Translanguaging: from a little acorn a mighty oak grows

26 May 2017

This month we published New Perspectives on Translanguaging and Education edited by BethAnne Paulsrud, Jenny Rosén, Boglárka Straszer and Åsa Wedin. In this post the editors explain how the book came about and introduce us to the metaphor of the “translanguaging tree”.

Research on translanguaging has often been centred in superdiverse cities and urban spaces. Thus, Dalarna University in Falun, Sweden, may not have come to mind first when exploring new research in the dynamic field of translanguaging as theory and pedagogy ‒ until now! Dalarna University has proven to be the springboard for a collection of innovative international research on translanguaging. How did this happen?

Let us back up a bit! The four of us editors have all been teaching and researching language in education in the Swedish context for many years, focusing on both policy and practice. With approximately 20% of Sweden’s population comprised of immigrants and at least 140 languages spoken by pupils in the compulsory school system, language use in and out of educational contexts is a stimulating field. Our research led us naturally to the concept of translanguaging.

The Translanguaging conference at Dalarna University

Translanguaging offered a new way to explore language ideologies, policies, and processes. After a study visit by Åsa to Canada, where she spent time with Jim Cummins and Thornwood Primary School in Mississauga, the idea of a small workshop on translanguaging grew. While we first imagined that perhaps a dozen or so Swedish researchers would join us in Falun, we soon realized that the thirst for discussing translanguaging as a theoretical and pedagogical concept was great. That informal workshop developed into an international conference, “Translanguaging – practices, skills and pedagogy”, with more than 150 researchers from around 20 countries as well as numerous in-service teachers. Bryn Jones, in his presentation at the conference, aptly described the spread of translanguaging as a useful concept in education research with the metaphor “from a little acorn a mighty oak grows”.

The editors at a writing workshop

The metaphor of the acorn even describes the momentum which followed the conference in Falun. Inspired by the amazing research taking place in different contexts, we knew that a volume was needed to share this surge in the field. With a fantastic group of scholars from seven countries, the volume took shape in record time. For us editors, the period of time from April, 2015, to the present will always be remembered as a blur of texts to read, long editor meetings, contact with fantastic authors spread across the world, and appreciation of the great efforts made by everyone involved in the book. A highlight was a two-day writing workshop in the wintry countryside outside of Stockholm, where all the authors gathered for two days of peer-reviewing and mingling.

Many branches of the ever-growing ‘translanguaging tree’ are represented in our volume. Here are just a few:

  • agency
  • language ideology
  • language policy
  • social justice
  • translanguaging space
  • transliteracy
  • critical views on translanguaging
  • young learners to young adults
  • sign languages
  • national minority languages

Organizing a conference on translanguaging in the small town of Falun in Sweden highlights the fact that linguistic and cultural diversity is part of everyday lives in most places in the world. With the publication of this timely collection, we have made one contribution to tending the flourishing ‘translanguaging tree.’ We hope that the field will continue to thrive, and that future research will benefit from this first volume dedicated to new perspectives of translanguaging in education.

For more information about this book, please see our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like Translanguaging in Higher Education edited by Catherine M. Mazak and Kevin S. Carroll.


The Complexities of Arizona’s Restrictive Language Policies

5 October 2016

Later this month we are publishing Amy Heineke’s book Restrictive Language Policy in Practice which explores the complexities and intricacies of Arizona’s language policy in practice. In this post, Amy discusses the impact of these policies on English Language Learners.

Restrictive Language Policy in PracticeThink back to your experiences as a young person in school. What did you enjoy? With whom did you spend time? What challenges did you face? What pushed and prompted you to develop as an individual? How did those experiences influence who you are today?

Now consider this reality. After starting school, you are given a language proficiency test. Based on your score, you are placed in a separate classroom apart from your friends. While they read novels and conduct science experiments, you learn the discrete skills of the English language: one hour of grammar, one hour of vocabulary, one hour of reading, 30 minutes of writing, and 30 minutes of conversation. You listen, speak, read, and write in another language, but the message is clear: English is the priority – learn it, and learn it fast.

This is the educational experience for tens of thousands of English learners (ELs) in the state of Arizona. After Proposition 203 nearly eradicated bilingual education in favor of English-medium instruction for ELs in 2000, state policymakers and administrators further restricted language policy with the shift to the English Language Development (ELD) model. Implemented in schools in 2008, the policy required that students labeled as ELs (based on standardized tests of language proficiency) be separated from English-proficient peers and placed in ELD classrooms for four hours of skill-based English instruction.

The statewide implementation of ELD policy in practice has yielded various challenges for local educators working in classrooms, schools, districts, and communities. Lacking rigorous preparation or pedagogical support, teachers must maneuver complex classrooms with learners from a multitude of cultural and linguistic backgrounds with various abilities, strengths, and needs. Due to this complexity, leaders struggle to staff ELD classrooms, often resulting in a revolving door of underprepared teachers. Students see themselves as being in the “stupid class,” as they fall behind their peers in math, science, and social studies in the push for English proficiency.

Whether a first-year teacher or an administrator with decades of experience, local educators struggle with how to ameliorate this complex situation. Policymakers and state administrators believe in the ELD model, and as such provide staunch compliance measures to ensure rigid implementation of instructional mandates. As local educators and other stakeholders encounter the on-the-ground repercussions in their daily work, they make decisions to maneuver policy in practice to effectively reach and teach ELs.

This book analyzes the complexities of restrictive language policy in practice. Conducted five years after the shift to ELD instruction, this qualitative study investigates how Arizona teachers, school and district leaders, university teacher educators, state administrators and legislators, and community leaders engage in daily practice to navigate the most restrictive language policy mandates in the United States. Overall, the book demonstrates that even in the most restrictive policy settings, educators and other stakeholders have the agency and ability to impact how policy plays out in practice and influence the education of ELs, so that all learners may one day fondly recall their schooling experiences.

Dr. Amy J. Heineke, Associate Professor of Education, Loyola University Chicago, School of Education
Email: aheineke@luc.edu
Twitter: @DrAJHeineke
Linkedin: amyheineke

arizona-booksIf you would like more information about this title, please contact Amy using the contact details above or see our website.

You might also be interested in a couple of our other titles: Language Policy Processes and Consequences edited by Sarah Catherine K. Moore and Implementing Educational Language Policy in Arizona edited by M. Beatriz Arias and Christian Faltis.


The Widely-Cherished Myths of Language Equality and Language Diversity in Europe

15 March 2016

This month we published Towards Openly Multilingual Policies and Practices by Johanna Laakso, Anneli Sarhimaa, Sia Spiliopoulou Åkermark and Reetta Toivanen. The book explores language policy and use of minority languages in Europe. In this post, the authors discuss the many misconceptions about language diversity in Europe.

Europeans know languages. Being highly educated means speaking many languages, being a well-integrated immigrant means having a good command of the national language. Being a good member of an ethnic minority means mastering both the state language and the ‘ethnic’ language – which, of course, is never subject to discrimination in a democratic European state. On the contrary, lots of taxpayers’ money goes to supporting it.

In brief, Europeans have firm and clear opinions about languages, language learning and language use, about which languages should be promoted, supported, taught, used, or tolerated and in what context. That’s why, from time to time, these issues provoke emotional and heated debates.

Often, the debates reveal that Europeans also firmly believe in linguistic fairness established by the law. It’s true that most European countries have language laws or general legislation concerning the use and promotion of the national language and the protection of minority languages, or at least their non-discrimination. There are even attempts to create general European language policies, which try to implement the Council of Europe’s treaties protecting minorities, their languages and cultures. However, there are also several questions which are seldom asked in the debates. How accepted and empowered do people speaking minority languages feel in Europe? How successful is language-related legislation, after all? How well-informed are citizens and decision-makers about the law and how justified are their firm opinions on language issues?

In brief: Do we really know enough about how well the widely-praised and even legally-established commitments to minorities’ linguistic rights are fulfilled in Europe today?

Picture the following examples – all authentic, by the way:

  • A is a hospital patient with Alzheimer’s disease at an advanced stage who no longer understands what the doctors and nurses are saying. He reacts with nervousness and speaks back to the staff in a language nobody at the hospital understands. It turns out that the hospital staff is not even aware that A’s mother tongue is spoken in their country and that it is a distinct language which is not intelligible to the speakers of the majority language. This is what recurrently happens, for example, to speakers of Karelian in today’s Finland and Finns in today’s Sweden.
  • B is a healthy and lively child, who at the age of five could already read and write fluently in her language. When she is six-and-a-half, her parents take her to a paediatrician for a standard school maturity test. The family comes home with a recommendation to take B to a neurologist because of her low test scores: according to the paediatrician, “B didn’t even seem to understand the questions we asked her”. Things like this happen to members of numerous minorities and migrant groups in Europe all the time.
  • C and D, a young couple, wish to transmit their heritage language to their child. However, their own parents have always spoken the majority language to them: C and D have only learnt their heritage language in childhood contacts with their grandparents. Speaking the heritage language to their own child feels ‘somehow artificial’, it feels ‘like a joke’. And even when relatives and friends praise and enthusiastically support the young family’s decision, nobody can tell them what they should do to make parenting in the heritage language ‘feel right’ and they get no support in the local daycare. This we have heard from Karelian-speaking parents in Finland and Meänkieli-speaking parents in Sweden.
  • During a coffee break, E receives a phone call from her mother. She talks in a low voice in order not to disturb her colleagues. However, it is not the tone that disturbs – her colleagues tell her that speaking a language which the others don’t understand is discriminatory and offensive and is therefore forbidden at all premises of the workplace. Such regulations have been reported, for instance, by Finnish speakers in Sweden and by Hungarian speakers in Austria.
  • F teaches extracurricular heritage language classes in a European city. His pupils come from different schools and backgrounds, and some of them don’t speak the heritage language at home on a regular basis and are not very confident language users. F cannot find really suitable teaching materials for his classes – all available textbooks have been created either for native speakers in a traditional speaker community or for foreign language learners. Although F is a trained teacher, during his education he was never prepared for or confronted with the special needs of a heritage-language learner. This is what teachers of innumerable minority and migrant languages struggle with daily everywhere in Europe.

As the examples above reveal, the reality of how Europeans use and experience their possibilities to use minority languages is much more complicated than the smooth and glossy surface of European language policies and the numerous measures to support language teaching and learning, the proclaimed non-discrimination and the copious lip service paid to ‘multilingualism’ and ‘diversity’ let us believe.

Despite all existing research, the multilingual reality is still not widely known, especially as it concerns the multilingualism of Eastern European and non-Indo-European-speaking minorities or migrant groups. Most notably, laws and policies do not cover all the dimensions of the real, multilingual world and citizens are surprisingly poorly-informed even of the existing laws and institutional arrangements.

Towards Openly Multilingual Policies and PracticesReporting and analysing the results of a large-scale European research project, our new book, Towards Openly Multilingual Policies and Practices, dives under the glossy surface. As the project investigated the forms and prerequisites of multilingualism among twelve very different language-based communities from the Barents Sea coast to the Mediterranean area, the book offers insights into a wide variety of geographical and socio-historical contexts and will, hopefully, make you re-evaluate your own beliefs about the European myth of linguistic equality and fairness.

We invite you to read the book and follow our quest to create a tool for assessing the maintenance of a minority language by way of its speakers’ personal experiences!

Johanna Laakso, Anneli Sarhimaa, Sia Spiliopoulou Åkermark and Reetta Toivanen

For further information about this book please see our website.


New series: Early Language Learning in School Contexts

10 March 2016

We are pleased to announce our new book series Early Language Learning in School Contexts edited by Janet Enever. In this post, Janet introduces her new series and explains how she sees the series developing.

Series flyer - click to enlarge

Series flyer – click to enlarge

With the launch of this new series we focus on young children learning additional languages in school and preschool settings worldwide. The series provides an opportunity to bring together research on second, foreign and minority languages where these are introduced for children aged 3-12 years in schools.

In the 21st century the provision of additional languages at an increasingly early age has become the norm in most developed countries and is now reaching the policy agendas of low-economy countries as well. Inevitably, given such rapid expansion, research initiatives have tended to lag behind, sometimes resulting in a lack of understanding of the challenges of the implementation process both by policymakers and schools themselves. With the establishment of this international series we hope to provide a platform for research in early language learning to be positioned as a distinctive area for investigation, offering new insights for many transnational themes and contributing to building a more robust procedure for the establishment of research-evidenced policy implementation processes.

In this series we hope to include themes such as the nature of progress, motivation and outcomes in early language learning; examples of policy implementation across a variety of contexts; teacher development and approaches to classroom teaching and learning; curriculum themes and cultural awareness; varied models of provision and assessment and a consideration of research methodologies appropriate to the study of young children learning languages in school settings. This list offers just a hint of the areas that would benefit from substantial research in many parts of the world. As the series grows we hope to draw together a comprehensive body of research across a range of languages, clarifying the contribution that schools are able to make to the development of young children’s multilingual competencies and multiple cultural identities.

For more information about the new series please see our website. Proposals should be sent to Laura Longworth, Commissioning Editor. You can also download a flyer for the series here.


How are refugees’ experiences shaped by language and policy?

19 January 2016

In December we published Refugee Resettlement in the United States edited by Emily M. Feuerherm and Vaidehi Ramanathan. In this post, Emily introduces the main themes of the book and examines the discourse of refugee resettlement in the US.

The plight of refugees and asylum seekers has been making headlines for the past couple of years. In the summer of 2014, the unprecedented number of unaccompanied Central American minors crossing the Southern US border reignited the moral panic about ‘illegal’ immigration and the validity of asylum cases. In 2015, images and stories of Syrian refugees fleeing a violent war in their home country was juxtaposed against receiving countries’ attitudes towards this vulnerable, displaced population.

Refugee Resettlement in the United StatesThe US is geographically removed from many of the effects of the wars in the Middle East, and so has seen fewer refugees and asylum seekers from this region than Europe has over the past year. Nevertheless, the recent terrorist attacks in Paris pushed US politicians and policy makers to redouble their concern over borders and migrants, particularly focusing on refugees and asylum seekers from Syria, Yemen and other Middle Eastern countries. Now, politicians are calling for a ban (or at least more stringent background checks) on refugees being accepted from the Middle East, while at the same time there is a surge in raids identifying and deporting Central Americans seeking asylum in the US.

With all of these discourses around refugee resettlement, this volume uncovers and critically analyzes the language, policies and pedagogies that contextualize refugees’ experiences in the US. The volume brings together researchers from several fields within the social and educational sciences with original research on the state of refugees in the US. Although several of the chapters are situated in specific geographical locations, their insights elucidate the contested nature of the language, policies, and pedagogies that position refugees and asylum seekers within (and outside of) our society.

The language around refugeehood is explored in several contexts in this volume: the use of refugee, alien and immigrant in US media compared to the Immigration and Nationality Act (chapter 2); the various ways that the word refugee is appropriated or rejected by populations to which it is ascribed (chapter 3); and the discursive construction of refugees used by organizations responsible for their resettlement (chapter 9). Educational policies are also discussed at many scales: national and state educational policies directed specifically to refugees (chapter 4); higher education policies meant to support refugee background students (chapter 7); and local classroom policies in an elementary school English Language Development class (chapter 8). The chapters on pedagogies of teaching refugee adults highlights the need for building upon refugees’ strengths at the programmatic (chapter 5) and individual levels (chapter 10), as well as critically examining refugees’ “need” for English (chapter 6).

Ramanathan titlesYou can find more information about the book on our website. You might also be interested in Vaidehi’s other books on refugees: Language Policies and (Dis)Citizenship and Language, Immigration and Naturalization.


Urban Diversities and Language Policies in Medium-Sized Linguistic Communities

5 August 2015

In August we are publishing Urban Diversities and Language Policies in Medium-Sized Linguistic Communities edited by Emili Boix-Fuster. Here, Emili explains how he became so interested in the subject of urban diversity.

Having been born and raised in a big city, Barcelona, I’ve always been fascinated by its linguistic diversity, and above all, by the interrelation of this diversity with social inequality. Language, by means of its endless nuances mirrors the distribution of power and solidarity in society. In my city, for example, Catalan and Spanish coexist and compete in all domains in everyday life. My father, one of the first Catalan sociologists, always encouraged me to observe this heterogeneity.

Urban Diversities and Language Policies in Medium-Sized Linguistic CommunitiesMy new book, Urban Diversities and Language Policies in Medium-Sized Linguistic Communities, resonates this initial motivation. I wanted to compare the linguistic landscape of my native city with other urban areas in similar medium-sized linguistic communities. This endeavour has resulted in seven chapters dealing with this intermingling of language in society, namely Brussels (French/Dutch), Vigo (Galician/Spanish), Valencia (Catalan-Valencian/Spanish), Barcelona (Catalan/Spanish), Copenhagen (Danish/English), Helsinki (Finnish/Swedish/English) and Tallinn (Estonian/Russian/English). In all of them a competition takes place not only between the local languages, but also increasingly with the global language, English.

I am convinced that observing and studying linguistic diversity through the lens of cities, allows researchers and citizens alike to understand and improve linguistic coexistence.

9781847698346For more information about this book please see our website. You might also be interested in one of our other titles: Survival and Development of Language Communities edited by F. Xavier Vila.


Language Policy in Higher Education

16 December 2014

English is becoming more and more common as the language of instruction in universities all over the world. However, in many countries efforts are being made to preserve indigenous languages. In this post, F. Xavier Vila and Vanessa Bretxa, the editors of our recent book Language Policy in Higher Education outline the recent debates within language policy that form the basis of their book.

In 2012, the leading Italian public university Politecnico di Milano attracted headlines from all over the world when it announced it would move to all-English instruction. The announcement stirred the growing debate going on all over Europe about the convenience of increasing the role of English as the vehicular language in non-English-speaking countries. One year later, it was France’s turn to discuss the issue of the Franglais row: Is the English language conquering France?, to the extent that the national government had to make a decision about the role of English in French universities. Simultaneously, on the other side of the ocean, in the now economically booming Bolivia, the first promotion of students from the three recently created indigenous universities were preparing their graduation theses neither in Spanish or English, but rather in the indigenous Aymara, Quechua and Guarani languages. Their graduation in August 2014 was welcome as a crucial step in order to promote social cohesion and wealth redistribution and overcome centuries of external and internal colonialism.

What’s going on in the field of language policies in higher education? Once the realm of Latin, in the 19th and 20th centuries universities adopted massively the national and colonial languages following the heyday of the Western nation states. Universities formed the intellectual elites that led the cultural and scientific progress of the last century, and produced the leaders and the cadres that ruled the world. But globalization and the commodification of knowledge are transforming the environment for higher education also in its linguistic dimension. English-medium courses are proliferating all over the world, sometimes due to the genuine desire to attract international talent, partly also as a strategy to obtain resources from abroad. But is the development of English-medium education just part of a more complex story?

Language Policy in Higher EducationIn a context where the major languages are said to be succumbing to the urge of English, what are the prospects of medium-sized languages that have achieved the status of lingua academica to retain it? Will they find a place in the new world of higher education, or will they rather be reduced to the status of mere vernaculars in a near future? And what about those that have still not made it? Is it still sound to spend time and money to raise their status or would it be more adequate to try to content their speakers with a reasonably stable functional distribution of languages? Is it still worth increasing the number of linguae academicae?

These and other related questions are tackled in the volume Language Policy in Higher Education: The Case of Medium-Sized Languages by a team of well-renowned specialists in language policy. Based on the close examination of a number of medium-sized languages from Finland to South Africa and from Israel to Catalonia, the volume compares the trajectories of languages that have made it in higher education and others that didn’t, analyses their current state, and seeks to extract lessons of general applicability. And while their results may be read from different perspectives, one of them seems to be clear: in the era of globalization, there seems to be ample room for multilingualism in academia, but it will probably never be the way it used to be.

Survival and Development of Language CommunitiesFor more information on this book please see our website. You might also be interested in Survival and Development of Language Communities edited by F. Xavier Vila.


A Post-Liberal Approach to Language Policy in Education

9 December 2014

John Petrovic is the author of A Post-Liberal Approach to Language Policy in Education which we published this month. In this blog post, he tells us how he came to write the book.

A Post-Liberal Approach to Language Policy in EducationI have always had an interest in languages and language policy issues. As an undergraduate, I majored in International Relations and had minors in Spanish and Russian. The so-called “Great Communicator,” Ronald Reagan, never communicated with me about becoming Ambassador to Spain (my plan), so I pursued a Masters in Bilingual Education. Some years later, my doctoral dissertation was a liberal defense of bilingual education. A major influence was my study at the University of Barcelona during my undergraduate years. There, language policy issues were, and still are, front and center in national politics around official languages to the language of instruction in the university classroom. Inevitably, people proclaim their language rights at these levels and all levels in between and, I suppose, rightly so.

It is here that my two scholarly interests — language policy and liberal political theory — meet. Liberal political theory certainly provides us rights. But how can everyone enjoy language rights (at least in the way that I think a “right” should be understood)? As sympathetic to the work of Tove Skutnabb-Kangas as I have always been, this was still a question I struggled with for a number of years.

As my struggle continued, it only got worse when I began thinking about the debate around Ebonics (African American Vernacular) that had emerged in Oakland, California. If there is such a thing as language rights and language is what we speak, can’t the speakers of bad English (which is how critics and folk linguists refer to Ebonics) demand the same rights? My initial conclusion was “yes.” Certainly, liberalism requires this. Re-enter the annoying “but how” question. I had to back away from my initially adamant “yes.”

What I needed was greater clarity on language itself. I went back to de Saussure. Some clarity. Where it really hit me, however, was when I completed an edited volume — International Perspectives on Bilingual Education. In a chapter in this volume, Christopher Stroud revealed to me the way that liberalism shapes received understandings of language as a construct. With Aaron Kuntz, I worked through  — and, I hope, added to in some interesting way — Chris’ thinking. The resulting article published in Language Policy formed a major piece to the puzzle. I combined this with a couple of other pieces that I had laying around and a picture emerged.

This book is that picture. It represents my thinking on language policy in education, on language rights, on language and identity, and the role of liberal theory in these matters…for now. Yet I am under no delusion that it is not missing pieces or that I did not force some pieces together. Puzzles are frustrating like that.

For more information on this book please see our website.


Multi-sited Language Policies in Finland, Sweden and Everywhere Else

27 November 2014

Earlier this month we published Language Policies in Finland and Sweden edited by Mia Halonen, Pasi Ihalainen and Taina Saarinen. Here, the editors of the book explain how the book came about.

“Calls for Latinization of Ukrainian alphabet on ‘civilizational grounds’ anger Russians”
“Are drugs the answer to language learning?”
“MPs divided on compulsory Swedish language education”

Recent news headlines from around the world show how we are constantly surrounded by language politics and policies. Often the news items in question have historical and spatial links to policy issues and discourses elsewhere or in another time – or to both.

Language Policies in Finland and SwedenOur observations on multi-sitedly linked language policies led us to work on the book Language policies in Finland and Sweden: Interdisciplinary and Multi-sited Comparisons. While our empirical cases are located in Finland and Sweden, similar debates are going on everywhere in the world. We saw examples of (potentially nationalistic) policy discourses in which concepts like “minority”, “official”, “main”, “domestic” and “foreign” were used to construct the political field and became sources for ideological constructions. “Language” turned out to be an even heavier political argument than we initially thought.

The comparisons between Finland and Sweden show for example that in spite of the shared long history of the two countries, the language political climate has developed in very different ways. In Finland, the present policy discourses still highlight a historically strong consensual ideal of state bilingualism, visible in the equal legislative status of Finnish and Swedish. At the same time, looking at educational settings, the Swedish language gets “defamiliarised”, i.e. constructed as a foreign, not a domestic, language.

In Sweden, in turn, the arguments advocating Swedish as the “main” language of the country are based on the ideal of the Swedish language enabling democratic participation in society. However, the support for Swedish has often also entailed losing possibilities to sustain heritage languages.

These kinds of frictions in language policies directed our focus to the apparent clashes between language “policies” and “practices” at different levels. These are often studied separately by either researchers interested in macro level politics and policy making, or researchers studying micro level use of language in interaction. We soon realised that observing the levels separately would not help us to understand their intertwined nature. Instead, we wanted not just to combine micro and macro analysis of the historical and the contemporary, but to see them as dialogical, feeding and construing each other.

This theoretical idea comes alive in the analyses of parliamentary discourses as a nexus of interrelated discourses, constructions of standard language ideals, embodied immigrant experiences of a lack of language, ethnic activism, and media discourses, among others. For us, the chapters opened a whole new world of a constantly changing sociolinguistic space, where just a minor change in a description of a status of a language or change in the amount (and status!) of a migrant group affects the whole field and the related political discourses. The separate cases emerged as stills of a film or details of a painting where everything has a crucial part in the entirety.

We hope the book helps you, too, in understanding language policies as historically and contemporarily intertwined, in other words, as multi-sited. We also strongly believe that the same strategy is applicable to any field of political discourse.

For further information about the book please see our website or contact the authors:
Mia Halonen, Researcher (language ideologies) mia.halonen@jyu.fi
Pasi Ihalainen, Professor of Comparative European History pasi.t.ihalainen@jyu.fi
Taina Saarinen, Senior Researcher (language education policies) taina.m.saarinen@jyu.fi


Celebrating 40 volumes in the New Perspectives on Language and Education series

28 August 2014

The Multilingual Turn in Languages EducationThe publication of The Multilingual Turn in Languages Education edited by Jean Conteh and Gabriela Meier this month marks the 40th volume of our New Perspectives on Language and Education series. Here, the series editor Viv Edwards writes about how the series has evolved over the years.

The titles that form part of the New Perspectives on Language and Education series tend to cluster around three main themes – English as an international language, modern language teaching and multilingual education, with a host of other issues hovering around the edges that refuse to be pigeonholed in this way.

Identifying and disseminating new perspectives on ‘big’ topics like these requires Janus-like qualities. On the one hand, you need to recognize proposals which, while resonating with issues that you know are trending, hold the promise of taking things a few steps forward, not simply being more of the same. On the other hand, you need to be prepared to take risks: is this something new and original with the potential to make people rethink long-held assumptions? As Multilingual Matters prepares to publish the 40th title in the series, this seems a good time to offer my own particular take as editor.

NPLE coversHot topics

Looking first at the new and original, NPLE has a proud record. In terms of ‘hot topics’, Testing the Untestable in Language Education, edited by Amos Paran and Lies Sercu, and Joel Bloch’s book on Plagiarism, Intellectual Property and the Teaching of L2 Writing have made important contributions to debates in two fiercely contested areas, while Andrey Rosowsky’s Heavenly Readings focuses on literacy practices associated with Islam, an issue which has received remarkably little attention to date. The quality of the contribution made by any individual title lies, in my opinion, in its power to challenge readers to revisit and even reconsider deeply held beliefs. An excellent example is Jean-Jacques Weber’s Flexible Multilingual Education, which controversially places the needs and interests of children above the more customary approach which focuses on individual languages.

NPLE covers 2

In the case of topics such as English as an international language, it is possible to argue that the impact of NPLE titles is cumulative. Let’s take some recent additions to the list that specifically set out to bridge the gap between theoretical discussion and practical concerns: Aya Matsuda’s edited collection Principles and Practices of Teaching English as an International Language and Julia Hüttner and colleagues’ Theory and Practice in EFL Teacher Education. In the case of Julia Menard Warwick’s English Language Teachers on the Discursive Faultlines the focus is on different constituencies and stakeholders as she compares controversies around English as a global language with similar tensions surrounding programmes for immigrants.

 

NPLE covers 3

Another interesting cluster of titles concerns innovations in pedagogy and the management of multilingual classrooms. Take, for instance, Managing Diversity in Education, edited by David Little and colleagues; Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Classrooms where Jennifer Miller and colleagues explore new dilemmas for teachers; and Kathy Mills’ The Multiliteracies Classroom. The 40th and most recent addition to the NPLE list, Jean Conteh and Gabriela Meier’s The Multilingual Turn in Languages Education is a welcome addition to a strand of scholarship helping to develop a clearer understanding of classroom challenges.

Politics

Books such as these are underpinned by important political questions. In other examples, however, the political theme is even more clearly foregrounded. Particular personal favourites include The Politics of Language Education, edited by Charles Alderson which, with the value of hindsight, looks at the institutional manoeuvres that shape projects charged with innovation and change; Maryam Borjian’s English in Post-Revolutionary Iran, which chronicles the changing attitudes to English teaching and qualifies as the only academic book I have ever read which could be described as a page turner; and Desiring TESOL and International Education by Raqib Chowdhury and Phan Le Ha, which raises uncomfortable issues of market abuse and exploitation.

NPLE covers 4

Innovative methods

Innovations covered by NPLE authors go beyond pedagogy and policy to include new approaches to data analysis. Roger Barnard and colleagues have been responsible for a trilogy of highly original edited collections: Creating Classroom Communities of Learning, Codeswitching in University English-Medium Classes and Researching Language Teacher Cognition and Practice. Each of these edited collections aims to promote dialogue around a particular theme by inviting a second researcher to interpret the same data, or to comment on the approach of the first author.

NPLE covers 5

Updating classics

Occasionally we have the opportunity of updating important works by major international authors. A case in point is the second edition of Gordon Wells’ ground breaking The Meaning Makers which sets the findings of the original study of language and literacy development at home and school in the context of recent research in the sociocultural tradition, also drawing on new examples of effective teaching from the author’s collaborative research with teachers. Another good example is Sociolinguistics and Language Education, edited by Nancy Hornberger and Sandra Lee McKay, a state-of-the-art overview of changes in the global situation and the continuing evolution of the field.NPLE covers 7

Think globally, act locally

While decisions about what to take forward have to be commercially sound, Multilingual Matters values coverage not only of global interest but also takes pride in showcasing more local issues. Obvious examples of this include Lynda Pritchard Newcombe’s case study of Social Context and Fluency in L2 Learners in Wales; Anne Pitkänen-Huhta and Lars Holm’s edited volume on Literacy Practices in Transition, which showcases perspectives from the Nordic counties; and Minority Populations in Canadian Second Language Education edited by Katy Arnett and Callie Mady.

NPLE covers 8

A personal coda

As someone who has worked for longer than I care to remember with both large international publishing houses and Multilingual Matters, one of the last of a vanishing breed of small independents, it seems fitting to end on a personal note. Many readers of this blog will be aware that it is now just over a year since the death of Mike Grover, who together with his wife Marjukka, founded Multilingual Matters over three decades ago. Their finest legacy, embodied in their son Tommi and his current team, is the company’s continued openness to the new, the innovative and even, very occasionally, the quirky. Those of us privileged to work as editors and authors with Multilingual Matters appreciate the opportunity to develop a personal relationship with knowledgeable and committed individuals rather than anonymous, corporate players. Long may this last!


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