LINGUIST List 30.1768

Wed Apr 24 2019

Review: Applied Linguistics; Sociolinguistics: Horner, Weber (2017)

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Date: 22-Jul-2018
From: Maria Teresa Martinez-Garcia <>
Subject: Introducing Multilingualism
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Book announced at

AUTHOR: Kristine Horner
AUTHOR: Jean Jacques Weber
TITLE: Introducing Multilingualism
SUBTITLE: A Social Approach, 2nd Edition
PUBLISHER: Routledge (Taylor and Francis)
YEAR: 2017

REVIEWER: Maria Teresa Martinez-Garcia, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies


The book “Introducing Multilingualism: A Social Approach”, by Professors Kristine Horner and Jean-Jacques Weber present a comprehensive and user-friendly introduction to the field of multilingualism. The book is divided into six parts, covering a wide range of topics on multilingualism and sociolinguistics. In all cases, each chapter is structured such that it promotes learning and critical thinking. All the chapters use a highly practical approach, including several activities (such as questions, topics for discussion, and proposals for group work) asking the reader to apply the new concepts and to develop their understanding of the issues under discussion.

Part I (Chapters 1 and 2) is an introduction to the book, including an outline of the important theoretical and methodological approaches in the study of multilingualism. This first chapter is clear in motivating the rest of the book, showing how ethnographic and discourse-analytic approaches can be combined, discussing the most common beliefs about languages (language ideologies), and opening new areas for future research.

Part II (Chapters 3, 4, and 5) continues exploring the most common beliefs about language, particularly focusing on the difficulties of defining what a language and a dialect are (describing how blurred their boundaries are). These chapters discuss the fuzziness that exists between and among languages, and they draw conclusions on the consequences of this fuzziness for both teaching and research. Moreover, this part of the book relativizing notions such as ‘language endangerment’ and ‘language revitalization’.

The book continues outlining the basic distinction between individual multilingualism and societal multilingualism in Part III (Chapters 6, 7 and 8). This part of the book investigates the connections between language and identity (e.g., looking at multilingual strategies such as code-switching, translanguaging, stylization and language crossing). However, it also explores societal multilingualism (e.g., trying to address questions such as why countries adopt some languages (but not others) as their national or official language(s), or as the medium of instruction in their education systems.). Importantly, this section of the book not only focuses on clarifying these concepts for the reader but also investigates the complex interplay between them.

After the book describes the basic terminology associated with the field, it continues exploring educational systems in detail (Part IV, Chapters 9 to 12). In doing so, this section of the book examines the pros and cons of mother tongue education programs (e.g., discussing topics such as the ‘fixed’ nature of some of these programs or presenting the concept of the ‘literacy bridge’ as one way of introducing greater flexibility). The section continues by drawing a distinction between mother tongue education and heritage language education, while discussing how both forms of education can be affected by the same problems of fixedness as the forms. To finish this section, the book also explores the opportunities and challenges of multilingualism in other institutional sites, such as the workplace and the family.

The use of (critical) discourse analysis is discussed in Part V (Chapters 13 to 16). This section of the book explores the pros and cons of the official discourse of ‘integration’ (of immigrants) and how it underpins current policies on migration, education, and citizenship. Negative media representations of multilingualism and its use in social media is also critically unpacked in this part of the book. Finally, multimodal texts (multilingual signs which combine both verbal and visual elements) are explored and discussed in relation to multilingualism.

Finally, Part VI (Chapter 17) provides a discussion of further directions in the study of multilingualism. After reviewing the main concepts described in the book and outlining the still open questions in the field, the book discusses topics such as multilingualism and sign language, multilingualism assessment, multilingualism, and gender, and the interplay between social and affective factors. These are some of the topics (among others) that the authors point out as important to investigate to further develop our understanding of multilingualism.


This book is very rich in both theoretical/experimental content and pedagogical materials, which are presented and discussed by the authors in each chapter. It is important to highlight how each one of the topics presented is explained from different points of views (e.g., pointing out both pros and cons of multilingualism), providing a more detailed perspective on how multilingualism is understood and perceived by different populations. That is, this book is not limited to understanding how one group (e.g., citizens of Europe, in principle more used to being in contact with this phenomenon) employs and perceives multilingualism but compares them with other groups to get a broader understanding of current beliefs on this topic. A lot of variability can be observed in this book, ranging from the samples from which conclusions are drawn to the different methods and languages tested. That is, the book includes research ranging from discourse analysis to individualized interviews and including languages such as Spanish, English, or Mãori). All this variability provides a broader, more comprehensive perspective on the phenomenon of multilingualism and on our understanding on this topic.

Another important attribute of this book is the importance given to both theoretical discussion and pedagogical approaches, two points addressed in every chapter. The fact that this book includes not only the theory but many and diverse types of activities for the readers (such as questions, topics for discussion, and proposals for group work) clearly promotes critical and creative thinking. In today’s world, we are bombarded with information, coming from diverse sources and providing different views of the same piece of information. However, it is not enough to possess information, one must be able to assess it for its clarity, accuracy, precision, relevance, depth, breadth, logic and significance (Pesut, Herman, & Herman, 1999). From a personal perspective, I consider the activities included at the end of each chapter as an attempt (at least) to promote this critical thinking. After reading the latest theoretical approaches to each one of the individual topics discussed in the book, the reader needs to take a step further and discuss, with his/her own books their own understanding of what they have learned. One of the aspects that enables these activities to foster critical thinking is that most of them are open-ended questions (as opposed to multiple-choice questions, for example), that do not have a specific (or set) answer (Paul & Elder, 2008). For example, one of the activities asks the reader to look for more examples of the type of multilingual text described in the chapter. Of course, there is not a specific answer to this question, but it makes the reader think about what he/she has learned so that the example chosen matches the description found in the book.

This book is, without doubts, an excellent compendium of the different models, methodologies, samples of participants and languages which have been covered and studied in the vast field of multilingualism. That said, it is rather difficult to find negative remarks on this extremely precise piece of work. However, I think that this volume could have benefited from including other types of activities. While the activities described and reviewed provide the reader with the key materials to develop their critical and creative thinking, the reader cannot know for sure whether he/she has understood the theory, because there is no “wrong answer” to whatever they say/do. For example, how can the reader know, outside of the classroom, that the examples he has found are correct? The reader could benefit from having a first set of activities for which the authors provide detailed answers. It is worth stating, though, that the authors do provide discussion notes at the very end of the book; and these provide a guide as to how some of the questions should be addressed. The authors point out that these are not the “right” answers because the questions are open-questions for which the authors can only provide hints and suggestions.

In addition to providing a detailed account of some of the latest findings in the field, this book represents a useful manual for young scholars and even the general public who want to widen their understanding of multilingualism. It is recommended for researchers interested in the field, including those who are just getting started into research. It not only provides a general overview of the field, but it discusses potential questions for future research and it provides a detailed literature review on each of the models, methodologies, samples of participants and languages that have already been studied in the literature. This detailed literature review may be a suitable resource for new researchers that need references necessary to motivate their own research. This book is a more than appropriate way to get introduced to the basics of this discipline.


Paul, R. and Elder, L., 2008. The thinker’s guide to critical and creative thinking.

Pesut, D.J., Herman, J. and Herman, J., 1999. Clinical reasoning: The art and science of critical and creative thinking. Albany, NY: Delmar.


Maria Teresa Martinez-Garcia completed her PhD in Linguistics at the University of Kansas in August 2016. Her dissertation presented a psycholinguistic approach to understanding bilingual activation, by exploring how differences in stress placement between English-Spanish identical cognates affect how adult learners of Spanish use stress as a cue for word recognition. She continues her research on bilingualism and second language speech perception and production while working as an assistant professor in the Spanish and Linguistic departments at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies. Her main research interests include bilingualism, second language acquisition, and speech perception and production.

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