Midsummer at the Sociolinguistics Symposium

The opening reception
The opening reception

Last month Tommi and I attended the 20th biennial Sociolinguistics Symposium which took place in Jyväskylä, Finland.  We were very much looking forward to the conference and visiting Finland at this time of year, as the 24 hour daylight makes “Juhannus” (Midsummer) a really special occasion. Tommi, being an English-Finnish bilingual, knows the country, language and culture well and was able to explain all the traditions of “Juhannus” to me, as well as translate many footballing terms as I attempted to follow the World Cup on Finnish TV!

Our stand was well-placed in a lovely, airy atrium where the coffee breaks were held. It was a really lively space as the delegates streamed in between sessions to socialise over the coffee and Finnish culinary treats.  I was pleasantly surprised by the Finnish food that I tried during our stay and particularly enjoyed Karelian pies (rice pies), Rieska (potato flatbread) and Reindeer stew.

Author Lyn Wright Fogle signing a copy of her book
Author Lyn Wright Fogle signing a copy of her book

As well as co-manning our stand Tommi ran a lunchtime workshop on publishing an academic book and took part in the roundtable entitled “Academic publishing and access to knowledge: A discussion on current trends, challenges, and possible futures”.  Such events are great ways for us to engage with the delegates and hear their thoughts, questions and concerns about academic publishing.

As usual, we brought a wide selection of our latest books with us and the delegates snapped up the special conference discount that we always offer.  The bestselling books of the conference were Identity and Language Learning (2nd Edition) by Bonny Norton, Jan Blommaert’s two books Ethnography, Superdiversity and Linguistic Landscapes and Ethnographic Fieldwork (with Dong Jie), the new 4th edition of Colin Baker’s best-selling book A Parents’ and Teachers’ Guide to Bilingualism and Flexible Multilingual Education by Jean-Jacques Weber.  The latter two books are both part of our trial bookmark scheme which you can read about here.

The Midsummer bonfire
The Midsummer bonfire

To make the conference extra special, the organisers arranged for the delegates to enjoy traditional Finnish Juhannus celebrations by running a lake cruise to a Midsummer party on an island.  There we enjoyed a kokko (bonfire), buffet and humppa dancing. Much fun was had by all before we travelled back in the extraordinary midnight sun! Thank you to the conference organisers for putting on such a fun evening and doing an excellent job at hosting the conference.  We are already looking forward to the 21st Sociolinguistics Symposium.

Laura

New ebook initiative!

We have recently launched our latest ebook initiative, which aims to give customers greater flexibility in terms of where and how they can read our books.  Tucked inside the paperback copy of each of the books involved in the trial is a special bookmark.  This bookmark has a code printed on it which, when redeemed in the ebook section of our website, enables the owner of the paperback to buy a copy of the ebook at a fraction of its usual price – the discount is 80 or 90%!

Bookmarks
Bookmarks

The idea behind this initiative is that many of our readers have told us that they much prefer a printed copy of the book for everyday use.  However, sometimes, perhaps when away at a conference, our readers desperately want to quickly check something in a book, which they know they have on their bookshelf at home but didn’t bring with them. We are hoping that this will really help out in such instances by enabling cheap access to an already owned book from anywhere in the world.

The books involved in the trial are:

So look out for a special bookmark if you buy a copy of these paperbacks and do let us know if you think this is a good idea.  If it is successful we may well roll it out onto all our paperbacks in the future – watch this space!

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.