Ideologies and Practices of Multilingualism in an Immigrant Support Organization: Micro-Macro Connections

Maria Rosa Garrido (1), Melissa Greer Moyer (2)

Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain (1) Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain (2)


Globalization and the movement of persons across national borders have brought about new sociolinguistic situations that require a macro theoretical framework (Blommaert 2000) that can account for the new multilingual practices and the ideologies that sustain these practices at an NGO dedicated to providing support to immigrants recently arrived to a town in the outskirts of Barcelona.

The present study examines the multilingual practices at a non-governmental organization in order to show how the everyday language choices and interactions that are carried out sometimes relate to conflicting ideologies between individual language use and the stated goals of the institution. The relatively recent arrival of immigrants to the bilingual community of Catalonia has brought a new multilingual diversity that has reorganized the pre-existing linguistic hierarchies where local (Spanish and Catalan) and international languages (English and French) come into play. Furthermore, the relocation of people in this context brings about new indexicalities that are locally based. English and French play a key role for intercultural communication and it is observed that African and Asian varieties of English lose their original indexicality which can be understood in a global world context and they are dismissed as inappropriate, often by institutional actors whose competence is at best equivalent or in many cases virtually nonexistent. In addition, the new immigration has reinforced the tension between the local languages, Catalan and Spanish. The government’s policy of Catalan immersion education and free Catalan classes for adults in addition to campaigns addressed to promote the use of Catalan as the welcoming language do not correspond to the actual practices observed in society nor in the NGO. Spanish is the lingua franca used with outsiders relegating Catalan to members of the Catalan-speaking community.

The results of the present study are based on ethnographic fieldwork carried out over a two month period at an NGO dedicated to providing housing, language courses and other social support to newly arrived immigrants. The data analyzed come from observations, interviews, and recordings of detailed interactions from language classes and institutional documents in different languages produced by the NGO.

Session: Paper session
Code-switching 1
Thursday, April 3, 2008, 10:30-12:00
room: 10