My Mother Tongue and Me: Staying Unapologetically Foreign in the Land I Proudly Call Home

21 February 2017

In celebration of International Mother Language Day, we’re delighted to share this post written by Tommi’s mum, Marjukka, about what her mother language, Finnish, means to her.

The best description I have heard of mother-tongue was made by Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, when she described it as being like skin. The second language, by contrast, is like a pair of jeans, which fits well and feels comfortable but will never replace the skin.

Marjukka rowing on Enäjärvi

Marjukka rowing on Enäjärvi

My mother-tongue, Finnish, is the language of my identity, and the language of my deep feelings. Through it I can describe my joys and sorrows, anger and delight much better than I could in any other language. If I hit my thumb with a hammer, nothing releases the pain better than “voi perkele” (devil) and when I get Sudoku numbers wrong, the frustration is vented with “voi paska” (oh shit). Just recently I remembered a word “hämäränhyssy” – the twilight time when my parents would sit silently in semi darkness just relaxing and waiting for the evening to come. Even now, at the age of 67, the word brings to my mind a beautiful sense of peace and harmony.

Marjukka with Tommi and Sami

Marjukka with Tommi and Sami

So how could I have ever spoken soft, caressing, loving words of baby talk to my two sons in English, since I hadn’t heard them from my mother and father? My language to my children had to be Finnish! And it still is. The best thing, however, is that it can now be Finnish, English or Finglish – since some things are easier described in the language they occur.

I have a strong Finnish identity, despite having happily lived in beautiful Great Britain for over 45 years. My accent reveals me to be a Finn even if I say just “yes”. Could it be that I want to be noticed as a Finn? My parents raised me with a love of the language: the happy memories of my father reading Moomin adventures, or my mother chatting and laughing with her numerous sisters. As a teenager, the romantic words of the Finnish melancholy tango songs moved me to tears. And there are so many words which just can’t be translated into English. Just like there are words in English which are hard to translate into Finnish.

So my mother tongue is my identity, my soul, and my tool. English is my very useful second tool, and I am very grateful I have learned to use that tool well, but it will never be my soul or my identity.

Marjukka Grover


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.


Summer conference travel – EUROSLA and BAAL

16 September 2015

As usual, we attended both the EUROSLA and BAAL conferences this summer and I was fortunate enough to get to represent Multilingual Matters at both.

Laura with the outdoor book display

Laura with the outdoor book display

This year marked the 25th EUROSLA conference and the special anniversary meeting took place Aix-en-Provence in France. The conference followed the usual format with plenaries by key researchers in the field and many papers on a wide variety of topics within the domain of second language acquisition. The novelty from a publishing aspect was that I got to do my first ever outdoor book display in the glorious (if rather hot!) French sunshine.

The delegates and I very much enjoyed the fresh air during the breaks, as well as the excellent refreshments that were provided.  I was most impressed that the organisers provided everyone with a re-useable mug at the start of the conference and we used them during each break – saving well over a thousand disposable cups throughout the conference.

The Pavillon Vendôme, location of the welcome reception

The Pavillon Vendôme, location of the welcome reception

We spent the first evening of the conference at an outdoor drinks reception at the beautiful Pavillon Vendôme where we were welcomed to the city by the mayor.  We were treated to tasty canapés, wine and I even tried pastis for the first time. My verdict was positive although I can imagine that the anise flavour might not be to everyone’s taste! The second evening was the conference dinner and again the wonderful French weather meant that we could make the most of another warm evening with drinks and dinner outside. Following the pattern of the conference thus far, we were again spoilt with yet more delicious food and drink!

The bestselling books of the conference were Measuring L2 Proficiency edited by Pascale Leclercq, Amanda Edmonds and Heather Hilton, Working Memory in Second Language Acquisition and Processing edited by Zhisheng (Edward) Wen, Mailce Borges Mota and Arthur McNeill, and Vivian Cook and David Singleton’s textbook Key Topics in Second Language Acquisition. David Singleton was also the recipient of the EUROSLA Distinguished Member Award during the conference, which was also a proud moment for us as he is founder and co-series editor of our Second Language Acquisition series.

From EUROSLA in France I headed back home and then straight on to BAAL which this year was hosted by Aston University in Birmingham. Sadly we left the sunshine behind us but having hardly ever been to Birmingham, despite it being less than a couple of hours from Bristol, I was interested to attend a conference in the city. The Aston University campus was located right in the heart of the centre but still manages to be a pleasant, green campus.

Birmingham's Poet Laureate Adrian Blackledge

Birmingham’s Poet Laureate Adrian Blackledge

The conference was opened by Adrian Blackledge and Angela Creese who gave a stimulating plenary during which they played some enchanting vignettes from their research, which included examples of communication in both the city library and market. A further highlight of the conference was a poetry session by Adrian Blackledge who is the current Poet Laureate for Birmingham. He recited some of the poems that he has composed during the past year, which included one to commemorate the start of the First Word War, another to celebrate Burns Night, and one which was not an official poem but that he had written on the birth of his first grandchild, a really touching piece.

Bestsellers at BAAL were understandably quite different to those at EUROSLA and the list was headed up by the second edition of Bonny Norton’s book Identity and Language Learning, Ethnography, Superdiversity and Linguistic Landscapes by Jan Blommaert and our new title Emerging Self-Identities and Emotion in Foreign Language Learning by Masuko Miyahara.

Next on our travel list include our annual trip to the Frankfurt Book Fair, where we meet with our contacts and representatives from the book industry, and then Tommi will be heading to Auckland in November for both the Symposium on Second Language Writing and the Language, Education and Diversity conference. Look out for him there if you are also in attendance!

Laura


AAAL conference and doughnuts!

15 April 2014

My first conference for Multilingual Matters was AAAL in Portland. I had been reliably informed the AAAL crowd were a very pleasant bunch and that Portland was a gastronomic delight, so when I left the house at 3.30am on a Friday morning I was hoping it was all going to be worth it! I wasn’t disappointed.

Fresh faced and eager to get started!

Laura, Tommi and Kim: Fresh faced and eager to get started!

The conference itself was great, very well organised and we saw many of our authors and editors during the event. We’re told it was AAAL’s best ever attendance, with 1,700 delegates and a high number of delegates from Australasia and Asia. Our books sold very well indeed, with Bonny Norton’s 2nd Edition of Identity and Language Learning taking the top spot. Other popular books included Multiple Perspectives on the Self in SLA edited by Sarah Mercer and Marion Williams, Ethnography, Superdiversity and Linguistic Landscapes by Jan Blommaert, and Language, Migration and Social Inequalities edited by Alexandre Duchêne, Melissa Moyer, and Celia Roberts (the second volume in our new Language, Mobility and Institutions series). Tommi gave a talk on how to publish your first book to between 50-100 people, and wasn’t too scared, and took part in the colloquium on the future of academic publishing in applied linguistics and was terrified, but both went very well! We had very nice comments about both sessions, with lots of insightful questions from the audience.

Maggie Hawkins and Tommi enjoying the Bacon Maple Doughnut

Maggie Hawkins and Tommi enjoying the Bacon Maple Doughnut from Voodoo

Portland was a joy. We ate incredibly well, with the foodie highlight being soufflés with our lovely colleagues from the Center for Applied Linguistics. We managed to squeeze in a trip to Voodoo doughnuts, a must-do in Portland, as well as a visit to Powell’s bookstore – a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. It didn’t take long before we found some of our own books in there!

The ethos of Portland - and we loved it

The ethos of Portland – and we loved it

While we didn’t have long to explore the city, we loved what we saw. From resistance banknotes to bars filled with pinball machines – Portland was a total treat and we can’t wait to be back one day!

Kim


Sabrina Billings on Language and Tanzanian Beauty Pageants

17 January 2014

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


Hybridity and Global Flows: The Fusion of Language and Culture

17 December 2013

Earlier this month we published Rani Rubdy and Lubna Alsagoff’s book The Global-Local Interface and Hybridity and we asked them to tell us a bit about how the book came together.

The Global-Local Interface and HybridityWhy you may ask, did we choose to write about hybridity? Well, in this age of global flows and social networks, with so much give and take going on between people, cultures, ideas and ideologies, we think, as do many other researchers, that it is simply inconceivable to think of languages and cultures as separate anymore. The mixing and fusing that is part of globalisation is not just of food, dress, music, art, fashion or decor, or lifestyles, but percolates every aspect of language and culture.

With the global spread of English, English is in the thick of these global flows! The hybrid mixing of languages typical of local and regional multilingual settings has created new constellations for English, as speakers creatively play with, blend, stretch and refashion their language resources in numerous fascinating ways. Our book tries to capture just this allure, richness and creativity of the varied realizations of English-based hybridity found in different parts of the world. Of particular interest to us is the way these hybrid formations open up avenues for exploring the subtle connections between language, culture and identity.

We’ve divided the book up into four sections, each focusing on specific aspects of linguistic and cultural hybridity. The chapters in the first section illustrate how hybridity can be significant in dismantling conventional, narrow views about linguistic norms and canons that define language as bounded, fixed, and separate. Whether occurring as inventive strategies in advertising and on billboards and shop signs in Tanzania, India and the Philippines, or in bilingual educational contexts involving Latinos in the US, or in the mundane conversations among colleagues in an Australian workplace, the manifestations of English-based hybridity is found to be more in tune with the view of linguistic fluidity and flow in a globalizing world.

The second section of the book focuses on hybridized discourses in the media. Here the chapters describing instances of codeswitching between English and Hindi, Punjabi, French and Korean, respectively, depict the way they are in fact reflective of a fusion between local and global, old and new, traditional and modern speaker identities, often exploited as marketing strategies. The chapters in the third section set out to examine the linguistic practices of online communities such as Facebook, Internet and YouTube users, who develop hybrid vernaculars in forging new identities and remaking social relationships. How hybrid language use becomes a means of enacting glocal hybrid identities that can be both celebratory as well as conflicting is the theme of our fourth section, exemplified by chapters dealing with adolescent girls of Japanese and White mixed parentage, by Singaporean student teachers weaving their global and local identity orientations through online discussions and even through narratives of subjective introspection of the inner space in the context of the Filipino diaspora.

Although the central theme is about hybridity, our authors are by no means presenting a “romantic” view of hybridity and offer a critical and balanced view of hybridity, acknowledging, in particular, the problematic dimensions which see corporate and market forces using hybridity to serve their own capitalist purposes. However, as we acknowledge that hybridity may not be able to fully address issues of social inequality or even notions of linguistic and cultural essentialism, we argue in our book that at its heart lies an attentiveness towards agency and voice for those who dare to break the bounds of convention!

For more information on this title and for ordering information, please visit the book’s page on our website here


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

11 November 2013

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


Understanding Language in the Classroom

18 April 2013

Susan Behrens

Susan J. Behrens

An author of one of our forthcoming books, Susan J. Behrens from Marymount Manhattan College, USA, tells us here about how she came to write her book Understanding Language in the Classroom.

This book combines my training in both linguistics and pedagogy to create a manual for those in higher education who want to gain a better control of academic English.

My 2010 book Grammar: A Pocket Guide supplied a user-friendly guide to English grammar for those curious about what lies behind their linguistic intuitions. This new book extends the mission of Grammar by explaining in detail how language works in writing assignments, college-level texts, oral presentations, and class discussion. It also supplies lessons for classroom activities. Understanding Language in the Classroom clearly details the specific nature of language as used in higher education, by disciplines, modalities, and even by generation (professors and students don’t always have the same sense of how language works).

The first half of this book explores the nature of academic discourse and its central role in college success. The second half of the book is a series of conversations. These consist of questions about language that I have culled from the numerous interviews and focus groups I have run with students and teachers about their perceptions of “college level English,” matched with answers that supply a linguistic explanation and context. For example, teachers ask why students use the passive voice. I supply a discussion of voice vs. tense, the uses of the passive, and why students tend to rely on it. Another example: students ask how to avoid using run-on sentences or fragments. I supply the explanation and tips. The appendix supplies tons of worksheets for teachers to use with students or for students to use on their own.

Look out for more information on when this book will be published on Twitter @Multi_Ling_Mat or email info@multilingual-matters.com to register your interest and we’ll email you once it’s published.


Update from the Language Cafés Project

18 December 2012
The Christmas Language Cafe

The Christmas Language Café

Although we’ve just announced the winner of our 2013 Multilingualism in the Community Award we haven’t forgotten our previous winners. We’ve just had an update from Mandy Bengts the organiser of the Language Cafés project (2012 winners) and she’s filled us in on what they’ve achieved this past year.

I have continued as organizer of the university’s cafés since our winning of the prize, for which I once again thank Multilingual Matters. Just last week, we held an event at the local library where we brought together international students, Swedish people and new arrivals to Sweden from countries as far apart as Nigeria and China, Iran and the USA. It was a Christmas café, where traditions and languages were shared, as well as some Swedish glögg (mulled wine) and saffransbullar (saffron buns), typical to a Swedish “jul” or Christmas, all financed by the prize money.

We have decided to add a “new” language to our language café menu each term, financed once again by the winning money. Last term and the one prior, we had cafés in Persian, hosted by a lady from Iran and attended by mainly Swedish people, which was very much our aim. Next term, I hope to add Thai as there are many people from Thailand in the local community, and what is more, Thailand as a holiday destination is extremely popular among Swedes. We have also added a few more items to our stock of café paraphernalia, such as flags and games.

So the idea is to use the money slowly and wisely and allow the café concept to grow alongside the concept of Multiculturalism in the Community.

For more information on the Language Cafés please see their website.


Multilingual Matters Award for Multilingualism in the Community 2013

11 June 2012

We are pleased to announce the 2013 Multilingual Matters Award for Multilingualism in the Community. We set up this award to promote multilingualism in families, schools and communities. Every year we award £2000 to a group or individual that needs financial support in setting up and running a project to promote and develop multilingualism. This may be a website, a newsletter, school or playgroup, or something else entirely, and can be based anywhere in the world. The only conditions are that your proposal must primarily be about languages and language use and that the money must be used for community projects and not to fund academic research.

Language Cafés in Action

We had a huge number of interesting entries last year but after much deliberation we awarded the prize to the Language Cafés project based at Dalarna University in Sweden. This scheme organises regular evenings in a local café where members can practise conservation in many different languages. You can read more about their project in their post earlier this year.

We are now accepting applications for the 2013 award, and we will announce the winner in January 2013. All you need to do is fill out the entry form and send it to info@multilingual-matters.com by 31 October 2012 with ‘Multilingualism in the Community Award’ in the subject line. If you have any questions about the award please get in touch at info@multilingual-matters.com. We look forward to receiving your entry!


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