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Review of  Bilingual Pre-Teens


Reviewer: Haomin Zhang
Book Title: Bilingual Pre-Teens
Book Author: Janet M. Fuller
Publisher: Routledge (Taylor and Francis)
Linguistic Field(s): Sociolinguistics
Book Announcement: 24.676

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Review:
SUMMARY

“Bilingual Preteen: Competing Ideologies and Multiple Identities in the U.S and Germany” discusses different qualitative research methods such as fieldwork, classroom observation, and discourse analysis in order to provides us with insight about how language functions among bilingual kids in the U.S and Germany. The book includes six chapters, a list of figures and tables, two appendices, a reference list, and an index. It is divided into three parts: 1. Introduction- Chapter One; 2. Four main chapters including studies of linguistic ethnography; and 3. Conclusion- Chapter Six.

Chapter One provides us with a general picture about bilingual discourse, identity construction and ideologies. Different attitudes toward bilingualism in various bilingual contexts are described (e.g. elite bilingualism in Germany and normative monolingualism in the U.S). This chapter also gives a brief introduction to the social theories relevant to the author’s research, including the social construction of race, ethnicity and identities. Finally, the author discusses multilingualism and problematizes linguistic hybridity, which provides background for the discussion of identity construction and language ideologies in the following chapters.

Chapter Two specifically addresses the issue of normative monolingualism (i.e. hegemonic language ideology) in the U.S in general and in Southern Illinois in particular. The author talks about English-Spanish bilingual education in Southern Illinois and argues that hegemonic ideologies in the U.S include normative English monolingualism and the inferiority of Spanish. Under the English-only policy in the U.S, English was stereotypically looked upon as a more valuable language than other foreign languages. Moreover, Spanish and English mixing indexes a “mixed” identity, which contradicts essentialized ethnic and national identity categories. In this chapter, the author indicates that language ideologies are constructed by specific linguistic practices (e.g. English-only language policy, and bilingual classroom discourse).

Chapter Three switches from the discussion of general language ideologies to the presentation of specific conversational data in a transitional bilingual education classroom to see how identity is constructed through language choices in classroom practices. The data discussed comes from thirteen children in a Spanish-English bilingual classroom in Montville, Illinois. The results show that children show positive attitudes toward bilingualism, often positioning themselves as bilinguals while positioning others as monolinguals. Hegemony of English, however, is apparent in classroom discourse. English is treated as a dominant and powerful language in the classroom. Usage of English works as a way of constructing a Mexican-American, as opposed to Mexican, identity. Moreover, codeswitching is found as another salient language choice in the bilingual classroom discourse of the children, who engage in bilingual discourse practices that challenge normative monolingualism and essentialized ideas about social and ethnic categories. Finally, from the discourse data, it is shown that immigrant bilingualism is always associated with membership of the working class. Mexican-American children in this study are confined to the boundaries of their socio-economic status, and thus, it is difficult for them to assimilate into the wider White community. Supporting the author’s findings, Kanno (2008) mentions that students are not able to resist their assigned identities once a school sets the range of identity options for them.

Chapter Four, based on the concepts of iconicity, erasure and recursiveness proposed by Gal & Irvine (1995), addresses ideologies in German society in order to see how normative monolingualism and elite bilingualism are present in English-German bilinguals. On one hand, normative monolingualism in German is represented through the ideology “one nation, one language”. On the other hand, uses of English and borrowings of English words/phrases index an international and sophisticated identity (p. 113). Like Spanglish, nonetheless, Dinglish (i.e. mixing of English and German) is not treated as a real language with high status. Thus, it is found that separation of the two languages is advocated in bilingual schools.

Chapter Five builds upon the background description developed in Chapter Four and investigates identity construction in depth through recorded data from a German-English dual language classroom. The results show that both German and English have power in the construction of identity on different levels. Unlike the immigrant bilingualism presented in Chapter Three, elite bilingualism, which helps promote speakers’ socio-economic status in Germany, is demonstrated in this chapter. More importantly, “speaking two elite languages badly or in an overly mixed fashion does not grant a speaker cultural capital” (p. 155). Furthermore, another phenomenon found in this chapter is that speaking non-elite languages or other varieties of languages is also valued (e.g. speaking an immigrant or minority language is perceived as a resource). Overall, languages are not only valued as resources but also as markers of authenticity (Heller, 2009).

In the last chapter, Chapter Six, the author concludes by reiterating the main theme and goals of the previous chapters, which were to address how language ideologies are reproduced and challenged through linguistic practices. She states, “Competing ideologies found in this research are due to the conflicts in norms in the wider society and within the classroom” (p. 159). Practices of the wider community are influential in specific linguistic practices of bilinguals. In the end, two important implications are generalized: first, bilingual curricula need to be examined, since children in bilingual classrooms do not behave in accord with the expectations of program creators; and second, teacher training and pedagogical practices are crucial, which can be summed up by stating that “Teachers need to be trained to teach bilinguals as bilinguals, not as if they were two monolinguals sharing one body” (p. 161).

EVALUATION

The author clearly identifies the focus of the book: competing ideologies and the construction of multiple identities in different contexts (i.e. the U.S. and Germany, broadly). Certainly, the author achieves the goal of presenting competing ideologies, namely, normative monolingualism and elite bilingualism, in both the wider societal contexts of the U.S. and Germany, and within the specific context of the bilingual classroom. Holistically, the author presents her research in a logical and progressive manner. Before analyzing specific discourse data, she provides readers with relevant background of the contexts, such as ideologies about bilingual education in Southern Illinois and competing ideologies in Germany.

Having a solid theoretical framework and a clear background description related to each geographic location, the author explores the main themes, competing ideologies and construction of multiple identities through conversational data among young children in both American and German bilingual classrooms. She provides ample supporting details, such as language choice, language mixing, and codeswitching from discourse data. Through discourse analysis, construction of identities is found in multiple levels and categories, all of which are clear and tenable.

The most compelling part of this book is the comparison of bilingual classroom discourse in the U.S. and Germany. In the data analysis of Chapter Three and Chapter Five, the author highlights specific linguistic features (e.g. codeswitching and language mixing) in bilingual data to provide a clearer picture about how language functions in different bilingual discourse communities. For example, in Chapter Five, codeswitching is analyzed in the bilingual classroom of Germany, where the use of English can grant students authoritative power in classroom discussions. Through the salient linguistic features produced in the discourse data, bilingual identities are clearly constituted among the young kids. Moreover, by means of incisive discourse analysis in Chapter Three and Chapter Five, readers can find different language ideologies present in the bilingual education systems of the U.S. and Germany.

Due to its clear focus, this book caters to an audience interested in sociolinguistics, language and identity, discourse analysis, bilingual education, and linguistic ethnography. It would also be helpful for students seeking an understanding of sociolinguistic research methodologies.

The current research opens up the door for comparative analyses of bilingualism. Future research may cover more groups of language speakers to see how language ideologies and multiple identities are constructed in different age groups, regions, and countries. More critically, applied sociolinguistic research should provide policy makers and teachers with insights into the implementation of language policies and the improvement of teaching practices.

REFERENCES

Gal, Susan and Judith Irvine. 1995. The boundaries of languages and disciplines. How ideologies construct difference. Social Research 62. 996-1001.

Heller, Monica. 2009. Multilingualism and transnationalism. In Auer and Wei, 539-553.

Kanno, Yasuko. 2008. Language and education in Japan: Unequal access to bilingualism. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
 
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Haomin Zhang is a PhD student in the Department of Modern Languages at Carnegie Mellon University. He holds BA in Economics from Shanghai Jiao Tong University and MS in Education from the University of Pennsylvania. He is currently teaching Mandarin Chinese in Carnegie Mellon. His general areas of research interest include second language reading, morphology, psycholinguistics, linguistic variation and comparative linguistics. He is especially interested in heritage/incomplete language acquisition (cross-linguistic transfer and morphological awareness).

Versions:
Format: Hardback
ISBN-13: 9780415807289
Pages: 178
Prices: U.K. £ 80.00
U.S. $ 125.00