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Review of Reclaiming the Local in Language Policy and Practice
Date: Sat, 14 Jan 2006 09:19:07 +0100 (CET) From: Elizabeth J. Erling Subject: Reclaiming the Local in Language Policy and Practice
EDITOR: Canagarajah, A. Suresh TITLE: Reclaiming the Local in Language Policy and Practice SERIES: ESL & Applied Linguistics Professional Series PUBLISHER: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates YEAR: 2005
Elizabeth J. Erling, Freie Universität Berlin
Canagarajah's edited volume reports on ways that language planners and educators are responding to the way in which local and global discourses and practices meet and intermingle. As the editor states in the preface, the chapters primarily address researchers and graduate students in applied linguistics (AL). Readers require a background in AL and knowledge of contemporary discussions in the field; nevertheless, the texts are clearly written and make for fascinating reading. Each context the contributors describe sheds light on the complexity of globalization, migration, and language use -- from a village school in Brunei to the Dominican community in New York City. We are presented with an overwhelming amount of variables and an impressive view of diversity that needs to be taken account of in each context where policy and practice are planned. Some texts argue for taking great account of local practices and cultures and respecting their value and validity. Others call for a reconfiguration of the discipline to allow for different conceptions of identity, knowledge practices, and social networks. Overall, the volume demonstrates a clear need for ''disciplinary reorientation'' in the field of AL.
Part I, Redefining Disciplinary Constructs, deals with the critical effect that acknowledgement of local practices has on global paradigms. The contributions deal with central constructs in the field of AL that need to be revised in order to reflect the complex reality of the local contexts. In the first chapter, Canagarajah shows how ''knowledge from hitherto suppressed traditions serves to constructively challenge and reconstruct dominant paradigms, exposing their biases and vested interests'' (xix).
In the second chapter, Rakesh Bhatt critically examines the notion of standard language/s in the context of postcolonial India. He retells the story of how New Englishes challenge the standard language paradigm. He presents an analysis of hybridity in Indian English and shows how Indian English speakers move between various norms of English at local, national, and global levels. He argues that such findings must be considered in mainstream linguistics and that multiple standards and negotiation between varieties must be endorsed.
In chapter 3, Dominique Ryon exposes the ideological slant in language death studies that ignores local resistance and assumes assimilation, sometimes to the detriment of the language that protectionists were intending to save. She shows how the story of Cajun French in the southern US is different when told by academics and politicians then when told by the local population, who report on cultural struggle and painful conflict that is by no means over yet. Ryon argues that in an attempt to remain objective or ''scientific,'' many sociolinguists neglect to consider issues of power and cultural struggle in linguistic assimilation.
In chapter 4, Lynn Mario de Souza looks at the grapho-centric dominance in literacy studies, which has led to the suppression of alternative (multi-modal) literacies. She reports on the importance of words, pictures, icons, color, and spatial arrangement in Brazil local traditions and compares them to postmodern forms of communication that, for example, the New London Group (1996) encourages us to teach and embrace.
Part II is dedicated to Interrogating Language Policies. In chapter 5, Kanavillil Rajagopalan discusses the local resistance to the perceived threat of English in Brazil and the fear that globalization will destroy national integrity. He then compares this to Brazilian linguists' approach to the topic, which does not take into account local attitudes. He makes clear that an appreciation of the reasons for the continuing stand-off between expert and lay knowledge is needed for fruitful dialogue and appropriate policy. Thus, Ryon concludes that linguists need to realize that there is more to language policy than linguistics and they need address the needs and concerns of the common people.
In chapter 6, Maya David and Subra Govindasamy show what can happen when nationalistic language policies are implemented, and how the result can be detrimental when the cognitive and social advantages of bilingualism are not recognized. The chapter presents us with the situation in Malaysia, where nationalistic policy was implemented in the late 70s to promote the indigenous language and counter the postcolonial influence of English. The decision not to teach English has resulted in Malays being left behind in global developments, while the Chinese and Indian communities in Malaysia, who continued to learn English, are better prepared to work in the SE Asian region and are more globally competitive. The authors then present the complexity of reviving this community's skills in English.
In Chapter 7, Sharon Utakis and Marianne Pita discuss the effects of transnationalism on education with the example of Dominicans living in New York City. They show how members of this community shuttle between the Dominican Republic and the US, speaking both English and Spanish. They also show that education in the US -- which promotes assimilation -- does not serve the needs of these transnational migrants. Thus, the authors argue that language policy in education should support balanced bilingual competence with dual language programs and a bicultural curricula that values Spanish and incorporates critical language awareness into the classroom. Such pedagogical practices involve empowering the identity of students and drawing from their local knowledge to facilitate their biliterate development.
Part III, Reframing Professional Lives, presents us with the hybrid professional and personal identities of educators who create a space in which they can balance their cultural practices of the home with practices of the host community.
In chapter 8, David Block examines the attitudes and experiences of French teachers of French in England. Through narrative analysis, he shows how these individuals, who are not yet British but are no longer entirely French, struggle with staying or leaving and with their roles as instructors within British National Curriculum. Block argues that their local knowledge and experience should be used as a source of critique and reform.
In Chapter 9, by Angel Lin, Wendy Wang, Nobuhiko Akamatsu, and Mehdi Riazi, the authors use autobiographic narratives to report and interpret common experiences in learning English and how these shaped their teaching and research practices. The implications of these accounts suggest the need to change the focus in AL from TESL to TEGCOM (Teaching English for Glocalized Communication). According to the authors, this alternative theoretical orientation requires ''a deeper understanding of diverse local pedagogical practices and beliefs in their sociocultural situatedness, deeper understand of issues of agency, identity, ownership appropriation, resistance, and English language learning, teaching, and use in diverse sociocultural contexts and a deeper understanding of various cross-cultural encounters'' (218). This would also involve experimenting -- as the authors of this article do -- with new modes of research inquiry that better reflect the local, such as anthropological research methods, interpretive sociological, narrative analysis, and autobiographic studies.
In the final section, Part IV, Imagining Classroom Possibilities, particular classroom contexts are presented. Here it is shown how local identities, knowledge and discourses need to be brought in to negotiate the learning of unfamiliar codes and content in ELT.
In chapter 10, Peter Martin presents a discourse analysis of one class in a small community in rural Brunei, where there are students who speak several different indigenous languages. He shows how the teacher uses multilingual literacy pedagogies to localize the lesson and have it make sense for the children. This contribution highlights the struggle in the quest for knowledge and the attempt of classroom participants to incorporate both local and textbook knowledge into their talk.
In chapter 11, Jasmine Luk argues that communicative intent is the most important aspect of language teaching and looks into how this can be promoted through opportunities for students to express their local identity, interests and values. She presents two lessons taught by native English-speaking teachers where communicative competence is supposedly promoted. One activity, while typical of communicative language teaching, does not promote communication of local identities, nor does it provoke interest or motivation in the students. The second activity, however, allows students to express themselves, their opinions, and to have a valuable cross-cultural experience, even though the instructor does most of the talking. Luk argues that in this situation, the desire to assert ''self'' motivates learners' active participation. She thus concludes that in appropriating global discourse, it is essential for learners to be able to assert their selves in cross-cultural global interactions so that multiple, or pluralistic, language user identities can be constructed. She argues that native English-speaking teachers can help to promote this type of intercultural understanding, but only if they promote communicative intent.
In chapter 12, Elisabeth Mermann-Jozwiak and Nancy Sullivan consider the relevance of Mexican culture and language in the borderlands of Corpus Christi, Texas, where minority school failure is endemic. The authors argue that curricular inclusions of language and literatures produced by Mexican American writers can help bridge cultural and linguistic discontinuities present in the current education system and work against anti-immigrant, antiminority, antibilingual positions. They describe how the classroom can be turned into a learning environment where students' cultures and languages are valued and how students can be encouraged to engage in activities where they can show their expertise and their linguistic and cultural experiences and knowledges. Finally, they show how local diversity can be a valuable tool in fostering citizenship that is attuned to global connectedness.
The blurb on the back of the book states that ''the authors make a case for why it is important for local social practices, communicative conventions, linguistic realities, and knowledge paradigms to actively inform language policies and practices for classrooms and communities in specific contexts, and to critically inform those pertaining to other communities. They illuminate the paradox that the local contains complex values of diversity, multilingualism, and plurality that can help to reconceive the multilingual society and education for postmodern times.'' Indeed, the book does not disappoint. While most contemporary literature dealing with globalization focuses on homogenization, this volume shows the vast diversity of local cultures and languages that need to be taken account of in language policy and practice. It presents numerous examples of hybrid groups who fluidly move between languages, varieties and registers.
Any faults the book has are points that the authors recognize and mention in their chapters. Open questions in one chapter may be answered, or at least echoed, in other chapters. For example, after reading Parts I and II, it was clear that education fails to equip students for real-world needs and that students have to be proficient in ''negotiating multiple dialects, registers, discourses, and if possible, languages, to function effectively in a context of postmodern globalization'' (xxv). However, while reading the text I felt frustrated by the fact that the reader is not given a realistic approach that could influence national policies nor solid advice as to how to go about doing this. But the final chapters in Part III and IV follow up by presenting practical responses that could be incorporated in language education policy and in the classroom.
One crucial problem that several contributions in this volume deal with is the dynamics between local communities, national language education policies, and global forces. Often these issues can present frustrating realities in which nationalist positions do not allow for policies and practices that would actually benefit local people. For example, the chapter on the complex situation of Dominican students in New York City recommends the introduction of a bilingual and bicultural curriculum. In light of current national ideologies in the US, which seem to strongly enforce the notion of Americaness, it is not likely that the US education system would, even if it could, offer the means to promote bilingual, bicultural transnationalism. As Mermann- Jozwiak and Sullivan show in the final chapter, many US Americans have negative attitudes towards those who cling to their ''other'' languages and cultures. The struggle between national language policies and global realities is echoed in the chapters on Malaysia and Brazil. Here the clash between national education to create national citizens and the promotion of transculturalism, multilingualism, and multiliteracies is also highlighted. These complex issues will surely continue to play an important role in language policy and practice.
While many of the ideas in this volume may not be new -- for example the need to challenge the notions of language standards or the native speaker -- the contributions offer new insight into these discussions and reemphasize the need for a paradigm shift within AL. The authors use a number of different and innovative research methodologies to get at questions concerning globalization and local responses. It seems that future studies of this type could continue to draw from research done in other disciplines, for example sociology and economics (e.g. Grin 2003, Smith and Favell forthcoming, Urry 2005, etc.). The volume as a whole -- but especially the contribution from Lim et al -- paves the way for new platforms of research which will continue to take account of socially, culturally, historically, and intuitionally situated perspectives.
Grin, F. 2003. ''Language Planning and Economics.'' Current Issues in Language Planning, 4(1): 1-66.
New London Group. (1996). ''A pedagogy of multiliteracies: Designing social futures.'' Harvard Educational Review, 66(1): 60-92.
Smith, M. P. and Favell, A (eds). forthcoming 2006. The Human Face of Global Mobility: International Highly Skilled Migration in Europe, North America and the Asia Pacific.,New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.
Urry, J. 2005. ''Globalisation and complexities'' In I. Rossi (ed) Frameworks for Globalization Research. Amsterdam: Kluwer.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Elizabeth J. Erling has her PhD from the University of Edinburgh's Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics. Her dissertation, Globalization, English and the German University Classroom (2004), is a sociolinguistic profile of English use at the Freie Universität in Berlin, where she has taught in the language center since 1998. She has published articles in English Today, The Globalisation of English and the English Language Classroom (Gnutzmann & Intemann 2005), and Speaking from the Margin: Global English from a European Perspective (Duszak & Okulska 2004). Her academic interests are World English(es), second language writing, and European language policy and education.