This term, I’m teaching a graduate course called Educational Sociolinguistics and we’re blogging (the course blog is here). In the course, we explore social, cultural, and political dimensions of (second) language education, and there’s a lot of resonance with what we write about here in the BILD community. The course blog is our public facing space for ongoing ‘sociolinguistic noticing.’ This is the practice of reflecting on connections between our own (and others’) language teaching and learning experiences and sociolinguistic issues (e.g., identity, social status, place, race, gender, language variation, language ideologies, multilingualism, language policy, etc.). Continue reading
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.
From May 5 to 7, many of us BILDers attended a conference at McGill University called “For or Against Official Models of Multiculturalism and Multilingualism.” When we submitted our abstract for the conference, we did so with the BILD Research Group as the author. We had to assure the conference organizers that even though there are 10 of us in the group, we could be treated as a single entity (especially with respect to food ordering for conference attendees). We were quite sure that our talk “Unofficial multilingualism in an intercultural province: Micro-level case studies of policy as lived experience” would bring a different perspective. We were right! We had the great pleasure of closing the conference, in a session perhaps most appropriately called “And now for something completely different.”
This week, we have our first guest blogger, April Passi (MA, Second Language Education), co-blogging with BILD member, Dr. Alison Crump.
Sociolinguistic noticing is something I do pretty much all the time. It is something that I encouraged my recent cohort of grad students to do as well. On our online discussion board, they shared reflections related to topics and ideas we were covering in the course, and made connections between their own (and others’) language teaching and learning experiences and sociolinguistic issues (e.g., identity, social status, place, race, gender, language variation, language ideologies, multilingualism, language policy, etc.). I was also an active participant in the online conversations and now that the course is over, I find that I’m missing that forum for exploring rich, insightful, and often puzzling ideas. This blog is a perfect place to continue to write down some of my ongoing noticing.
Categories and labels are troublesome. They create boundaries and borders, and mark who is in, who is out, who is allowed in, who is not. Yet, the persnickety conundrum we face, as BILD scholars, is how to talk about the things we talk about (e.g., identity), without imposing misrepresentative categories and labels on the individuals we engage with and the experiences they are sharing and co-constructing with us. We can’t do away with labels and categories – they are convenient and allow us the efficiency of communicating a message to others on the basis of a shared understanding of where boundaries lie. Of course, if our intended meaning is not shared, we have to be very explicit about what we are talking about. We need to think carefully about what it means to ascribe a label to others and how this could reproduce essentializing ideologies.
It’s the winter solstice today; from here on, the days will get longer. As I write, I am warmed by the smell of freshly baked bread.