Creating community, between solstice and equinox (by Dr. Mela Sarkar)


Until this week I had forgotten what it was like to feel chilly. In this part of the world, with its seemingly interminable winters, that seems like a rather implausible statement. But the summer here in eastern Canada has been one of unremitting, soaring temperatures. By the time of the summer solstice in June, the mercury had already spent long days in the 30s (over 90 degrees Fahrenheit), and it hardly let up, or went down, at all through the two summer months. Now the fall term is looming as the temperature relents a little, and while most of us in the academic world greet September in a “time to gird up our loins” sort of mood, we’re also sighing with relief at being able to enjoy being outside once again.


We’re closer to the autumn equinox than the summer solstice now. The trees have started to turn; the students have started to gather. New cohorts of undergraduates and M.A. students will be arriving in the classes I teach soon—I will never get over having stage fright when I meet those new classes—and over the course of time some of them will stick with the strange world of combined work and pleasure that is professional academia. It’s a peculiar kind of workplace, one that is regulated top-down through a host of corporate-driven and irritatingly bureaucratic mechanisms, but that at its core remains fundamentally, and anachronistically, an apprenticeship model. After their undergraduate degrees, students who pursue an M.A. or Ph.D. degree do so by trying to become, in some way, like the senior scholars under whom they choose to study. I have many reservations about the university system, and even more about my supervision, but the extraordinary thing, a testament to the energy and goodwill of the young, is how often and how well this apprenticeship model works.

I consider that I have been particularly blessed in the kind of graduate students who have decided that they wanted to work with me. So some years ago I started a personal-professional tradition of holding an annual potluck open house to which everybody I was supervising—soon expanded to, “or had ever supervised”—was invited. This event snowballed over the years, along with the list of supervisees and former supervisees. It became clear that the really interesting thing about the potluck party was the unexpected combinations of people that came together and had the chance to converse, despite belonging to different graduate cohorts or programs. It’s a long list, I can’t keep track of how long any more, but every year now I throw the place open to an extraordinary afternoon and evening of the serendipitous mingling of minds (and culinary traditions!). We all digest insights and ingredients happily for hours in a sort of graduate student gumbo.


Usually this has been a pre-summer, solstice-timed event, but this summer it had to be postponed to just before the fall term started. So I am still enjoying the memories of last Sunday’s gathering, where several BILD members were present, along with many non-BILDers who also brought their significant others—parents, partners, children. The mix of languages and cultures in my kitchen, bursting at the seams, was wonderful to behold. At one point there were no fewer than four crawling infants looking for pot lids to bang together. Among them, the infants alone could boast of five languages in which they might hear endearments or reprimands (English, French, Polish, Arabic and Chinese). The adults and at least half a dozen older children included speakers of all those languages as well as Japanese, Spanish, Greek and Kreyòl ayisyen (in which language a recent BILD blog post appeared).

This is Montreal; most of the conversation was in English, French, or a happy mixture of both. The common thread linking the current and former graduate students is of course an interest in language (or languages, or languaging) and a strong motivation to help people diversify their language repertoires. That’s also why BILD exists! It was heartwarming to witness the forming of networks across generations of students, as a new graduate who has just co-authored a hilarious children’s book in French met former French immersion teachers-turned-academics who may be able to help her get the word out—it’s also skillfully designed to facilitate early reading. People now on faculty gave advice to new master’s and doctoral students about navigating the system, and the Montreal winter. We discussed politics, Olympics, and where to go for the best poutine.


Used with permission: ;

I’m not sure if this kind of gathering is what Lave and Wenger had in mind when they first wrote about “communities of practice” in 1991, though I went back and looked. Maybe it’s more like what has been called a “community of interest”: “a gathering of people assembled around a topic of common interest…[i]ts members take part in the community to exchange information, to obtain answers to personal questions or problems, to improve their understanding of a subject, to share common passions or to play” [Henri & Pudelko 2003]. But I do know that we are above all a community. One in which the lines between apprentice and mentor are, thankfully, constantly shifting. We are held together by our love of languaging and of learning. By our trust in and reliance upon each other. We are held together, finally, by our love.



Henri, F., & Pudelko, B. (2003). Understanding and analysing activity and learning in virtual communities. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 19(4), 474-487. DOI: 10.1046/j.0266-4909.2003.00051.x

Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Diversity and the Universal Language of the Heart (by Patricia Houde)

UntitledThe world is changing rapidly. We hear this all the time, always have and always will. When you realize how much things have changed, from black and white to colour televisions and from mega computers to smartphones, let alone modes of transportation, it is evident that the world is expanding fast. You can now fly from Montreal to Paris in 6 hours 45 minutes. You get immediate news when a major world event hits anywhere on the planet. How different it was when our ancestors arrived at the “Nouveau Monde” by boat. Continue reading

One teacher-one language (OTOL) – Reflections on daycare language policy (by Dr. Alison Crump)

It’s mid-summer. The end of the school year seems like so long ago, and the start of the new one is hovering nearby in the form of school supply shopping yet to come (a list of excess: 48 pencils, 15 large markers, 4 good quality white erasers, etc.). This is a summer of transition for my youngest daughter, who is about to start kindergarten, after 4 years of daycare. Daycares in Quebec, I should clarify, fall under the radar of Bill 101, meaning that they are not bound by any particular language policy. That said, there is considerable pressure from Montreal parents for daycares to provide some measure of an English-French bilingual environment, and it is common for children to attend daycare in one or more languages other than those they speak at home. As such, I suspect there are just as many creative approaches to language socialization in daycares in Montreal, as there are within families.

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Reflecting on Languages, Identities, and Audiences in a Workshop: Lessons from Vienna (by Casey Burkholder)

Recently, my colleague Katie MacEntee and I presented a cellphilm (cellphone + video production) workshop at the Visual Sociology Pre-Conference at the International Sociological Association in Vienna, Austria. Our workshop introduced participants to cellphilming as a participatory visual method (MacEntee, Burkholder & Schwab-Cartas, 2016). Cellphilming asks research participants to respond to a research question or prompt by creating a cellphone video. Cellphilming is similar to participatory video where participants guide the process of inquiry, are co-investigators in knowledge production, and are involved in the dissemination of the research.

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ACLA Conference 2017: Call for papers

Please find below the call for papers for the ACLA Conference 2017, to be held at Ryerson University. BILD will see you there!


[la version française suit]

CANADIAN ASSOCIATION OF APPLIED LINGUISTICS ANNUAL CONFERENCE in conjunction with the Congress of Humanities and Social Sciences

May 29-31, 2017

Ryerson University, Ontario

Plenary Sessions:

  • Eve Haque (York University)
  • Carole Fleuret (Université d’Ottawa)

Submission Deadline for Proposals: November 13, 2016

Conference Information Page

Abstract Submission Page

Program Chairs:

  • Andrea Sterzuk (University of Regina)
  • Francis Bangou (University of Ottawa)


ASSOCIATION CANADIENNE DE LINGUISTIQUE APPLIQUÉE CONGRÈS ANNUEL en conjonction avec le congrès des sciences humaines

29 au 31 mai 2017

Université Ryerson, Ontario

Sessions plénières :

  • Eve Haque (York University)
  • Carole Fleuret (Université d’Ottawa)

Date de soumission des propositions: le 13 novembre 2016

Renseigenements sur la conférence :

Soumettre une propositions de communication :

Responsables du programme de conférence :

  • Andrea Sterzuk (University of Regina)
  • Francis Bangou (University of Ottawa)