Language Ideologies

Monolingual Ideologies and Plurilingual Realities

Monolingual Ideologies and Plurilingual Realities

Two weeks ago, I attended the Integrationists Conference at Penn State University, whose theme was “Integrationism and Philosophies of Language: Emerging Alternative Epistemologies in the Global North and the Global South”

While I had not heard of Integrationism as a linguistic theory until I saw the announcement for this conference, I was interested in learning more about both Integrationism and Southern Theories, as they seemed to align with the direction my own research is taking.  As it turns out, this was an excellent choice! I got to meet up with some of my favorite study abroad colleagues, and also learn from presenters that came from a wide range of disciplines, theoretical backgrounds and geographical locations.  In this post, I’m giving a summary of my own presentation called “Monolingual Ideologies and Plurilingual Realities: U.S. Arabic Learners in Study Abroad and Telecollaboration”.  

Multilingualism and Plurilingualism: Implications for the language classroom

Multilingualism and Plurilingualism: Implications for the language classroom

Last year, I did a series of posts on language ideologies (What is language?) arguing that while these frequently inform our expectations and actions in the language classroom, we don’t think enough about this.  Recently, I’ve been delving into the literature on plurilingual ideologies and pedagogies, and thought I would discuss the differences between these terms here.  

Curriculum Development Part 3: Introducing Intentional Translanguaging Pedagogy

Curriculum Development Part 3: Introducing Intentional Translanguaging Pedagogy

In my last post, I talked about why it is so important to be aware of language ideologies in the language classroom. One major reason is the class in expectations that can occur between students, teachers, and textbooks when there are ideological mismatches, as there is no ideology free classroom (despite what we sometimes pretend with “neutral” language and so on). This past week, we embarked on our first unit (housing) without the textbook (though keeping some texts from the textbook). As an introduction, I held a discussion of intentional translanguaging pedagogy with my students, as I feel like being explicit about the language ideologies informing how I design my classes is important. I wasn’t sure how this would go, as at least initially, I think translanguaging often flies in the face of what people imagine to be the “ideal” language classroom (all Arabic, all the time). While some students were certainly more interested than others, most of them seemed to like turning the lense on their language use, and to really think about it in a less restrictive way than is this Arabic (great!) or not (bad!). So, I though I would share the actual process I used in case it might be helpful in other classrooms.

Why awareness of language ideologies is important

Why awareness of language ideologies is important

“Ideology” can be a dismissive turn people use to critique or undermine certain ideas or practices by contrasting this “ideology” with facts, or science, or reality.  On the one hand, the dismissers are right—these are “just ideologies.”  On the other hand, it’s also not the case that there is  a reality free of ideologies.  Ideologies may simply be a collection of beliefs, but these beliefs shape our perceptions and experiences of what we call “reality.”  Thus, the problem is not the existence of ideologies, but rather our lack of awareness of how ideologies are always shaping our world.  Below, I’ll address some reasons I think it’s critical to be aware of language ideologies in the language classroom.  

Bringing emotions and ideology into the MSA/dialects debate

Bringing emotions and ideology into the MSA/dialects debate

The meme above seems to be making the rounds for everything these days, and the image above popped up in my Facebook feed the other day. I smiled, because it my experience it captures a common conundrum in Arabic teaching—we usually focus on Modern Standard Arabic, MSA, الفصحى in the classroom, much to the dismay of many Arabic students, especially those who go abroad. In my own research on Arabic study abroad students, many of them complain about the “uselessness” of fus7a, and support studying Arabic dialects prior to study abroad, so they don’t lose time learning 3ammiyya (although my research also shows they pick up major dialect features quite quickly, sometimes within a few weeks of going abroad). Students and teachers that oppose dialect teaching typically point to the regional variations in dialects, and that students travel to different locations and teachers in the same program may be familiar with varying regional dialects. In this perspective, MSA is seen as being a “neutral” variety because it is used across geographical regions (although research also shows that there is geographical variation in MSA, and speakers of different regional varieties do not necessarily switch into MSA to speak to each other). Thus, whether to teach dialects or not is a seemingly never-ending debate with strong feelings (and not much research) on both sides.

Ideologies of Language and the Beginning Language Class: Part 2

Ideologies of Language and the Beginning Language Class: Part 2

Last week, I discussed several popular methods of organizing beginning language classes under the overarching critique of focusing on either decontextualized sets of language or prioritizing transactions over social relationships. This week, I’m focusing on what I am interested in implementing in my classroom, drawing from both functional theories of language and translanguaging pedagogy. Language teaching contexts and preferred ideologies vary, so I want to be clear that I don't think there is a one size fits all for the beginning language classroom. However, I do think that too often we don’t even think about what ideologies are informing our practice, and if these are ideologies we even agree with! So, here are some things that my colleagues and I are working on or plan to implement in our classes:

Ideologies of Language and the Beginning Language Class: Part 1

Ideologies of Language and the Beginning Language Class: Part 1

Last week, I talked about how the language of social relationships is often overlooked in beginning language classes, and I think this is one reason students use English. As language teachers, I think we tend to view beginning language classes as the start of a language learning journey, or a step to more advanced classes or study abroad (despite the fact that it’s actually also the end for many students, especially with the way language requirements and offerings are being eliminated these days in the U.S.). Yet choices about what is taught in beginning language classes are also excellent insights into ideologies of language, that again we rarely think about as teachers. Here are some examples:

Translanguaging Pedagogy: Recognizing social practices in the classroom

Translanguaging Pedagogy: Recognizing social practices in the classroom

In my last post, I discussed some practices where I think translanguaging pedagogy simply gives us a new mindset on practices that already occur in the language classroom (or at least in my classroom). In this post, I want to focus on an area of the language classroom where I think we could be more intentional about the use of translanguaging, namely social practices in the classroom.

Translanguaging Pedagogy in the Language Classroom: A New Mindset?

Translanguaging Pedagogy in the Language Classroom: A New Mindset?

As is most likely clear from previous posts on nation-state ideologies of language and the multilingual turn, I find the latter a more appealing ideology for my language classroom, especially when combined with functional approaches to linguistics, that emphasize what learners do with language in actual contexts. Yet, as usual, the challenge for combining theory and practice is in the implementation—the theory sounds good, but what does it look like?

What is language? The Multilingual Turn and Translanguaging Pedagogy

The “Multilingual Turn” is a term used to critique the monolingual ideologies originating in the nation-state that have dominated research in Applied Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition in the U.S.  Although multilingual ideologies of language have long existed in highly multilingual contexts, they have recently gained traction in critiques of the fields of Second Language Acquisition, Multilingual education, and TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). However, there is certainly a gap in bringing this ideology to the U.S. language classroom where English speakers are learning other languages. These are my thoughts on the implications of a few key tenets of the multilingual turn for the language classroom.

What is language? Functional theories

Like formal theories of language, functional theories of language come from the field of linguistics, although this type of linguistics is less commonly found in the U.S..  The type of functional linguistics I am most familiar with is Systemic Functional Linguistics, based on the work of Michael Halliday, and practiced predominantly in Australia.  While I am also far from an expert in functional linguistics, a key tenet of functional linguistics is that language cannot be separated from social function, or what humans do with language.  This means that in contrast to formal linguistics, there is not a linguistic system that can be analyzed independently of the way it is deployed.  In terms of language learning and teaching, this means that:

What is language? Formal theories

The term formal theories of language usually refers to linguistic theories that stem from the work of Noam Chomsky on Universal Grammar, or the idea that there is an innate language mechanism in humans that allows us to learn and use language. These theories are are also referred to as generative grammar, and are prominent in linguistic research in the United States. As a results, they have informed a great deal of research on second language acquisition, as well as theories of teaching. When the folk linguistic theories of language learning I discussed previously are contrasted with linguistic theories, these linguistic theories are most often formal theories. From my perspective, there are three main implications for taking an approach to language learning and teaching informed by formal theories of language, and I discuss these below.

What is language? Folklinguistic theories

Last week, I described the nation state ideology of language, and its implications for language teaching.  This week, I’m discussing folklinguistic theories of language, and their implications for language learning and teaching.  Generally, “folklinguistic” theories, or the general population’s beliefs about language, are contrasted with “linguistic” theories developed via the scientific study of language, or linguists beliefs about language.  Frequently, these are in conflict.  There are, of course, multiple linguistic theories, indicating that linguists don’t necessarily agree on what language  is either, and I’ll discuss some of those as they relate to learning and teaching languages in upcoming posts.  However, for the moment I’ll focus on folk linguistic beliefs I come across in the field of language teaching that to the best of my knowledge are not supported by scientific theories of language.  

What is language? The nation state ideology

In my quest to make language and intercultural learning better, I sometimes feel that just when I start to understand one piece of the puzzle, I discover that the puzzle is in fact much larger than I thought.   Recently, I have been researching ideologies of study abroad, which led me to think about ideologies for language learning, and just how much our beliefs about what language is influence how we teach it, and what we expect our students to do or know.  Yet it is my impression that as teachers, we rarely think about what our ideologies of language are, we just take them for granted.