Celebrating 1000 books in 35 years of Channel View Publications/Multilingual Matters

With the recent publication of the 6th edition of Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, we hit a real milestone and published our 1000th book since the company began. In this post, Tommi reflects on the last 35 years leading up to this point and discusses how the company and wider world of publishing has changed over time. 

Tommi and David Singleton at the MM drinks reception at AAAL

At the recent AAAL conference in Portland, OR, we celebrated the publication of our 1000th book, the 6th edition of Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, co-authored by Colin Baker and Wayne E. Wright. Since I remember the publication of our very first book in 1982, Bilingualism: Basic Principles by Hugo Baetens-Beardsmore, this led me to reflect a little on what has changed at Channel View Publications/Multilingual Matters (CVP/MM), in the world of academic publishing, and attitudes to bilingualism since then.

Marjukka and Mike at Frankfurt Book Fair

Many of you will know that CVP/MM is a family business, founded originally by my parents in response to being told by our family doctor not to speak Finnish to my brother and me, stating that “they didn’t know what damage they were doing”. Fortunately, being a formidable combination of a stubborn Finnish mother and an entrepreneurial Essex-man father, they not only refused to take such unwelcome advice, they took it as an opportunity to find and publish world-class research focusing on the many positive benefits of bilingualism. Although we now publish in a very wide range of topics – including applied linguistics and sociolinguistics, educational research, language disorders and translation studies under our Multilingual Matters imprint and, under our other imprint Channel View Publications, tourism studies – language rights and positive attitudes to bi- and multilingualism remain at the heart of what we do. We believe that no mother or father should ever be told not to speak the language of their heart to their children without extremely well-informed reasons for doing so.

Although in many cases attitudes towards bilingualism may have switched towards the more positive and even aspirational, this is often only the case if the languages you speak are privileged western languages, and in many cases only if you are of the majority population. It is fine and admirable to learn Spanish or Arabic if you are white, but society might be less positive about you retaining your Spanish or Arabic if you are an immigrant. There is still much work to do in changing attitudes towards languages where these languages are associated with immigration or are minority indigenous languages.

Some of my first memories include sitting under our dining room table, “helping” my parents stick the mailing labels onto envelopes that would carry our first catalogues out into the world. Among the many addresses we sent catalogues to, 252 Bloor Street West stuck in my mind. As a 6 year old child I struggled to understand how so many people lived in this one house! In the years since then I have come to know the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) well, and have got to know the very many authors and friends who are based there. We no longer pack and mail our catalogues ourselves, this is one of those tasks that computers and automation have simplified, but as the editor of my local orienteering club newsletter I have to pack and mail all the copies to our members, so I like to think that I have retained those valuable skills!

The office in Clevedon before everything was done on computers

In 1982 we were already using computers for journal subscription processing, but all correspondence with authors and editors was by mail. We used to do so much mailing back and forth that the local post office gave us our own postcode! All of our records were kept in large filing cabinets and a system of racks, T-cards and folders would track the process of book and journal manuscripts from initial proposal to published book. Sales reports from our distributor would be couriered once a month to us in a large box, and even as recently as the late 1990s we would wait with excitement to go through the monthly sales reports and see how well our books had been selling. These days everything we do is reliant on computers, the internet and data. We only have to log in to our distributors’ reporting sites to get the sales figures from the day before, and we can communicate easily even while travelling. This availability of data and immediacy of communication brings with it a new set of demands and challenges. There is a sense that we must respond to everything as quickly as possible and that we absolutely have to know how many books were sold in the last 24 hours. A lot of time is taken up by responding to queries that in the past would have waited for a single letter, and of course we put the same pressures on to other people.

In the early days of our company the only reliable way to purchase books was via the bookshop, or to put a cheque in the post with an order form from our catalogue. These days the rise of companies like Amazon, Books etc. and the Book Depository, as well as our own website, means that wherever you are you should be able to order a print copy of our books and have it posted to you quickly. If you choose to purchase an ebook, you can place an order now and have the full text, even in some cases with embedded video files and links to relevant websites and resources, delivered direct to your computer, tablet or reading device within seconds.

Libraries are able to buy one multi-user license of a digital book, which does not degrade with age and usage, and are able to share this with multiple users of the library, even off-site users of the library, at the same time. Shelf space is making way for more computer spaces and learning environments, and university campuses are changing accordingly. Of course the downside of this is that the number of copies required to service the same population has fallen, and so in general across the publishing industry we have seen the total number of sales of any one academic title fall quite dramatically in the past 10 years or so. Since the majority of overhead and fixed costs of publication have not fallen, this means that book prices have risen much faster than inflation in order to cover those costs.

While it is interesting to look at what has changed, it is also very instructive to consider what has stayed constant over all this time. Digital technology and distribution has meant that the barriers to entry into the publishing industry have fallen dramatically. In a world where anyone can write, typeset and publish a book relatively quickly, easily and inexpensively, the role of the publisher in providing a measure of review, revision and quality control is just as important as it was in 1982. It is arguably even more important now, given the recent attention to fake news stories and alternative facts. CVP/MM has always believed in reviewing manuscripts thoroughly and as transparently as possible, and while peer-review is not a flawless system, it is a vitally important step in ensuring that the books we publish can be trusted by students, researchers, parents and policy-makers.

Flo, Sarah, Anna, Tommi, Elinor and Laura

We continue to grow as a business, this year we will publish 60 titles across all of the various subject areas, where just 10 years ago we would schedule 30 titles. But we remain a small and friendly operation with approachable staff. We have fostered an atmosphere where we can thrive and grow within our jobs, and so our staff turnover is extremely low. It is highly likely that you will deal with the same people through the life of your book project, if not your whole career! You will have seen me at every AAAL for the past 19 years, but you may not be aware that Sarah and Anna will this year celebrate their 15th anniversary of working for Multilingual Matters, and Elinor and Laura are not that far behind. Our most recent full time colleague, Flo, already feels like part of the family, and our intern, Alice, reflects the values that we all share.

Although my father, Mike, is no longer around to see the progress we have made since he and my mother, Marjukka, retired, he would still recognise everything that we do and be proud of how we have continued to build on what they started 1000 books ago. We would not have been able to publish 1000 books if it wasn’t for the many authors, series editors, reviewers and readers who have contributed in so many different ways. There are too many to name here, but I hope you know just how important you are to us. It has been a pleasure to work with you all and I hope that you will continue to partner with us, to work with us and to hold us to account when we do occasionally get things wrong, so that as we go on to publish books together we can all grow and improve, and look back on the next 1000 books with just as much pride!

Tommi

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

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

A-Z of Publishing: G is for…

G is for GroverG is for Grover. The Grover family founded the company in the late 1970s. When raising their two sons, Tommi and Sami, in English and Finnish, Mike and Marjukka Grover realised the lack of publications supporting bilingual parents and with that the idea for the company was born. The company has since grown and expanded to include not only Multilingual Matters, which publishes books on bilingualism and bilingual education, language education, sociolinguistics, language acquisition and translation, but also Channel View Publications, which publishes books on tourism studies.

This post is part of our ‘A-Z of Publishing’ series which we will be posting every Monday throughout the rest of 2015. You can search the blog for the rest of the series or subscribe to the blog to receive an email as soon as the next post is published by using the links on the right of the page.

Celebrating the 20th volume in the Parents’ and Teachers’ Guides book series

The publication earlier this month of Coreen Sears’ book Second Language Students in English-Medium Classrooms marks the 20th book in the Parents’ and Teachers’ Guides series. Here, the series editor, Colin Baker, tells the story of the development of the series.

The series started with a challenged conscience and a dream in the early 1990s. I was writing academic books, editor of an international academic journal, and co-editor of a series of books on Bilingualism and Bilingual Education. The academic side was secure, satisfying in university terms, and writing books was a pleasure.

But there were two nagging questions in my mind in the early 1990s. Did my contribution make any difference in the classroom to teachers instructing and students learning? Was I having any effect on the ways parents brought up their children to be bilingual? At times, the honest answer seemed to be ‘no’ or at best ‘too little influence on practice in both classrooms and homes’.

Mike & Marjukka Grover
Mike & Marjukka Grover

My spectral self-doubts were shared in the early 1990s with Mike Grover, the founder and Managing Director of Multilingual Matters. By talking about publishing, he helped me see that the difference between theory and practice, research and daily living, was not a divide, but essential parts of a larger whole. In publishing, having both was important, and getting some kind of bridge between the academic and the practical was always worth attempting.

I was indoctrinated at university not to write a popular practical book as (a) it would make me look a shallow academic and ruin my reputation and promotion prospects, (b) that research and not  ‘practical guidance’  was the role of a university academic. The advice by my seniors was not to depart from an academic lifestyle. Disobedience was chosen. Conscience won. The dream began.

A Parents' and Teachers' Guide to BilingualismA hospital operation started the ball rolling. The operation was 100% successful, but the skilled surgeon told me it was essential to stay home for two weeks to rest and recuperate. After two days I was totally bored. So, in the bedroom and then study, I wrote a book for parents about bringing up bilingual children. With the help of Marjukka Grover, wife of Mike and Editor of the Bilingual Family Newsletter, over 100 questions that parents and teachers tend to ask were posed and refined. In two weeks, I had answered each question, created a rough draft of a book in FAQ style, and was fit for a return to university. The book became A Parents’ and Teachers’ Guide to Bilingualism. It was first published in 1995, with further editions in 2000, 2007 and 2014. Jokes about ‘it shows signs of the anaesthetic’ were prevalent among my colleagues in 1995!

Guía para padres y maestros de niños bilingüesThe book became the world’s best­selling guide for parents and teachers in raising and developing bilingual children, and has been published in Swedish, Estonian, Spanish, Turkish, German, Mandarin Chinese and Korean. A version of the book was published by Multilingual Matters in Spanish as Guía para padres y maestros de niños bilingües with Alma Flor Ada joining as co-author.

Both the English and Spanish editions of A Parents’ and Teachers’ Guide to Bilingualism sold well and led to the start of the PTG series. The first books in the Parents’ and Teachers’ Guides series date from 1998/9 and covered important ‘guidance’ topics for parents (e.g. dyslexia and Deaf children), with Coreen Sears’ book Second Language Students in Mainstream Classrooms being for teachers. Subsequent books have included topics as diverse as: reading and writing, sign language, family language strategies and the effect of siblings on language development.

Growing Up with LanguagesSome books in the series are for parents; others for teachers; a few are for both parents and teachers. For example, for parents Claire Thomas’ 2012 much-applauded book Growing Up with Languages gives sound and honest advice on raising bilingual children.

Language and Learning in Multilingual ClassroomsAnother book that has received considerable praise in reviews is for teachers. Written by Elizabeth Coelho and entitled Language and Learning in Multilingual Classrooms it gives seasoned and comprehensive guidance on all aspects of classrooms where there are newcomers with varied languages. An example of a book for both parents and teachers is Trevor Payne and Elizabeth Turners’ Dyslexia: A Parents’ and Teachers’ Guide that utilized much practical experience of dyslexic children with academic understandings.

Second Language Students in English-Medium ClassroomsThe series is very well-known for its books for teachers on International Schools. Written by international educators such as Edna Murphy, Eithne Gallagher, Maurice Carder and Coreen Sears, these provide a boundary-breaking set of guides for both new and experienced teachers in the fast growing number of International Schools throughout the world. The 20th book in the series is Coreen Sears’ second book Second Language Students in English-Medium Classrooms.

Family Language LearningTwo other books have only just been published (2015): Family Language Learning by Christine Jernigan and Approaches to Inclusive English Classrooms by Kate Mastruserio Reynolds.

Approaches to Inclusive English ClassroomsA recent and strongly developing strand to the series is books on the development of multilingual children. Written by authors such as Tony Cline, Andreas Braun, Claire Thomas, Elizabeth Coelho and Xiao-lei Wang (with two outstanding US books), these reflect the growing acceptance that multilingual children and multilingual classrooms are sufficiently different from bilingualism and bilingual education to merit their own advice and guidance. When the series started in the early 1990s, advice about multilingualism was seen as covered by bilingualism. This is no longer the case, as the above authors demonstrate so well. The dream has developed.

Written from the conscience, the following initial dream for the series was composed in 1995. “This series will provide immediate advice and practical help on topics where parents and teachers frequently seek answers. Each book will be written by one or more experts in a style that is highly readable, non-technical and comprehensive. No prior knowledge is assumed: a thorough understanding of a topic is promised after reading the book.”

Mike & Marjukka Grover
Mike & Marjukka Grover

My thanks go to all the authors of the twenty top-quality books in the series. These authors are teachers, parents, professional developers and academics. All authors have been a joy not only to work with, but also to learn from and to share the dream with. Much gratitude also goes to the staff at Multilingual Matters who shared my dream that we could produce excellent books that give advice and guidance at a practical level. Not least this includes Mike and Marjukka Grover who shared, supported and stirred the dream.

For more information about the Parents’ and Teachers’ Guides book series please see our website.