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Revitalizing Endangered Languages

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Revitalizing Endangered Languages "This guidebook provides ideas and strategies, as well as some background, to help with the effective revitalization of endangered languages. It covers a broad scope of themes including effective planning, benefits, wellbeing, economic aspects, attitudes and ideologies."


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Review of  Intercultural Contact, Language Learning and Migration


Reviewer: Leila Khabbazi-Oskouei
Book Title: Intercultural Contact, Language Learning and Migration
Book Author: Barbara Gerachty Jean E Conacher
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing (formerly The Continuum International Publishing Group)
Linguistic Field(s): Sociolinguistics
Anthropological Linguistics
Language Acquisition
Issue Number: 26.5545

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Review:
Reviews Editor: Helen Aristar-Dry

SUMMARY

The book ‘Intercultural Contact, Language Learning and Migration’ edited by Barbara Geraghty and Jean E. Conacher consists of three parts, which focus on migration and language contact, language learning and cultural contact and migration and contact. Each part is preceded by an introduction discussing the key themes across the individual chapters. The volume opens with the editors’ introduction, in which they outline the scope of the book and sketch the contents of the contributions. The main purpose of the book is exploring what happens to both languages and their users when cultures come into contact. The contributions in the book explore different cultural manifestations of aspects of language and cultural contact brought about by migration.

Part 1 entitled “Migration and Language Contact” contains three chapters. Each chapter in this section focuses on potentially large population movements. The opening chapter by Bernard Spolsky entitled “Migration and language management: The Jewish experience”, provides a historical analysis of the Jewish experience of migration and language management, asserting that,while migration may bring change to people’s lives, “the nature of that change will be decided by the degree of linguistic and cultural contact which ensues” (p. 12). Illustrating with cases from Jewish experience, Spolsky concludes, “it is migration which weakens the immigrant language, but assimilation and social integration which lead to the adoption of the new one” (p. 36).

Vera Regan and Evelina Debaene in their article entitled “Linguistic vitality and the Polish community in France” take a comparative approach while analyzing the two distinct instances of Polish migration to France: the Solidarity migration of the 1980s and the post-EU-accession migration from 2004 onwards. In their interview-based study, they address the issue of migration, second language acquisition and the transmission of migrants’ first language to their children. Drawing on two sources of data, one from Polish ‘officialdom’ in France, and the other from ‘non-official’ migrants, the authors picture Polish peoples’ lives in France and their language practices. The authors conclude that these Polish migrants, while wishing to invest in a high-status European language of international communication, also cherish their heritage language.

In the third chapter entitled ‘Language Planners’ Cultural positioning Strategies in Joint Negotiation of Meaning’, Patrick Studer explores EU-internal debates about multiculturalism policy from a micro-discursive perspective. The data in this study are drawn from interviews which encourage language planners at the supranational level to engage reflectively with the official documentation projecting the EU’s public commitment to language and cultural diversity. The writer attempts to shed light on the tensions between public policy and individual experience of multilingual communication. Studer suggests that informal language planning is strongly guided by the cultural-ideological background of the planners and more attention needs to be paid to bottom-up micro-level language-planning processes.

In Part 2, entitled ‘Language Learning: Communicating in the Contact Zone’, the authors examine language learning in the context of contact, migration and technological change. The contributors in this part examine various types of language acquisition and the development of intercultural competence in informal and higher educational institutions. The opening chapter by Fie Velghe and Jan Blommaert is entitled ‘Emergent New Literacies and the Mobile Phone: Informal Language Learning, Voice and Identity in a South African Township’. The writers approach literacy as a complex of social and cultural practices rather than the mere acquisition of ‘technical’ reading and writing skills (p. 90). The article looks at the informal learning strategies women in Wesbank, an economically marginalized community near Cape Town, engage in, trying “to make ‘themselves understood by others’ and to gain voice in new communicative environment – created by the uptake of mobile phones and the access to instant chat messaging and the internet more generally” (p. 91). In their study, the writers use semi-structured face-to-face interviews, group interviews and analysis of text messages. The writers believe that device literacy and acquisition of textspeak are not less effective because of being informal.

The second chapter in Part 2 by Agnieszka Skrzypek, Romana Kopečková, Barbara Bidzińska and David Singleton is entitled ‘Language and Culture: Attitudes towards, and Perceptions of, English L2 Acquisition among Adult Polish Migrants in Ireland’. It examines ethnolinguistic vitality (ELV), motivation to learn English and the maintenance of Polish in Dublin in the Polish migrant community in Ireland after EU enlargement in 2004. The researchers use surveys to gather data on attitude and motivation and proficiency tests to test their English language proficiency level. The results suggest that migrants try to balance acquisition of English with successful maintenance of Polish language and culture.

In Chapter 6 entitled ‘Face-to-Face Tandem Language Learning: Evidence of Intercultural Learning in a Zone of Proximal Development for Intercultural Competence’, Fionnuala Kennedy and Áine Furlong conduct a qualitative analysis of learner reports in order to study the effects of intercultural communication instruction on face-to-face tandem partnership as well as evidence of learning within the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) with reference to a mixed-nationality group of third-level students. Tandem language learning refers to two partners of different native languages agreeing to meet at regular intervals for language exchange with the aim of learning each other’s language and exchanging personal, cultural and linguistic information (p. 132). The study shows the importance of person-to-person interaction between learners in the development of consciousness through mediation and interpersonal relations.

In the final chapter of Part 2, Aleksandra Sudhershan discusses the use of an electronic addition to the European Language Portfolio, which provides opportunities for intercultural self-assessment, and the role it plays in helping learners to become autonomous ‘intercultural speakers’. The aim of the article entitled ‘E-Portfolio Self-Assessment of Intercultural Communicative Competence: Helping Language Learners to Become Autonomous Intercultural Speakers’ is to investigate how international students can be supported in a multicultural foreign-language classroom in the development of autonomy in intercultural language learning. The research is based on field notes from class observations, focus-group data, one-to-one interviews and documentation. The author believes that “being an intercultural speaker’ requires taking responsibility for the development of one’s own intercultural competence” (p. 161).

In Part 3 of the volume ‘Migration and Contact: Community and Individual Experience’, which consists of three articles, the contributors show “how exploring individual and community narrative through reflection, life story and song can provide us with a deeper understanding of the experiences of those living in intercultural contact, language learning and migration” (p. 14). Each of the articles focuses on the unique experience of an individual or a community with the aim of encouraging the reader to engage with broader issues. In the opening chapter entitled ‘Heteroglossic Becoming: Listening to, and Learning from, Our Multiple Voices’, Julie Choi draws on a range of textual and visual evidence in order to show how social interaction brings “a constant (re)positioning of the self’ (p. 168). Choi rejects the assimilationist model of migration and intercultural contact and argues that an individual chooses the elements of linguistic and cultural identities they use and shapes those identities as they interpret them. Reflecting on some incidents from different settings as a foreigner performing in Tokyo, Choi shows her desire to represent herself as a speaker of Japanese who wishes to be seen as a competent, resourceful speaker who draws on knowledge of her other languages (p. 174). The co-author, David Nunan, examines some of the methodological issues in autoethnographic research. He believes that, and although in this study the traditional distinction between data and analysis can become difficult to sustain, Choi has been successful in adopting an approach that melds the story as lived by participants with the story as lived by the researcher (p. 186).

In the second chapter of Part 3, Núria Borrull examines the form and function of «La Nova Cançó» (Catalan New Song) during and since the Franco period in Catalonia. The author in the article entitled ‘The Catalan «Nova Cançó»: Resistance and Identity Through Song’, demonstrates “how community narrative, expressed through music and song, can have a powerful political influence in developing and sustaining a group identity within an autochtonous community under threat” (p. 168). The author maintains that Catalan song which is a cultural phenomenon and has played a significant role in protesting against the dictatorship, has had little resonance outside Catalonia, both in the academic world and the central media in Spain. In support of Stokes (1994), Borrull maintains “music is socially meaningful because when a particular genre is taken as a symbol of identity it is also used to create boundaries and maintain distinctions and, therefore, ‘dominant groups oppose the construction of difference when it confronts their interest’” (p. 203).

The final chapter is by Irmina van Niele and is entitled ‘Wandering Words: Reflections on Ambivalent Cultural Belonging and the Creative Potential of Linguistic Multiplicity’. Niele engages reflexively with her own life as an intercontinental migrant. Having migrated from Netherlands to Australia, van Niele explores the range of emotions she experiences while negotiating the intercultural contact zone in both countries. Having been living in linguistic multiplicities, the writer gains the potential to move through languages and understand differences in ways of thinking by being open to possibilities and relating more widely to the world.

The volume ends with a concluding chapter by the editors summarizing the achievements of the book in line with the recent developments in intercultural studies.

EVALUATION

As the title of the book suggests, this volume explores the diversity and tension caused by population movement and technological and social transformation. The book has been successful in advocating the advantages of being open to different influences, research cultures and methodologies in intercultural studies. The articles in the book explore varieties of issues concerning language contact. While the first part of the book explores large-scale migration and language contact and the effects of the decisions made by individuals, groups and institutions within the intercultural contact zone, the second part investigates how language learners can be supported in diverse ways and diverse settings. Interestingly, Part 3 of the volume turns to narratives that individuals and communities tell of themselves. This part emphasizes the importance of narrative and (auto)ethnographic studies opening up the opportunities for individuals, whether migrant, language learner or researcher, to express their identity.

REFERENCES

Stokes, M. (ed.) (1994), Ethnicity, Identity and Music: The Musical Construction of Place. Oxford and New York: Berg.
 
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
I finished my PhD in language and linguistics at the University of East Anglia/UK in Dec. 2011. The title of my thesis is 'Interactional Variation in English and Persian: A Comparative Analysis of Metadsicourse Features in Magazine Editorials'. It focuses on comparing and contrasting the use of interactional devices in English and Persian, and discussing the similarities and differences in the light of the cultural expectations and political settings in some British and Iranian news magazine editorials. My thesis-driven articles have been published in the journals of Pragmatics and Iranian Studies. I am interested in the following subject areas: intercultural communication, the expression of interactional metadiscourse in the media, particularly the press, patterns of cross-cultural variation in British and Iranian discourse.

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