[lg policy] book review: Comprehensive Analysis of Applied Linguistics in Complex Multilingual Societies

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Tue Sep 21 14:34:23 UTC 2010

Mainstream, Vol XLVIII, No 39, September 18, 2010
Comprehensive Analysis of Applied Linguistics in Complex Multilingual Societies

Madhulika Sharma


Multilingual Education for Social Justice: Globalising the Local by
A.K. Mohanty, M. Panda, R. Phillipson and T. Skutnabb-Kangas (eds.);
Orient Blackswan Private Limited, New Delhi; 2009; pages 400.

One of the aspects of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of
Indigenous Peoples is the preservation of linguistic heritage.
Linguistic globalisation, which has given English a predominant
position, can lead to the extinction of many indigenous languages. To
preserve the linguistic human rights of several communities and to
empower them to participate in the wider global set-up without
replacing diversity with uniformity, there is a need to actualise the
theory of multilingualism. Local experiences can also enrich the
global knowledge pool. This is the crux of the book under review here.

Multilingual Education for Social Justice: Globalising the Local
brings together nineteen papers that examine how the use of a
multiplicity of languages in education can facilitate achieving
greater social justice and help in cultural and socio-economic
development of indigenous people. The book is divided into six parts,
commencing with an introduction about the current gaps in multilingual
education (MLE). It is the view of this writer that MLE can serve as a
foundation for strengthening the bridge between home and school and
languages and cultures. The second part cautions in particular about
an immature application of MLE models. Jim Cummins in “Fundamental
Psycholinguistic and Sociological Principles underlying Educational
Success for Linguistic Minority Students” elaborates the
psycholinguistic and sociological principles underlying minority
students’ academic development. He suggests a pedagogical framework
for promoting academic development in multilingual contexts and also
offers four interrelated dimensions of instruction. The specific
programme models adopted in imparting bilingual education to the
tribal people in India depends on various factors like availability of
teachers and textbooks in different languages and community beliefs
and aspirations.

Tove Skutnabb-Kangas in “MLE for Global Justice: Issues, Approaches,
Opportunities” critically examines the homogenising effect of
globalisation and emphasises the need to conserve all the world’s
languages as linguistic diversity and biodiversity are correlated and
mutually supportive of each other. She describes three approaches to
education that curtail linguistic and cultural diversity. Subtractive
education through the medium of a dominant language can, in her view,
lead to linguistic and cultural genocide. Carol Benson in “Designing
Effective Schooling in Multilingual Contexts: Going beyond Bilingual
Models” analyses the early models of bilingual education and the
problems in their application in policy and practice in the
international set-up. She examines the effectiveness of basic models
of the North in the multilingual contexts of the South in terms of the
use and abuse of most common forms of bilingual education
progr-ammes—submersion, transitional, maintenance, immersion and dual
medium and proposes an alternative approach to bilingual or
multilingual programme design, focusing on language acquisition and
learning principles which would help establish the most practical
means to fulfil the educational goals in the context of existing

The global and local tensions and promises in MLE are investigated in
the third part. Robert Phillipson in “The Tension between Linguistic
Diversity and Dominant English” presents the discourse of English from
the “language of colonisation to neo-imperialism”. The rapid process
of economic, political, military and cultural integration in Europe
and establishment of English as a dominant language has taken place
simultaneously. To counteract the dominance of English the EU
Commission has put forward a Framework Strategy for Multilingualism
(2005). Labelling English just as lingua franca is in the author’s
view misleading because it also plays the role of lingua
frankenstienia. Kathleen Heugh in “Literacy and Bi/Multilingual
Education in Africa: Recovering Collective Memory and Expertise” makes
a comparative analysis of language policy and education in different
African nations. She states that the current discussion on
language-in-education issues in Africa reveals that the use of African
languages as primary medium of instruction is almost obsolete in the
contemporary system. The language learning programmes and materials
that originate from English-dominant contexts cannot be applied
successfully in Africa. The empirical data show that even in
economically poor countries like Ethiopia long-term mother-tongue
medium programmes can be realised.

Teresa L. McCarty in “Empowering Indigenous Languages: What can be
Learned from Native American Experiences?” shares some of her Native
American education experiences about empowering indigenous
mother-tongues. The empowerment generated by the bilingual, bicultural
and biliteracy programme carried out in Navajo shows that renewal of
indigenous language and academic achievement are mutually congruent.
Irrespective of the extent of transmission of native language,
indigenous youth “inherently … value their heritage language”. This
points to the importance of involving youth directly as planners and
researchers to bring indigenous education from the margins to the
centre. Ofelia Garcia in “Education, Multilingual and Translan-guaging
in the 21st century” explores the relationship between MLE practices
at the local and global levels and the fluid boundaries between
languages in multilingual societies. She proposes two models of
bilingualism – recursive and dynamic. She maintains that heteroglossic
multiple multilingual education programmes have a long way to go
officially. “Privileging Indigenous Knowledges: Empowering MLE in
Nepal”, which has been co-authored by David A. Hough, Ram Bahadur
Thapa Magar and Amrit Yonjan-tamang, describes a “bottom-up community
based approach” to empower MLE in Nepal. The authors provide different
generic themes to encourage local development of critical indigenous
pedagogies like herbal medicines and healing practices; traditional
and modern knowledge and skills; history, numeric systems, weights,
measures, religion, festivals, literature etc. and suggest that these
traditionally grounded pedagogies can transcend the negative
contradictions of globalisation and development. Shelly K. Taylor in
“The Caste System Approach to Multi-lingualism in Canada: Linguistic
and cultural Minority Children in French Immersion” examines the
educational experiences of multilingual immigrants and First Nations
students in early French immersion programmes in Ontario. She suggests
that caste-like approach to multi-lingualism and views of minority
population may be responsible for the dearth of linguistic and
cultural minority students in the French immersion settings.

The fourth part highlights MLE practices in diverse settings of Peru,
Canada and Nordic countries. Susanne Jacobsen Perez, who was in an
in-service teacher training programme for indigenous bilingual
teachers in Quechua-bilingual areas, in “The Contribution of
Postcolonial Theory to Intercultural Bilingual Education in Peru: An
Indigenous Teacher Training Programme” examines the history of
intercultural bilingual education (IBE) in Peru, which is a
multilingual and multicultural country, and how IBE programme is
designed to maintain the indigenous languages. She maintains that in
order to guarantee long-term regional solutions or to influence state
education policies, political advocacy can serve as an important tool
for all IBE agents. Andrea Bear Nicholas in “Reversing Language Shift
through a Native Language Immersion Teacher-Training Programme in
Canada” critically analyses the irregularities and contradictions of
the Canadian language policy. The university-based Immersion
Teacher-Training Programme was successful in its language
revitalisation efforts in different communities, especially Maliseet
and Mi’kmaq. This was the sole university-based programme in North
America on different indigenous languages, and brought into focus the
challenges faced by the programme like lack of support by the
Department of Indian Affairs, community disinterest or opposition,
lack of funding and curriculum material and the rapid ageing and
declining number of fluent speakers of the native languages.
Reflection is offered on the solution of these problems for linguistic
survival throughout the world. Ulla Aikio-Puoskari in “The Ethnic
Revival, Language and Education of the Sami, an Indigenous people, in
Three Nordic Countries (Finland, Norway and Sweden)” examines the
nature of Sami education and role of Sami language and culture in
education in Finland, Norway and Sweden. Discussing the consequences
of cultural and linguistic assimilation on Sami language and
education, the author maintains that the challenges and worries faced
by the indigenous people regarding their native identity are universal
and the first step towards remedying this worry is to have suitably
different teaching programmes.


PART V of the book focuses on the diverse nature of MLE in the South
Asian tribal experiences in terms of theory and practice. “All
Nepalese children have the right to education in their
mother-tongue—but how? The Nepal MLE Programme”, co-authored by Amrit
Yonjan-Tamang, David A. Hough and Iina Nurmela, notes that the Nepal
MLE Programme, involving six language communities, aims that by 2015
all non-Nepali speaking primary school students will be able to study
in their mother tongue. This programme embraces various innovative
features such as focus on most endangered and marginalised communities
in extreme poverty, community participation, flexible localised
curricula and use of material based on indigenous knowledge system and
oral traditions. Dhir Jhingran tries to answer questions regarding
language-in-education policies in the context of linguistic and ethnic
diversity in “Hundreds of Home Languages in the country and many in
most classrooms: Coping with Diversity in Primary Education in India”.
He evaluates the varied language situations in Indian classrooms and
the disadvantages faced by different groups of students facing
moderate to severe learning disadvantage. The negative impact of
excluding indigenous languages as a mode of instruction in classrooms
is cause for concern but there have been some initiatives by the
government at the national and State levels and some NGOs have come
forward to implement small MLE programmes.

Rama Kant Agnihotri in “Multilinguality and a New World Order” urges
for the conceptualisation of a new world order by forming an
alternative view of language and multilinguality in both theory and
practice. He stresses the need for sociological treatment of language
behaviour and its socio-political and pedagogical implications and
highlights the active role of sociolinguistics in contemporary
society. He questions the impression of “standard language”, the
sacredness attached to language and script and other language
stereotypes. In his view, even minor attention to multilinguality can
lead to a more just and equitable social order. “Overcoming the
Language Barrier of Tribal Children: MLE in Andhra Pradesh and Orissa,
India”, co-authored by Ajit K. Mohanty, Mahendra Kumar Mishra, N.
Upendra Reddy and Ramesh Gumigyala, discusses the vicious circle
caused by language disadvantage. This leads to educational and social
neglect of indigenous or minority language, weakening these languages
and justifying further neglect. This vicious circle and language
barrier are linked to poor educational performance, capability
deprivation and poverty of the tribal community. A possible solution
is the positive example of multilingual education for tribal children
in Andhra Pradesh and Orissa.

Part VI of the book analyses the prospects for MLE to increase social
justice. Minati Panda and Ajit K. Mohanty in “Language Matters, so
does Culture Beyond the Rhetoric of Culture in Multilingual Education”
proposes a special intervention called MLE+ approach Both MLE and MLE+
programmes for tribal children in Orissa are discussed in the context
of multilingual society and current language-in-education policies in
India. Better transfer of learning and community empowerment can be
achieved by cultural practices that become a classroom reality through
certain pedagogical processes. The authors show how indigenous
language as a medium of instruction leads tribal children towards
scientific thinking and analysis. In the final chapter, “MLE Concepts,
Goals, Needs and Expense: English for all or Achieving Justice?”, the
authors Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, Robert Phillipson, Minati Panda and Ajit
K. Mohanty conclude that Education For All is a mantra, not a reality,
and stress the need to clarify different concepts used in the area of
bilingual education. The chapter also discusses some important issues
pertaining to the Right to Education and Linguistic Human Rights.

The book offers a comprehensive and detailed analysis of applied
linguistics in complex multilingual societies. The case studies from
different continents and countries like the USA, Canada, Peru, Nepal,
Africa, India, and Europe give it universal appeal. It successfully
seeks to relate theories and practices in the field of multilingual
education to ensure harmonious development of indigenous people
globally. The authors have done a commendable job of enlightening the
readers on the significance and modalities of bilingual education to
serve as a facilitator in developing models for complex multilingual

Madhulika Sharma is a Junior Research Fellow at the Department of
Education and Community Service, Punjabi University, Patiala. She can
be contacted at: madhulikasharma24 at gmail.com


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