Honoring Richard Ruiz and his Work on Language Planning and Bilingual Education

Honoring Richard Ruiz and his Work on Language Planning and Bilingual EducationAt the end of last year we published Honoring Richard Ruiz and his Work on Language Planning and Bilingual Education edited by Nancy H. Hornberger. The book brings together a selection of the late Richard Ruiz’s work as well as reflections from his former students and colleagues. In this post, Nancy writes about her own personal memories of Richard and how he inspired the work of others.

Honoring Richard Ruiz and his Work on Language Planning and Bilingual Education is special and unique for me. I’ve edited many books before, including books in my own Bilingual Education and Bilingualism series, and even readers of selected works of distinguished scholars in my field such as Jim Cummins and Joshua Fishman, as this book started out to be too. But what began as a reader featuring selected works of a distinguished scholar who was, uniquely for me, also my own dissertation mentor, became still more special and unique when it evolved to be also a collective testimonial and testament from many of Richard’s own students and colleagues, as we experienced the untimely loss of this most remarkable scholar and human being.

Every contributor and commentator in the volume knew and worked with Richard Ruiz closely as his student or colleague or both, and each one repeatedly expressed to me how grateful and honored they felt to be part of the volume – and though I have always enjoyed working with contributors to every volume I have edited, the abundance of gratitude and heartfelt emotion this volume generated has been truly profound and moving. The spontaneous desire of these authors to include photos capturing their personal relationships with Richard, and Multilingual Matters’ generosity in working with us to do so, conveys some of the warmth that characterized the project as we brought it to fruition.

Richard and Nancy
Richard and Nancy

I am especially pleased that Richard and I worked together to identify the works he wanted to include in the volume, both published and unpublished pieces, including the section he named Language Fun, containing a sample of his wonderfully pithy and humorous ‘take’ on serious and troubling language planning moments and events of our times. We had no inkling that the volume would become a posthumous collection in his honor, and I would have much preferred for him to be here to hold the book in his hands, but as things turned out, it has been a special and unique way for me to remember and contribute to the legacy Richard leaves behind, not just through his remarkable thinking and writing but also through capturing some of the voices of the many whose lives he deeply touched.

Nancy H. Hornberger, University of Pennsylvania

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

An Interview with Joseph Lo Bianco

Having published Joseph Lo Bianco and Renata Aliani’s book Language Planning and Student Experiences in June, we asked Joseph to answer a few questions about the research.

Language Planning and Student ExperiencesWhy do you think Australia is a particularly interesting country to research?
Australia is interesting because of the energy it has injected into language policy. We have had 67 initiatives since 1970! It is also the case that our national language planning has been ambitious, aiming to teach a large number of languages, and because of the unique indigenous language context. Asian studies has also been an enduring priority of government, but the results are far from satisfactory.

What do you think policymakers in other countries can learn from Australia’s example?
Because Australia has tried to do comprehensive language planning I think our experience is interesting and relevant to other countries.  We have tried to encompass the national language (English), minority languages (both immigrant and indigenous), foreign languages (Asian and European) and a range of language services. In this wide array some important lessons have been learned and all countries increasingly face similar challenges under globalisation.

Why is language policy such a contentious issue in multilingual communities?
Because languages are like no other human social construct. Languages are both tools and symbols, languages mediate both material and symbolic worlds, what I mean by this is that languages are both very practical, helping or hindering access to jobs and social opportunities and also markers of belonging and identity.  Quite a few policy fields are contentious of course, but languages have some very special dimensions to do with the multiple ways they impinge on our lives.

Why is the relationship between policy makers and those implementing the policies i.e. teachers a difficult one?
This is a key focus of the book Renata and I have written. I think one of the key reasons for this difficulty is that teachers are seen by many policy makers as mere implementers of policy that they determine. In reality it isn’t like that at all. If teachers don’t share the goals of language or literacy policy, or even if they are only half-hearted about the policy, the chances of policy makers achieving their goals are drastically undermined. I think that teachers have a kind of reserve power, if they withhold enthusiasm, how can a distant, temporary, Minister of Education achieve what he or she wants? There are other complications in this relationship. One of them is that teachers and teaching is in fact a kind of language planning too.

What makes your book different from others that have been published before?
Some language planners still debate whether the ‘micro’ level of the school can be considered a language policy site. Our research shows that schools, teachers and classrooms are very much part of the ecology of language planning. The book is also different in that it exposes the weakness of the policymaking position; it is powerful in formal ways, controlling money, curriculum and employment, but teachers and teaching, and student learning, are activities with some measure of autonomy.

Which other researchers in your field do you particularly admire?
The list would be too vast to be complete, but Joshua Fishman, Bernard Spolsky come to mind, also Elana Shohamy, Francis Hult, Claire Kramsch, Jan Blommaert, Jef Vershuren, Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, Mary Kalantzis, Peter Freebody, Nancy Hornberger, Colin Baker, Jiri Neustupny, Francois Grin, Richard Ruiz and Dante Alighieri. OMG I have left nearly everyone off my list!

What is your next research project?
I have a Multilingual Matters book with a Tunisian colleague, Dr Fethi Helal, on language discourses in Tunisia, the place where the remarkable events of the Arab Spring began. We are working closely on analysing how language is implicated in the volatile politics of remaking this amazing North African country. I am also working on a UN project on peacebuilding and language in SE Asia, especially Myanmar, southern Thailand and Malaysia.

Language Policy for the Multilingual ClassroomLanguage-in-education PoliciesIf you’re interested in this book click here for more information. You might also be interested in: Language Policy for the Multilingual Classroom edited by Christine Hélot and Muiris Ó Laoire and Language-in-education Policies by Anthony J. Liddicoat.

Language-in-education Policies

With Anthony Liddicoat’s book Language-in-education Policies out this week we asked him to tell us a bit about how he came to write it.

Language-in-education PoliciesThis book grew out of a concern that I have had for some time that, while language-in-education policies often talk about using languages to develop intercultural understanding, they often don’t seem to focus much on how they are going to achieve that. To try to understand more about why this is the case, I started to look more at how policies talked about intercultural understanding and how these ideas related to other ways of talking about language and culture. This book, by focusing on ideas like ‘intercultural relationships’, is one way of trying to get at this problem within language policy.

The book is organised around a series of case studies of different polities. There are different ways these case studies could be divided up but I decide to focus on policy contexts rather than only polities  as I found that quite different things happen depending on the groups for whom planning is being done. The book has chapters on policies for foreign language learning, for language education of immigrants, for language education of indigenous people and for external language spread. This allowed me to write about the ways there are similarities and differences between the ways different societies have addressed the issue. Each chapter has three case studies from different polities for each policy context.

Although I found focusing on policy contexts the best way to work with the issues I was dealing with, I didn’t want to lose the possibility of joining together policy contexts in a single society. For this reason I decided that I would choose two countries that would be included in case studies across more than one context. These countries were Australia and Japan. I chose Australia, not only because it is the place I am most familiar with but also because it is a society that represents itself as multicultural. Japan on the other hand has a very monocultural view of itself. So these two case studies are like opposite points on a continuum, with the other case studies falling somewhere between. It is possible to read across these case studies to get a sense of how Australia and Japan deal with policy across contexts and see some similarities and differences between contexts in one society.

Writing the book was like a journey across contexts and across countries and I hope that reading it brings the same experience.

If you liked this book you might also like:

Uniformity and Diversity in Language PolicyUniformity and Diversity in Language Policy edited by Catrin Norrby and John Hajek

Language Planning and Policy in Native America

Language Planning and Policy in Native AmericaWith her book Language Planning and Policy in Native America published this week, Teresa L. McCarty tells us a little about how the book came about.

The first thing I should say about this book is … it’s been a long time coming! In a way, I have been writing this book since I first set foot in the small Navajo community of Rough Rock, Arizona in the early 1980s to take a job as a curriculum writer. Although we didn’t call it this at the time, my Navajo colleagues and I were doing grass roots language planning and policymaking (LPP). By the time I proposed this book to Multilingual Matters in 2000, I had worked with many Native American communities on similar grass roots language planning efforts. It took another decade-plus for the book to come to fruition (thank you Tommi Grover, Nancy Hornberger, and Colin Baker for sticking with it all these years!), but hopefully the maturity has added substance, scope, and the collected wisdom of more Indigenous-language planners.

Kauanoe Kamanā teaching Nāwahī kindergartners the Hawaiian syllabary (photograph courtesy of Nāwahī Laboratory School)

This second thing readers should know is that this is a peopled account. Here, readers will meet Daryl Baldwin and his colleagues in the Myaamia (Miami) Language Project, and Jessie Little Doe Baird and her colleagues in the Wôpanâak (Wampanoag) Language Reclamation Project, who are reviving languages which, until they began their inspirational work in the 1990s, had not had a native speaker for decades (in the case of Wôpanâak, more than 150 years). From the accounts of these formerly ‘sleeping’ languages, to the Hawaiian-language ‘renaissance’, to the family-based California master-apprentice program, to the Mohawk Freedom and Survival Schools, to Navajo-medium schooling in the southwestern US, the book explores both the challenges and the victories of Indigenous community-driven LPP. Achieving linguistic and educational sovereignty is a big piece of the story, as is a theory of ‘safe’ versus ‘dangerous’ linguistic diversity. I also highlight the perspectives and experiences of an often invisibilized group of stakeholders: Indigenous youth. I am honored and excited to bring these stories forward.

Learning in Nāwahī’s garden (photograph courtesy of Nāwahī LaboratorySchool)
Learning in Nāwahī’s garden (photograph courtesy of Nāwahī Laboratory School)

The cover image may state the book’s message more powerfully than any words, as 84-year-old Hubert McCord – one of a handful of Mojave speakers – leans toward 13-year-old Winona Castillo in a gesture of affection, pride, and optimism for the next generation of language learners. Above all, I hope the book will speak to all who strive for linguistic and social justice, inspiring us to, in the words of Acoma poet Simon Ortiz, ‘fight back’ and ‘fight on’.