Rethinking Second Language Learning: Using Intergenerational Community Resources

Rethinking Second Language Learning: Using Intergenerational Community Resources

by Marisa Cordella, Hui Huang

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This book evaluates a project where formal classroom learning of a second language was supplemented with informal, natural interactions with older native speakers of the target language, delivering a number of pedagogical and societal benefits. The authors introduce a model of intergenerational, intercultural encounters which aims to promote the use of community language resources; enrich the experiences of young learners; foster greater understanding between generations; break down cultural stereotypes; encourage appreciation of different cultures and enhance the quality of life and community engagement of older people with a bi/multilingual background. It draws on theories of language acquisition, discourse analysis and psychosocial perspectives to propose a model of language learning for students that can be used for any language or locality. It is therefore an essential resource for graduate students, researchers and language teachers as well as for education, aged and youth care policy makers, practitioners and community services workers who are interested in innovative language pedagogy.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781783095421
Publisher: Channel View Publications
Publication date: 05/19/2016
Series: Second Language Acquisition , #98
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 252
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Marisa Cordella is Associate Professor in Spanish Linguistics at The University of Queensland, Australia. Her research expertise lies in the areas of discourse analysis (e.g. critical discourse analysis, interactional sociolinguistics), intercultural and intergenerational communication, teaching methodologies, medical communication and translation studies. She is the author of two books on discourse analysis and medical communication.

Hui Huang is Lecturer in the School of Languages, Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics at Monash University, Australia. Her research interests and publications cover the areas of second language acquisition and sociolinguistics, particularly the teaching of Chinese as a second/heritage language, ICT in language teaching, cross-cultural communication and immigrant identity.

Read an Excerpt

Rethinking Second Language Learning

Using Intergenerational Community Resources

By Marisa Cordella, Hui Huang

Multilingual Matters

Copyright © 2016 Marisa Cordella, Hui Huang and the authors of individual chapters
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-78309-542-1


The Immigrant Potential: Multiculturalism, Language Skills and Community Resources

Marisa Cordella

Australia still has an unfinished agenda in research into community languages and the pooling of data is one way of continuing achievements in the field

Clyne, 2009


For many immigrants, relocation to another place means leaving the past behind without knowing if it will ever be possible to reconnect with the country of origin. However, in an age of rapid transportation and digital communication it has become easier for most, if not all, to keep in touch with their cultural heritage. Globalisation, leading to greater permeability of national borders – even to the point of formal integration, as in the case of the European Union – has contributed to an increase in the number of people living either temporarily or permanently away from their homeland. This diaspora has generated more cultural and linguistic diversity in societies, but with it also a dynamic of both dialogue and conflict (Cuccioletta, 2001/2002) as people from a wide variety of backgrounds interact.

Multiculturalism 'is a term which has been used and disputed for four decades in various democracies in Europe, North America and Australasia', but as practised in countries like Australia it describes 'mixed populations created by international migration ... typically found in major cities living together but having different origins, religions, languages and other aspects of distinct cultures' (Clyne & Jupp, 2011: xiii). Although as a public policy it is said to be 'in retreat' (2011: xvi), it continues to play a fundamental role in many societies, being 'officially adopted' (2011: xvi) as an additional organising principle in several parts of the world.

How multicultural policies or programmes are implemented varies according to political, historical, social and economic factors. Political factors include national and international pressures on migrant intake quotas. Economic factors include locally contingent priorities such as giving preference to immigrants with specific skills. 'The multicultural political solution to ethnic diversity is, then, not universal' (Clyne & Jupp, 2011: xv) but is sensitive to the perceived benefits or drawbacks such programmes may bring to any given society.

Although countries that are linguistically and culturally diverse are not necessarily officially multilingual and multicultural, in that they possess laws and policies that ensure diversity of cultural practices – including the use of different languages in official settings (Blackledge, 2006) – they are more often than not de facto multicultural and multilingual. In fact, de facto multiculturalism and multilingualism often persist in spite of an official policy of monoculturalism and monolingualism and in spite of much discrimination and marginalisation. Moreover, between the two extremes there is a variety of realities that also includes the acceptance of various spoken languages within a country that has a single official language (hence the provision of translated documents for social services purposes) or the recognition and acceptance of diverse cultural practices (such as religion) within a country that is characterised by a predominant culture. Some countries, such as Canada, do have official policies of multiculturalism and multilingualism (e.g. Edwards & Chisholm, 1987) and their experience shows that such policies are perfectly consistent with a socially stable and democratic system.

Multiculturalism, whether of the de facto or the officially endorsed variety, has demonstrable benefits for a society, not only in financial terms, by facilitating commercial exchanges with the countries of origin of its immigrants, but also in terms of improving the mental flexibility (creativity, understanding of complex issues) of the population. For example, Dewaele and van Oudenhoven (2009) have shown how young immigrants settled in the United Kingdom developed higher levels of open-mindedness and cultural empathy than their monolingual/monocultural peers. Although the process of becoming familiar with a new culture can be stressful, the burden on young immigrants can be decreased by making mainstream society more aware of the very practical advantages of living in a multicultural and multilingual society. Of course, this requires real action from governments, as happens in Canada, simply because inter-ethnic tensions are easy ground for exploitation by any political party looking to reap electoral advantage. Once diverse cultural and language identities are smoothly integrated into a new construct that is socially accepted and does not trigger ostracism or discrimination by the rest of society, then positive social and psychological benefits are likely to flow (Chen et al., 2008).

Joshua A. Fishman (1980) highlights the contrast between individual bilingualism and societal diglossia, alongside individual biculturalism and societal di-ethnia. Such distinctions point to the issue of social compartmentalisation (when diglossia and di-ethnia prevail) or social integration (bilingualism/biculturalism). Greater social integration retains the diversity of multicultural/multilingual societies but without the negative aspects of societal disintegration, marginalisation and ostracism that may follow from diglossia/di-ethnia. Integration within multicultural/multilingual societies is what one would expect of societies wanting to be successful in a world that is becoming not more compartmentalised but more 'globalised'.

While multiculturalism is a reality in Australian society, where nearly one in four Australian households use two or more languages (Australian Census, 2011), the monolingual mindset described by Clyne (2005) has slowed down the implementation of language programmes in schools, undermining the potential language capabilities of the nation. It is our stance in this book that immigrant language resources could be better utilised to help improve second language learning through cross-cultural communicative exchanges.

This chapter briefly discusses the history of multiculturalism in Australia and the policies that have been introduced to enhance language learning participation in secondary schools. It then examines the smorgasbord of community resources available in this area, pointing in particular to the potential contribution of first-generation immigrants to the skills development of young language learners.

Multiculturalism in Australia

In the last few years, multiculturalism has been making headlines in Europe, with British Prime Minister David Cameron declaring that 'under the doctrine of state multiculturalism, we have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and the mainstream'. Similarly, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told a meeting in Potsdam in October 2010 that 'this [multicultural] approach has failed, utterly failed'. Despite the fact that Germany has never endorsed a multicultural public policy, the negative perception of multiculturalism that both countries share stems from a European concern linked to an increase in the number of refugees and evidence of Islamist militancy in the region (Vertovec & Wessendorf, 2010). Poor relations between immigrants and the mainstream population have had an impact on social stability and have the potential to become self-reinforcing through 'blame games' and scapegoating. As Levey states:

The perceived trouble with multiculturalism is not – or not only – that communities do not adequately interact with each other; it is that they exist and interact as if they were monolithic, self-absorbed, and independent units. (2011: 87) We could argue that such self-absorption might be strengthened by a social environment that is hostile to diversity, thus encouraging interactions to develop exclusively within culturally and linguistically close groups. Thus, inward-looking communities representing cultural minorities may be the result of either an internal drive towards isolation or an external push towards segregation, with both internal and external factors potentially acting in synergy.

Multiculturalism in Australia has been studied by various authors (e.g. Kipp et al., 1995; Ozolins & Clyne, 2001; Djité, 2011; Mansouri & Lobo, 2011a; Slaughter, 2011; Hajek & Slaughter, 2015, to mention a few). Although it has been a long-standing issue in countries that are historically diverse both culturally and linguistically, it has emerged as an important social concern in countries like Australia that saw themselves pretty much as extensions of the British Empire until the mass migrations that began after the Second World War. Now this mobility continues unabated, raising questions of how to include ethnic minorities in the host country. Cultural diversity represents an opportunity but also a challenge, and unfortunately it is often the case that, through the media, vested interests are keen to highlight the challenges rather than the opportunities. At the core of successful multiculturalism is the concept of social inclusion. This concept is discussed further below.

Cultural diversity within any given society is almost inevitable today, but social inclusion must be actively built, and can be seriously jeopardised by both culture and politics. Two opposing views have been expressed by policymakers: assimilation, whereby immigrants are expected to fully adopt and adapt to the dominant culture; and multiculturalism, in which immigrants retain their own culture, religion and language whilst abiding by the laws of the host country and freely engaging with the wider community. Within multiculturalism, integration is a dynamic process in which all are equal before the law, but customs and practices are varied and changeable and are allowed to evolve in an organic manner according to the rules of a strictly democratic process. As described by Mansouri and Lobo (2011b: 3): 'This conceptualisation of multiculturalism in Australia and indeed elsewhere was underpinned by liberal principles of democratic egalitarianism and equal citizenship that aimed to nurture cultural diversity and empower marginalised groups through affirmative measures of recognition and redistribution'.

Critics of multiculturalism point to a concern that allowing diversity to thrive may undermine social cohesion, leading to communal disharmony, while proponents of multiculturalism argue that this concern can be addressed through the development of social inclusion policies (Mansouri & Lobo, 2011b; Markus, 2011a). To achieve social inclusion in multicultural societies it is essential to foster tolerance of difference, respect for the common law and democratic institutions, and to promote the spreading of opportunities, with participation and power-sharing across different groups based on merit. Social cohesion can be achieved through the emergence of common shared values that are enriched by multiple inputs from the members of a diverse community. Social fragmentation, on the other hand, results when 'who you are' is fully determined by external factors, while an enduring sense of belonging is not possible for an individual whose input is systematically dismissed or actively rejected. This is perhaps most readily understood in the areas of religion and language, but it permeates all areas of cultural expression. In the words of Andrew Markus (2011a: 144), a cohesive community can be seen as one 'characterised by commonality of vision and shared sense of belonging across faith and ethnic groups; the appreciation and positive valuation of cultural diversity; and the development of strong and positive relationships between people from different backgrounds in the workplace, in schools and within neighbourhoods'.

In Australia, the greater emphasis on multiculturalism – which grew out of the rejection in the late 1940s and then in 1973 of the 'White Australia' Policy of a monolingual and monocultural Australia, implemented at the beginning of Federation in 1901 (Ozolins & Clyne, 2001) – suffered a serious blow during John Howard's Liberal–National Coalition Government (1996–2007), in response to the populist, anti-immigration policies of the One Nation Party led by Pauline Hanson. The debate on Australian multiculturalism is currently ongoing and embraces broader concerns about social inclusion.

Social inclusion and the spreading of opportunities across society are rooted in traditional cultural values in Australia through the concept of the 'fair go'. In the popular view, every person, no matter what background she or he may have, is entitled to a 'fair go', or equal opportunities in life. Each individual would then be able to achieve more or less in life on the basis of how well such opportunities are utilised according to capacity, interests, motivation, and so forth. Central to the 'fair go' is the role of government in providing the services and programmes that can better spread opportunities for everyone. In such an environment, diversity can be an asset rather than an obstacle.

Broadly speaking, multiculturalism in Australia has aimed at greater social inclusion and indeed has achieved a strong sense of belonging and life satisfaction, fairness and equity in the population, including among immigrants, although the latter do still report a degree of discrimination (Markus, 2011a). This affirms the view that multiculturalism can be effective in spreading opportunities within a common social/legal frame that benefits from a varied cultural input. However, as mentioned above, this equilibrium can be fragile and is exposed to the opportunism of populist politicians and ruthless power-brokers.

Historically, of course, Australia was already a multicultural country before European colonisation, with several hundred Aboriginal languages and cultures known to have existed across the continent. In one sense, the establishment of the English penal colony at Sydney Cove in 1788 just added another dimension to the mosaic. De facto multiculturalism further developed in subsequent decades with the flow of immigrants from areas outside Great Britain. This historical reality was brushed aside with the implementation of the White Australia Policy, but it was recovered later as policies supporting multiculturalism were introduced. According to Ozolins and Clyne (2001: 373–374), four major stages in the process that enables acceptance of multiculturalism can be identified:

(1) Response to initial demographic pressure of immigration This response may include government services (e.g. language learning) to immigrants for speedier integration.

(2) Policy innovation, unevenness and drift Following the initial implementation of essential government policies, additional programmes can be offered by other sectors and institutions.

(3) Language initiatives across a spread of institutions Policies and community initiatives that strengthen the maintenance of multicultural resources and skills such as languages can be further implemented and expanded.

(4) Ideological and institutional change.

This stage is one of final cultural acceptance, across the community at large, of the concept that immigrant communities enrich our society with their varied contribution, that the transformative impetus they bring is positive, and that they help shape the national identity in a world that is itself changing at rapid speed. Achieving this final stage is an ongoing process that requires continual action at both individual and institutional levels.

Australian multiculturalism is fundamentally based on a mix of immigrant and native ethnic groups, as is also the case in Canada, New Zealand and the United States of America, just to name a few. Diverse languages, cultures and religions come together and interact in major capital cities, where the highest levels of ethnic diversity can be found. The 2011 Australian Census reveals that nearly a quarter (24.6%) of Australia's population was born overseas, 32% have both parents born overseas, and 43.1% of people have at least one parent born overseas.


Excerpted from Rethinking Second Language Learning by Marisa Cordella, Hui Huang. Copyright © 2016 Marisa Cordella, Hui Huang and the authors of individual chapters. Excerpted by permission of Multilingual Matters.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Marisa Cordella and Hui Huang : Introduction         

Section 1. Setting the Scene: Many Cultures, Many Opportunities

1. Marisa Cordella: The Immigrant Potential: Multiculturalism, Language Skills and Community Resources

2. Susan Feldman, Harriet Radermacher and Colette Browning: Contemporary Intergenerational Relationships

3. Hui Huang and Marisa Cordella : Community Resources on Our Doorstep: Language Learning in Action

Section 2. Constructing Identity: The Self-Presentation of Older Native Speakers

4. Marisa Cordella: Taking a Stance: Older Native Speakers with Young Language Learners

5. Brigitte Lambert and Marisa Cordella : The Migration Experience and the Ethos of Self

6. Hui Huang and Yanying Lu: ‘Who Are We?’ Self-Referencing in Chinese and German Conversations Using the First-Person Plural

7. Marisa Cordella and Cecilia Kokubu: Creating, Maintaining and Challenging Rapport Across Languages and Age Groups

8. Harriet Radermacher, Colette Browning and Susan Feldman: ‘I feel very happy that I can contribute to society’: Exploring the Value of the Project for Older People

Section 3. Situated Learning: Enhancing the Opportunities for L2 Students

9. Hui Huang: Gaining L2 Self-Confidence in Conversations with Native Speakers

10. Hui Huang: Developing Interactional Competence in Dyadic Conversations: Cross-language Evidence

11. Hui Huang, Marisa Cordella, Colette Browning and Ramona Baumgartner: An Innovative Language Learning and Social Inclusion Model

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