AAAL 2024: Invited Colloquium

Exploring multilingualism from diverse research and methodological perspectives: Enacting equitable multilingualism


Yumi Matsumoto, University of Pennsylvania

Colloquium Abstract

This colloquium explores multilingualism broadly and holistically by putting together research from diverse domains (involving micro, meso, and/or macro levels) and conceptual and methodological approaches. Such transdisciplinary and transmethodological exploration helps us understand the multifaceted and interconnected nature of multilingual phenomena and to consider possibilities and challenges for enacting “equitable multilingualism” (e.g., Hornberger & Hult, 2008; Ortega, 2019). 
Researchers (e.g., Douglas Fir Group, 2016; May, 2014) have argued for the importance of promoting multilingualism and have underscored the significance of understanding interrelated layers of language learning and teaching. However, current educational and societal conditions—for example, the global emphasis on English-based norms for communicative and writing practices, are still often based on monolingualism (see Matsumoto, 2022). Thus, this colloquium becomes a space where applied linguists can illustrate the multifaceted characteristics of monolingualism and/or multilingualism situated in particular contexts, including individual activities (micro-), institutional/community practices (meso-), and societal/ideological discourse (macro-), with goal of suggesting possible alternative educational and societal practices for equitable multilingualism. To enact equitable multilingualism, we attempt to incorporate perspectives from decoloniality and epistemologies of the South (e.g., Mignolo & Walsh, 2018; Pennycook & Makoni, 2019), which enables us to reconceptualize multilingualism based on localized, multiple epistemologies rather than hegemonic monolingual ideologies. By bringing together divergent research (namely, multilingual writing/composition, language assessment, linguistic landscape, and foreign/world language education), this colloquium can deepen our understanding of multifaceted characteristics of multilingualism and/or monolingualism, illuminate realities related to monolingualism and multilingualism (including multimodal phenomena) in diverse contexts, and then seektransdisciplinary discussion and collaboration for enacting equitable multilingualism.

Pursuing transdisciplinary dialogue and collaboration for enacting equitable multilingualism and multimodal norms 

Yumi Matsumoto, University of Pennsylvania
Daisuke Kimura, Waseda University

Abstract: This opening presentation lays the conceptual foundation for this colloquium by making a case for the importance of transdisciplinary dialogue and collaboration in enacting multilingual, multimodal norms. Our goals are to (a) facilitate more collaboration among researchers who work on and for multilingual and multimodal norms from diverse research traditions (e.g., ELF, translingualism) and transmethodological approaches (e.g., linguistic landscape, conversation analysis) and to (b) create synergy among transdisciplinary fields that share the critical mission of enacting multilingual, multimodal norms within and beyond language classrooms. Moreover, we attempt to incorporate decolonial and Southern epistemological perspectives (e.g., Mignolo & Walsh, 2018; Pennycook & Makoni, 2019), which allows us to reconceptualize multilingualism (‘elitist’ multilingualism) more critically and to enact it as equitable multilingualism for all (Hornberger & Hult, 2008; Ortega, 2019). 
To illustrate meaningful transdisciplinary dialogue that can be used to confront shared problems (e.g., monolingualism), we introduce two examples. First, we discuss the interrelationship between multilingual theories—English as a lingua franca (ELF) and translingualism—by employing complex dynamic systems theory’s (CDST) holistic theoretical viewpoints (Matsumoto & Kimura, under review). Adopting insights from translingualism and CDST, we argue, generates many affordances for applied linguistics; these affordances include providing researchers with a more holistic, coherent approach to language, communication, and language learning without attaching unqualified importance to English—namely, decentering English (see also Matsumoto & Kubota, forthcoming, rethinking ELF from decolonial perspectives). Second, we demonstrate how dialogue between microanalysis (e.g., conversation analysis) and decolonial theories may promote equitable multilingualism in (English) language education (Kimura & Tsai, 2023). Decolonial mindsets, along with an illustration of flexible, multilingual communicative practices in local contexts, can advance pedagogical transformation for decolonizing English language teaching/learning practice. Ultimately, we see transdisciplinary dialogue and collaboration as the path for achieving the social needs of—and justice for—allmultilingual populations.

Languaging for justice: Learning from racialized multilingual students’ embodied and affective languaging

Eunjeong Lee, University of Houston

Abstract: This presentation discusses language-minoritized students’ critical embodied and affective languaging—or meaning-making and sense-making practices and processes in the material world—against white-gaze, English-only, monolingual ideologies. As many language and literacy scholars working from decolonial and Southern epistemologies have argued, justice for marginalized communities can be enacted by refusing the colonial norms or ideologies and thinking “otherwise” (Tuck, 2009; Mignolo, 2000; Mignolo & Walsh, 2018). And often, language-minoritized students bring critical embodied knowledge and experience of the oppressive ideologies (de los Ríos, 2021; Seltzer, 2019). As language and literacy scholars continue to work toward equitable and just education, research on multilingualism and multimodality must account for language-minoritized students’ embodied and affective practice—namely, “the simultaneously cognitive, perceptual, and emotional experience of embodied encounter with the material world” (Bucholtz et al., 2018, p. 3) that resists harmful ideologies.
Following Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and other scholars of color whose work emphasizes bodily ways of knowing (Baker-Bell, 2020; González Ybarra & Saavedra, 2021; San Pedro, 2017), this presentation aims to amplify language-minoritized students’ affective languaging of thinking “otherwise” for their own and their communities’ language. The data come from a practitioner-inquiry project (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 2009) conducted in my first-year composition classes in Spring 2019 and 2020 in a university in the northeastern United States. Three classroom compositions by bilingual students, semi-structured interviews, and my teacher–researcher journal were analyzed, focusing on the bilingual students’ composing process, rhetorical choices, and affective engagements behind the composition. The discussion highlights their affective and textual practices in centering, (re)claiming, and (re)connecting to their own and their communities’ knowing and doing language away from the raciolinguistic, English-only, monolingual ideology and spatio-temporality (or chronotype). The presentation calls for praxis that centers language-minoritized students’ and communities’ embodied languaging “toward justice” (Kinloch et al., 2020; Tuck & Yang, 2018).

Language assessment in times of expanding models and practices

Constant Leung, King’s College London

Abstract: Multilingualism has always been a constitutive—albeit often under-acknowledged—part of additional/second language education and assessment. The theme of this presentation is concerned with the possible ways in which the fundamental notions of language competence, language proficiency, and standard language in language assessment are likely to be challenged, broadened, and enriched by the current scholarship in flexible multilingualism, plurilingualism, translanguaging, and English as a Multilingua Franca. In the first part of the presentation, I will offer a brief reflexive account of the notion of language proficiency as it has been conceptualized in the international English Language Teaching enterprise, with particular reference to its default monolingual and primarily Anglo-American orientation (Leung, 2022). This will be followed by a discussion of the increasing recognition of flexible multilingualism as a component of language competence in digitally mediated and in-person communication involving participants with diverse language backgrounds, affiliations, and expertise. In addition to signposting relevant research literature, I will draw on extracts from prominent language education and assessment frameworks such as the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (in particular, the Companion Volume 2020) to acknowledge and illustrate the challenges of multilingualism. In the final part of the presentation, I will offer a view on some of the conceptual and practical affordances and challenges of embodying flexible multilingualism in the assessment of spoken and written language in contemporary ethnolinguistically diverse educational settings (e.g., schools in London). The salience of ethical and decolonizing arguments for language assessment will be noted where appropriate.

Uneven landscapes: Language and the right to the city
 Jerry Won Lee, University of California, Irvine

Abstract:  At first glance, the linguistic landscape (LL), or the language artifacts of public space, might not be seen as an apt site for critical inquiry into the intersection between multilingualism and (in)equity. After all, LL research has shown that code preference is not merely a matter of reflecting or sustaining ethnolinguistic vitality (Landry & Bourhis, 1997) but oftentimes is a matter of local commercial interests, not always analogous to local language ecologies (e.g., Ben-Rafael et al., 2010). In fact, in some contexts, multilingualism does not necessarily promote multicultural belonging but rather alienates and marginalizes certain populations (e.g., J.S. Lee, 2016). The LL, then, is inherently a problem of uneven power dynamics: who gets to decide what languages are represented in public space, and whose preferences are dismissed?
This presentation thus considers how LL research can problematize the uneven distribution of language resources in public space by attending to unexpected instances of language circulation and encounter. Drawing on what Lefebvre (1968) conceptualized as the “right to the city”—an ethos to reclaim urban space against the capitalist invention of scarcity and the exploitative production of housing inequalities—this presentation offers a translingual and transmodal approach to the LL as a potential corrective. It uses the case of the LL of global Korea, which include sites in Korea and transnational Korean communities worldwide. In so doing, it explores the renegotiation of extant language boundaries and thus, by extension, hierarchical understandings of language relations and concomitant understandings of spatial “rights.” It concludes by outlining a series of implications for research into uneven power relations in the LL of varied global contexts.

For whom and for what cause? Asian language programs in English-speaking, White-dominant America’s Midwest

Junko Mori, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Abstract:  In the discussion of “equitable bilingualism” (Ortega, 2019), foreign/world language education has often been characterized as “elite bilingualism.” Indeed, in U.S. secondary education, the enrollment in world languages has been skewed towards white, college-bound students taking European languages (Macedo, 2019). The sentiment of world language offerings as a luxury has intensified with the increased federal and state emphasis on reading/language arts, mathematics, and science, leading to a continuous decline in the percentage of students studying a language other than English (Reagan & Osborn, 2019). This trend, which encapsulates the monolingual ideology and colonial legacy ingrained in U.S. public education (Wiley & Garcia, 2016; Wright & Ricento, 2016), presents continuous challenges for less-commonly-taught language programs.
To illustrate this tension, the current presentation introduces a case study of a school district in Wisconsin that stirred a substantial controversy by announcing the discontinuation of Hmong and Japanese, while maintaining Spanish, French, German, and American Sign Language. The district administration’s announcement to eliminate the Asian languages, deemed unsustainable, immediately prompted protests from current and former students, their parents, and concerned citizens. They testified to the significance of these programs to the community and affected students, many of whom are minoritized students.
By engaging in critical discourse analysis (Fairclough, 2010; Wodak & Meyer, 2016) of documents produced by the district, letters submitted by the programs’ supporters, and transcripts of school board meetings, this study examines how competing and intersecting ideologies, including neoliberal discourses (Kubota, 2016) and raciolinguistic perspectives (Rosa & Flores, 2017), impact the district’s academic planning. It compares how the two Asian languages with distinct historical and geopolitical circumstances were situated in the debate and explores what the enactment of equitable multilingualism may look like in this specific context, as well as what actions can/should be taken by applied linguists witnessing such an incident.

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