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Review of The Routledge Handbook of Multilingualism
SUMMARY “The Routledge Handbook of Multilingualism” edited by Marilyn Martin-Jones, Adrian Blackledge, and Angela Creese is a wonderfully crafted, comprehensive text on multilingualism. The 32 chapters, divided into five parts, are simultaneously situated within local social and political contexts and a globalized landscape.
At the outset, with ‘A sociolinguistics of multilingualism for our times,’ the editors introduce the impetus for the present publication: to bring together a range of works that focus on sociolinguistics and ethnographic research and embrace post-structuralist perspectives. They discuss current rapid social, cultural, linguistic, and epistemological changes and advocate for new research methods that will best capture the intricacies underlying globalized localities.
In Chapter 1, ‘Indigenous contexts’, Donna Patrick addresses the complexities of defining “Indigenous groups’. She then traces the historical development of multilingual practices in indigenous contexts and considers their emergence during pre- and post-colonial times. Patrick advocates for ethnographic methods that draw on multi/interdisciplinary and community-based approaches (e.g., descriptive and ethnographic approaches, post-colonial frameworks, liberal rights and recognition-based approaches, policy studies). The author engages the reader in critically reflecting on the notion that Indigenous multilingual practices are not “static, socially bounded groups located in a timeless past” (p. 46).
Suresh Canagarajah and Indika Liyanage discuss the spontaneous and dynamic plurilingual landscapes of pre-colonial societies in ‘Lessons from pre-colonial multilingualism’ (Chapter 2). Following a description of the linguistic landscapes in pre-colonial South Asia, the authors analyze plurilingual practices in administrative, religious, and educational contexts. They maintain that these promote social equality, intercultural contact, and language maintenance. A better understanding of the successes of pre-colonial plurilingual communities and the study of modern non-Western communities may serve to inform modern language policies.
In Chapter 3, ‘Rethinking discourses around the ‘English-cosmopolitan’ correlation: Scenes from formal and informal multilingual educational contexts’, Vaidehi Ramanathan argues that the discourse underlying bi/multilingualism has, inadvertently, created dichotomies between other/home languages and English. Ramanathan urges educators to constantly “find contexts whereby our collective assumptions about these terms are challenged … not reproducing the very caveats we are also trying to counter” (p. 87). Drawing on cases from India, the roles of vernaculars and English are re-evaluated thus showing the powerful currency of local languages.
In ‘Multilingual citizenship and minority languages’ (Chapter 4), Alexandra Jaffe illustrates an ideological shift underlying the discourse of language and citizenship in Corsica -- a shift away from an idealized monolingual national citizen to an idealized plurilingual European/global citizen. She shows how the European notion of plurilingualism has informed Corsican language policy and planning, redefined Corsican language’s market value, and revitalized its use. Jaffe also shows that by adopting a bi-plurilingual discourse in education, students’ interest in learning minority languages has increased, at least in this context.
In Chapter 5, ‘Sign language and the politics of deafness’, Bencie Woll and Robert Adam draw a parallel between deaf communities and linguistic minorities: linguistic and cultural oppression. The authors discuss membership in deaf communities and show its enactment via the linguistic code, attitudinal identification, solidarity, and participation international structures. The authors present six case studies of deaf communities around the globe to inform ways to empower the deaf in Western societies thus eliminating disparities between deaf and hearing citizens.
In Chapter 6, ‘Discourses about linguistic diversity’, Melanie Cooke and James Simpson discuss how discourse about linguistic diversity in powerful domains (e.g., media, politics) has constructed the notion of linguistic diversity as a threat to national unity and identity. The authors draw on debates and legislation in the areas of immigration, British identity, national security, social cohesion, and allocation of resources to exemplify tensions between multilingual and monolingual discourses.
Stephen May presents Language Rights (LR) as an emerging sub-field of sociolinguistic inquiry in ‘Language rights: Promoting civic multilingualism’ (Chapter 7). Drawing on advocacy work from Language Ecology, Linguistic Human Rights, Minority Language Rights, and Critical Sociohistorical/Sociopolitical Movement, relative power and status differences between majority and minority languages are discussed. Each movement addresses overarching issues, for instance language shift/loss, minoritization of languages, language replacement, and linguistic human rights. While society and politics privilege and normalize majority languages, a challenge for LR is the recognition of the benefits attributed to pluralistic linguistic and cultural communities.
In Chapter 8, ‘Indigenous education: Local and global perspectives’, Teresa L. McCarty and Sheilah E. Nicholas discuss grassroots movements in Indigenous educational practices and policies as well as their impact on linguistic and cultural revitalization. After illustrating the diversity and richness of oral and print literacies in Indigenous education, which have traditionally been illegitimatized by dominant, homogenizing policies, the authors illustrate that language revitalization requires multilingualism as practiced by linguistic minorities. They further discuss language revitalization programs that promote Indigenous language and culture in tandem with language(s) of wider communication to reflect local and context-specific needs.
In Chapter 9, ‘Multilingualism in education in post-colonial contexts: A special focus on sub-Saharan Africa’, Feliciano Chimbutane reviews post-colonial language policies and planning (LPP). From a historical perspective, the author shows a shift in LPP from “language-as-a-problem to language-as-resource orientation” (p. 169). He discusses early colonial language policies to contextualize post-colonial LPP in sub-Saharan Africa and shows the lack of success with monolingual nation-state building policies. The discussion then reviews the emergence of bi-/multilingual policies worldwide argued to accommodate national, regional, and individual linguistic rights. Despite efforts to revitalize languages locally, post-colonial countries’ dependency on former colonial powers continues to play an important role on LPP practices.
Durk Gorter and Jasone Cenoz assess the role of education in the revival of regional minority languages in ‘Regional minorities, education, and language revitalization’ (Chapter 10). After describing a typology of language use in the school curriculum, two analytic frameworks used to study variables influencing language shift and maintenance in the Basque country are described, namely Reversing Language Shift and Euromosaic. The role of schools in language revival is acknowledged; however, conflicting ideologies also promulgate dominant language use at the expense of minority languages. They conclude with a call for new and creative approaches to teaching minority languages.
In Chapter 11, ‘Immersion education: En route to multilingualism’, Anne-Marie de Mejía discusses bilingual and, more recently, multilingual trends in immersion contexts. Key issues to consider in immersion contexts include L2 development, impact on L1 development, and impact on content knowledge. With the development of multilingual practices in educational contexts, the author addresses voiced concerns: sequencing of language instruction, codeswitching, language choice, and professional development.
In Chapter 12, ‘Linguistic diversity and education’, Christine Hélot argues that language diversity should not be understood as the introduction of multiple foreign languages in the curriculum; rather, she advocates for the coexistence of multiple languages. Integrative approaches to language diversity can foster positive attitudes towards linguistic and cultural diversity. Despite the emergence of European plurilinguistic language policies, issues pertaining to the development of inclusive and tolerant policies are acknowledged (e.g., multiliteracies, multilingual language awareness).
Ofelia García and Nelson Flores discuss in ‘Multilingual pedagogies’ (Chapter 13) how 20th century bilingual educational models fail to meet the demands of 21st century multilingual practices. The authors review four types of pedagogies and maintain that plurilingual and heteroglossic forms of instructions are best to promote dynamic forms of in increasingly linguistic and culturally diverse classrooms. The authors offer concrete pedagogical examples that motivate us to envision a future linguistic educational model: plurilingual/heteroglossic classrooms.
In Chapter 14, ‘Global English and bilingual education’, Sheena Gardner examines the impact that the growth of English as a world language has had on bilingual education programs. Gardner traces educational trends in early bilingual education, in content and language integrated learning, and finally, in English-medium education at the university level. With the rapid introduction of bilingual programs, English has become a fundamental tool enabling global citizens to engage and contribute in professional, educational, and political contexts. To meet the demands of this expansion, the authors see a pressing need for trained professionals.
In Chapter 15, ‘Multilingualism in the workplace’, Roger Hewitt presents historical and current economic and social considerations for multilingual practices in professional settings. While the author notes the striking dearth of empirical research, he shows that learning English is not the key to empowerment but that empowerment lies in the critical evaluation of existing unequal linguistic relations in the workplace. Despite the challenges associated with multilingual practices in the workplace, Hewitt claims that plurilingual practices can lead to growth and expansion. This under-researched/theorized topic offers overwhelming research opportunities.
Ingrid Piller discusses the ways in which linguistic identities, linguistic proficiencies, and language ideologies mediate social inclusion in ‘Multilingualism and social exclusion’ (Chapter 16). She first examines earlier conceptualizations of the relationship between linguistic policies and poverty (i.e., assimilation and linguistic/multilingual provision). Piller then discusses the linguistic human rights approach that depicts language as the source of exclusion and argues instead that context-sensitive considerations of employment policies are critical in fostering social inclusion. Finally, Piller presents an Australian case study to illustrate a weak link between advanced linguistic proficiency and economic and/or professional emancipation.
In Chapter 17, ‘Multilingualism in legal settings’, Katrijn Maryns maintains that the legal administrative space where language is negotiated and mediated by interpreters provides an ideal space to examine multilingualism in practice. Using examples from asylum and criminal cases, she exemplifies how monolingual ideologies have disadvantaged multilingual participants given that monolinguals speakers from dominant discourse communities fail to accommodate the dynamic and unstable nature of multilingualism. With the two case study analyses in the legal space, we are reminded of the severe negative ramifications of monolingual ideologies.
In Chapter 18, ‘Multilingualism and public service access: Interpreting in spoken and signed languages’, Christine W.L. Wilson, Graham H. Turner, and Isabelle Perez present an overview of interpretation practices and associated challenges in Public Service Interpreting (PSI). PSI includes legal, health, education, government, and social services. Using the case of Scotland, the authors illustrate the benefits of having a legislative framework for improving multilingual practices in contexts where oral and signed modalities intersect; however, they argue that policy, research, and training are areas that merit further serious attention.
The role of media in the propagation of multilingual practices is discussed in Helen Kelly-Holmes’ ‘Multilingualism and the media’ (Chapter 19). Kelly-Holmes argues that multilingualism has traditionally taken the form of parallel monolingualism thus reproducing monolingual language ideologies. With the emergence of mediatized texts (e.g., emails, blogs), the author argues that although there is greater evidence of multilingual practices, top-down media practices continue to transmit parallel monolingual norms. Despite these tensions, Kelly-Holmes maintains that media is a key site for multilingual practices that need to be exploited by consumers and producers of media.
In Chapter 20, ‘Multilingualism and religion’, Tope Omoniyi presents three macro-historical trends and two local trends to illustrate the mutual and interconnected relationships between language and religious practices. Omoniyi addresses the spread of religion through colonization giving rise to “difaithia,” diglossia, and multilingual practices. He also discusses the impact of colonization on forced and voluntary migration patterns. At the local level, the author discusses multilingual religious practices as evidenced by written/oral genres and specific religious activities.
In Chapter 21, ‘Multilingualism and the new economy’, Alexandre Duchene and Monica Heller argue that the new economy has capitalized on multilingualism by gaining access to multilingual market and treating multilingualism as a product and a process of economic practices. The authors highlight the power of multilingual resources to market products and to maximize capital. In sum, while individuals may benefit from the new economy, enterprises who manipulate multilingual resources are the primary benefactors.
In Chapter 22, “Multilingualism on the Internet’, Sirpa Leppanen and Saija Peuronen explore multilingual practices in computer-mediated communication (CMC) settings. They review key areas of research: the choice and diversity of language use in CMC settings and multilingual practices. Empirical findings show how settings and semiotic strategies impact language choices. Given that analyses rely primarily on spoken data analysis techniques, the authors prompt readers for the development and use of methods devised specifically for CMC interaction.
In ‘Multilingualism and Popular Culture’ (Chapter 23), Mela Sarkar and Bronwen Low advocate for bridging the study of multilingualism and popular culture to identify the when, where, and why of multilingual popular culture. They adopt a broad definition of popular culture to explain language use in each aspect of a multilingual speaker’s life. With research focusing primarily on hip-hop culture, the authors use an example of language mixing in Montreal hip-hop lyrics to illustrate the production of identity through language mixing.
Global economies and labor markets have afforded women working opportunities. In Chapter 24, ‘Multilingualism and gender’, Kimie Takahashi explores the (re)production of gendered identities in two transnational spaces. In the first, global politics of reproductive labor, the reproduction of inequalities based on class, race, citizenship, and gender are illustrated with the case of migrant workers and skilled professionals. In the second, intimate relations, gendered ideologies and multilingualism are examined. Takahashi discusses how international language education and materials perpetuate sexist discourse that delegitimizes women.
In Chapter 25, ‘Disinventing multilingualism: From monological multilingualism to multilingual francas’, Sinfree Makoni and Alastair Pennycook inspire readers to question the conceptualization of language and multilingual practices. They argue that the codification of language, a western invention, has created a static, language/languages divide. They further assert that despite recent efforts to challenge the monolingual bias, we are dangerously close to promoting ‘plural monolingualism’. They contend that a more productive understanding of language lies in the notion of multilingualism as a lingua franca where language is a “multilayered chain that is constantly combined and recombined” (p. 447). The authors argue that by treating languages as historical constructs, we can implement social and political change. Furthermore, the relationship between languages in local and global settings can be better understood by advocating for monolingualism of humanity that stresses locality and agency.
In Chapter 26, ‘Multilingualism and emotions’, Aneta Pavlenko proposes an approach to the study of emotions that draws on research from linguistics, anthropology, psychology, and neurobiology. Pavlenko first presents two key insights that have informed research on multilingualism and emotions. First, she argues that L2 acquisition, unlike L1 acquisition, fails to evoke emotional reactions. Second, she contends that speakers of different languages experience and internalize emotions differently. In sum, Pavlenko argues that emotions impact and shape bilingual speakers’ language choices and that cross-linguistic differences impact multilingual speakers’ self-perceptions.
In Chapter 27, ‘Codeswitching’, Angel Y.M. Lin and David C.S. Li criticize research on codeswitching (CS) that provides static and subjective interpretations of CS (i.e., quantifying and codifying CS). They maintain that interactional sociolinguistics, conversational analysis, and critical social theory provide microanalyses of discourse that highlights the negotiation of role-relationships, cultural values, and identities between interlocutors. Microanalyses can uncover and challenge the reproduction of societal ideologies and hierarchies. Finally, Lin and Li contend that there is a lack of innovation in CS research. They thus solicit holistic, longitudinal, and interventionist action research in order to identify useful CS strategies thus benefiting the potential of bilingual/multilingual classroom communication.
In Chapter 28, ‘Crossing’, Ben Rampton and Constadina Charalambous explore another type of plurilingual practice, linguistic crossing. They argue that crossing has significance “in the moment-to-moment development of the talk” (p. 484). The chapter examines three themes: (1) race or ethnic differences, (2) public discourses, media representation, and (3) non-routine ‘keyed’ interactional moments and activities as sites for crossing. The notion of crossing is then exemplified by Cyprus where Greek and Turkish Cypriots have a long history of conflict.
In ‘Heteroglossia’ (Chapter 29), Benjamin Bailey draws on Bakhtin’s (1981) notion of heteroglossia, which subsumes multilingualism, to capture the complexities of signs and the creation of meanings. He maintains that with each spoken utterance, we are engaged in the (re)construction of meaning. Bailey draws on this philosophy of language to offer an analysis of a short interaction between multilingual speakers. He claims that by adopting a Bakhtinian lens, linguistic forms and historical social relations can be brought to life.
In Chapter 30,‘Multilingual literacies’ Doris S. Warriner provides an overview of the vast amount of research in multilingual literacy. She shows the connection between earlier research and the creation of a methodological framework, continua of biliteracy, that has provided educators and researchers with tools for evaluating educational programs. Early work also drew on anthropological perspectives and language socialization to examine the emergence of literacy practices with two languages. Today, research examines teaching and learning processes and the study of multilingual literacy has prompted work in language policy and planning. In the final section, Warriner discusses current and future research, which examines intersecting local and global practices and trends (i.e., transnationalism and new media communication).
In Chapter 31 ‘Multilingualism and multimodality’, Vally Lytra illustrates the benefits of adopting a multimodal lens for conducting multilingual research which ties oral practices to gestures, artistic, linguistic, digital, and electronic forms of communication. The author maintains that identities are negotiated across space and contexts, which regroups modes and media. Drawing on findings from an empirical, ethnographic research in a Turkish literacy classroom, she exemplifies how students navigate across forms of literacies and multimodalities.
In Chapter 32, ‘Linguistic landscapes and multilingualism”, Elana Shohamy provides an overview of Linguistic Landscape (LL) research, which examines practices in cities and neighborhoods and compares LL across cities nationally and cross-nationally. Other foci include the impact of globalization, manifestation of identity via LL, LL in rapidly changing spaces, and connections between top-down official language policies. Turning to public spaces and educational settings, LL are rich and fluid spaces that provide insights regarding meaning-making processes, an area that welcomes future research.
EVALUATION The publication of a handbook dedicated to multilingualism from a sociolinguistic lens is “evidence that the field has achieved a certain level of maturity and recognition” (Sarkar & Low, p.403). The handbook covers a breadth of issues and highlights the complexities underlying the conceptualization of what multilingualism is, how to approach the study of multilingual practices, and where the future of multilingual studies will take us. The dominant sociolinguistic orientation to the text is refreshing and will complement cognitive research in multilingual representation and production. The volume helps the readers appreciate the importance of studying multilingual practices in fluid and local settings that are embedded in larger global settings.
The text is clearly organized and presents a breadth of topics and issues. As a whole, the text clearly illustrates the complex issues underlying the study of multilingual practices. The editors divided the 32 chapters into five parts: (1) Discourses about multilingualism, across political and historical contexts, (2) Multilingualism and education, (3) Multilingualism in other institutional sites, (4) Multilingualism in social and cultural change, and (5) Situated practices, lived realities. Throughout each section, there are common themes, conundrums, and challenges; however, each section offers the inspection of these in relation to specific geographic, institutional, social, and political settings. In Part I, the discussions challenge the monolingual norm observed in various contexts: multilingual/plurilingual practices in indigenous, pre-colonial, non-Western, European, and deaf communities. For researchers and individuals interested in maintaining and/or promoting linguistic diversity, the discussions may stir feelings of frustration towards dominant discourse practices found in political and educational contexts and may urge readers to re-evaluate and problematize the oppressive nature of otherizing discourses. In Part II, ‘Multilingualism and education’, the readings focus on multilingual and plurilingual practices in a variety of educational contexts. An overarching argument echoes throughout: Language policies and educational institutions must foster bi-/multilingual and plurilingual practices that unite languages and users while creating heterogeneous landscapes. While the authors acknowledge the challenges of adopting plurilingual practices, they stress the long-term benefits of language inclusion and revitalization. The call for examining multilingual practices is not confined to the educational context. In Part III, ‘Multilingualism in other institutional sites’, the editors grouped six theoretical pieces that consider multilingual rights and practices in private and public spaces. The choice of the term ‘other institutional sites’, albeit vague, is an important reminder of the need to look at unique and underexplored settings, such as the legal settings, the media, and public service. Failure to develop adequate policies will disenfranchise individuals who require greater institutional and political support than pupils may. In Part IV ‘Multilingualism in social and cultural change’, the topics are current, invigorating, and attractive. The connection to multilingual practices in the new economy, on the Internet, and in popular culture is successful in highlighting local and global practices. This section includes some data that clearly exemplifies the interaction between languages, genres, modalities, and contexts. Finally, in Part V, ‘Situated practices, lived realities’, the editors included discussions that challenge current conceptualization of multilingualism. Readers are encouraged to revisit and move away from simplified understandings of mono- and multilingual concepts and embrace broader understandings of language interaction across communities.
Each chapter follows a concise and informative format. Each chapter includes future research areas and an overview of related topics. As for the list of recommended readings, the authors selected current and relevant readings. Overall, each chapter offers current and fresh perspectives. Moreover, one of the strengths of this text is the coverage of geographical spaces and linguistic spaces. The discussions address sociopolitical issues in Australia, Bali, the Basque country, Canada, Corsica, India, Indigenous contexts, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Nigeria, Paraguay, Spain, Sub-Saharan Africa, United States to name a few -- evidence that multilingualism is the norm in the world.
The topics presented are of significance to everyone. Increasing an awareness of multilingual policies and practices in educational, political, and social contexts that transcend oral modalities will benefit our global societies. That said, the heavy use of jargon is intended for a narrow audience already immersed to ideas and concepts underlying language in society. The handbook is thus better suited for researchers, policymakers, and advanced graduate students who are interested in examining current issues. There is, however, the potential for the inclusion of select chapters is teacher training courses and undergraduate courses in sociolinguists. For example, Mejia’s discussion of immersion education addresses relevant issues pertaining to pedagogy and codeswitching and suggests some guidelines for teacher education courses. Undergraduates may find discussions that speak to their idiosyncratic realities, and faculty may consider including some chapters. For instance, multilingual practices in media (Chapter 19), on the Internet (Chapter 22), and in rap music in the Canadian context (Chapter 23) may be appealing and authentic to younger, less experienced audiences.
The editors are cognizant that research in the field of multilingualism has changed in the last decades. With these changes, there is an impetus for (re)defining and operationalizing concepts and with this, methods of investigation are being redefined. As a result, readers will note that throughout the handbook, several authors attempt to operationalize “multilingualism”. For instance, in Chapter 2, Canagarajah and Liyanage distinguish between multilingualism and plurilingualism where the former attempts to keep languages separate whereas the latter “allows for the interaction and mutual influence of the languages in a more dynamic way” (p. 50). Makoni and Pennycook (Chapter 25) question older and more traditional categorization of language (e.g., varieties, codeswitching, bilingualism, multilingualism, etc.) and maintain that “there are strong reasons to question the very notion of language as a discrete entity that is describable in terms of core and variation” (p. 449). As such, terms such as urbi- and metro-lingualism are preferred. In Chapter 29, Bailey argues that multilingualism in inadequate in capturing the complexities of the use of signs and the tensions in using these. Instead, drawing on Bahktin, he prefers to term heteroglossia. This discussion, while fruitful, may be frustrating to less experienced readers who may be unclear in terms of future directions. While it may be atypical to include glossaries in an extensive handbook, to expand the readership of this text, providing a glossary of concepts that being revisited and (re)conceptualized could have been a nice addition.
The Routledge Handbook of Multilingualism is a great addition to the field, providing an array of valuable discussions, especially theoretical ones. Despite the ubiquity of multilingualism in the world, research on multilingual practices remains the marked area of investigation and ideas for future research are presented in practically each chapter. Perhaps one day in the near future multilingualism will be appreciated as a sign of empowerment instead of a threat to monolingual identities.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Caroline Payant is an assistant professor in the M.A. TESL program at the University of Idaho. She received her M.A. from the Universidad de las Américas Puebla in Mexico and her Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics from Georgia State University. Her areas of interests include cognitive and sociocultural aspects of language acquisition as well as teacher education. Prior to joining the University of Idaho faculty, Caroline taught courses in the Applied Linguistics program as well as ESL classes in the Intensive English Program at Georgia State University. She has also taught French, Spanish, and English language courses to children and adults in Mexico and Canada.