If you missed the symposium last April or want to rewatch or share any of the talk, the video recordings are now available at the YouTube channel of the University of Arizona Department of German Studies: http://www.youtube.com/uagermandepartment. To access the symposium talks directly, follow this link: Multilingualism, 2.0? Talks.
For those who would like to re-watch some of the talks from last week's symposium, please stay tuned: they will be posted soon, once we sort and compile them.
(By Ilker Hepkaner, graduate student in MENAS.) As the final round of our campus-based thinking before “the weekend,” the Critical Multilingual Studies Initiative hosted a Faculty Roundtable at the School of Education on April 4. Four professors from the University of Arizona presented their work and helped us understand how they incorporate a critical approach to multilingualism into their research. A lively Q&A followed the presentations.
Prof. Ana Carvalho of Department of Spanish and Portuguese presented her research among Portuguese and Spanish speakers in Uruguay, and English and Spanish speakers in Tucson. By utilizing quantitative methods to investigate the social aspects of language use of these groups, Carvalho aims to identify sociolinguistic patterns in language-use repertoires deriving from more than one language. Carvalho also suggested that investigating which language—or combination of “languages”—these speakers choose to speak in different circumstances can reveal the range of reasons and consequences for their choice to code-switch and code-mesh. Carvalho also noted that the multilingual subjects in her study do not only chose one language over another, but also one dialect of this language over other dialects, which complicates her analysis further.
Prof. Thomas Miller of Department of English, Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs, started by acknowledging that his being a professor of English could have raised some eyebrows at the roundtable. He explained that, even in his discipline, where he specializes in the history of English education, multilingualism plays a crucial historical role. With examples from his research, he clarified that the relation between literacy, “literate people,” and literature has the potential to reveal the power structures that undergird these category of culture. Prof. Miller traces the teaching of English back to the Anglicization and linguistic assimilation of the Scots in the 18th century, and claims—in effect—that “English” as a discipline has always already been ESL, TESOL, EFL, etc. Extending his analysis to the historical formation of literacy, literateness, literature and literacy studies, Dr. Miller suggested that the production of knowledge in these areas can help us in understand the contemporary developments in the field of education, a field that university professors have often exempted themselves from.
Prof. Yaseen Noorani of the School of Middle Eastern and North African Studies (MENAS) opened his presentation by sharing two examples of poetry in Arabic from two different time periods and traditions. He contrasted a poem in classical Arabic with a poem under the influence of international post-World War II nationalist poetry. By drawing the attention to the tone, meter, citational practices, and style of these poems, he stated that the literate obligation to be multilingual in the pre-modern era was eradicated by the compulsory introduction of the nation-state concept, which pushed for the total domination of one single language. However, according to Dr. Noorani, this domination also allowed the comparative infiltration of certain orthodox features of languages into others, especially in domains like transportation and finance. Therefore, the variously constructed “national languages” were drawn closer to one another. Since 1970s, this imminent comparability and substitutability between national languages may be leading us to an era of “soft multilingualism”, which keeps the national languages apart, yet exchangeable, due to the ease of translation. Dr. Noorani finished his talk by asking if the “hard” multilingualism of the pre-nation state era has disappeared forever.
Prof. Praise Zenega (photo) of the Africana Studies Program engaged with language in a different sense than the conventional one, basing his analysis in performance studies. According to Zenega, Performance Studies obliges the researcher to dwell in many languages, which come together in performance. Given the nature of this multi-layered category of analysis, according to Zenega, competence in different languages and a different form of multilingualism gains importance. When Performance Studies is conducted in diasporic contexts according to Dr. Zeneca, the importance of multiliteracy increases drastically. However, when focused on certain regions, we can see that the use of multiple languages is also being debated, as Dr, Zenega quoted from writers from Africa, who advocate multilingalism for the sake of democracy. The idea behind this affirmation is the fact that multilingualism invokes multiple positionings of the subject, which is a beneficial affordance for participatory democracy.
After these four intellectually simulating presentations, the audience asked questions to the presenters. The questions mostly revolved around these four themes: the effects of commodification on language in pre-modern, modern, and post-modern periods; the limitations of technology in providing or simulating “humane” multilingual interaction, the problematic analytic category of “speech communities,” and the role of cryptolects, secret, exclusionary, anti-languages like Picadilly Palare in understanding multilingual practice.
This “last stop” before the symposium, with its provocative discussion and diverse range of topics, certainly raised the ante and the excitement for the upcoming weekend. The University of Arizona community is certainly well primed for the challenging interaction that the symposium promises.
(By Kelvin Chong, SLAT Graduate Student)
This Thursday, we will meet to discuss Glenn Levine’s upcoming symposium talk “Can Multilingualism Be Simulated?” (4:30pm, Paradise Cafe).
Last week, we discussed Tom Ricento's abstract, entitled “Language Policy, Political Theory, and English as a Global Language”. Questions, such as the differentiated meaning of ‘’neo-liberalism,’’ were discussed—as well as whether Ricento uses the term as a synonym for “liberalism”, which could also be understood differently depending on which context we use it in. In the US, liberalism is often more of a “black and white term” in politics. But it can also mean a decentralization of power from the top governance to the bottom, civilians. In Europe, speakers of different European first languages routinely code switch among one another. One who asks a question in Italian may end up having the answer replied to in Spanish, which is perfectly acceptable and expected, as multilingualism is respected and promoted in such contexts. By contrast, in the US, multilingualism is weakened in the presence of the “hegemony” of English as a lingua franca core. Examples, such as governments' compelling the shop owners in Flushing and Atlanta to use a certain minimum degree of English in their shop signs were justified by rationales highlighting administrative convenience and municipal safety. Another good example occured in Hong Kong, where speakers of Mandarin castigate local Hong Kong Cantonese speakers for their poor Mandarin as well as the reluctance in communicating to them. Behind the issue of language dissonance between two Chineses (plural form) lie a series of racial discrimination and aggravating socio-political conflicts in education and medical resources within Hong Kong. Interesting comparisons were made to see how English can create mobility internally at an international level when learners all intrinsically want to learn the language, without getting much interference from any state power or institutional administration—perhaps a neoliberal procedure itself.
We will meet again this week, Thursday, March 29, to discuss Tom Ricento's abstract for the talk "Language Policy, Political Theory, and English as a ‘Global’ Language. Ricento is Professor and Chair of English as an Additional Language at the University of Calgary.
In the Abstract is a weekly opportunity for members of the UofA community to: take a sneak peek at the presentations on the docket for Multilingual, 2.0? (April 13-15), discuss the content and bearing of these abstracts with faculty and students from various disciplines, and prepare for our live conversations with these major scholars. No preparation is necessary. Just look for the table with the "In the Abstract" sign at the back of Paradise Cafe and be ready to talk through the concepts and arguments presented in the abstract.
(by Kelvin Chong, doctoral student in SLAT)
Last week, we started off by continuing to discuss Yildiz's paradigm of monolingualism and tried to deconstruct it on different levels. The cultural interaction of different language codes could be illustrated by a recent case of the forceful imposing of monolingualism on the level of language policy. This brief reflection is going to further explicate the rich meaning of multlingualism and its far-reaching consequences on a political level.
In Hong Kong's post-colonial context, there have been many voices in Hong Kong against the recent political movements of the mainland government's strict enforcement of Mandarin and forbiddance of Cantonese in television broadcasting in Guangdong area, starting March 2012. The multilingual issue can be further examined by decomposing Chinese into written and spoken codes. Consequentially, there have been debates and discussions on Facebook and other forums that the written script—simplified Chinese— gradually invaded into the different walks of life in Hong Kong. At the Cafeteria Restaurant at the HongKong international airport, the menus changed from Cantonese to Mandarin to cater to the needs of mainland tourists. In addition, a letter reply from HKTDC (Hong Kong Trade Development Council) in Simplified Chinese sparked voices of worry and bewilderments in a discussion on Facebook. The fight of the standard Chinese language in Hong Kong became further inflamed and was lifted to a political level, after a heated debate and argument between a mainland passenger eating in the subway and another local passenger who was trying to stop the behavior. The unexpected pressing of the emergency button resulted in a 30 minute delay due to a stop of train service and inconvenience to a considerable number of passengers. The series of incidents of the "invasion" described by Hong Kong locals had created numerous rivalries. Some even suggested the hatred may lead to "an internal collapse of the Chinese nation as a whole" after a professor at Peking University publicly claimed that most Hong Kong people are "bastards," with the post-colonial mindset of the British Government.
The multilingualism issue made me realize that a liberal country must not pose any abusive power regarding any forms of language used. Doing so would result in a disaster. Any country that is liberal should respect the multi-codes and give freedom and flexibility to their survival, given the socio-cultural turn under globalization, which resulted inevitably in an unprecedented increase of conducive interaction and/or potential rivalry among and threats to the minority languages and codes. In Flushing NYC, a town where the majority of residents are Koreans and Chinese also has witnessed problems of codes when an influx of overstayed tourists and immigrants ensued in the past decade. Police officers and firefighters reported that they could not operate properly due to all the exotic signs (Korean, Chinese) of the shops. What happened was a request in the change of policy that 60% of the words on each sign should include English in the next three years. If Flushing were in China, I imagine the result would be the enforcement of a law that 100% of the sign should be in Standard Mandarin Chinese (Lingua Franca) all of a sudden without any buffer time.