The Multilingual Nature of Higher Education

21 March 2017

This month we published Academic Biliteracies edited by David M. Palfreyman and Christa van der Walt. In this post, David and Christa discuss their experience of coediting the book. 

Christa: There were some initial signs that this book was not meant to be. Firstly, David’s e-mails to me disappeared in cyberspace and it was only when Nancy Hornberger contacted me to enquire very diplomatically whether I had received the e-mails, that we found out his institutional e-mails were not delivered, for some unfathomable reason. Secondly, this was an under-researched topic and we were not sure that we would get any contributions; and thirdly, both of us dealt with serious interruptions of a personal and professional nature. And yet, here we are, three years later, with chapters that showcase the multilingual nature of higher education in all its complexity.

Our first (academic) challenge was to agree on what we understand ‘literacy’ to mean, so that we can evaluate contributions on ‘biliteracy’. Going through our Skype notes, I’m struck by the terminology issues in every conversation. Is there a difference between ‘translanguaging’ and ‘translingual’; between ‘multiliteracies’ and ‘multilingual literacies’? Is ‘translanguaging’ the overarching concept in which ‘biliteracy’ needs to find its place, or should they be seen as separate phenomena in multilingual contexts? We still do not have a definite answer; or maybe it is better to say that we have many answers!

David: Yes, the email bug almost put a subtle end to the project before it started, and I’m very glad that Nancy intervened! I was keen to work with Christa on this book because her previous publications had focused on multilingual higher education in a way that I hadn’t come across before: questioning assumptions about English as the medium of instruction in so many universities worldwide.

Christa: We both wanted a variety of chapters from all corners of the world, but of course we had to be selective within the scope of one book.  We aimed to cover both majority and minority languages in contexts where language is a medium for developing knowledge rather than necessarily a focus of the course; in the end, the chapters highlight the use at university of literacy in Afrikaans, Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, isiXhosa and other African languages, Korean, Maori, Polish, Spanish and Welsh.

David: Some of the contributors had already published in the area of biliteracy; some had been working with biliterate students and issues of biliteracy in university courses for some years, but came to engage with the issues in new ways through their involvement in the book. As the book developed, we encouraged contributors to read and comment on each other’s chapters, which brought some mutual adjustments and helped bring out common themes. All of us became aware of new perspectives to understand the experience of students and scholars, and fresh options for working with and for biliteracy. Guillaume Gentil, whose previous work provided inspiration for the book, kindly sprang into action once the rest of the book was complete, contributing a concluding chapter which draws themes together and points out some ways forward for research in academic biliteracies.

I’m grateful to Zayed University (UAE) for their support in travelling to Australia, Jordan and the UK in the course of preparing the book. Among many learning experiences along the way, I remember especially meeting up by coincidence with Christa at the AILA Congress in Brisbane – it was good to have a face to face meeting near the beginning as most of our later work together was by email or Skype. Another unforgettable and educative experience was taking part in a research conference at Cardiff University where most communication was in Welsh or Basque: having to rely on simultaneous interpreters and finding my usual language of academic/social communication suddenly minoritized, I suddenly found myself a ‘lurker’ in academic discussions!

Christa: For me, as a lecturer who code switches and uses two languages when teaching at Stellenbosch University, the active development of biliteracy in academic contexts is an important acknowledgement of the multilingual nature of twenty-first century higher education. Many students arrive at higher education institutions with a fully developed academic language that is not English and it would be a waste to ignore the enormous potential of that resource when making meaning of academic material.

We’ll look forward to hearing from readers of the book about how the issues relate to their own experiences as learners or teachers.

 

David M. Palfreyman: david.palfreyman@zu.ac.ae

Christa van der Walt: cvdwalt@sun.ac.za

 

For more information about this book, please see our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like Multilingual Higher Education, which Christa published with us previously.

 


Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism: 6th Edition

24 February 2017

This month we are very excited to be publishing the 6th edition of our international bestseller, Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism by Colin Baker and Wayne E. Wright. In this post we interview Colin and Wayne about where it all started, the collaborative process and what the future holds for Foundations…

 Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 6th EditionQ1: Colin, how does it feel to be handing over control of the book to Wayne?

It was a dream come true when Wayne agreed to work with me on the 6th edition of Foundations. Since the 1st edition in 1993, research and writing on bilingualism and bilingual education have mushroomed so much that revising the 2011 5th edition by myself made no sense at all.

Finding somebody with such an extensive knowledge of bilingualism, multilingualism and bilingual education, a broad and international understanding, totally sane and balanced, and much younger than myself was wonderful.

Wayne and I met in Bristol (UK) and instantly found we had very similar ideas about the future and contents of the Foundations book. A close academic and personal friendship became a wonderful part of my life. Within a few hours of meeting, I knew that the future of Foundations was in the best possible hands, and I am enormously grateful to Wayne for taking on this responsibility.

Q2: Wayne, how does it feel to be handed control of the book from Colin?

I read the 1st edition of Foundations as an undergraduate student, and the 2nd and 3rd editions in my graduate programs. Colin’s book inspired me throughout my career as a bilingual teacher, and was a key resource as I began conducting research. I’ve used the 4th and 5th editions in my own courses. I was thrilled when the 4th edition included citations to some of my work, and even more thrilled when I was invited to help update one of the chapters in the 5th edition. Foundations and many of Colin’s other excellent books and articles have been a guiding force for me and so many others in the field for a long time.

Needless to say, it has been a tremendous honor to join with such an esteemed and outstanding scholar as Colin as co-author of this 6th edition. Colin and I had friendly correspondence occasionally by e-mail for many years related to various academic tasks. It was a wonderful experience to finally get to meet him in person in Bristol to discuss our plans for this and future editions. I confess to feeling unworthy of such an important task, but Colin quickly put my fears to rest. Working closely with Colin on this edition has been one of the most enjoyable experiences in my academic career. Colin proved to be a great mentor and friend.

I feel a great sense of responsibility to ensure Colin’s original work remains an influential and beneficial resource for the current and next generations of students and scholars.

Colin and Wayne with Tommi in Clevedon, 2012

Colin and Wayne with Tommi in Clevedon, 2012

Q3: How did the collaborative process work with your being thousands of miles apart in very different time zones?

We both live almost 24/7 on email, and we both tend to answer each other’s emails very quickly. So communication has been highly efficient, focused and ever-friendly. It is also helped by Wayne getting up very early in the morning, and myself working quite late in the evening. So the time zone difference of 5 hours between Purdue and Bangor is hardly noticeable.

Q4: Wayne, was it difficult to take on Colin’s ‘voice’ and maintain the style of the previous editions?

Surprisingly no. Colin’s ‘voice’ is one of the things I have greatly enjoyed in the prior editions. Colin is very good at writing about complex issues in a way that is easy for readers to understand. So I was very accustomed to Colin’s engaging writing style and I suspect it has had a subliminal impact on my own over the years. I found I didn’t need to exert any particular effort to match our styles. In fact, when reviewing our final proofs it was sometimes hard for me to distinguish Colin’s original words from my own additions!

Q5: Did you disagree about anything along the way or did you both have the same ‘vision’ for the 6th edition?

It was really odd, but we always seemed to agree easily and rapidly, mostly because our vision, viewpoints and understandings are so similar. Also, we both have great respect for each other’s strengths, which are often complementary, and we both seem to be good at taking advice from each other and from the many experts who reviewed every chapter.

Q6: What is new in the 6th edition?

Since the 5th edition of 2011, there have been so many new publications and so much research, new ideas and evolving viewpoints that the 6th edition has been thoroughly revised and updated. With students in mind, the 6th edition provides an improved reading experience making a valuable resource for course instructors, professional development providers, study-group leaders and all readers.

Importantly, there are many new and more thoroughly covered topics including: translanguaging; dynamic bilingualism; transliteracy; multiliteracies; superdiversity; bilingual assessment; multilingualism; the nature of bilingual and multilingual identity; bilingualism and economic inequalities and advantages; digital tools for language revitalization; forces, mechanisms and counterweights in building bilingual education systems; recent developments in bilingualism and brain imaging research; bilingualism on the internet and in information technology. There is also a new or greater focus on a variety of instructional approaches and issues, as well as important policy developments in the US context.

To address the large number of citations and references that grew substantially with each edition, over 860 older and redundant citations have been removed. These have been replaced with over 350 citations to more recent research and current developments, most of which have been published after the 5th edition was published in 2011. All demographic and statistical information has been fully updated.

Figures, tables, and text boxes have been reformatted and are now numbered for easy reference. End of chapter recommended readings and study activities have been revised, plus discussion questions and many web resources have been added. We were especially pleased to include for the first time a comprehensive glossary with definitions for bolded key terms that appear throughout the book.

Q7: Which part of the book did you most enjoy working on?

Much has changed in terms of policy in the US and around the world. We enjoyed writing about the end of No Child Left Behind, the beginning of the transition to the Every Student Succeeds Act, and especially about current developments more favourable to bilingual and multilingual education such as the growing number of US states adopting the Seal of Biliteracy, California overturning Proposition 227 through the passage of Proposition 58, the expansion of CLIL across Europe, and developing nations around the world turning to multilingual education as a solution to challenges in providing a basic education for all children.

We also enjoyed revising and adding new end-of-chapter material, thinking of ways the contents of each chapter could be used to engage students in meaningful in-class or online discussions, providing practical ideas for short research activities, and connecting students with real-life examples via the internet.

The 1st edition of Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, published in 1993

The 1st edition of Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, published in 1993

Q8: Foundations has been hugely successful since the first edition was published in 1993. Why do you think it has been so popular and has continued to sell so well?

In 1993, there was no comprehensive introduction to bilingualism and bilingual education. Mike Grover, the founding father of Multilingual Matters, noticed that Colin’s 1988 book ‘Key Issues in Bilingualism and Bilingual Education’ was selling as a textbook even though it was not written for that purpose. Mike had the vision for an international textbook that was as comprehensive as possible. Colin took the challenge. Then, in the early 1990s, Ofelia García played a key role in broadening Colin’s understanding from the psychological and educational to the sociological and political. She has been central to reviewing the draft of every edition since 1993. The first edition of 1993 and the subsequent editions in 1996, 2001, 2006 and 2011, sold well particularly in the United States, but also with sales in almost every country of the world. Mike’s vision has been fulfilled.

Some very kind expert reviews have appeared over the years, particularly mentioning the multidisciplinary and international approach, the willingness to provide a balanced and critical view, the attempt to simplify the complexities without losing understanding, and the attempt to write in a relatively simple and straightforward style with international students in mind. These elements seem to be part of the character of the book and have made the book a bestseller.

Q9: Is the 2017 6th edition an ending or a beginning?

Multilingual Matters envisage that the book will go on from strength to strength to at least a dozen editions! Work on the 7th edition begins with the publication of this, the 6th edition. Wayne Wright is now in charge, and the authorship will naturally change to ‘Wright and Baker’.

We are always looking for ideas about new themes, so if you have suggestions, they are very welcome. You could influence the 7th edition and help us move this famous textbook into the next six editions.

For further information about this book, please see the video above and the book’s page on our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like The Assessment of Emergent Bilinguals by Kate Mahoney.


Language, Identity and Education on the Arabian Peninsula

17 November 2016

This month we are publishing Language, Identity and Education on the Arabian Peninsula edited by Louisa Buckingham. In this blog post, Louisa explains more about the background to the book and the complex language situation on the Arabian Peninsula.

Qasr Al Sarab © Sarah Hopkyns

Qasr Al Sarab © Sarah Hopkyns

The nations on the Arabian Peninsula are home to increasingly urban, networked, ethnically and linguistically heterogeneous societies. Their youthful demography, and the relatively elevated levels of population growth provide impetus to an expanding education sector. The high proportion of foreign recruited employees in the secondary and particularly in the tertiary sectors, provides domestic students with exposure to diverse cultures and languages during their formal education. Complementing this, government scholarship schemes enable many Gulf Arab graduates opportunities for immersion in foreign cultures and languages while pursuing a higher degree. These factors contribute to a widespread appreciation of the role of foreign languages for academic and professional purposes. While English has for decades occupied a privileged position in education and administrative professional contexts, the extensive use of Asian languages, in addition to Arabic and English, in street commerce encounters, in professional activities related to technology, infrastructure and logistics, and the health sector, reflects the multilingual and multi-ethnic profile of the region’s demography.

Signage in Oman (Languages: Arabic, English, Bengali, Urdu, Hindi, Malayalam). ©Louisa Buckingham

Signage in Oman (Languages: Arabic, English, Bengali, Urdu, Hindi, Malayalam). © Louisa Buckingham

As contributors to this volume, we have observed the role and the reception of foreign languages in the lives of our students over many years. We continue a nascent tradition in book-length studies on the Arabian Peninsula which take a critical view of the status of English in educational contexts and professional lives, and we extend previous work by documenting the importance of Asian languages in public and private spheres.

Language, Identity and Education on the Arabian PeninsulaFour main themes run through the book. The opening theme explores the multilingual nature of many households and the different spheres of use assigned to particular languages experienced in the domestic domain. In many homes, the presence of domestic migrant workers (employed to perform the duties of drivers, gardeners, household help and nannies) contributes to an early awareness among young Gulf Arab nationals of their linguistically and culturally diverse communities and, in some cases, provides opportunities for second language acquisition in early childhood. Gender roles may influence the degree to which oral proficiency is developed in particular languages. For instance, as interaction with South Asian labourers and tradesmen is more typically undertaken by males in the household, these may develop a degree of oral competence in particular South Asian languages. Less well-known is the influence of South Korean cultural production. The popularity of Korean soap operas and pop music among some young Gulf Arab females has prompted the inclusion of Korean words or phrases into in-group talk among peers.

The subsequent two themes in the volume are devoted to issues regarding identity construction and academic achievement in sectors of Gulf Arab societies which have strongly promoted English-medium education. The early introduction of English immersion has sometimes come at the expense of Arabic. The perceived neglect or marginalization of Arabic has sparked much public debate in the media.

On the wall of a university in the UAE. © Sarah Hopkyns

On the wall of a university in the UAE. © Sarah Hopkyns

The assimilation of English as an additional language into the linguistic repertoire of many educated Gulf Arabs, and the widespread daily exposure to South Asian varieties of English, means that the wholesale adoption of English language assessment systems which were devised primarily for usage in inner-circle country educational or professional contexts, is problematic. Such proficiency examinations not only include cultural references which may not be readily comprehended by test takers in the Gulf Arab context, but they also often require a form of engagement with texts that is not necessarily commonly practised in the domestic educational context.

The final theme in this volume concerns the role of English as a transmitter of cultural practices in teaching and research careers. The promotion of international study opportunities facilitates the exposure to a wide range of pedagogical traditions; however, Gulf Arab students may experience the need to critically evaluate the degree to which assimilated practices may be applicable in their domestic teaching contexts. In the final study, we examine how international mainstream scholarly journal publishing practices have been adapted to an Omani context to support a culture of research and inquiry in the region, and facilitate the international visibility of local researchers.

Contributions come from five countries on the Arabian Peninsula: Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Yemen. All studies were specifically undertaken with a view to their inclusion in this volume. Both quantitative and qualitative research traditions are represented and the methodological approaches used to document language practices encompass interviews, focus groups and surveys, policy analysis and linguistic landscape methodology.

Louisa Buckingham, University of Auckland

Qasr Al Sarab. © Sarah Hopkyns

Qasr Al Sarab. © Sarah Hopkyns

The Status of English in Bosnia and HerzegovinaFor more information on the book, please see our website. You might also be interested in Louisa’s previous book The Status of English in Bosnia and Herzegovina.


Language Policy and Mother Tongue Debate in Iran

17 August 2016

This month we are publishing Who’s Afraid of Multilingual Education? by Amir Kalan which explores multilingual education in Iran through a series of conversations with leading multilingualism scholars. In this post, Amir explains why the language situation in Iran is so unique.

Who’s Afraid of Multilingual Education?More than 70 languages are spoken in today’s Iran, yet by law all school textbooks are written in Farsi (Persian). Farsi is also the only language of instruction throughout the country, even in non-Persian areas with vibrant linguistic lives and solid cultural identities. My new book, Who is Afraid of Multilingual Education?, tries to discover how ideological discourses in Iran have allowed the dominance of monolingual schools despite empirical evidence that advocates otherwise. The book examines arguments that doubt the effectiveness of mother tongue-based multilingual education in Iran and, through conversations with four respected international scholars, it compares the Iranian situation with global experiences with challenges of establishing multilingual educational systems that regard students’ plurilingualism as a valuable resource rather than an obstacle.

A focus on multilingualism in the Iranian context is worthwhile due to a number of reasons. Despite the current official systematic resistance against the demands of Iranian ethnic minorities for classroom instruction in students’ mother tongues (which has left Iran well behind India and even China, Iran’s civilizational cousins) Iran has a long history of multiculturalism and multilingualism. Diversity has always been an integral part of social life in the Iranian Plateau since the very beginnings of the formation of greater Iran (through Iranian empires) up to the contemporary Iranian society. On the other hand, minoritized Iranian populations – to the best of our knowledge – have not experienced the violence similar to what has been imposed on minority cultures in the West through colonialism and imperialism, such as attempts to eradicate aboriginal cultures and racial segregation in education systems. Up until the early 20th century, when the Iranian government of the time imported Western educational models along with European nation state ideologies, Iranian languages organically mingled and interacted in learning centers as well as everyday social interactions. Who is Afraid of Multilingual  Education? asks what discourses advocating mother tongue-based multilingual educational have rendered a heresy over the past 100 years in Iran despite the multilingual fabric of the country. Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, Jim Cummins, Ajit Mohanty and Stephen Bahry critique these discourses in the book drawing upon examples of the experiences of minoritized students in different parts of the world.

The arguments against mother tongue-based multilingual education discussed in this book include nationalistic one-language-one-nation discourses that deem the dominance of a single language a necessary factor in creating a national identity; political visions that advocate that imposing one single language on minorities would empower them by providing them the ability to communicate and to trade their skills and products in larger markets and thus “succeed” in life; linguistic theories that attempt to prove some languages are naturally wired to be superior to other languages and thus are to be shared by all the members of society regardless of their linguistic backgrounds; economic speculations proposing that mother tongue-based multilingual education is an appealing and perhaps moral idea but too expensive to put into practice; and finally, post-colonial and anti-imperial anxieties that help the state treat legitimate demands for receiving education in the medium of students’ mother tongues as separatist desires.

Unfortunately, empirical evidence supporting the benefits of multilingual education for students and society at large is often comfortably ignored by politicians and mainstream media. Traditional academic publications also often fail to find their way out of closed professional circles and remain unread by the public, typically fed by more popular but less accurate forms of dissemination such as TV shows and mainstream news websites. As a result, Who is Afraid of Multilingual Education? reviews the issues that the international language research community has struggled with in a more accessible interview format. Hopefully, the inter­views offered in this book and the analyses that follow them can open new horizons in the mother tongue debate in Iran, establish better communication between Iranian and international educators, and contribute to the ongoing conversation about multilingualism in the inter­national research community.

LDLR covers 2016For further information about this book please see our website. For other books in our Linguistic Diversity and Language Rights series take a look at the series page on our website.


Should children with language disorders still be brought up multilingually?

3 February 2016

In January we published Multilingual Perspectives on Child Language Disorders edited by Janet L. Patterson and Barbara L. Rodríguez which explores the issues surrounding multilingual children with various language disorders. In this post, the editors explain how the book will be useful for speech-language pathologists as well as researchers in the field.

Multilingual Perspectives on Child Language DisordersWhat good timing! Two questions addressed in our edited volume, Multilingual Perspectives on Child Language Disorders, appeared on an American Speech-Language and Hearing Association discussion board in the same week the book was published. The first was from a speech-language pathologist (SLP) seeking research to share with parents who have been told NOT to speak Spanish (the home language) to their children and “stick to English” in order reduce the language processing demands on their children. The SLP was concerned that this misguided advice was being given to families of children with Down syndrome by personnel in more than one school district. Four days later another SLP asked for research and advice on counseling the parents of a 2-year-old girl who may have an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The parents had planned to raise their daughter bilingually (Dutch and English), but they wondered if they should speak only English to their daughter in view of her significant communication delays. These questions are specifically addressed in chapters on bilingualism and Down syndrome (by Mandy Kay Raining-Bird) and bilingualism and ASD (Stefka Marinova-Todd and Pat Mirenda).

We hope our book will prove to be a useful resource for SLPs and for researchers interested in cross-linguistic work in child language disorders. The chapter authors conduct research and provide services across the globe. The book includes chapters on language disorders among bilingual and multilingual children with specific language impairment, as well as a variety of developmental disabilities, and monolingual children who speak languages other than English.

Collaborating with the contributing authors has been a great experience. We have enjoyed learning about diverse topics including cross-linguistic research on Williams syndrome (Vesna Stojanovik), the challenges multilingual children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) face and evidence-based intervention approaches (John Thorne and Truman Coggins), manifestations of specific language impairment, dyslexia and ASD in Cantonese-speaking children (Carol To), and a framework for providing early intervention services to multilingual families with a focus on North Indian-speaking families in London (Jane Stokes and Nita Madhani), as well as chapters on assessment considerations and tools developed for use with children who speak French (Elin Thordardottir), Turkish (Seyhun Topbaş and Ïlknur Maviş), and Spanish (Barbara Rodríguez).

We were struck by the common themes and patterns that emerged among authors who work with such different populations and typologically diverse languages. Many authors highlighted the need for assessment tools that focus on key structures for the language being tested and the need for assessment tools that are diagnostically accurate.  Although the specific structures vary across languages, several authors are conducting research to address the global need for language-appropriate assessments. In addition, assessments for some children need to include complex discourse demands (FASD) and detailed examination of specific skills, such as certain areas of pragmatics, morphology, and use of intonation patterns (Williams syndrome). In the area of treatment, several authors highlighted the importance of adapting intervention to include culturally congruent practices. The value of cross-linguistic research for understanding the nature of language disorders associated with specific syndromes also was highlighted in several chapters. Although the chapters in Multilingual Perspectives on Child Language Disorders do not cover every language and every situation, we are confident the book provides researchers and clinicians with a broad-based perspective on child language disorders that supports evidence-based practice and stimulates further research.

CDAL covers 2For further information on the book please see our website. You might also be interested in other titles in our Communication Disorders Across Languages series such as Assessing Multilingual Children and Multilingual Aspects of Speech Sound Disorders in Children.


Why are multilingual cities so important in today’s globalised world?

27 January 2016

This month we published The Multilingual City edited by Lid King and Lorna Carson which explores the reality of urban multilingualism in a network of cities researched by the the LUCIDE team – part of a European project funded by the European Commission’s Lifelong Learning Programme. In this post, the editors tell us more about multilingual cities and what we can learn from their research.

The Multilingual CityWhy are cities such a useful laboratory for the study of multilingualism?

In many ways, cities are working models of the future, and powerful generators of new ideas on managing and benefiting from new patterns of mobility and diversity. They are places where new policy discourse can be created, where the constraints of national policies and limitations of national discourse may be modified or overcome.

What does the literature on urban studies have to say about multilingualism?

To be honest, not much! While the city has long been a topic of academic, policy and development discourse, and in recent years there has also been significant interest in the potential of the city to resolve social and economic problems, there has also been a persistent underestimation of the importance of linguistic diversity as a catalyst for such creativity and change. This volume seeks to rectify this lack of attention by examining the realities of multilingualism in the eighteen cities represented by the LUCIDE network.

Are there any common themes which might indicate the future for multilingual cities? Or does every city tell a different tale?       

Despite the homogenisation of globalisation, it would appear that diversity is the one striking characteristic of our urban world. The model is not one of ‘the multilingual city’, but of a more complex typology of cities, which are essentially distinct and rooted in particular landscapes. So for many cities, an image as multilingual is seen as highly desirable. Utrecht, for example, presents itself as a multilingual hotspot, and the administration of the city presents this as a positive thing and sign of a better way of life. Other cities, however, downplay their multilingual aspects, some not even recognising the realities of their language diversity.

Yet there are also some common themes which emerge from the cities, despite their economic, demographic and historical differences.

What about the experiences of individual citizens?

Just as authorities choose to promote their city’s image in different ways, so too do individual inhabitants’ reactions to multilingualism differ. Even in the most cosmopolitan cities, not all of the inhabitants share positive and optimistic attitudes. For some, their city is a vibrant, cosmopolitan, creative place where they want to live. For others, it is a more uncomfortable place where the very speed of change has been unsettling rather than inspirational.

The economic crisis has only exacerbated this uncertainty.

How has the political class responded?

In recent years politicians across the spectrum have joined a chorus of concern about the consequences of globalisation and have stressed the need to reaffirm national identities. Many of the accepted liberal consensual views about the value of diversity and the role of the state, particularly in promoting inclusive education, are being called into question. The inability of European leaders to respond to the current influx of refugees is the most vivid and tragic indication of where such negativity could lead.

And what about the future of the multilingual city?

Despite this narrow and inward-looking discourse of politicians, there is an inescapable logic to reality, especially in the more or less democratic and open cities of our network. The strength of urban multilingualism lies in the activities of citizens – in the initiatives and structures which grow up from the ground. These happen because of need and in response to community aspiration. At policy and political level, multilingual vitality will be maintained and will flourish in cities which allow freedom and give support to these communities, rather than seeking to suppress or homogenise growth and diversity. Together, the chapters in our book articulate a rationale for multilingual vitality and for promoting the value and strength of the diverse city.

Linguistic Landscapes titlesFor more information about this book please see our website. If you liked this post, you might also be interested in a couple of our other titles: Ethnography, Superdiversity and Linguistic Landscapes by Jan Blommaert and Linguistic Landscape in the City edited by Elana Shohamy, Eliezer Ben-Rafael and Monica Barni.


Emotion and Discourse in L2 Narrative Research

8 December 2015

This month we published Matthew T. Prior’s new book Emotion and Discourse in L2 Narrative Research. In this post, Matthew tells us a bit more about the emotional turn in second language research.

We seem to be forever turning. The discursive turn. The sociocultural turn. The identity turn. The critical turn. The narrative turn. These and other intersecting “turns” that have made their way across second language (L2) and multilingualism studies in recent decades have helped to promote greater recognition of L2 users as individuals and whole persons by encouraging sustained inquiry into their lived experiences with language and social belonging across the lifespan and across diverse spaces and borders. It is not surprising then, that researchers have found the recent emotional or affective turn sympathetic to the goal of accessing the personal and deeply felt dimensions of language learning and use and identity negotiation that may otherwise go unexamined or untold.

Emotion and Discourse in L2 Narrative ResearchEmotion and Discourse in L2 Narrative Research engages with this emotional territory by calling on researchers to more reflexively theorize and represent speakers’ past and present stories and selves through the lenses of data generation and self-presentation, not just data collection or giving voice. Emotionality (emotion in and as interaction) forms the theoretical and analytical heart of this book. Drawing largely on my own longitudinal narrative interview research with adult immigrants from Southeast Asia to the US and Canada, these chapters examine emotionality in relation to the identities that speakers take up and reject, the personal stories that they tell and avoid, and the ways in which those emotions, identities, stories and related matters get collaboratively built and managed over time within and even outside the research setting.

A reality is that researchers (and participants) are often unprepared for the emotional, psychological, ethical, moral, interpersonal and other consequences that arise from our often intimate and sustained research encounters. This book makes visible these various tensions as well as the personal and professional predicaments faced by researchers who desire, on the one hand, to empathetically connect with participants on a shared human level while, on the other, avoiding giving in to what some scholars have condemned as overly “emotionalist” or “romantic” perspectives.

The various tensions this book addresses include:

  • Discursive construction and deconstruction
  • Sexual identity and identification
  • Interview conflict and resistance
  • Managing trauma, distress and discomfort
  • Emotional danger and emotional contagion
  • Therapy-like aspects of interview research
  • Shifting story versions
  • Questioning and responding
  • “Visible” and “invisible” contexts
  • Superficial reflexivity

I am particularly proud with how this book illuminates interactants’ own concerns with emotion management and negative emotionality, while drawing inspiration from the work of Arlie Hochschild and studies on emotion regulation. It should also be noted that though this book highlights the prevalence of “negative” emotionality, there is also humor. For example, I have a section that discusses how an immigrant man from Vietnam used disco songs such as “I Will Survive” and “Stayin’ Alive” to humorously transform and perform some of his traumatic experiences. This material almost did not make it into the book, but I am glad it did because it offers another representational layer to the analysis.

This book should appeal to a wide readership. In addition to contributing to research theory and method, its discursive constructionist approach is relevant to those interested in discourse, interaction, interview and narrative by examining various linguistic and other semiotic resources used in generating and responding to emotionality surrounding autobiographical talk. Identity scholars will appreciate the attention to gender, sexuality, ethnicity, race, immigration, citizenship, native/non-native speaker binaries and other contested aspects of contemporary selfhood. Those interested in psychological matters will find the frames of emotionality, mental health and specific emotions (e.g. anger, fear, shame), along with its interconnections with psychology and counseling, useful for better understanding transcultural identities and sensemaking practices.

If you would like more information about the book please see our website or contact Matthew directly at the email address below.

Matthew T. Prior, Arizona State University, matthew.prior@asu.edu


An Interview with Xiao-lei Wang, author of Maintaining Three Languages

20 November 2015

This month we published Maintaining Three Languages by Xiao-lei Wang which explores her experience of bringing up teenagers multilingually. We asked Xiao-lei a few questions about her book.

Maintaining Three LanguagesWhat makes your book different from others that have been published before?

There are numerous ways in which my new book differs from other books currently on the market. Due to space limit, I will only mention a few here.

  • Unlike most parenting advice books, in which parents tend to be treated as passive readers and are rarely provided with access to original sources, this book takes a different approach by considering parents as active and intelligent readers. To this end, parents are provided with original research sources; references and further readings are suggested at the end of each chapter for those interested in pursuing the topics discussed. In the same vein, some jargon and technical terminologies regarding multilingualism are deliberately introduced to empower parents to access research literature directly if they wish to do so. When jargon and technical terms are introduced, they are explained in simpler language.
  • This book does not consider adolescents’ multilingual development as an isolated linguistic phenomenon; rather, it addresses multilingual development concurrently with other aspects of adolescent life such as biological, cognitive, and social development. The purpose is to encourage parents to consider taking a holistic approach that aims to cultivate a whole person rather than just a multilingual person.
  • This book addresses the impact of multilingual family welfare, a topic that has been largely neglected in the published literature. Parents from multilingual families often come from different cultural backgrounds. As a result, the multilingual childrearing process may affect the coherence and well-being of multilingual families. Practical strategies are provided to help parents be mindful of family well-being.
  • This book includes practical and easy-to-use language and literacy measures that parents can use to better understand their teen’s multilingual development of words, grammar and language production. By understanding their teen’s current heritage-language development levels, parents can focus on the areas in which their teen needs more support.
  • This book is written in a reader-friendly style with a balance of scholarly rigor and reader accessibility. To increase readers’ enjoyment, I have included many interesting and meaningful personal anecdotes. Parents will probably enjoy a book with real-life anecdotes more than a dry advice book that presents information out of context.

How will your readers find your book useful?

Readers may find my book useful in the following areas:

  • Because this book is rooted in my own child and adolescent rearing experiences in the everyday context, parents can easily relate to what I discussed in the book.
  • The practical strategies I proposed in the book can be implemented easily by parents. In addition, these strategies are based on research and personal practice.
  • This book provides parents a platform on which they can reflect on their own multilingual childrearing practice.
  • The book empowers parents by showing them that although multilingual childrearing is challenging, it is possible with the right strategies and support.

Was it difficult writing about your own children?

Not at all! On the contrary, I found that writing about my children has been the most enjoyable writing experience in my academic career. When writing other books or research articles, I can, once in a while, feel bored. This never happened when I wrote about my own children. In a way, this is natural: what can be more engaging when a mother writes about her own children, who are such an important part of her life?

What’s the most important advice you would offer to parents of multilingual teenagers?

To support adolescent multilingual development, I consider the following strategies crucial:

  • Raising a happy teen is more important than raising a multilingual teen. Thus, taking a holistic approach in promoting teens’ social, cognitive, and identity development should be a priority.
  • Parents need to change their roles from manager of their children’s lives to their consultants.
  • Set up realistic and achievable goals together with your teens about their multilingual development. Empower them by letting them be a part of the decision-making process involving their own multilingual development.

What are the advantages of growing up multilingual?

Research has shown that there are more advantages than disadvantages to being multilingual.

Cognitive and Academic Advantages

  • Multilinguals tend to be better at problem solving, because tackling a problem successfully requires focusing on some aspects of the information and ignoring the others (selective attention).
  • Multilinguals may possess an added mental flexibility and creativity because they regularly switch between different languages (mental flexibility).
  • Multilinguals tend to have more than one set of cultural tools with which to interpret the world. These tools can foster competent behaviors in multiple cultures. For instance, an individual who has extensive knowledge and experiences in cultures A and B may be able to retrieve ideas from cultures A and B spontaneously, place them in juxtaposition, and integrate the two into a novel idea through creative insight. This process is referred to as novel conceptual combination.
  • Multilinguals have an advantage in knowledge transfer from their different languages. Compared with monolinguals, multilinguals can benefit greatly from knowledge acquired in their multiple languages to enrich their learning and understanding.
  • Proficiency in more than one language has been shown to be associated with high academic achievement. Individuals who have the ability to switch between two or more languages also exhibit higher cognitive functioning than those who abandon one of their heritage languages. Research shows that when children were encouraged to further develop their home language, the skills they built in that language helped their mainstream language literacy development. In fact, the longer children receive reinforcement in their home language, the better they learn their mainstream language.

Linguistic Advantages

  • Multilingual individuals tend to have a metalinguistic advantage when compared to their monolingual counterparts. They are more sanative about the language phenomenon in their ambient languages.
  • They have more linguistic resources available to them.
  • The multilingual faculty also facilitates new language learning. This is perhaps because multilinguals are more experienced language learners who have potentially developed more language learning strategies than monolinguals and have a larger linguistic and intercultural repertoire at their disposal.

Other Advantages

  • In having knowledge about their heritage language(s), children and adolescents have an advantage in accessing their heritage culture and communicating with their heritage family. Research suggests that children who speak their parents’ heritage language(s) enjoy better relationships with their families and are less likely to be alienated from their parents and relatives.
  • Multilinguals have the privilege of accessing different sources of information and they can read books and newspapers, as well as watch news and films, in several languages. This makes them more versatile and helps them to approach things from multiple perspectives.
  • Moreover, multilingualism can increase a person’s social circle to include friends from many parts of the world. When travelling to another country, being able to speak the language really helps bring people together and facilitates communication, exchange and socialization.
  • Being multilingual has career advantages as well. In the increasingly globalized world, multilinguals have a competitive advantage in the job market.
  • Research has shown that people who are proficient in their heritage language tend to have higher self-esteem, are more confident in achieving goals, feel they have more control over their lives, and have more ambitious plans for the future.

Given all the advantages mentioned above and many others that I have not mentioned, it is definitely worthwhile to raise multilingual children and adolescents. As Stephen Krashen, an expert in second language learning, commented, “Heritage language development appears to be an excellent investment. For a small effort…the payoffs are enormous.” Another well-known multilingual expert, Colin Baker, also echoed that multilingualism has more advantages than drawbacks.

However, I would like to caution that multilingualism affects individuals differently. Some multilinguals may develop particularly strong intellectual and linguistic abilities as a byproduct of multiple language leaning and use. Other multilinguals may have relatively weaker abilities in their respective languages because input in or exposure to each language is not evenly distributed. It is important to have a realistic view of multilingual effects and understand that there is no guarantee that being multilingual will result in benefits that are associated with multilingualism as described above, nor does it suggest that multilingualism is the cause of all the problems. Thus, not all multilinguals will function superbly or equally well; rather, the multilingual effects on an individual depend on many complex factors, including the individual child or adolescent’s sociolinguistic environments, parental support, aptitude, motivation and personality.

What is your next research project?

I have several projects in progress. For example,

  • Multilingual children’s figurative language development (such as idioms)
  • Multilingual children’s syncretic language use
  • In addition, I plan to write a comprehensive handbook on multilingual children and adolescents, tentatively titled Everything You Want to Know about Bilingual and Multilingual Childrearing.

Growing up with Three LanguagesIf you found this interesting you might also like Xiao-lei’s other books: Growing up with Three Languages and Learning to Read and Write in the Multilingual Family. Information about all her books can be found on our website.


Cognate Vocabulary in Language Acquisition and Use

17 November 2015

Last month we published Cognate Vocabulary in Language Acquisition and Use by Agnieszka Otwinowska. In this post, Agnieszka tells us a bit more about cognate vocabulary and explains the background to the cover image of her book.

Cognate Vocabulary in Language Acquisition and UseMy research interests lie in the broad area of bilingualism and multilingualism, defined functionally as the use of several languages for different purposes. The topic that I found particularly fascinating is the ways in which individual multilingualism (i.e. using several languages by one person) affects noticing and using crosslinguistic similarity. Such similarities in the area of lexis are known as cognate vocabulary (i.e. words that are formally and semantically very similar or even identical across different languages). We tend to notice them mostly in languages which are typologically close, and it is assumed that cognate words had a common ancestor word that they originated from (Lat. cognatus = blood relative). However, cognates also exist in typologically unrelated languages, such as Polish and English due to the historical processes of language contact and borrowing.

At a certain moment of my research and teaching career, I was quite amazed by the ‘discovery’ of cognates, which led me to studying the topic of crosslinguistic similarity and its role in multilingual language acquisition. I decided to investigate how cognateness ‘works’ across languages, because it is assumed that the existence of cognates should be helpful in learning. As a methodologist of language teaching, I was interested in finding out which factors influence noticing and using cognates, and whether sensitivity to crosslinguistic similarity, present in multilinguals, can be trained in other language learners.

I mainly focused on Polish and English because Polish is my native language, while teaching English is my main area of research. Thus, my entire research deals with the role of crosslinguistic lexical similarity and multilingualism with English as a part of a language constellation. My book Cognate Vocabulary in Language Acquisition and Use summarises my research on cognate Polish-English vocabulary, and on training vocabulary learning strategies, coupled with raising awareness of such words.

So, why is this book different from other books on multilingualism? I believe it is the focus on cognates and the scope of this work. Although cognates have been studied from various perspectives, there are also vast differences in methodological approaches, and even in the ways of defining a cognate, depending on the domain. Approaches to cognates differ in historical and applied linguistics, in psycholinguistics and in contact linguistics. My aim was to present those diverse perspectives in one volume and make use of the knowledge stemming from those different domains in my research.

The result is a unique monograph, which brings together linguistic, sociolinguistic, psycholinguistic and educational perspectives on the phenomenon of cognate vocabulary across languages. It predominantly deals with Polish-English cognates and their use by bilingual and multilingual Polish learners/users of English. However, since it discusses the universal processes of language contact in the macro scale (at the societal level) and the micro scale (crosslinguistic influences in the mind of an individual), the volume should appeal to international readers of numerous language backgrounds. Hopefully, the research presented here can also serve as an example for other language pairs and groups.

And just the final word about the image on the cover of the book. Aneta Pavlenko congratulated me on the choice, saying that there is a clear link between cognates and the photograph. Indeed, cognates are very much about certain repetitiveness of patterns (like the poles on the beach), and also about ‘giving a helping hand,’ in language learning (like the children). The photo was taken on holiday at the Polish seaside (actually not my favourite destination, as I prefer hiking in the mountains). Two of the children in the photo are mine, and they are rather proud to be featured on the book cover! All three kids are quite grown-up by now, and they all attend the same secondary school near Warsaw.

If you would like more ifnromation about this book please see our website. You might also be interested in New Perspectives on Transfer in Second Language Learning.


Local Languaging: Challenges Existing Definitions of ‘Language’ and ‘Literacy’

9 October 2015

Last month we published Local Languaging, Literacy and Multilingualism in a West African Society by Kasper Juffermans. The book challenges existing definitions of ‘language’ and ‘literacy’ in The Gambia. In this post, Kasper gives us a bit more background to the ideas discussed in his book.

Local Languaging, Literacy and Multilingualism in a West African SocietyHow many languages do you speak? If we think a bit longer about this rather common question, it is not the same kind of question as How often have you been to Africa? or How many children do you have? Generally, travels and children are rather easy to count and remember. With language that’s not quite the case. Languages are difficult to count not because people often speak such a large number of them – usually they don’t – but because it’s hard to tell where one language begins and another ends, as well as what counts as speaking it.

As a student of African studies at a Belgian university I began carrying out field research in The Gambia, Africa’s smallest mainland country. The Gambia gained independence from the UK in 1965 and like many African states it has maintained its colonial language as official language. This includes use as a medium of instruction throughout the public education system and almost exclusive use in the written media and the public space.

I began my research in a modern multi-ethnic village in the southwest of the country. The village comprised people of Mandinka, Jola, Fula, Wolof and Manjago ethnic groups living together. It was a very encouraging environment to learn Mandinka with numerous people around me with the patience and the interest to teach me, and enough (elderly) persons who did not, or pretended not to, speak any English. The more time I spent in the village, the better my Mandinka became. Before long my communicative skills were enough to engage in small talk with neighbours, fellow passengers, street vendors, etc. But then people would challenge me and ask me if I could, or why I didn’t, speak their language. This way I learned to recognise and greet in Wolof, Jola, and Fula too. Not only did I have to learn the local language, I had to learn to language locally, to respond adequately in greeting sequences involving Arabic, the interlocutors’ ethnic language and the lingua franca of the situation. I had to learn to choose the right moment to switch, and get the cultural pragmatics of turn-taking and back-channelling right. All of this is not learning different languages, but rather learning local languaging.

In my research I learned to look beyond languages in the plural to understand multilingualism and literacy in Gambian society. I discovered that I had entered the field with a rather European conception of language and that this was different from African ways of understanding language. In the linguistic landscape – i.e., the public space as marked by linguistic objects – I could hardly see any language other than English. There were only very few occasions of local language, and then usually only in Wolof. What did this mean? Are African languages somehow not written languages? Is Wolof more vital than other Gambian languages? And how do we read the prolific use of images complementing text in the public space? My book attempts to address these questions.

The Gambian government prepared an education policy for 2004-2015 that announced the introduction of the five most commonly used local languages as subjects throughout the education system and as medium of instruction in the first three years of basic education. But why can’t we see any evidence of this policy in the school I investigated? Could the problem be situated in the fluidity of local language practices and the fixity (and eurocentrism?) of such a policy document? Community members declared their support for the introduction of moo fing kango (‘black people’s language’) in their school, but refused to make a choice about which of the local languages should be introduced. The book argues that such voices need to be taken into account and attempts to proceed from there in understanding language in education and society at large.

During my fieldwork I gradually unlearned to conceptualise language in the plural, and to understand language rather as a verb. The present book contributes to the languaging turn in sociolinguistics by emphasising the dynamics and fluidity of language as practiced locally in a globalising world. Whereas English and literacy have in the past strategically been pluralised to emphasise diversity in practices across cultural contexts (Englishes, literacies), it is now time to singularise them again and think of language and literacy as material nouns. This book can be read not only as a sociolinguistic monograph of one West African society, but also as an exercise to unpluralise language.

For more information about this book please see our website.


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