Join the Conversation
7 May 2019
Multilingualism and English Education
The teaching of English is often conceived in exclusively monolingual terms – whether in English-only teaching for EAL learners, or in conceptualizations of English literature as vehicle of a unified, monoglot literary and cultural heritage. As has long and persuasively been argued, the foundations of the discipline lie in linguistic and cultural prescriptivism at home (Crawford 1992; Mugglestone 1995) and the establishment of colonial authority abroad (Viswanathan 1989). On both fronts, English as a discipline has been indivisible from investment in the English language as the product of a unified and unique history and culture, and a vehicle of reason and enlightenment. These resonances can be felt, some would argue, even in the most recent iteration of the British National Curriculum (Yandell and Brady 2016).
This special issue comes at a time when monolingualist or ‘English First’ ideologies are stridently evident both in educational and wider political discourses across the ‘anglophone’ world. Nevertheless, teachers of English have long sought creative pedagogies to bridge the gap between monolingualist assumptions about English teaching, and the diverse language experiences of students in their classrooms. In linguistically complex, ‘superdiverse’ urban environments (Vertovec 2007), for example, speakers are surrounded by symbolic resources of all kinds, and often have correspondingly highly diverse language repertoires. In an increasingly digitally-connected, mediatized world, these include different forms of communication that broach the supposed divide between the linguistic and the visual, or ‘multimodality’ (Kress 2010). What does it mean, in a teaching context, to think about English as experienced in the presence of many different kinds of language? And what does this insight into language have to offer us in the teaching of English literature? What does it do, for that matter, to our understanding of the discipline itself? Some would argue that this is a distinctly modernist way of thinking about language: that TS Eliot, James Joyce or Jean Rhys got there before us (Taylor-Batty 2013). Others would contend that ‘the English language’ has always operated in this way, and that multilingualism was as much a feature of early modern English as it is in the 21st century. How, too, might we learn from pioneering attempts at creative pedagogies in response to these questions – for example the Inner London Education Authority’s Afro-Caribbean Language and Literacy Project (1984-1992), or the California Association for Bilingual Education (1976-)?
We hope that this special issue will confront and celebrate the potential that language diversity brings to the teaching of English in all its forms. We welcome submissions which engage with the relationship between language diversity and English teaching from early years onwards. These might include:
- Empirically-grounded work exploring the role and practices of teachers, and/or the experiences and practices of students, in linguistically diverse classroom settings.
- Studies of English pedagogies that place multilingualism at their centre.
- Explorations of English curricula or teaching materials in relation to language diversity.
- Explorations of the histories, role or practices of organisations, texts, or teachers that illuminate the relationship between English and language diversity.
We welcome writing (research-based, reflective, creative, or any combination of these) from researchers and practitioners at all stages of education, in the UK and internationally. Please feel free to discuss any proposed submissions with the Guest Editor, Rachael Gilmour.
Please prepare your submission in line with the journal’s guidelines for authors, available here. Submissions should be made via our ScholarOne site by 7 May 2019. Please select the correct ‘Special Issue’ as the Manuscript Type.
Crawford R (1992) Devolving English Literature. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
Kress (2010) Multimodality: A Social Semiotic Approach to Contemporary Communication. London and New York: Routledge.
Mugglestone L (1995) Talking Proper: The Rise and Fall of the English Accent as a Social Symbol. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Taylor-Batty J (2013) Multilingualism in Modernist Fiction. Basingstoke: Palgrave.
Vertovec S (2007) ‘Super-Diversity and Its Implications’, Ethnic and Racial Studies 30:6, 1024–1054.
Viswanathan G (1992) Masks of Conquest: Literary Study and British Rule in India. Columbia University Press.
Yandell J and Brady M (2016) ‘English and the politics of knowledge’, English in Education 50:1.