The Multilingual Turn in Languages Education: Opportunities and Challenges

The Multilingual Turn in Languages Education: Opportunities and Challenges


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ISBN-13: 9781783092222
Publisher: Multilingual Matters Ltd.
Publication date: 09/15/2014
Series: New Perspectives on Language and Education Series , #40
Pages: 328
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Dr. Jean Conteh is Senior Lecturer in the School of Education at the University of Leeds, UK. Her research interests include EAL in the British system and teacher development and professional knowledge. Dr. Gabriela Meier is a Lecturer in Language Education at the Graduate School of Education, University of Exeter, UK. She is especially interested in language education and social cohesion, including bilingual and multilingual approaches to learning.

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The Multilingual Turn in Languages Education

Opportunities and Challenges

By Jean Conteh, Gabriela Meier

Multilingual Matters

Copyright © 2014 Jean Conteh, Gabriela Meier and the authors of individual chapters
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-78309-225-3


Socialized into Multilingualism: A Case Study of a Mauritian Pre-school

A.M. Auleear Owodally

Guiding Questions

• To what extent does the Mauritian school context discussed here reflect language socialization outside school?

• What covert messages about language(s) are the school children in this context unconsciously exposed to?

• What are the opportunities and challenges associated with language socialization practices in multilingual contexts in Mauritius?


Despite living on an island which boasts of its multilingualism, most Mauritian children spend the first few years of their lives in monolingual Kreol-speaking families where Kreol is the dominant language of the home and the environment. School is a major site where they are exposed to multilingualism – through the subjects taught (English, French and an optional ancestral language – one of the languages spoken or believed to have been spoken by migrants who came to Mauritius such as Hindi, Urdu, Tamil, Telugu, Marathi, Hakka, etc.), the written medium of instruction (English) and the oral media of communication (French and Kreol). In the context of this shift from home monolingualism to school-mediated multilingualism, one of the important language and literacy challenges that most children face is that they have to learn English and through English, given that English is the main language of literacy and the main written medium of instruction throughout the education system from the first year of primary schooling. Acting as the linguistic bridge between the home and the primary school, the pre-school is the first semi-formal institution where children are introduced to and exposed to English and multilingualism (Auleear Owodally, 2010).

In this chapter, I use a language socialization perspective to investigate the pre-school as a site where a group of children are socialized into English and, by extension, into local multilingualism. Focusing on daily routine activities (Duff, 2010; Ochs, 2000) in one government pre-school, I show how, through their language practices and language teaching practices, teachers socialize pre-schoolers into languages (their uses and functions), language learning and related ideologies.

I start with a brief overview of the local sociolinguistic situation, showing how the school system contributes to shaping and perpetuating Mauritian multilingualism. With respect to the ways children are socialized into English and local multilingualism, I describe some of the theoretical principles of language socialization which I then draw upon to frame my analysis of data obtained from a longitudinal study of a group of children in one government pre-school. After describing the research design and methodology, I present and discuss my findings.

Mauritian Education – Mauritian Multilingualism

Mauritius has been shaped by a history of voluntary and forced migration: French and British colonizers, African enslaved people, Indian indentured labourers and Chinese workers, all of whom brought along with them their diverse religious, cultural and language practices. These waves of migrants have constituted a richly multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multilingual population, with inhabitants cohabiting fairly peacefully in 'harmonious separatism' (Toth, 1995: 98). Although Mauritius is a secular state, it has developed a particular understanding and a particular performance of secularism (cf. Eisenlohr, 2006), with the religious often permeating secular institutions, sites and discourses. For instance, politicians regularly attend and participate in religious ceremonies, while religious images and practices often infiltrate ancestral language textbooks and classrooms in state schools (Auleear Owodally, 2012b). This point of contact between the religious and the secular is one of the many paradoxes of the local context.

The term 'multilingualism', used to qualify the present language situation in Mauritius, oversimplifies a more complicated language situation with different languages having different values and functions. Rajah-Carrim (2007) divides the languages used locally into three distinct categories: European languages (English and French), oriental/ancestral languages (Hindi, Urdu, Tamil, Telugu, Mandarin, Marathi, etc.) and local languages (Kreol and Bhojpuri). English is the de facto official language – the language of the parliament, the judiciary and education; however, it is socially rarely heard and seldom used. French, on the other hand, is a prestigious social language widely used in the spoken and written media and used as a home language among a small bourgeoisie. The oriental languages, which are often utilized in various in-group ethno-religious ceremonies, are seen as 'markers of ethnic and religious identity' (Rajah-Carrim, 2007: 52). The local languages, Kreol and Bhojpuri, are the most popularly used home languages, with the increased use of Kreol as the main home language in the past decades (the 2000 census data revealed that 69% of Mauritians claimed Kreol as the only home language, with this figure rising to 84% in 2011). However, Kreol has low social status for historical and economic reasons.

The education system has endeavoured to preserve and maintain individual and societal multilingualism. English is taught as a main language of literacy and used as the written medium throughout the education system, starting from the first year of primary education. French is taught as a quasi-compulsory subject until the fifth year of secondary education and the oriental languages are offered as optional subjects in primary schools. Paradoxically, Kreol has just recently (in January 2012) been introduced as an optional subject in the first year of primary schooling (cf. Auleear Owodally & Unjore, 2013).

The multilingual character of the primary and secondary school curricula has had a backwash effect on the pre-school. The pre-school curriculum guidelines state that pre-school children should be exposed to as many languages present in their environment as possible. The curriculum which was relevant at the time of data collection, the 2003 Preschool Curriculum Guidelines, further clearly stipulates that children must be introduced to English, given its essential role in the primary school curriculum: 'Since English is the official language throughout the education system, and English is the medium of instruction at a higher level of primary education, it is only logical through songs or poetry, a child will learn some English daily in relation to the theme being worked on' (Ministry of Education and Scientific Research, Mauritius, 2003: 42). The more recent 2008 curriculum, however, names no languages, preferring the vaguer term 'target language(s)' to refer to the languages found in the local context.

Despite the curriculum goal of introducing children to multilingualism in the pre-school, there is little research investigating how these pre-school guidelines get translated into practice. The few studies carried out in the Mauritian preschool context (Auleear Owodally, 2008, 2010, 2012a, 2012b; Tirvassen, 2005) indicate that English and French are the two main languages that teachers introduce and teach. However, no study has yet focused on the ways in which children are socialized into the languages that form part of the local multilingual set-up. In this chapter, I focus on Mauritian preschoolers' socialization into English, and by extension, their socialization into multilingualism. The present study situates itself in the educationally oriented language socialization research in multilingual communities.

Conceptual Framework: Language Socialization

Language socialization, which is used to frame the present study, provides a sociocultural lens to analyse children's enculturation into local language practices at home and in educational settings in various contexts (Heath, 1983; Schieffelin & Ochs, 1996). Language socialization (henceforth LS) explores how 'communicative practices of experts and novices are organized by and organize cultural knowledge, understandings, beliefs and feelings' (Schieffelin & Ochs, 1996: 255). The notion of 'practices', central to this alternative approach to second language acquisition research, is conceptualized as 'meaningful actions that occur routinely in everyday life, [which] are widely shared by members of the groups, have developed over time, and carry normative expectations about the way things should be done' (Moore, 2006a).

With the increasing number of migrants in the UK and the US, much of the LS research has focused on the language socialization experiences of immigrants whose home culture/language differs from that of the host country. More recently, the LS framework has been extended to investigate language practices and language teaching practices in non-Western, postcolonial and multilingual contexts. For instance, Moore (2006b) has explored the teaching of French and Quoranic literacy in Cameroon, uncovering the complex ways in which children are socialized into bilingualism and biliteracy. However, Moore (2008) has highlighted the paucity of LS research in non-Western settings and has argued that such settings offer rich sites for exploring the sociocultural nature of language learning and teaching. The present study aims to add to the LS research in multilingual communities. It draws upon some of the basic principles of LS research to frame the investigation of the ways in which children are socialized into English (and multilingualism) in a pre-school in Mauritius, with the classroom as the focal point.

One of the basic tenets of the LS research is that language is an ever-changing and fluid social practice. Thus, scholars working with this perspective focus mostly on social interactions. They propose that through the use of language and in the use of language (Schieffelin & Ochs, 1996), language learners learn more than just language(s) or aspects of the linguistic code(s); they also learn other forms of knowledge (Duff & Talmy, 2011: 104–105; Garrett, 2005: 335). These other forms of knowledge include culture, social knowledge, ideologies, identities and subjectivities; these also affect values, beliefs, attitudes and world-views (Duff & Talmy, 2011: 95–96). For instance, in a study of first-grader learners of English as a second language in Hawaii, Emura (2006) shows how students, who are taught English are also taught the expected student behaviours in the classroom through the use of English and through classroom practices.

Extending the LS research base to Lx language contexts (Lx refers to language(s) other than the first language, cf. Pavlenko, 2006), scholars have foregrounded the classroom (teachers and learners, teaching and learning) as a key space for Lx language socialization. Classrooms (as micro-contexts) are viewed as being sociohistorically, socioculturally and sociopolitically situated and embedded in the larger localized macro context, reflecting as well as contributing to shaping or resisting recurrent, widespread and dominant language, social and cultural practices (cf. Baquedano-Lopèz & Kattan, 2010: 161; Blackledge & Creese, 2010: 17; Crago, 1992: 28).

In what ways are Lx learners socialized into communicative and cultural practices? According to Cook (1999: 1444), Duff (2010: 431), Ely et al. (2001: 358) and Kanagy (1999: 1468), in Lx language classrooms, language(s) and other forms of knowledge are transmitted explicitly (through direct and explicit teaching and discussion from experts), through modelling or implicitly (Cook, 1999: 1444; Duff, 2010: 431; Ely et al., 2001: 358; Kanagy, 1999: 1468) as members take part in routines. As pointed out by Li (2008: 72), while explicit socialization is easily noticeable, implicit socialization is more frequent and often more pervasive because it is less obvious and thus harder to contest or contradict (Cook, 1999: 1444–1450). Many LS research studies have used an ethnographic approach and have focused on recurrent classroom activities (Ochs, 2000) such as classroom routines, (Cook, 1999; Kanagy, 1999), given that these are powerful organizers of teacher–student interaction in classrooms. Classroom routines, which often involve repetition (Moore, 2011), 'instantiate, in more or less explicit ways, important cultural categories, identities, norms and values' (Howard, 2009: 342, cited in Moore, 2011: 211).


For the present chapter, I will draw upon a dataset collected as part of a longitudinal (January–October 2005) study of emergent literacy practices of a group of 13 children (aged between four and five) in a Mauritian pre-school (henceforth PSA). Although the pre-school consisted of some 40 children aged three to four and four to five, the focus of the research was the group of final-year students and their three female teachers. The teachers and the children are native speakers of Kreol. The children's responses to their teachers' questions in French indicate that they understand French; however, they always address their teachers and their peers in Kreol. Their passive understanding of French can be related to the fact that French is the lexifier of Kreol (lexically, French and Kreol share proximity) and that they are exposed to French in the environment, especially through the media (TV programmes and cartoons). The children also have minimal understanding, if any, of English, given it is hardly heard or used in the social environment.

Data were collected from the observed class, once a week over the whole school year, using video and audio recording devices. Field notes were also made during the observation period. Unstructured interviews, in the form of natural conversation, formed part of the data collection process. Often the stimulated recall technique was used, where the teachers were asked to explain why they had carried out an activity the way they had done. Data transcriptions and field notes constitute the major part of the corpus herewith referred to.

Following previous studies such as Kanagy (1999) and Ely et al. (2001), three routine activities are here examined for their social and linguistic organization (Ochs, 2000: 230) as follows:

• Circle time (9.30–10.00am): All the children are gathered together in a big circle; they say prayers, recall the day/month, talk about the weather, and discuss different topics of actuality, often including the theme they are working on.

• Language activity (10.15–10.45am): Each of the three teachers takes her group of children, separating the younger ones from the older ones. While the younger ones are given a colouring activity, the teachers and older children talk about the theme of the week, followed by a drawing activity.

• Mathematical activity (10.45–11.15am): During this activity, teachers teach numbers and mathematical concepts, followed by a mathematical activity/worksheet.

The transcribed data were analysed qualitatively, noting the verbal and non-verbal aspects of the conversations as teachers and learners participated in the classroom routines. Given the particular focus on English, the transcribed data and field notes were read and each time English was used, the English words and/or sentences were highlighted. Since all the incidents where English was used took place within the context of a switch from another language into English, I systematically noted down the context in which these oral English incidents were produced by italicizing the whole event. I used Auer's (1995: 116) working definition of code-alternation as 'a relationship of contiguous juxtaposition of semiotic systems' and a hyperonym for Brock-Utne and Holmarsdottir's (2003: 88) distinction between code-switching (an intersentential alteration of code) and code-mixing (an intrasentential change of code) to drive the data analysis. This is in line with Auer's (1995: 116) view that the meaning of code-alternation depends on its 'sequential environment', that is, the preceding and subsequent utterance(s).

An inductive approach to data analysis was used and pattern codes were allowed to emerge from the data. Analysis began with the first piece of transcribed data and continued in a recursive and iterative manner throughout the transcribed data (Patton, 1990). Re-readings of the transcriptions led to a more selective coding of the data (Strauss & Corbin, 1990). Codes were assigned and they were modified as the analysis of the transcriptions proceeded (Bogdan & Biklen, 1992). The constant comparison method (Glaser & Strauss, 1967; Lincoln & Guba, 1985, described in Hatch, 2002) helped in separating the data into distinct categories. In this chapter, I focus on the codes and meta-codes shown in Table 1.1.


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Table of Contents

Contributors vii

Acknowledgments xiii

Foreword Joseph Lo Bianco xv

Introduction Jean Conteh Gabriela Meier 1

Part 1 Societal Perspectives on the Multilingual Turn in Language(s) Education 15

1 Socialized into Multilingualism: A Case Study of a Mauritian Pre-school A.M. Auleear Owodally 17

2 Exploring the - lingual Between Bi and Mono: Young People and Their Languages in an Australian Context Ken Cruickshank 41

3 Multilingualism as Portrayed in a Chinese English Textbook Guangwei Hu Sandra Lee McKay 64

4 Looking Through the Language Lens: Monolingual Taint or Plurilingual Tint? Andrea Young 89

Part 2 Perspectives on the Multilingual Turn in Education 111

5 From Normalization to Didactization of Multilingualism: European and Francophone Research at the Crossroads Between Linguistics and Didactics Laurent Gajo 113

6 Our Mother Tongue is Plurilingualism: A Framework of Orientations for Integrated Multilingual Curricula Gabriela Meier 132

7 Multilingual Teachers' Resources in Three Different Contexts: Empowering Learning Jean Conteh Fiona Copland Angela Creese 158

8 Multilingualism and Social Cohesion: Two-way Immersion Education Meets Diverse Needs Gabriela Meier 179

Part 3 Visions of the Multilingual Turn in Pedagogy and Practice

9 Multilingual Pedagogy in Primary Settings: From the Margins to the Mainstream Jean Conteh Shila Begum Saiqa Riasat 211

10 Plurilingualism and Empathy: Beyond Instrumental Language Learning Enrica Piccardo Joëlle Aden 234

11 Translanguaging as Process and Pedagogy: Developing the English Writing of Japanese Students in the US Ofeiia Garcia Naomi Kano 258

12 Transforming Learning, Building Identities: Arts-based Creativity in the Community Languages Classroom Jim Andersen Yu-Chiao Chung 278

Conclusion: The Multilingual Turn in Languages Education Gabriela Meier Jean Conteh 292

Author Index 300

Subject Index 301

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