[lg policy] Challenging the Monolingual Mindset

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Thu May 14 19:30:57 UTC 2015

Challenging the Monolingual Mindset

Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/25/25-3876.html

EDITOR: John Hajek
EDITOR: Yvette Slaughter
TITLE: Challenging the Monolingual Mindset
SERIES TITLE: Multilingual Matters
PUBLISHER: Multilingual Matters
YEAR: 2014

REVIEWER: Heather Smyser, University of Arizona

Review's Editor: Helen Aristar-Dry


Challenging the Monolingual Mindset, edited by John Hajek and Yvette
Slaughter, follows Michael Clyne’s broad views on language and
multilingualism. It brings “language issues to a wider audience” (p. 3),
and its aims are threefold: to inform readers of language issues, “to
challenge the monolingual mindset” (p.3), and finally to “benefit both
multilinguals and monolinguals in understanding and fostering the
linguistic potential of [their] communities – in Australia and around the
world” (p. 12). While the introduction cites Clyne’s work on the
monolingual mindset and provides the origin of the term, it does not
explicitly define what this term encompasses; instead, it references
Clyne’s work on the development of forced monolingualism within the
Australian context and leaves readers unfamiliar with Clyne’s work
uncertain about the scope of the term. Each of the three parts of the book
investigates language use and policy. Part One identifies global issues,
Part Two investigates immigration-related challenges in Australia, and Part
Three concludes with language (non-)maintenance in Australia. In totality
these three sections demonstrate the presence of a monolingual mindset in
both the international and Australian contexts, and the volume documents
efforts underway to challenge this mindset.

True to Clyne’s approach, Part One does not focus on one particular
geographic region and instead discusses global issues of language use,
policy, and maintenance. Chapter One, “English in Scandinavia: Monster or
Mate? Sweden as a Case Study” by Catrin Norrby first explores positive
language attitudes towards English in Sweden among youth and those in
higher education, which are reflected in the growth of English-language
programs in higher education and in the number of dissertations written in
English. Norby then briefly explores official language policy and studies
the linguistic landscapes of businesses to contrast their language use with
official policy. She finds this policy to be at odds with the linguistic
landscape. Chapter Two “Language in Singapore: From Multilingualism to
English Plus” by Francesco Cavallaro and Ng Bee Chin overviews the
linguistic changes Singapore has undergone in the past 60 years before
reviewing the effects of language policy on the members of these
communities. It finds decreasing use of all migrant vernaculars in favor of
languages with more global significance, like Mandarin and English. Part
One continues with Chapter Three, “English as an International Language: A
Multilingual and Pluricentric Perspective” by Farzad Sharifian, which
focuses on English in multilingual settings and as a pluricentric language.
Sharifan defines a pluricentric language as a language that has “multiple
centres which interact with each other, serving as a national variety with
its own norms” (p. 54). The author establishes the global significance of
English and contends that its spread as a global language fosters a growing
multilingual context. In this context English becomes a lingua franca, and
the L1 serves as an identity marker. Concomitant with this, the rise of
World Englishes creates a need for all to be informed of different
varieties of English and obfuscates the notion of who qualifies as a native
speaker. Chapter Four, “German or Swiss? Address and Other Routinised
Formulas in German-speaking Switzerland” by Doris Schüpbach furthers
research on pluricentric languages by comparing politeness in
German-speaking Switzerland with what is known on politeness in Germany.
Schüpbach finds more informal “you” use in Switzerland than in Germany,
continued use of the formal “Ihr” form in Switzerland, the use of names
when greeting, and extensive formulaic routines when taking leave. Part One
concludes with “Meet and Greet: Nominal Address and Introductions in
Intercultural Communication at International Conferences” by Heinz
Kretzenbacher, Michael Clyne, John Hajek, Catrin Norrby, and Jane Warren.
This chapter finds differences when respondents introduce themselves self
and others, age differences in introductions, and macrocultural differences
in introductions at international conferences. They find that being
introduced by others is the most formal means of introduction, with
Northern Europeans and older individuals resorting to more formal means of
address. While this chapter did not provide statistical analyses to
indicate if differences are statistically significant between groups, the
results are still compelling.

Part Two shifts from an international focus to Australia and centers on
immigrant languages in the country. Chapter Six “L1 and L2 Chinese, German,
and Spanish Speakers in Action: Stancetaking in Intergenerational and
Intercultural Encounters” by Marisa Cordella and Hui Huang is the weakest
chapter in the collection. Many acronyms, how participants were selected,
how data was elicited, and how data was coded are all rather unclear
throughout the chapter. More detailed turn-by-turn explanations of the
dialogues included would have better elucidated the stances taken in each
to better explain the theoretical approach taken. The inclusion of
quantitative data, such as percentages of who was more likely to use which
stance (either older or younger participants) would have also been
beneficial. Part Two continues with “Linguistic Diversity and Early
Language Maintenance Efforts in a Recent Migrant Community in Australia:
Sudanese Languages, their Speakers, and the Challenge of Engagement” by
Simon Musgrave and John Hajek, a chapter which commences with an overview
of the status of Sudanese languages in Australia and efforts to maintain
these. It cites the lack of accepted orthography and of qualified teachers
for Dinka as obstacles to its maintenance. The authors also cite community
efforts that have been met with success to maintain Othuo, a Sudanese
language with relatively few native speakers. Chapter Eight, “Language
Maintenance and Sociolinguistic Continuity among Two Groups of
First-generation Speakers: Macedonians from Aegean Macedonia and the
Republic of Macedonia” by Jim Hlavac continues the discussion of language
maintenance raised in the previous chapter by focusing on how Macedonian
speakers from two different geographic locations sustain their language.
Hlavac combines results from a questionnaire and taped interviews; he finds
that while the status of Macedonian varies tremendously in the country of
origin, both groups have high levels of maintenance. Part Two concludes
with Louisa Willoughby’s “The Role of Professional Advice in Shaping
Language Choice in Migrant-background Families with Deaf Children,” which
examines options provided to English L2 families of deaf children by
providers, how professionals arrive at these decisions, and what families
choose to do with this advice. Often, families are not informed of all
options available to them. They are often told only about cochlear implants
and the use of speech with the child instead of both speech and signing.
Additionally, the assignment of intervention services was haphazard,
depending largely on the agency that gave the initial diagnosis with many
providers being stuck in a monolingual mindset, encouraging parents to
choose one language to use with their child, normally English.

Part Three, the final section of the volume, concentrates on language
policy in Australia. It opens with Howard Nicholas’ “Losing Bilingualism
While Promoting Second Language Acquisition in Australian Language Policy,”
a chapter on the evolution of Australia’s language policies. Nicholas shows
how in spite of the fact that Australia is seen to promote bilingualism,
more recent iterations of policy have moved towards viewing bilinguals as
those who come already speaking another language rather than including
those who speak English first and later acquire a second language. This
section of the volume continues with Yvette Slaughter’s and Hajek’s
investigation of how Italian has gone from an immigrant language to a
language studied by many in the community in “Mainstreaming of Italian in
Australian Schools: The Paradox of Success?”. While many students choose to
study Italian at the primary and secondary level, many also discontinue
their studies after years nine through eleven at a much faster rate of
decline than for other languages. For the authors, this indicates the
language is not being maintained in younger speakers. They propose that
this non-maintenance is due to a fatigue effect whereby students are
overexposed to the language and do not pursue further study. Chapter 12,
Margaret Gearon’s “Understanding the Role of Professional Development and
Influences on Teacher Practice: An Australian Case Study of Community
Languages Teachers,” shifts focus away from students and moves to better
understand community language teachers and their needs, as these are the
instructors who facilitate language maintenance in their communities. It
indicates that those surveyed had positive views of their certification
course and shows their integration of prior language learning experiences
into their teaching views. Colin Nettelbeck, the author of Chapter 13 “ ‘A
Somewhat Disconcerting Truth’: The Perils of Monolingualism as Seen Through
the Early Years of the RAAF School of Languages”, provides an overview of
how Alex Garrick fought against a dismissive view of bilingualism from
policy makers in order to successfully operate and expand the Royal
Australian Air Force School of Languages. While the chapter seems a bit out
of place following the chapter on the maintenance of Italian, it makes for
a compelling read on the advancement of bilingualism in society. The final
chapter of this work, Averil Grieve’s “ ‘Die Erfüllung eines Traums’:
Challenging the Monolingual Mindset Through the Establishment of an Early
Immersion Language Program” first documents language immersion in
Australia. It then discusses the creation, struggles, and successes of the
Deutsche Schule Melbourne, a school which has expanded to include several
community families not of German origin who see the value in raising
bilingual children. The success of this school provides a fitting
conclusion for the book, as it demonstrates one realization of Clyne’s
dream for Australia and also challenges the monolingual mindset.


As a whole, Challenging the Monolingual Mindset serves as a fascinating
exemplification of Clyne’s eclectic philosophy and introduces readers to a
range of issues relating to the topic of multilingualism within
international and Australian contexts. This renders it a compelling read
for scholars and students from a variety of backgrounds including those
interested in language policy, the status of multilingualism in various
locales, language maintenance, and the rise of global English. Each chapter
provides enough information to whet a reader’s desire to learn more about
the topic presented, and while the variety of topics present might prove
off-putting to some readers, it reflects Clyne’s view of the problem of
having a monolingual mindset, a mindset that becomes clearer with each
successive chapter even if not formally articulated in the book. By
bringing these topics to light, the authors and editors bring awareness of
the multifaceted nature of multilingualism to a broader audience and fight
against the monolingual mindset. They do so by expanding contemporary
conceptions of multilingualism away from historic confines that understand
it in terms of composite monolingualisms. The authors of each chapter
achieve this move away from historic conceptions of what it means to be
bilingual by taking into account language maintenance and the effects of
policy on non-traditional populations, such as those in the deaf community
or immigrants trying to maintain a language without an established script.
This inclusion of such non-traditional topics fights against the
monolingual mindset that can sometimes be found even in scholarly
conceptions of bi- and multilingualism. Because of this eclectic approach,
the volume achieves its purpose of raising awareness and can be read as a
whole or in individual parts or chapters. The three parts of the volume
might feel disjointed to some readers due to the wide variety of topics
discussed; however if one bears in mind the purpose of the volume, one
finds that chapters within sections speak to and complement each other in
rather unique and unforeseen ways.


Heather Smyser is a graduate student in Second Language Acquisition and
Teaching at the University of Arizona studying how late multilinguals
process and store their languages and how low levels of literacy interact
with the language acquisition process in refugees. She hopes to continue
her research on and with refugees to broaden understandings of language
acquisition in this population and to begin to tease apart potential
learning differences in those with PTSD and a strong oral tradition to
better understand bilingualism and multilingualism in those not coming from
Western styles of education.


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