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Language on the Move is dedicated to language and communication in multicultural and transnational contexts: language learning, multilingualism and intercultural communication, in short, in Language and Communication on the Move (L.CoM)! The blog is part of the sociolinguistics portal www.languageonthemove.org created by Ingrid Piller and Kimie Takahashi. Visit www.languageonthemove.org to find out more about our work.
by Dave Sayers in Language on the Move
Something has been nagging at me recently. I read a lot of tech news, and it seems automated translation is...... Read more »
Chaudhary U, Xia B, Silvoni S, Cohen LG, & Birbaumer N. (2017) Brain-Computer Interface-Based Communication in the Completely Locked-In State. PLoS biology, 15(1). PMID: 28141803
by Gegentuul Baioud in Language on the Move
On New Year’s Eve, when many people around the world were excited about firework shows, a group of Mongols in...... Read more »
Sachirengui. (2013) Mongol nüüdel hüühediin niigemchileltiin tuhai sudalal [A Study on the Socialization Process of Mongol Migrant Children in Hohhot]. Masters thesis, University of Inner Mongolia, Hohhot. . info:/
On December 23, 2016, as most Australians were winding down for the holiday week ahead, Faysal Ishak Ahmed, a 27-year-old...... Read more »
Kenison TC, Madu A, Krupat E, Ticona L, Vargas IM, & Green AR. (2017) Through the Veil of Language: Exploring the Hidden Curriculum for the Care of Patients With Limited English Proficiency. Academic medicine : journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges, 92(1), 92-100. PMID: 27166864
by Livia Gerber in Language on the Move
A 2015 article in the New York Post argued that mobile dating apps, such as Tinder and its many clones,...... Read more »
Hobbs, M., Owen, S., & Gerber, L. (2016) Liquid love? Dating apps, sex, relationships and the digital transformation of intimacy. Journal of Sociology. DOI: 10.1177/1440783316662718
by Lg_on_the_move in Language on the Move
Many people around the world dream of learning English. The pursuit of English is rarely only, or even predominantly, about language learning: it’s...... Read more »
Cho, J. (2015) Sleepless in Seoul: Neoliberalism, English fever, and linguistic insecurity among Korean interpreters. Multilingua. DOI: 10.1515/multi-2013-0047
As I am trying to finalize the manuscript for the second revised edition of my 2011 book Intercultural Communication: A...... Read more »
Markus, A. (2016) Australians Today: The Australia@2015 Scanlon Foundation Survey. Scanlon Foundation. info:/
Who of the three women in this image do you think German employers are most likely to consider as a...... Read more »
Arai, M., Bursell, M., & Nekby, L. (2016) The Reverse Gender Gap in Ethnic Discrimination: Employer Stereotypes of Men and Women with Arabic Names. International Migration Review, 50(2), 385-412. DOI: 10.1111/imre.12170
One of the central arguments of my book Intercultural Communication is that, even today, much intercultural communication is approached from...... Read more »
Piller, I. (2011) Intercultural Communication: A Critical Introduction. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. info:/
by Peter Ives in Language on the Move
We are repeatedly told that people around the world are choosing to learn and use English. The media and many...... Read more »
Hu, G. (2005) English Language Education in China: Policies, Progress, and Problems. Language Policy, 4(1), 5-24. DOI: 10.1007/s10993-004-6561-7
A couple of years ago, I mused here on Language on the Move what linguistic theory would look like if...... Read more »
Piller, I. (2016) Dubai: Language in the ethnocratic, corporate and mobile city. Smakman, D. and P. Heinrich. Eds. Metrolinguistics: Urban Language Ecologies around the World. info:/
by Agnes Bodis in Language on the Move
ESL teachers play an important role in home language maintenance (Image Credit: Macquarie University)
Learning the host country’s language is important for migrants but we should not forget that maintaining the home language is just as essential for the next generation’s success in life. Unfortunately, in Australia there are no policies in place that support the home language maintenance of languages other than English. In the absence of top-down approaches, changing teacher beliefs can be a grassroots way to support bilingual education and combat migrant disadvantage.
I teach “Planning and programming in TESOL” for English language teachers as part of the Graduate Certificate of TESOL program at Macquarie University in Sydney. A great proportion of our students are in-service teachers who have decided to specialize in English as an Additional Language or Dialect (EAL/D) teaching. EAL/D teaching is delivered in a variety of ways, which include providing support to students who need help with English alongside a class teacher or collecting EAL/D students into a separate group and providing full-time intensive support. In 2015, 251,336 students (32.3% of all students) enrolled in New South Wales government schools had a language background other than English. And over 145, 000 students (ca. 20%) were learning English as an additional language.
Home language maintenance
As one of the assessment tasks, our in-service teacher students analyse their teaching context and pinpoint salient features in the given context. Many of them identify the fact that EAL/D students in Australian schools do not speak English at home as problematic. This view constitutes a ‘deficit’ model of bilingualism, meaning it concentrates on what negative effects speaking a minority language might have for migrant children and speaking another language is simply seen as an obstacle on the way towards integration.
How can we turn this belief around so that bilingualism comes to be seen as an advantage? Highlighting the long-term educational and cognitive effects of bilingualism constitutes one strategy. These benefits have been covered widely in the media (e.g., here) and also here on Language on the Move (e.g., here). Economic benefits may be another long-term effect of home language maintenance. US research has found that bilingual children of migrants have higher earnings in adulthood than their English-dominant counterparts (Agirdag, 2016, see here for details) and that biliteracy is associated with better educational and occupational attainment (Lee & Hatteberg, 2016, see here for details).
In sum, research consistently points to the fact that bilingualism should have priority in education over fast assimilation into the dominant language group for the future benefit of the children.
Contesting monolingualism in language policy
To enable a positive bilingual strategy, it needs to be backed up by language policy. Australian language and language-in-education policies unfortunately consistently result in monolingualism, as Schalley, Guillemin & Eisenchlas (2015) found in an examination of literacy policies from the past 30 years. These researchers found that “the more multilingual Australian society has become, the more assimilationist the policies and the more monolingual the orientation of the society politicians envisage and pursue” (p. 170). Much of this assimilation to English monolingualism is achieved indirectly. This means that even if language policies appear to promote and value diversity and bilingual learning, they may result in monolingual outcomes: “standardized assessment, year-group performance targets and league tables undermine diversity and bilingual learning and can be highly damaging to the academic achievement of minority students” (Piller, 2016, p. 139).
What can be done to overcome the monolingual bias of our language policies that fly in the face of the research evidence to support the benefits of bilingualism? Schalley, Guillemin & Eisenchlas (2015) emphasise the importance of grassroots activism to enhance home language literacy. It is precisely here where our TESOL program aims to make a difference.
Teachers as grassroots language activists
All too frequently we hear stories of migrant families changing the home language to English in response to advice from their child’s ESL teachers. To parents, recommendations like these may appear to be based on professional authority but they are not backed up by research. The English language learning benefits of switching the home language may be minimal, particularly if the parents lack confidence in their own English. Against this small or non-existent short-term English gains, we must consider the long-term harm to the home language: changing the home language to English deprives EAL/D children of the long-term educational and economic benefits of bilingualism.
Research related to the benefits of bilingualism and to strategies to support bilingualism at home and in school need to be available to teachers. An ideal platform for this is through teacher education, as in our TESOL program. Changing teacher beliefs must be considered an important form of grassroots activism for a bilingual Australia while we work towards a national language policy for our times.
Agirdag, O. (2016). The Long-Term Effects of Bilingualism on Children of Immigration: Student Bilingualism and Future Earnings. In I. Piller (Ed.), Language and Migration (Vol. 4, pp. 341-358). London: Routledge.
Lee, J. C., & Hatteberg, S. J. (2016). Bilingualism and Status Attainment among Latinos. In I. Piller (Ed.), Language and Migration (Vol. 4, pp. 359-386). London: Routledge.
Piller, I. (2016). Linguistic Diversity and Social Justice : An Introduction to Applied Sociolinguistics Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press.
Schalley, A., Guillemin, D., & Eisenchlas, S. (2015). Multilingualism and assimilationism in Australia’s literacy-related educational policies International Journal of Multilingualism, 12 (2), 162-177 DOI: 10.1080/14790718.2015.1009372
... Read more »
Schalley, A., Guillemin, D., & Eisenchlas, S. (2015) Multilingualism and assimilationism in Australia's literacy-related educational policies. International Journal of Multilingualism, 12(2), 162-177. DOI: 10.1080/14790718.2015.1009372
Humans are a migratory species. Although in modern society the dominant imagery we have created about ourselves is that it...... Read more »
Piller, I. (2016) Language and migration. Language and migration, 1-20. info:/
Last week I was fortunate to be able to attend the 2016 annual conference of the British Association of Applied...... Read more »
by Jinhyun Cho in Language on the Move
I recently volunteered to give a presentation on the profession of translation and interpreting as a parent helper for a...... Read more »
Cho, J. (2015) Sleepless in Seoul: Neoliberalism, English fever, and linguistic insecurity among Korean interpreters. Multilingua, 34(5), 687-710. DOI: 10.1515/multi-2013-0047
by Jinhyun Cho in Language on the Move
The Linguistic Ethnography Forum’s e-seminar devoted to Ingrid Piller’s recent book Linguistic Diversity and Social Justice: An Introduction to Applied...... Read more »
Teacher expectations produce self-fulfilling prophecies in student performance: high teacher expectations result in students’ higher academic performance and low teacher...... Read more »
Babad, E., Inbar, J., & Rosenthal, R. (1982) Pygmalion, Galatea, and the Golem: Investigations of biased and unbiased teachers. Journal of Educational Psychology, 74(4), 459-474. DOI: 10.1037/0022-06220.127.116.119
Pulinx, R., Van Avermaet, P., & Agirdag, O. (2015) Silencing linguistic diversity: the extent, the determinants and consequences of the monolingual beliefs of Flemish teachers. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 1-15. DOI: 10.1080/13670050.2015.1102860
I recently pointed out that the widespread belief that migrants refuse to learn the language of their new country does not stack up against the realities of adult language learning. I summarized the research that shows that adult language learning is complex and difficult and rarely an all-out success; to blame migrants for their failure to learn a new language (well) is adding insult to injury.
The German-language club (“Stammtisch”) in New York founded by Graf met until 2015 (Source: derstandard.at)
These well-established facts do not mean that individual migrants may not actively choose not to learn a new language. Unfortunately, we know surprisingly little about people who refuse to learn a new language. Partly, this is a problem of methods: how would one collect data about language refusal? While many non-migrants in Western societies believe themselves surrounded by language shirkers, it seems unlikely that advertising for research participants “who are refusing to learn the national language” would produce too many volunteers. Not only because, as I have shown, unadulterated language refusal is rare but also because migrants who actually might refuse to learn the language of their new society are, of course, in a double bind that would make it difficult to admit to language shirking.
Does that mean we are stuck between believing either those who see themselves surrounded by language shirkers or those who doubt their existence – depending on whether we are inclined to take a pessimistic or an optimistic view of our fellow humans? Not quite.
Let me introduce an unabashed language shirker, the German-language author Oskar Maria Graf, who spent almost half of his life in New York but was quite open about the fact that he had little interest in even trying to learn English.
Oskar Maria Graf (1894-1967) was a Bavarian “provincial author” (as he called himself) with an anarchist bent. As a committed socialist and pacifist, and an active participant in the socialist Munich revolution of 1919, which had established a short-lived Soviet republic in Bavaria, Graf fled Germany immediately after Hitler came to power in early 1933. He spent time in neighbouring Austria and Czechoslovakia but, as European countries of exile became increasingly precarious, Graf, like all German refugees, had to look for a safe haven further afield. In 1938 he and his wife were granted a US visa. They arrived in New York in September 1938 and continued to live there until their deaths.
Oskar Maria Graf, 1927, painting by Georg Schrimpf (Source: Wikipedia)
Back home, Graf had been a successful author during the interwar period. An autodidact (he left school when he was twelve years old and was apprenticed as a baker), Graf specialized in social realism with a focus on local Bavarian themes. After he had to leave his native country, the whole basis of his literary work – based as it was in the German language and the close observation of the mundane lives of Bavarian peasants – disappeared. He continued to write in German and his best-known book, Das Leben meiner Mutter (“The life of my mother”), was, in fact, written in exile but the success of his Munich years eluded him. Between 1933 and 1945, his opportunities to publish in German were severely limited; and he never returned to live in Germany even after the war despite the fact that his career was tied to German-language publishing.
Having been forced from home and wanting to retain the lost home are themes that, for Graf, are deeply connected to linguistic questions of maintaining the German language and not learning the English language. Let’s now examine what Graf’s language refusal looked like.
Graf almost celebrated the fact that he did not know how to speak English; it is a topic that comes up again and again in his later writing. A good example comes from his 1959 novel Die Flucht ins Mittelmäßige (“Taking refuge in mediocrity”), which is concerned with a group of German emigrants in New York. One of the main characters, Martin Ling, is commonly taken to be Graf’s alter ego, and Ling’s English language proficiency is introduced early in the novel as follows:
Ling had been living in New York for almost twenty years and up to now understood little more than a few indispensable English phrases. He made no efforts to improve his language skills, either; he had adopted nothing ‘American’ apart from what seemed automatically and mechanically comfortable to him. As a result, of course, he had made no progress and never got anywhere.
Ling lebte schon fast zwanzig Jahre in New York und verstand bis jetzt immer noch kaum mehr als einige notwendige englische Redewendungen. Er gab sich auch gar keine Mühe, seine Sprachkenntnisse zu vervollständigen, und ausser demjenigen, was ihm gewissermaßen automatisch-mechanisch komfortabel erschien hatte er auch sonst noch nichts ‘Amerikanisches’ angenommen. Dadurch kam er natürlich nie vorwärts und weiter. (Flucht ins Mittelmäßige, p. 8)
That his lack of English language proficiency was not only coy self-effacement has been confirmed by the observations of many others who knew him in New York. Lisa Hoffman, for instance, who was his lover in the 1950s, described in a 2010 newspaper interview how his English was j... Read more »
Azuélos, D. (2008) L'exil dans l'exil Les stratégies linguistiques contradictoires des exilés aux États-Unis (Thomas Mann, Klaus Mann, Hans Sahl, Oskar Maria Graf). Études Germaniques, 252(4), 723. DOI: 10.3917/eger.252.0723
by Maiju Strommer in Language on the Move
Let me at once introduce you to the main character of this blog post: Kifibin. He is a Ugandan man...... Read more »
Strömmer, M. (2015) Affordances and constraints: Second language learning in cleaning work. Multilingua. DOI: 10.1515/multi-2014-0113
Our understanding of the role of language in social life suffers from a particularly intractable problem: the terms we use...... Read more »
Vathi, Z., Duci, V., & Dhembo, E. (2016) Homeland (dis)integrations: Educational Experience, Children and Return Migration to Albania. International Migration. DOI: 10.1111/imig.12230
Germany has discovered a new social type that is causing grieve in modern diverse societies: the “Integrationsverweigerer;” literally someone who...... Read more »
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