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Revitalizing Endangered Languages

Edited by Justyna Olko & Julia Sallabank

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  Multilingual Higher Education

Reviewer: Mehdi Zouaoui
Book Title: Multilingual Higher Education
Book Author: Christa van der Walt
Publisher: Multilingual Matters
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Issue Number: 30.1518

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“Multilingual Higher Education” book, as the author has explicitly stated, is designed mainly for university teachers who are teaching in a multilingual environment. It also serves as a guideline that orients language teaching practices in classrooms. The book is divided into five chapters that delve into multilingual matters in a higher education environment.

The author starts her first chapter by pointing out fact that linguistic diversity is perceived as a burden rather than an opportunity and also tackles the idea that a ‘balanced bilingualism’ is the ability to use languages equally well in all domains and modes. This phenomenon is prevalent and considered to be the ultimate target for bi-/multilinguals. In this regard, García (2009: 7) emphasises the fact that ‘bilingual education is not simply about one language plus a second language equals two languages’, but that students use a multiplicity of language practices, in different modes, calling on their available languages as well as varieties of languages to manage their learning and achieve their goals. This has urged many European universities to give up the monolingual approach and try to grant some place to other languages in their institutional design, even though monolingual based education is still striving to shut out other literacies in order to encourage the dominant Language of Learning and Teaching (LoLT). Another point that was raised in this chapter is the sociocultural perspective of learning where the author puts forward that language policies are reactionary in nature and they are enacted only when an issue surfaces to the ground, or in other words, they’re problem-driven policies. In addition to the aforementioned points, the author highlights that the attempts to grant education access to a wide audience have apparently diversified the nature of the segments that are meant by “higher education (HE)”. With that in mind, the first four phases which most countries go through are, according to the author, founded in fact on deficit theories:

L2-related handicap: the child does not know enough of the majority language, namely the minority parents.

Socially conditioned handicap: the parents are working class or in other words, the whole minority group.

Culturally conditioned handicap: the child’s cultural background is ‘different’

L1-related handicap: the child does not know her/his own language and culture properly, and this leaves him without a firm basis for L2-learning, and jeopardizes their self-confidence.

The author then moves to the concept of horizontal mobility (transnational students’ movement) that can be summarized in the following points:

First: HEI’s provide access to students from outside the country to pursue (usually) a postgraduate programme.

Second: transnationally mobile students attempt to access comparable semesters or modules within a particular qualification or a postgraduate qualification that would be compatible with their graduate results at their home institution.

Among the reasons for this transnational mobility are push factors such as limited opportunities in the home country, and from an institutional perspective, the desire to broaden the choice of programmes, and for the students to learn languages. At the supranational level, the drive toward a more internationalized atmosphere has ushered in curriculum change in terms of substitution, assessment and quality assurance.

In the second chapter, the author gives a diachronic explanation of HE around the world, and highlights the status quo of bi-multilingual HEIs. In the same context, the author asserts that governments are striving to distribute the economic burden of education by means of spreading this load over all possible stakeholders including families and employers.
Within this equation, there is a pivotal role of English when it comes to bilingualism and hence we can divide universities into these four categories:

Hypothetically purely monolingual in teaching and learning practice.

Using language proficiency entrance tests, having academic language support in English.

Having language proficiency entry requirements, academic language support for some students, learning material support in home/community languages, most lecturers know English plus the home language of the majority of students.

Having bi-/multilingual language policies which govern teaching and learning.

In the same chapter, the author says that there are many factors that can change multilingual higher education in one way or another. To name a few: the history of the region (historical factor), the interpretation of language status within a society and its link with upward mobility (socio-structural factors), the extent to which languages are used in a given community (social psychological factor), the cultural and ideological factors that influence the nature and the purpose of higher education. Undoubtedly, bilingualism is yet to gain its desired state of affairs and this is not likely to solve the persistent problem of the mother-tongue stance toward educational equation.

In the third chapter, the author hypothesizes that learning is a social practice and adds that the learning paradigm is mainly dominated by Communicative Language Teaching (CLT). Actually, there are two prevalent assumptions that shape the design of language courses adopting CLT:

● Language is taught mainly for interpersonal communication where the focus is on oral communication and functional writing.

● Courses are designed for students who are moving from a L1 to L2 along with its cultural components (monolingual bias).

One of the byproducts of CLT is English for Specific Purposes (ESP) where the learner’s needs and the demands of a particular professional linguistic skill are covered. Then, the author moves to the concept of situated learning which is an integral part of generative social practice. Thus, language being an important variable in the academic literacy discourse, language support can be described in several different ways:

Scholarship that acts as a kind of apprenticeship under the supervision of a subject matter expert (SME).

Scholarship as an orientation towards a community of practice: becoming a professional

Scholarship to become a reflective practitioner.

Scholarship as ‘third space’: a position where lecturers and students keep a balance between academic requirements and an emerging critical own voice.

This leads us to the conclusion that, the author claims, mastering the language is likely to correlate with a successful completion of studies.

In the fourth chapter, the author says that there is a constant pressure on international universities in terms of balancing between the official policy, the local policy, and the enactment of these policies in routine assessments and teaching (Robert, 2008:9). This balance underlies the effort to include students from minority groups who may have studied the same LoLT but may also find it challenging to manage studies at a higher education level. As an example of that, the author mentions post-colonial Africa where English, French, and other colonial languages enjoy high status at HE level, whereas a community language is spoken outside the educational setting with a broad diglossia. In this regard, Setati et al (2002) made a distinction between exploratory talk where a home or community language is mainly used, and discourse-specific-talk which, in their case, needs to be done mainly in English. Students may feel that a particular language is not suitable for academic purposes, either because they feel that their language ability did not ‘develop’ enough for use at HE level or they may feel that using a particular form of the LoLT may stigmatize them.

In terms of conceptualizing multilingual pedagogy in an HE classroom setting, Baetens Beardsmore (2009: 157) concluded that “we know little about the purely linguistic elements of rate and route of learning two or more languages, depending on phasing and structuring of the curriculum, the effects of transfer”. This calls for skill sets that bilingual educators as well institutions should be equipped with. ‘Language arrangements’ refers to the allocations of languages in various ways, sometimes supported by official institutional, regional and national policies. Language arrangements may lead to several outcomes such as strict separation of languages, which is likely to cause the maintenance of both languages where language acquisition follows an additive bilingual approach (one language is added to the learners’ existing repertoire) rather than a subtractive approach whereby a home or community language is gradually phased out and replaced by dominant LoLTs. Having said that, the author offers many examples of language arrangements of HEI that differ on the basis of time, space, and nature of educational programme. These kinds of arrangements have the potential to create certain dynamics between languages that are being used by both students and lecturers.

According to García (2009: 295) there are two types of approaches used for language arrangements:

● A flexible convergent approach, where code switching is used randomly for affective reasons in which a low-status language is deployed to facilitate the development of literacy in a dominant LoLT. This is often referred as monoliterate bilingualism and it belongs to the register of subtractive bilingualism.

● A flexible multiplicity approach, where LoLT is used in language practices that support meaning making in more than one language. The author proposes five strategies and practices that can be implemented in multilingual classrooms:

Instructional code switching: which will be successful in classrooms that are not lecturer-dominated.

Co-languaging: which basically means the use of the same material translated in two languages; in fact this falls under the umbrella of translanguaging.

Translanguaging: which underlies the offering of textbooks and articles in more than one language.

Preview-view-review: where the content is introduced in one language (preview), then explained in another (view), and finally reinforced in the same language used in the preview phase.

Cross-linguistic work and awareness: where a part of the curriculum is kept to be contrasted within the two languages, hence allowing students to translanguage.

In the fifth chapter, the author mainly talks about the dichotomy of tool and identity in language along with the dichotomy of language and content, namely Content Language Integrated Learning (CLIL). CLIL is based on Marx’s assertion that “ identity is therefore not to be viewed as a fixed or stable characteristic of an individual, but rather as a process of continuous change and permutation which is comprised of cultural identity, social role, and discursive voice’ (Marx, 2002: 266). The author postulates that when we foreground the role of languages as tools to mark the identity of speakers, we can say that language functions as a tool at different levels of connectedness to identities or aspects of identity. The other issue discussed in this chapter is the relationship between language and content in which the author stipulates that this is a result of an effort to support language development in non-credit bearing courses. Thus, the new approach of CLIL was put forward to promote this relationship; it can be thought of as an immersion approach. In addition, the author states that she mainly tackled this topic from a constructivist perspective, where instruction links up with the students’ linguistic abilities rather than expecting the student to meet a reified curriculum. However, such a statement masks a variety of convictions. including the fact that some languages are more suitable than others for HE, that multiple languages cannot be managed in class, and that oral modes are less suitable than written ones just to name a few.


As the author confessed, she couldn’t do justice to the literature of other languages given the fact that the book is about multilingualism, i.e. different languages may water down the findings of the book to the extent that they make it regional in nature and cannot be cloned to other multilingual settings. The author also seems to disapprove of top-down institutional policies, which should, in my opinion, have their own merits and could effect much improvement if married with efforts of multilingual academics. While the author claims that many European universities are moving away from monolingual education, the dominant language is still English and other languages are being offered merely for promotional purposes and not really to advocate bilingualism since it is not common to find a European university that doesn't have an English programme. Also, as an addendum to the concept provided by the author about horizontal mobility, cultural mobility is an indicator the social status of students where culture is a determining factor for students to take equally but different positions in society or to scale up the societal ladder and take more prestigious social status.

One interesting point the author touched upon is the concept of English-plus multilingualism with the premise that English is almost taking over. This concept is tied to the linguistic capital notion provided by Pierre Bourdieu (1977) defined as the status where a speaker who enjoys a prestigious upper class accent or dialect will have more credibility and legitimacy over the others. The author also tackled the topic of education as an economic burden that denotes the proportion of education expenditure in total household expenditure and then moved to compliment the Communicative teaching approach even though she was wary about the extent in which CLT is successful due to its assessment practices where discrete-points are being tested. The assumption that lies under CLT, based on the author’s view, may lead to an acculturation of the learner with its two forms: integrative, where the learner develops social contacts while keeping his own culture and style; and assimilative, where the learner moves toward hosting this new culture (Alireza, 2017). In this regard and, as the author already mentioned, an educated native speaker has been primarily considered to represent the desired communicative competence. One of the insightful opinions that the author mentioned is the distinction between exploratory talk and discourse-specific-talk. The former basically reflects the speaker trying out ideas and arranging information into different patterns. Yet, Arocena (2017) proposes a new type, namely presentational talk, which is basically focused around adjusting the language, content, and manner according to the needs of an audience. In the fourth chapter, the author mentions flexible multiplicity approach, in contrast to flexible convergent approach, which may fall short when it comes to quality assurance of bilingual literacy. When the author discussed strategies that can be implemented in a multilingual classrooms, she only mentioned code switching and seems to have bypassed code mixing which is also a prevalent phenomenon that comes along with code switching with a twist in it. In fact and in the African realities, many African countries are by default code mixing communities. Also, code switching in the educational setting can be divided into two categories: instructional code switching (that the author mentioned), and regulative code switching which basically revolves around classroom behavior such as discipline, announcing and even reducing language anxiety for students Arocena (2017).

The author seems to have achieved a great deal of what she wanted to achieve with this book through the multifaceted perspective she used to analyze the topic, including economic, historical, political, educational, and linguistic perspectives. For that reason, I think that the book would be useful for researchers of central African multilingualism affairs thanks to the plethora of examples and analyses she provided throughout the book and the ample references and citations she has given. However, perhaps one of the drawbacks of the book is the relatively poor coherence between chapters and in some there is unnecessary digression. Certainly, the field of multilingualism keeps growing with new theories and paradigms. However, the book offers, per se, an account of previous literature and doesn’t really provide new findings but rather reflects on what the literature has already found. One of the strong points the book has is that it offers a full review of literature that can be used to design new research projects.


Akbar, Farah Sultana. ''The case against Monolingual Bias in Multilingualism.'' (2013): 42-44.

Arocena Egaña, Miren Elisabet. ''Multilingual education: Teachers' beliefs and language use in the classroom.'' (2017).

Baetens Beardsmore, H. (2009) Bilingual education: Factors and variables. In O. García (ed.) Bilingual Education in the 21st Century (pp. 137–157). Oxford: Blackwell.

Barnes, Douglas. ''Supporting exploratory talk for learning.'' Cycles of meaning: Exploring the potential of talk in learning communities (1993): 17-34.

Bourdieu, Pierre. Language and symbolic power. Harvard University Press, 1991.

García, O. (2009) Bilingual Education in the 21st Century: A Global Perspective. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.

Lewis, Gwyn, Bryn Jones, and Colin Baker. ''Translanguaging: Developing its conceptualization and contextualization.'' Educational Research and Evaluation 18.7 (2012): 655-670.

Marx, N. (2002) Never Quite a ‘Native Speaker’: Accent and Identity in the L2 and the L1. The Canadian Modem Language Review/La Revue canadienne des langues vivantes, 59 (2), 264–281.

Roberts, C. (2008) Introduction. In H. Haberland, J. Mortensen, A. Fabricius, B. Preisler, K. Risager and S. Kjaerbeck (eds) Higher Education in the Global Village (pp. 7–16). Roskilde: Roskilde University.

Setati, Mamokgethi, et al. ''Incomplete journeys: Code-switching and other language practices in mathematics, science and English language classrooms in South Africa.'' Language and education 16.2 (2002): 128-149.

Shoebottom, P. ''The language learning theories of Professor J. Cummins.'' (2003).

Zaker, Alireza. ''The Acculturation Model of Second Language Acquisition: Inspecting Weaknesses and Strengths.'' Indonesian EFL Journal 2.2 (2017): 80-87.
Mehdi ZOUAOUI is a lecturer at Istanbul University with an interest in general linguistics, education, E-learning, and global affairs. He’s a frequent article writer on E-learning affairs and he’s currently working on a project entitled “MOOC Based Education for Refugees: Conceptual Framework”. He has co-authored two books related to Turkish and Arabic language learning and translated one.

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ISBN-13: 9781847699190
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Format: Hardback
ISBN-13: 9781847699190
Pages: 216
Prices: U.S. $ 159.95
Format: Paperback
ISBN-13: 9781847699183
Pages: 216
Prices: U.S. $ 39.95