By Sari Pietikäinen, Alexandra Jaffe, Helen Kelly-Holmes, Nik Coupland
Sociolinguistics from the Periphery "presents a fascinating book about change: shifting political, economic and cultural conditions; ephemeral, sometimes even seasonal, multilingualism; and altered imaginaries for minority and indigenous languages and their users"
Date: Wed, 5 Feb 2003 12:15:11 -0800 From: Joseph Park Subject: Power, Prestige, and Bilingualism: International Perspectives on Elite Bilingual Education
de Mejia, Anne-Marie. (2002) Power, Prestige, and Bilingualism: International Perspectives on Elite Bilingual Education. Multilingual Matters, paperback ISBN 1-85359-590-X, xiv+325pp, Bilingual Education and Bilingualism 35.
Joseph Sung-Yul Park, University of California, Santa Barbara
This book is devoted to the topic of elite bilingual education, educational provisions that 'cater mainly for upwardly mobile, highly educated, higher socio-economic status learners of two or more internationally useful languages' (x). It surveys the field from various viewpoints, including educational, sociolinguistic, and cultural perspectives, and with respect to both the theory and practice of elite bilingual education, supplemented with ample case sketches in various nations and educational contexts. However, this book is not merely a survey of existing information and research; the author also presents her own arguments as to how the research and policy making on elite bilingual education should proceed. In sum, this is a comprehensive overview of the state of the art of elite bilingual education research, a field which has been largely neglected so far. As the book is written in a clear, approachable style with few theoretical presuppositions, it will be useful for a very wide audience, including teachers, students, parents, and policy makers working in the area of elite bilingual education, not to mention researchers who want to get a broader perspective on the issue or need a solid reference on the subject matter.
The book is divided into two parts. Part 1 presents an overview of the general issues that relate to elite bilingual education from various perspectives. In chapter 1, the author surveys the major types of education provisions often discussed under the rubric of elite bilingual education: international schools, European schools, and Canadian immersion programs, and also two types which are considered to be more peripheral, finishing schools and language schools.
Chapter 2 discusses some of the terminology that relates to the field of bilingualism and bilingual education in general. Central to de Mejia's discussion is the notion of language as symbolic capital (Bourdieu 1982, 1991), which allows us to see education as powerful means of providing access to valued symbolic resources (37).
Chapter 3 looks as the issue of elite bilingual education from the point of view of intercultural communication. Since elite bilingualism and bilingual education often occur in contexts of cross-cultural contact, factors such as intercultural marriage, international travel, and international business are important issues to be considered in understanding elite bilingual education.
Chapter 4 focuses on language use in elite bilingual education classrooms, surveying issues in previous research, such as the need to acknowledge code-switching in immersion classrooms, the relationship between language and academic content, and how cultural content should be incorporated in the teaching process. This discussion is given more detail as several transcripts of instances of code-switching in classrooms in Colombia and Hong Kong are presented and analyzed.
In Chapter 5, various issues relating to elite bilingual education are discussed from the perspectives of the different participants in this process -- parents, administrators, teachers, and students -- and the expectations and concerns of each group are explained.
Chapter 6 outlines the trends in elite bilingual education research, noting the shift from research focusing on educational outcomes to an acceptance of a wider range of directions such as curriculum design or ethnographic research projects. Based on her own work, the author also suggests that empowerment of research subjects (teachers and administrators at an elite bilingual school in de Mejia's case) should be an integral part of the research process so that the gap between researchers and practitioners can be reduced.
Part 2 presents in more detail the forms and issues in elite bilingual education across specific social and historical contexts. In particular, Chapters 7 through 11 take the reader to five different continents (Africa, South America, Asia, Europe, and Oceania) and overviews the bilingual education provisions within several sample nations accompanied by detailed discussion of their historical and sociolinguistic background.
Chapter 7 deals with two African nations, Morocco and Tanzania. French and English International Schools are discussed in the Moroccan context. In the case of Tanzania, the importance of English as a language of prestige still has strong influence on secondary and post-secondary education systems, despite growing recognition of Kiswahili as the national language.
Chapter 8 surveys three South American nations; in Argentina and Colombia, elite bilingual education, once largely a provision for expatriate children, is now becoming more of a national concern in the education system, while in Brazil, foreign language education is still centered around institutes and language schools.
Chapter 9 deals with Japan, Hong Kong, and Brunei Darussalam, which differ from each other significantly in colonial history and cultural heterogeneity, yet whose bilingual education in English is expanding from its previous private nature into more open provisions.
In chapter 10, four countries in Europe are discussed, Finland, Sweden, Belgium, and Catalonia (Spain), where, due to different historical and political circumstances, different language pairs became significant (Swedish and Finnish in Finland, Swedish and English in Sweden, Flemish and French in Belgium, Spanish and Catalan in Catalonia), and different types of modalities of bilingual education developed (immersion programs in Finland and Catalonia, International Schools in Sweden, and European Schools in Belgium).
In Chapter 11, Australia is considered among the countries of Oceania. Here, there is rapid expansion of immersion-type programs for learning foreign languages, as the country tries to recognize and value its multilingual nature and establish an anti-isolationist economic and foreign policy.
After surveying these different countries, the remaining chapters present two more unique perspectives on elite bilingual education. In chapter 12, the author presents a critical discourse analysis (based on Fairclough's (1989, 1992) framework) of the discourse of elite bilingual education. More specifically, she analyzes several texts of advertisements for elite bilingual education programs around the world, and also a speech given by the Bruneian Minister of Education at the "Bilingualism and National Development Conference" in Brunei, 1991, showing how the ideologies represented through these discourses can be seen as closely linked to contemporary capitalist ideologies and reproducing existing social inequalities by appearing to offer equal opportunity of access to the symbolic capital of language.
Chapter 13, on the other hand, takes the practitioner's perspective and overviews the common problem areas as identified by teachers working in elite bilingual education classrooms based on questionnaire research. Several problems areas, such as motivation and opportunities to use the foreign language, student language proficiency level, development of biliteracy, language and content, and parental involvement, are discussed with case sketches, along with suggestions by the teachers themselves regarding how to resolve these problems in teaching.
Chapter 14 is the conclusion of the book, where the author reviews the major themes and makes several recommendations for effective policy and practice, which include suggestions such as i) formulate explicit bilingual policy statements based on empirical studies, ii) question monolingual classroom language practices in bilingual contexts, iii) situate classroom language use in wider local and global contexts of language use, iv) increase the scope and reach of bilingual education teacher development, and v) provide international opportunities to discuss issues related to elite bilingual education (300-302).
While research on bilingualism and bilingual education in minority contexts has a long and rich tradition, elite bilingualism and bilingual education have received little attention so far, with a few exceptions, most notably that of Canadian Immersion programs. The author suggests three possible reasons for this gap in the introduction (x-xi). First, for researchers pursuing a role of advocacy, minority contexts, where inequality of language rights become a crucial issue, may seem to be a more worthy area of study. Second, minority bilingual education programs often receive state or federal funding, and thus need to be under constant evaluation by authorities, leading to state-funded research or at least accountability that is open to research (which partly explains the abundance of research on Canadian Immersion). However, elite bilingual education is generally offered in the private sector, with less need for such accountability; in fact, the competitiveness among institutions causes them to avoid sharing details of their programs, therefore making research difficult. Third, even in potential contexts for elite bilingual education, such as International Schools, multilingualism has not been a prime concern until recently, as the students were often expatriates and were expected to return to their home countries. Therefore, there has generally been a lack of interest towards the notion of elite bilingualism and bilingual education.
However, we can no longer afford to simply ignore elite bilingualism and bilingual education. As the author suggests, increasing globalization means an increasing need for international communication, and the major languages of the world (which, for that reason, also tend to be perceived as prestigious) are increasingly considered to be important resources for upward socio-economic mobility. Neither is elite bilingual education for the select minority of rich people, as the term ^Ñelite^Ò might suggest. Teachers, businessmen, government officials, and other professionals, who may not necessarily wealthy, all recognize the importance of being bilingual and strive to learn these major languages. In this sense, elite bilingualism is no longer a minor phenomenon that applies only to a closed, privileged group of people. Elite bilingualism and minority bilingualism are in fact like the two faces of a coin, since both are loci where one can observe and study the ideologies of language held by the participants in bilingual education and the society at large. The practice and discussions surrounding minority bilingual education are important sites where language ideologies (and based on those ideologies, racial, political and other group identities) are produced, reproduced, challenged, and contested, as has been documented, for example, in the case of bilingual education in North America (cf. Schmid 2001). Similarly, efforts to acquire and provide access to prestigious world languages in various contexts can be seen in terms of how they represent language ideologies that reproduce the hegemony of such languages. The ideological nature of English language teaching in colonial and postcolonial contexts and its consequences has been well documented (Pennycook 1994, 1998, Philipson 1992). While many elite bilingual education provisions seem to have the effect of 'empowering' learners of prestigious languages by providing them with access to arenas associated with those languages, it is also true that the promotion of such languages constitutes an institutionalized mechanism of reproducing the hegemony of those languages. Therefore, studying elite bilingual education from an international perspective allows us to complement our understanding of how institutionalized practices of language teaching and their ideologies can have the effect of reproducing those ideologies based on minority bilingual education. Such knowledge can also contribute to the fields of sociolinguistics and linguistic anthropology, where language ideology has been one of the crucial issues.
de Mejia's book is very welcome in this regard, since, in addition to providing a rich international perspective with examples from many different countries and contexts, it also strives to move beyond a purely educational perspective (without abandoning it) and achieves a more critical perspective. Following Heller^Òs (1990, 1994) suggestion to look beyond the immediate school situation to understand the social situatedness of bilingual education, the author widens the horizons of elite bilingual education research. Her chapter 12, where she presents a critical discourse analysis of some texts representing elite bilingual education institutions, is especially interesting for this reason. Ultimately, I would have liked to see more research in this direction, especially in combination with ethnographic and interactional data, since such research will let us observe more clearly how the participants themselves deal with and are influenced by the ideologies that underpin the discourses of elite bilingual education. However, of course, due to the closed nature of the area of elite bilingual education mentioned above, collection and analysis of such data remain methodologically quite difficult, so for the time being we can say that the analysis presented in this volume makes an important contribution in raising the issue. Overall, given the lack of material written on elite bilingual education, this book provides an ideal starting point for future research, which promises to have many implications beyond the immediate field of elite bilingual education itself.
Bourdieu, Pierre. 1982. Ce Que Parler Veut Dire. Paris: Fayard. Bourdieu, Pierre. 1991. Language and Symbolic Power. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Fairclough, Norman. 1989. Language and Power. London: Longman. Fairclough, Norman. 1992. Discourse and Social Change. London: Polity Press. Heller, Monica. 1990. "French immersion in Canada: A model for Switzerland?" Multilingua 9(1), 67-85. Heller, Monica. 1994. Crosswords: Language, Education and Ethnicity in French Ontario. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. Pennycook, Alastair. 1994. The Cultural Politics of English as an International Language. London: Longman. Pennycook, Alastair. 1998. English and the Discourses of Colonialism. London: Routledge. Phillipson, Robert. 1992. Linguistic Imperialism. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Schmid, Carol L. 2001. The Politics of Language: Conflict, Identity, and Cultural Pluralism in Comparative Perspective. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Joseph Sung-Yul Park is a Ph.D. candidate at the Department of Linguistics, University of California, Santa Barbara. His research interests include discourse analysis, interactional linguistics, and sociolinguistics. His dissertation research focuses on the ideologies of English in South Korea.