the first one addressing issues of challenging and transforming discourses about citizenship (with chapters by Makoni, Matsuda and Chatwara, Feuerherm, Menard-Warwick, Punti and King and McCarty) and the second addressing issues of education, learning and citizenship (with essays by Sagoo, Widin and Yasukawa, Loring, Menken and Henze and Coelho).

This volume is intended to make us see that democracies historically built up through structural inequalities are not abstract categories but ones built up through particular historical processes encased in regimes of power (whether that is power associated with countries, institutions, languages, or pedagogic practices). Citizenship, as we argue, has as much to do with enacting civic citizenship and being active citizens so as to create contexts of fuller participation, as it does with legalities around visas and passports.

For more information on this book please see our website.


Getting to #15

24 July 2012

Series editor Alastair Pennycook writes about how the Critical Language and Literacy Studies series began and how his own book is the latest to be published in the series.

We have just published the 15th book in our Critical Language and Literacy Studies series, a fact that fills me with a mixture of pride, surprise, satisfaction, and exhaustion. It’s also with slightly mixed emotions – again some pride and surprise but also a bit of embarrassment and the usual insecurity, oh, and exhaustion too – that I should confess that book #15 in the series is my own, Language and Mobility: Unexpected Places (more of which later).

Given that the first book, Collaborative Research in Multilingual Classrooms (Denos, Toohey, Neilson and Waterstone) was only published in 2009, that’s a lot of books in a short period. Our goal was to bring different critical perspectives (with a focus on power and new ways of thinking about language) to studies of multilingualism, and to encourage work by new authors and from new contexts.

The series was not conceived as being based around normative critical approaches to linguistic diversity (focusing on the assumed benefits of multilingualism, for example, or orienting towards language maintenance), but instead aimed to open up questions of linguistic diversity in relation to broader political concerns. Several critical features therefore distinguish this series: Throughout, there is a strong focus on race, gender, class, colonialism, and other forms of disadvantage and discrimination, as well as a readiness to take on difficult topics. The ways these come together can be seen in books such as Laurel Kamada’s Hybrid Identities and Adolescent Girls: Being ‘Half’ in Japan, Christina Higgins and Bonny Norton’s edited Language and HIV/AIDS, Nasser, Berlin and Wong’s edited book, Examining Education, Media and Dialogue under Occupation: The Case of Palestine and Israel, or Andrea Sterzuk’s The Struggle for Legitimacy: Indigenized Englishes in Settler Schools.

Gender is a strong focus in Kamada’s book, as well as Ros Appleby’s ELT, Gender and International Development: Myths of Progress in a Neocolonial World, Julia Menard-Warwick’s Gendered Identities and Immigrant Language Learning or Christina Higgins’ English as a Local Language: Post-colonial Identities and Multilingual Practices. And watch out for another exciting book on the way: Kimie Takahashi’s Language Learning, Gender and Desire: Japanese Women on the Move.  Questions of class, poverty, access and literacy are given various treatments in Gregorio Hernandez-Zamora’s Decolonizing Literacy: Mexican Lives in the Era of Global Capitalism, Chris Stroud and Lionel Wee’s Style, Identity and Literacy: English in Singapore, and Inge Kral’s Talk, Text and Technology: Literacy and Social Practice in a Remote Indigenous Community.  Interwoven with these themes are significant concerns to do with immigration, indigenous communities, development, language ideologies, identity, technology, pedagogy and the media.

Although we have included books that critically explore the role of English in multilingual contexts, we’ve carefully avoided doing yet another book on the global spread of English or its varieties. Rather, when books have focused on English, central concerns have been on English as a local language in the multilingual contexts of East Africa (Higgins), language ideologies of English in Philip Seargeant’s The Idea of English in Japan: Ideology and the Evolution of a Global Language, English in relation to identity in China, in China and English: Globalisation and the Dilemmas of Identity (Lo Bianco, Orton and Gao, Eds) or English and globalization, Contending with Globalization in World Englishes (Saxena & Omoniyi, eds).  We have also tried to ensure that all the books in the series are theoretically strong, well researched, and, crucially, readable.

We have aimed to achieve a fairly wide coverage of contexts, including Mexico, Tanzania, Kenya, East Timor, Israel/Palestine, India, Uganda, Burkina Faso, South Africa, West Africa, Iran, Bulgaria, China, Japan and Singapore, as well as indigenous communities in Australia and Canada and immigrant communities in the USA. Clearly, there’s scope for much more diversity and wider coverage.  One final aspect of this series to which we have given serious attention is the prefaces. Taking the view that prefaces are far more than introductions, and noting that they are a fairly unregulated genre, we have worked hard on the prefaces as collaborative texts, and have taken the opportunity not only to locate the books within a wider field but also to draw attention to important points about critical approaches to language and literacy that matter to us.

So, finally, back to book #15, Language and Mobility: Unexpected PlacesI set out to do several things: to explore the themes of languages turning up in unexpected places (and why things may be unexpected), and language and mobility; to try out different styles of writing – there are travel stories, personal anecdotes, poems (not by me, thank heavens), and personal and familial history (such as my own exploration of my grandparents’ lives in India).

How well all this works, whether this hangs together, whether it appears indulgent or superficial, too linked to personal and affective histories, or whether these connections between the personal and political by contrast shed more light than other approaches to these topics, will be for the reader to decide. But I’ve used this opportunity to write about a range of topics of interest to me, including colonial India, intercultural communication, native speakers, cricket and Cornish. I hope readers find some thought-provoking ideas here, and if not, there are 14 other books in this series to enjoy, and more on the way, including upcoming books on linguistic landscapes in Antwerp (the first book in the series to focus on a European context, though a focus on the linguistic landscape of any such European city also points in many non-European directions), domestic workers from the Philippines  (bringing together issues of gender, migration, class, language policy and lots more), and literacy practices in West Africa (literacies, languages, graffiti, and many things besides). Stay tuned.

Alastair Pennycook


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