Remaking Multilingualism: A Tribute to Ofelia García

This month we published Remaking Multilingualism edited by Bahar Otcu-Grillman and Maryam Borjian – a book honouring the research and influence of Ofelia García. In this post the editors highlight some of the tributes made by contributors to the volume.

Multilingualism, bilingual education and how it is implemented in schools have often been controversial topics debated by politicians, academics, and educators in the United States and throughout the world. Among many scholars in the field, Professor Emerita Ofelia García has been a leader for 40 years, advocating for bilingualism, multilingualism and true bilingual education, not only for language minorities, but for all, and not only locally, but globally. An essential part of ‘dynamic bilingualism’ introduced by García, translanguaging stands out as a promising approach for the education of emergent bilinguals and constitutes people’s complex language practices in multilingual speech communities.

Remaking Multilingualism: A Translanguaging Approach is a tribute volume celebrating Ofelia García and her lifetime commitment to multilingualism and bilingual education within translanguaging perspectives via the eyes of her colleagues, former students, and friends. Through its collective chapters, the volume covers translanguaging in both its senses, as a discursive practice and as a pedagogical approach. It takes the reader beyond named languages and named nation-states to place the emphasis on us, human beings, the speakers of different languages and the residents of different parts of the world.

Dedicated to Ofelia García for her lifetime commitment to the cause of bilingual education, multilingualism and educational linguistics, the volume includes many tribute statements. Here are some excerpts from the book:

“Ofelia’s name is practically synonymous with translanguaging, that run-away concept that has captured the imagination of so many in the field of bilingual education. This is as it should be – a reflection of both Ofelia’s long and deep scholarship in bilingual education policy and practice and the creativity and imagination she brings to it.”
Nancy Hornberger

“Ofelia continues to challenge me on how to go beyond dichotomies such as research/practice, descriptive/political, or pedagogies/policies, and make more holistic contributions to our field.”
Suresh Canagarajah

“Ofelia García remains steadfast in her lifelong commitment to bilingual education. She refers to the systemic inequalities brought about by the hegemony of English, ‘whiteness’ and colonialism. From her early work she has been, and remains, inspirational in her ability to narrow the gap between theory and practice, engage with practitioners to improve the educational outcomes of students and take on powerful institutions which endorse harmful monolingual ideologies and exclude the everyday practices of bilingual learners. She is fearless in her ability to face resistance, speaking truth to power whenever and wherever she is able. Hers is a recognition that practice must lead theory, and not the other way round. Translanguaging is not merely a description of interactional contact, but an ideological orientation to communication and difference. In her warm, inclusive and engaging manner Ofelia García has reshaped the landscape of bilingual education, second language teaching and learning and education pedagogies more widely. We owe her a huge debt of gratitude.”
Angela Creese and Adrian Blackledge

“Ofelia García’s enormous gifts of intellectuality, brilliance of thought coupled with her profound love for humanity are not the only characteristics of her academic endeavors that have awed and inspired many over the past several decades. Her immeasurable humility, warmth of character, abundant love and her sheltering personality have made her a true mentor, colleague and friend to many.”
Maryam Borjian

“Ofelia’s advocacy is above everything else. Her lifetime work on bilingual education and multilingualism, initially with Professor Fishman, and her translanguaging approach later, have provided the advocacy for those who speak minority languages and the guidance for educators and policymakers who regulate the minorities’ education. I am thankful to her for everything she did for me and others, for every idea she nurtured and pursued and for everyone she inspired to change the world.”
Bahar Otcu-Grillman

“This chapter foregrounds the perspectives of bilingual Latinx adolescent youth in reimagining school and classroom-level language allocation policy in ways that center the language practices and lived realities of youth. At the core, this approach is grounded in Dr. Ofelia García’s conception of translanguaging and dynamic bilingualism (2009), and our shared belief that children’s and communities’ language practices must be at the center of pedagogical and policy decisions. Using García’s theory of dynamic bilingualism, I outline four lessons from youth based on their reported language use and perspectives on bilingualism and translanguaging, then consider the implications of these lessons for language allocation policy, suggesting an approach to language policy that is grounded in both dynamic bilingualism and youth’s lived realities. Just as Dr. García conceived of translanguaging by studying the language practices of communities, the best way to serve multilingual youth is by listening to youth themselves, and letting their perspectives, experiences and language practices guide the creation of more equitable language policy.”
Sarah Hesson

“Both authors are former students of Ofelia Garcia and were also part of the CUNY-NYSIEB team.  Our approach to working with teachers of emergent bilinguals was rooted in the translanguaging pedagogy that evolved from Ofelia Garcia’s work. Over the years, Ofelia fostered spaces for collaboration that engaged educators in reimagining their schools and classrooms. Our work and the work of the teachers that we feature in this chapter are examples of how she inspired educators to open a space in which they could carefully analyze how learning was attuned to emergent bilinguals’ identities and socio-emotional development.”
Ivana Espinet and Karen Zaino

“If the term mentor entails being a counsellor with wisdom and experience, a generous and inspirational collaborator, and a loyal and empathetic friend, then Ofelia García is mentor par excellence.”
Jo Anne Kleifgen

For more information about this book, please see our website

If you found this interesting, you might also like Rethinking the Education of Multilingual Learners by Jim Cummins.

Latinx Students and their Teachers Rompiendo Fronteras sin Miedo

This month we published Transformative Translanguaging Espacios edited by Maite T. Sánchez and Ofelia García. In this post the editors tell us what readers can expect from the book.

Even before you open this book, Transformative Translanguaging Espacios, you will be confronted with the image of Latinx students raising their fists without fear, sin miedo, drawn by Ángela Paredes Montero. The Black Lives Matter movement and the murder of George Floyd, the #metoo movement, and the pause caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have given us the impetus to “lift the veil,” in the words of W.E. du Bois, to reveal the social and cognitive injustices of US language education policies for Latinx students. Sin miedo, and joined mainly by other Latinx scholars and teachers, this book shows how translanguaging spaces in education can weave a different tejido, a weave that is different from the tight knots that institutions have drawn around English and Spanish. The chapters here show how translanguaging spaces in education create openings through which we can view Latinx students and their communities desde adentro, so that from the inside, through their own knowledge system and ways of languaging, we can see their capacidad and inteligencia.

Sin miedo has been at the forefront of our trajectory with this book on the transformative power of translanguaging. Both of us have witnessed how opening up translanguaging spaces is transformative for Latinx students and the teachers who enable it. We bring the experience of CUNY-NYSIEB where Maite was project director and Ofelia was co-principal investigator. But we also have witnessed the refusal of many school leaders to allow their teachers to implement these spaces because they supposedly go against the strict language policies that are said to “benefit” students. We have seen teachers disagreeing with the possibilities of translanguaging pedagogical practices because they themselves were victims of elitist notions of academic standard language and additive bilingualism as separate languages. And we have experienced the fear of state education systems to adopt translanguaging theory and pedagogical practices because they thought that the teachers were just too unprepared, the students too deficient, and they too dependent on federal policies that made them mainly accountable for students’ “standard English.” After many years of trying to work with individual teachers and transform practices one by one, our outrage has enabled us to speak out sin miedo from the perspective of the Latinx students and communities themselves. The death of civil rights leader John Lewis, during the writing of this book, reminded us that it was time to get into “good trouble” – “Speak up, speak out, get in the way.”

Through this book, and thanks to the contributors in this volume, we get in the way of educational institutions that do not put racialized bilingual Latinx students and communities at the center of their efforts. We made a conscious editorial decision to begin the book with chapters that look at how translanguaging pedagogical practices open spaces to disrupt the trends of gentrification that are working against the interests of Latinx communities. That is, we are convinced that translanguaging pedagogical spaces must be foremost of benefit to the Latinx community for its own sociopolitical good. The question raised by Heiman, Cervantes-Soon and Hurie in their chapter – Good para quién? ­– must always be at the forefront of translanguaging pedagogical practices.

We identify and call out educational policies and practices that serve the interest of white dominant communities, families, and students, but that have been camouflaged as good for Latinx communities. The book questions, for example, the logic of the dual language/two-way immersion model that is becoming prevalent as the only way to bilingually educate Latinx students.

We have spent our academic careers working for the benefit of Latinx children and youth and upholding their right to bilingual education. At the same time, we have questioned and been critical of the assumptions that have been made about language, bilingualism, and language education policy. Career-wise, Ofelia is at the end of her academic path; but Maite and many of the other Latinx scholars in this book are moving along a camino that not only questions and disrupts established knowledge, but that also produces new knowledge. This book, in which Latinx theorists, scholars, educators, and students co-exist as agentive beings, reconfigures power and reinvents who can produce knowledge, who can name it, and who can access it.

We have insisted throughout the book that translanguaging is transformative. The chapters show ways in which real teachers and students engage with the transformative power of translanguaging.  Some chapters also envision what needs to happen so that these translanguaging transformative espacios can support the education of Latinx children and youth. The path P’alante with which Maite ends the book includes questions for educators so that they can reflect on ways in which translanguaging in education can be transformative for their own contexts. As Ramón Martínez and his colleagues say, translanguaging may not transform the material inequalities and systemic oppression that racialized bilingual students face, but it is transformative “in the everyday actions of students and their teachers.” The concepts of standard academic language and additive bilingualism that have plagued the education of racialized bilinguals in the US have only succeeded in producing academic failure and creating subjectivities of inferiority. By enabling Latinx communities and their children to become critically conscious of how language and bilingualism operates to produce their domination, translanguaging pedagogical spaces indeed are transformative. We hope that this book brings all of us – scholars, educators, students, communities — along a transformative path, as we take steps sin miedo to center the knowledge system and ways of languaging of Latinx communities in our efforts to enact a more equitable educational system.

Maite Sánchez and Ofelia García

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Bilingualism for All? edited by Nelson Flores, Amelia Tseng and Nicholas Subtirelu.

Starting a Dialogue between Social Semiotics and Complexity Theory

We recently published Making Signs, Translanguaging Ethnographies edited by Ari Sherris and Elisabetta Adami. In this post the editors introduce us to the book and its unique Bricolage and Talmudic sections.

Preparing this volume has been a work of encounters which gave way to layers of experiences and we hope is just one possible opening to a new way of thinking about how we make and interpret meaning. It started as a serendipitous encounter between the two of us, when we met once at a symposium on translanguaging and ethnography and later began conversations on the possibilities of crossing perspectives, in an attempt at starting a dialogue between social semiotics and complexity theory. The experiences of the volume’s contributors form additional layers at the core of this volume from ethnographic/documentary linguistics, sociolinguistics, linguistic landscape, and multimodality (broadly conceived). The volume is also a site of encounters among four theorists of what we envisage as among the most innovative and promising perspectives on research and activism across inclusive approaches to communication, language and education with a Bricolage piece asking Jan Blommaert, Ofelia García, Gunther Kress and Diane Larsen-Freeman to answer ten key questions and trace interrelations with each other’s viewpoints.

Besides the eye-opening preface by Jeff Bezemer and Gunther Kress, and the introduction written by us, the volume hosts seven chapters presenting empirical studies that relocate margins at the centre, through investigations of phenomena and settings that have been little explored so far, and by attempting various entanglements between approaches that have rarely been combined. Research of and through these uncharted entanglements allows the authors (and hopefully the readers) to show how observing and documenting domains of communication that are often neglected can not only problematize traditional ways of knowing, but also shed new light onto social interaction, meaning-making and human communication as a whole.

Finally, the volume attempts at stretching the boundaries of (the often too limiting) academic genres. It does so first and foremost in the Bricolage; the process of its making has been a wonderfully enriching enterprise, for us, the editors, and (we like to believe) for the four theorists too, who had never met on (screen and) paper before. Working with them at the Bricolage, we have not only had further proof of the immense intellectual value of Diane, Gunther, Jan and Ofelia, but also experienced the immensely humane, thoughtful and caring characters of the four. We hope that the Bricolage may be the first of a series opening a new genre enabling academic dialogue through joint forms of writing. A second genre innovation is in the final chapter of the book, in which we draw from the Talmudic tradition to construct commentaries to each of the empirical chapters that add additional layers, imagined next steps in meaning-making and interpretation. The commentaries ask themselves how these studies would be reframed and (re)investigated further by adopting a social semiotic and a complexity theory perspective. This, too, is an attempt to start a dialogue between two approaches that have good grounds for potential mutual integration and yet had not met until now. We hope this dialogue will continue further with those who read the book. We look forward to hearing from you!

Elisabetta Adami e.adami@leeds.ac.uk

Ari Sherris arieh.sherris@gmail.com

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Engaging Superdiversity edited by Karel Arnaut, Martha Sif Karrebæk, Massimiliano Spotti and Jan Blommaert.

Laura’s trip to Finland for the PLL and EuroSLA conferences

Two years ago Tommi and I attended the Sociolinguistics Symposium in Jyväskylä and had a fantastic time so I have been very much looking forward to returning to the city ever since it was announced that the University of Jyväskylä would be hosting the Psychology and Language Learning (PLL) and European Second Language Acquisition (EuroSLA) conferences.

The week started with Paula Kalaja, the chair of the local organising committee, welcoming delegates to the university and announcing the conference theme, “Individuals in Contexts”. There followed many papers and discussions, plus thought-provoking keynotes from Sarah Mercer, Maggie Kubanyiova and Phil Benson.

Quiet moment at the MM stand
Quiet moment at the MM stand

The coffee and lunch breaks provided many opportunities to continue the conversations and, as it was a smaller conference, it was nice to see so many new connections being formed and ideas being shared and discussed among the whole spectrum of the delegates. Of course, breaks are also the busiest time at the Multilingual Matters book display and I was happy to meet lots of avid readers and researchers!

Celebrating our new book with contributor Kristiina Skinnari and editor Tarja Nikula
Laura celebrating our new book with contributor Kristiina Skinnari and editor Tarja Nikula

Our most popular titles were Positive Psychology in SLA (edited by Peter D. MacIntyre, Tammy Gregersen and Sarah Mercer), the 2nd edition of Bonny Norton’s bestselling book Identity and Language Learning and Conceptualising Integration in CLIL and Multilingual Education edited by Tarja Nikula, Emma Dafouz, Pat Moore and Ute Smit. That book was so hot off the press that I brought copies in my suitcase direct from our office!

Along with the academic programme, I very much enjoyed the conference dinner at which we experienced delicious Finnish food, traditional folk music and a beautiful view across the city, for the dinner was held in a water tower high on a hill. It was a very strange feeling eating dinner knowing that you’re sitting right above an awful lot of water!

The conference drew to a close with the exciting announcement of the formation of a new association dedicated to this sector of the field, with Stephen Ryan the newly-elected President. He spoke of the goals of the association and announced that PLL3 will take place in Japan in 2018. I’ll certainly be keeping my eye out for more information on that one!

On the lake in Jyväskylä
On the lake in Jyväskylä

With a pause after PLL only long enough to enjoy a quick dip in the surprisingly-not-too-cold lake, in rolled EuroSLA, one of my favourite conferences in our calendar. The theme for this year was “Looking back, looking forward: Language learning research at the crossroads” and, as at PLL earlier in the week, we were treated to a range of papers and keynotes from Søren Wind Eskildsen, Ofelia García, Marjolijn Verspoor and Ari Huhta. Although Ofelia García described herself as an outsider to the field, her impassioned talk titled “Transgressing native speaker privilege: The role of translanguaging” was my personal highlight of the whole week. Another top moment was the presentation of the EuroSLA Distinguished Scholar Award to our author, Carmen Muñoz, for her outstanding contribution to the field.

The focus of the book display shifted slightly at EuroSLA and bestsellers on the stand included Rosa Alonso Alonso’s edited collection Crosslinguistic Influence in Second Language Acquisition, Zhisheng (Edward) Wen’s new monograph Working Memory and Second Language Learning and John Bitchener and Neomy Storch’s book Written Corrective Feedback for L2 Development.

As usual, the EuroSLA organising team also put on a fantastic social programme, with the highlights being the welcome reception in a Finnish rock club and a boat cruise on the lake to the traditional dinner venue, on arrival at which we were served a very strong but equally tasty local drink before enjoying more local cuisine and music.

All in all it was a wonderful trip to a couple of great conferences and a very welcoming host city. I’m very much looking forward to the next ones already!

Laura

International Symposium on Bilingualism

Bilingual Community Education and MultilingualismEarlier this month Tommi and I attended the 9th International Symposium on Bilingualism (ISB) at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. The book exhibits were situated in the open air – there was a roof but no walls! On the first morning we arrived to torrential rain and a thunderstorm so we were glad of the roof! However, throughout the conference the wind was sometimes so strong that the books were literally flying off the table!

Ofelia García speaking at ISB
Ofelia García speaking at ISB

One of our authors, Ofelia García, was one of the keynote speakers and we were pleased to be able to attend her talk on students and teachers translanguaging which featured her recent book Bilingual Community Education and Multilingualism. It was a really successful conference and it was great to see so many of our authors there.

Singapore skyline
Singapore skyline

We didn’t have time to see much of Singapore but one evening there was a drinks reception at a bar with a roof terrace and we had a great view of the Singapore cityscape.

We’re already looking forward to ISB10 at Rutgers University in 2015!

Elinor

Multilingual Higher Education: Beyond English Medium Orientations

This month we published Multilingual Higher Education by Christa van der Walt. Here, the author tells us how she came to write the book and the importance of research in this area.

Multilingual Higher EducationThe idea for this book was born when I first read Ofelia García’s impressive Bilingual Education in the 21st Century: A Global Perspective (2009). My impression was that much had been published on bilingual education at primary school level, much less at secondary school level and virtually nothing at higher education level. From my own work at school level and then in higher education, I knew that multilingual teaching and learning strategies are generally regarded with suspicion. Furthermore, I also knew that the status attached to higher education would militate against marginalised languages in its classrooms.

In my own multilingual context, the use of other languages in classrooms is ubiquitous (although not necessarily acknowledged!) but I really started to research higher education classrooms after my involvement with language policy development at Stellenbosch University in 2002. A research project in 2004 on bilingual universities worldwide, initiated by Prof Chris Brink who was then the rector of Stellenbosch University, made me realise that policy-level research says nothing about what is happening in multilingual classrooms. This impression was confirmed at various international conferences and in discussions with colleagues from European bi/multilingual universities, notably Michael Langner from the University of Fribourg, Ana Virkunnen-Vollenwider (now retired) from the University of Helsinki and Gudrun Ziegler from the University of Luxemburg. A sabbatical in Germany in 2010 led to discussions with Annelie Knapp of the University of Siegen and Hartmut Haberland at Roskilde University and these conversations increased my awareness of the problems of transnationally mobile students. The pervasive assumption that the use of English would solve all these problems made me connect the role of language in South African (and African) higher education institutions to efforts in Europe to establish English as a language of learning and teaching. The recent book CLIL in Higher Education by Fortanet-Gómez (2013) on the introduction of CLIL in European higher education institutions is a further valuable source in this regard.

Although higher education institutions differ widely, they seem to share the challenge of increasing student participation and throughput locally while managing the pressure to compete globally. It is self-evident that language is central to both efforts and in my book I try to show how it is possible to include more languages in the classroom, while acknowledging the role and status of English. I am not particularly interested in how multilingual language practices can be accommodated at policy level. For me there is a bigger issue at stake and that is the training of higher education practitioners. The fact that disciplinary specialisation is often the only qualification that academics require to become lecturers is, to my mind, the main reason why teaching and learning does not result in improved student success. In-service education and training of academic staff is needed because there is a level at which the proposed strategies that I mention constitute good teaching practice, whether we connect them to multilingual education or not. Mobilising students’ resources, including the languages that they use to support and develop learning, seems self-evident as part of a higher education pedagogy.  I can only agree with García (2009:11, her emphasis) when she says that “some form of bilingual education is good for all education, and therefore good for all children, as well as good for all adult learners”. This statement must be kept in mind in view of the increased introduction of CLIL, particularly in Europe, as Fortanet-Gómez (2013) shows.

I hope that this book will inspire more classroom-based research so that we can elaborate on these first steps towards a multilingual higher education pedagogy.       

References
Fortanet-Gómez, I. (2013) CLIL in Higher Education: Towards a Multilingual Language Policy. Bristol: Multilingual Matters
García, O. (2009) Bilingual Education in the 21st Century: A Global Perspective. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell

Also available:

CLIL in Higher EducationCLIL in Higher Education by Inmaculada Fortanet-Gómez

NABE Conference 2013

NABE 2013
NABE 2013

Last month, I kick-started our 2013 conference exhibits with a trip to the National Association for Bilingual Education (NABE) conference, which was held at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort in Florida. It is a few years since we last exhibited at NABE, and my first time at the conference. While there were very few people I’d met before there, it was really interesting to chat to all the delegates who popped by the stand and to meet a few of our authors for the first time.

Laura at the Multilingual Matters NABE stand
Laura at the Multilingual Matters NABE stand

Among the authors I spoke to were Ofelia García and Bahar Otcu who, together with Zeena Zakharia, edited our new book Bilingual Community Education and Multilingualism, Beatriz Arias one of the editors of Implementing Educational Language Policy in Arizona and Carla Meskill who co-authored Teaching Languages Online.  These titles aside, our books on language policy and teaching were the most frequently picked up, with Janet Fuller’s new textbook Spanish Speakers in the USA being very popular, as was Teaching Languages to Students with Specific Learning Differences by Kormos and Smith.

Ofelia Garcia's keynote
Ofelia Garcia’s keynote

I was really fortunate to be able to leave the stand to attend Ofelia García’s inspiring keynote session “Global Perspectives on Bilingual Education: Implications for the US”. I found hearing about language practices in 4 quite different countries very interesting and one of several quotes which has stuck with me since the talk goes something along the lines of “English runs through my veins, while Spanish is in my heart”. What kind of damage are we doing to a child if we remove one of those components?” I was pleased to hear her speak about the exciting new book she has published with us, and, as a cyclist, I especially enjoyed her use of pictures of bicycles to complement her talk!

The conference apart, I really enjoyed feeling some warm Floridian sun on my face – quite a change from the cold we’ve had in the UK recently. It was also quite novel to be at Disney World, although I was very pleased that I didn’t have to fight Mickey away from our books and, to my great relief, I didn’t actually see Mickey (or any of his friends) once!

Laura

Bilingual Community Education and Multilingualism

This week we publish Bilingual Community Education and Multilingualism edited by Ofelia García, Zeena Zakharia and Bahar Otcu which offers new understandings about heritage language education in the multilingual city of New York. Here Ofelia García tells us about about the importance of community education projects. 

Multilingualism today is often framed through a lens of super-diversity. This is so especially in urban contexts, where many have documented the frequent and intense interaction of different ethnolinguistic groups. But little has been said about bilingualism as seen through the lens of the ethnolinguistic communities themselves.

This book takes up the lens of ethnolinguistic communities as they proudly educate their own children in their ways of speaking and being. These bilingual community education programs are unlike bilingual programs in US public schools, where speakers of languages other than English are often minoritized. In these programs, the children’s linguistic and cultural diversity are their most valuable assets. But these bilingual community education programs are also different from how others have characterized “heritage language” programs. In these bilingual community education programs diasporic ethnolinguistic communities ensure that their children use their ways of speaking and being within a US global context. Thus, their interest is not in their heritage, as the language and the culture was performed in the past, in another space, but as a dynamic bilingualism and biculturalism that is performed by American children.

Adopting the lens of the bilingual communities themselves means that it is not super-diversity that drives these efforts. Instead, language practices are locally-produced by the communities themselves, although shaped by the plural interactions that are redefining bilingual language practices.  The bilingual communities and the educators involved in these efforts do not support super-diversity. They see their languaging and identifying through a narrow lens, although they adjust that lens to converge with the language and cultural practices in the United States. Their translanguaging practices encompass both the bilingual discourse used in these educational spaces, as well as the pedagogies that are often observed. Rather than becoming obsfuscated by super-diversity, their translanguaging becomes sharper, more intense, as they redefine their languaging and subjectivities as that of bilingual Americans. It is this type of bilingual community education program, and not just celebrating super-diversity, that will ensure that bilingual communities are respected as assets, and that bilingual children will be valued for their bilingualism.