Multilingual societies, identities and globalization: rethinking language, migration and identity

Steve Marshall

Simon Fraser University, Canada

Workshop

Identity and language practices in religious settings: Münch, Christian
Negotiating discursive identities in classroom interactions: Cécile Sabatier
Negotiating new identities through multilingual literacies in family, school and community: Chinese first graders in French immersion in Vancouver, Canada Danièle Moore
New and established minority languages and identities: essentialism, appropriation and multiplicity in Catalonia. Marshall, Steve
The language practices and identities of multilingual new migrants in Montreal. Patricia Lamarre

Multilingual societies, identities and globalization: rethinking language, migration and identity

This themed panel brings together the work of 5 researchers who have sought out new research sites in order to bring new perspectives and insight into the study of multilingual societies, identities and globalization. The data presented will illustrate how understandings of the relationship between languages and identities are changing as a result of globalization and new migration.

Four discussion questions will be presented to the audience:

i. How are globalization and new migration changing understandings of the relationship between languages and identities?

ii. How do new migrants develop new multilingual identities in new host communities?

iii. What are the implications for language policies?

iv. How can researchers adapt methodologies to address these issues?

1. The language practices and identities of multilingual new migrants in Montreal. Patricia Lamarre, Université de Montréal

Patricia Lamarre presents emerging data from a research project looking at the language practices and processes of identity formation of new migrants in Québec. She argues for a non-static, multi-site approach to understanding how multilinguals draw on their resources and make decisions about the stakes underlying the different spaces and situations they encounter in the course of their daily lives in Montreal.

The data presented will show the need to adapt existing theoretical paradigms to the specific sociolinguistic environment, while at the same time illustrating a number of important methodological challenges involved.

2. New and established minority languages and identities: essentialism, appropriation, and multiplicity in Catalonia. Steve Marshall, Simon Fraser University

Steve Marshall's focus is on new migrant speakers of languages originating in the ‘new world’ who are migrating to regions of Europe with their own established linguistic minorities. The presentation analyzes data from a 4-year study in Catalonia. The specific focus is on how Spanish-speaking Latino new migrants are constructing languages and identities in Catalonia, a highly heteroglossic, reflexive sociolinguistic environment, currently at a key stage of linguistic normalization of the Catalan language.

It will be suggested that individuals’ complex paths of identity formation run parallel to paths of migration and of knowledge formation, along which individuals’ epistemologies evolve and change, determining individuals’ sociolinguistic practices. The data will illustrate a rich and varied picture of multilingual identity formation in Barcelona, most notably, entrenched essentialism, selective appropriation of other identities, identities of convenience, transnational and flexible multiple identities.

3. Identity and language practices in religious settings: Latin American immigrants in New York City churches. Christian Münch, University of Frankfurt

As the social center of community life for generations of immigrants, ethnic churches have played a major role in religious life, cultural practices and the maintenance of the immigrants’ language of origin. Christian Münch presents results of his research on language and identity formation in New York City, focusing on churches of different denominations (Catholic, Baptist and Evangelical).

New immigration from Latin America has resulted in significant changes in the membership of the churches, which have responded by adapting their language practices in Spanish to the needs of the newcomers. The presentation will illustrate how each church has dealt with issues of language practices and identity in different ways. As important as ethnic churches have been in keeping up religious rites and cultural traditions, their conservative nature have not made them particularly accessible as research spaces. The presentation will illustrate how a methodological approach combining participant observation, semi-structured interviews and critical discourse analysis was employed to gain access to the sociolinguistic settings.

4. Negotiating new identities through multilingual literacies in family, school and community: Chinese first graders in French immersion in Vancouver, Canada. Danièle Moore, Simon Fraser University

Danièle Moore presents data from an ongoing study of trilingual Chinese learners in French immersion programs in Vancouver. Data will be presented from texts and audio-taped verbal reports from 12 multilingual Chinese children aged 6 to 8 and their parents.

The presentation will explore how multilingual children creatively appropriated Chinese script, English and French for 3 purposes: [i] to gain voice and expertise, [ii] to mediate their experience of migration and mobility, and [iii] to reconstruct knowledge and negotiate new and multiple identities in their various sociocultural settings (including both French and Chinese schools, families, local communities, and the larger Anglophone society in Vancouver).

5. Arabic-speaking students in Grade 5 and 6 classes in France: constructing identities in the micro-organization of the classroom. Cécile Sabatier, Simon Fraser University

Cécile Sabatier presents data from a 2-year study in France that focused on how Arabic-speaking students in Grade 5 and 6 are constructing, through their discourses, their identities in the micro-organization of the classroom. The presentation investigates students’ processes of multilingual identity construction by focusing on how schools contribute to the building of a pluralistic society and on the documentation of attitudes to bi-/ multilingualism in families, schools and communities.

The data will also illustrate how the different actors in the classroom make the initially collective entity obsolete, thus challenging traditional theoretical frameworks. It will be argued that there is a need for a redefinition of the role that schools play in dealing with complexity, migration, language and society.

6. Conclusion

The themed panel will end with a concluding section that brings together the common threads of the 5 presentations, at the same time answering the 4 discussion questions set out at the introduction. This will lead to an open discussion with the audience relating to the wider relevance of the issues raised.