Friday, 11 June 2010

Paper session 12 - Migration, integration, and language education policies - stake-holders’ views to language proficiency

(by Sari Pöyhönen & Mirja Tarnanen)
I'm sorry this posting comes quite late. I hope there are people who will read this blog after the Summer School. This blog entry is reporting the main points of the paper presented with some ‘exclamations and questions coming from the writer’. Sari Pöyhönen promised to send the PP-slides of the presentation for those who ask it via email.

On language situation in Finland
Finland is often described as a bilingual but otherwise rather homogenous country, yet this has never been true. First of all, Finland has always been multilingual. Finland is also often seen consisting of ‘the majority and the minorities’, and we often forget how heterogeneous the minorities are.

These misconceptions may are partly caused by the statistics that do not reflect the facts. For example, when reporting the mother language, people have to choose ONE language to be reported as their mother tongue.

Finnish migration policy
At the moment Finnish integration act is being elaborated, yet here are some points that were brought up: In Finland, laws many often treat migrants as monolingual people. There has been strong criticism against policy: It is assimilation, not integration. Low success in target language (meaning of course, Finnish!) has been also criticized heavily.

Aims: analysing migration policy with the data that consists of expert interviews conducted in 2009 (Ministry of the Interior, Ministry of Employment and the Economy, local settings with coordinators of migration and integration education for adult immigrants and language educators working in integration education) and media data (national and local newspaper oct 2008 – oct 2009).

The key questions were:

1) How is language proficiency constructed by the experts in discussing integration to Finnish society, especially in terms of labour market?
2) What kinds of definitions of language proficiency and integration are represented in the media discussion?

Content analysis and discourse analysis were used as the methods for analyzing the data. The focus in the analysis was: How language proficiency is understood and how sufficient proficiency for different purposes is verbalized?

Pöyhönen and Tarnanen approach integration mainly from the political point of view and how it is represented through discourse. Integration can be seen as a two-way phenomenon (both the influence of the ethnic minority and immigrant receiving population) – in this paper the majority’s perspective is in the focus, yet doesn’t ignore the minority.

Findings from experts’ views
The experts gave language proficiency various meanings that can be divided in four categories:

1. Requirement: the language is an asset to integrate into the labour market, it is a sign of being a qualified worker. You have it or not, language proficiency has two ‘states’: on and off.
2. Tool: tool to integrate into other spheres of life, not an absolute value. Obviously proficiency in Finnish is the tool, other languages are not mentioned.
3. Ownership and linguistic market place: languages hierarchies became visible, the ‘order’ seems to be: national languages, English, migrants’ native languages. Finnish as a lingua franca – a problematic resource, which becomes apparent in this quote (by ministry expert) “We have examples of migrants who socialize with each other in who knows what kind of insufficient Finnish, and thus cannot make progress with their language skills”.
4. Grammar & normativity: emphasis on knowing rules, vocabulary and pronunciation, “When you teach grammar, you teach society as well”.

The experts saw immigrants as two groups: asylum seekers, refugees OR work-based immigrants. Probably stating the obvious, this polarized view, I must say, is exactly the same among ordinary Finns. However, when talking about ‘immigrants’ people tend to talk only about the first group after which they probably remember ‘the other group’ which preferably is a highly educated English speaker working in the field of technology. (I can’t help that this paper provoked all the voices of stereotyping in me the Finns have on immigrants.)

The immigrants were also seen as ‘at-risk groups’, such as elderly (defined as people over 50!), adolescent drop-outs, frustrated academics and some ethnic groups.
The experts also pointed out some ‘ideal groups’ which are quickly adjustable professional qualifications, motivated and stubborn language learners as well as positive workers.
--> Language proficiency (of course in Finnish) as a key determinant of various groups.

In the media data four levels of policy was recognised

1. Migration policy
2. Labour policy
3. Education policy: integration education how it is unsuccessful, do they need to learn Swedish,
4. Cultural policy: multiculturalism, language proficiency VS. multilingualism “concentrate on Finnish”

What gets obvious, again, is that when talking about language profiency of the immigrants, the discussion is on THE language, Finnish. Successful immigration is not seen as a two way process, but instead it is the immigrants who are the only one’s playing the active role and reason to failure, when it happens. In addition, the assimilation should happen as quickly as possible.

Taking a short-cut to some other concluding thoughts, in a bullet list:
• Language proficiency as an on-off phenomenon (other language skills are ignored, and for example, using both English and Finnish is not a sign of language knowledge, but rather seen as messy language usage)
• Threshold level B1 vs. lifelong learning process: Possibilities to develop language proficiency before and after B1 (CEFR), Who sets the goals and for what?

My own thoughts went (again) to the D/deaf in Finland because for me situation of deaf immigrants highlights some of the problems pointed in this paper. In a case of a deaf immigrant, depending on the country the person is coming from, it can’t be taken for granted that the person has a ‘system for communication’ that can be defined as a language or languages at all. Who have the tools to recognize what languages is that person using? Does that person have a language to communicate with possibly family members? Is it our concern to provide the family with a language they can share? What are the spoken languages the person has been using before? Which medium of those languages is used, spoken or written? What language a deaf person needs in order to become a happy, active citizen in Finnish society? What is the group the person wants to identify in Finland – which group is most likely to provide him/her with support and social life? (In many cases it is the group of Finnish sign language users, yet it is important to know that this person does not have skills in Finnish sign language and that Finnish sign language is not a signed version of Finnish.) And more and more questions… which take me to a question: What kind of similarities do other minorities (inside minorities) have with this case I have in my mind? What kind of participation (and with what languages) is actually the most beneficial for immigrants and ‘the receiving country’ when not demanding “as fast as possible, as little money as possible”, i.e. with a very short-sighted attitude?

Thursday, 10 June 2010

“Workshop on Wednesday: “Tell me how you talk” by Christine Hélot

In the workshop we got to know about language diversity at primary level in France by getting to know about a school project ('The Didenheim project') in Alsace.

Here are some links that I found about the research project.

and a report as a pdf-document:

In short: The project was a language awareness and intercultural project in a small primary school. The project was launched because of the increase of racist incidents in the school.
What was done, was to have session led by the parents of the children (many immigrants), the sessions were of each languages, kind of 'a taste of language'. The objectives of the project were " To bring the children into contact with other languages and to sensitise them to te use of languages, to familiarize the children with other cultures through the presentation of festivals, traditions, costumes, geography…, and last but not least to promote the acceptance of differences, to learn about others and to attempt to break down stereotypical misconceptions."

In the workshop we watched one of two films made on the project: A professional documentary directed by Mariette Feltin (2008). There are two versions of it: Raconte-moi ta language and Tell me how you talk, which comes with English subtitles. The film is the directors view on the project and not 'a research report' as such.

(A clip of the film in Youtube.)

As a research, this was an ethnographic study where participant observation, interviews, questionnaires and ministerial directives and documents were the main sources of data. Analysis had 2 dimensions: cognitive and social.

The film showed many striking impacts the project had to the school and the whole village: Through parents participation the families got very dedicated to the project, and parents' ethnic minorities were empowered. The collaboration between the teachers and the parents got better. Children were motivated to participate, and we got to see many comments of these 'budding linguists' analysing the languages they got to explore. For example, a comment from a pupil after a few classes of parent-guided lessons "Is French also a language then?" shows, in my own opinion, a very profound 'a light-bulb flashing' moment.

For me, it was really interesting to hear that French sign language was one of the languages involved in the project (among 17 spoken languages). I wonder, what extra did a visuo-spatial language add in? Doesn't it hit some other nerve than what any spoken language do since it uses a different medium than spoken languages? We, the hearing people, are so used to the idea that language IS spoken and oral, that getting in contact with signed language makes us seriously think *what* is language. At least that is what happened to me when I first got in contact with Finnish sign language. I wonder, how did the children react to the modality of French sign language and what links did they discover between this particular sign language and the other 17 languages they got a taste of.

Some posters

A few pictures and titles of posters that were on display at our Summer School. When you click the image, you should be able to see the poster in larger size.

Nandi, Anek: Restoration of linguistic diversity in India through the preservation of tribal languages: Reality and myth

The vicious circle in Nandi's poster

Hakobyan, Tatevik: Language policy development in Armenia: Pros and cons

Skinnari, Kristiina: What kind of possibilities does elementary school EFLlearning offer to te formation of fifth and sixth graders' learner identities?

A bit of data in Skinnari's poster.

Akira Nakayama's poster on EFL for school children in Japan: New challenges in elementary schools. The writer himself is on the right hand side. Vivid discussion around his poster during the break invited me to take this picture.

Paper session 11 on Wednesday: Danish only? The case of bottom-up policies in the Danish public school system

Hanne Juel Solomon's paper presented a study on 'internationale linies', optional lines in the public schools that have other other languages of instruction than Danish, English. These lines actually are not approd as mainstream education because they contradict the official policy is very clearly "Danish only" for education.

In practice there private schools are able to do this because, first of all, they are private and secondly, the education policy provides local authorities to have great deal of autonomy.

There are four of these international lines, yet non of these are mentioned on the ministry's official websites. The programmes do not work together, there is no formaladmission criteria, yet they have to follows Danish curriculum and the students have to take the Danish final exam which is given to them in Danish only.

In this study, the aim was to find out what these lines are, what do they aim for and how come do they exist since the education policy is "Danish only"? In order to find answers for these questions, Hanne Jueal Solomon had interviewed local politicians, school leaders, teachers and pupils and conducted observations and questionnaires. Also newspaper articles and other documentations where used as data for this study.

Some interesting findings are listed here shortly:

  • the lines had had a positive impact for the municipalities the located at
  • the lines had changed the atmoshpehre at the school for the better according to the school leaders.
  • the teachers were proud to be involved in programmes such as these. They didn't base their views on any academic research or theory, neither did they have knowledge of CLIL.
  • Students were highly motivated to study everything in English.

How is it possible then to have these lines that are not basically allowed at all in Denmark? Obviously, had it been another language than English, the officials had done more to stop it. One reason might be that the schools they are in locate 'in the periphery', not close to the big cities. The lines also create a positive image to municipalities and school and make the towns more appealing for new families to move in.

What is interesting for us, is that this is a clear example of a 'language policy from below', and the obvious case of "What can be done in a prestigious language as English cannot be easily done with some other languages".



Clara Keating: Language provision and the state

Mother tongue education in two contexts:

1. Portuguese residents in UK (adult, female)
2. Eastern Europeans in Portugal (children, Russian-based community school; integration of students of non-Portuguese descent within the Portuguese educational system)

Clara takes a counterhegemonical, critical look into language provision and state (and as Clara said, her first attempt at linking language policy).

The need of nation states to provide its language worldwide -- where are loyalties, who are we giving privilegies to? Imagine links between research, practice, policies, and the underlying ethics!

The monolingual national Portuguese situation encourages blindnesses (similar in several European nation states). There is tension between centres and peripheries everywhere. Clara also wanted to acknowledge the Portuguese associates and colleagues working with her (sorry, I could not get your names!)

Bipolar position of Portuguese migration:

1. long standing history of emigration
2. European identity as howt of immigration
=> Portuguese migration as a hub - import/export of labour force
but what about the colonial history?
=> Post-colonial and diasporic perspective of the Portuguese language
=> Multiple positions from which to reflect on Portuguese
  • lg of agency (dialogue, creating informal alternatives to dominant states of affaires
  • lg of structure (maintaining national and lusophon space, strongly influenced by monolingual language practice)
  • lg of mobility (escaping mobility, finding hegemonical gaps, creating lines of flight
In looking at micro-meso-micro, we need to look at histories! How to reach over the macro-meso-micro? => look at the different actors and their links, loyalties etc.

Portuguese in UK: started out as grassroots initiatives (Portuguese teachers and parents in London), went on to become a massive "industry" => links between state and community. Does this create tension?

Russian in Portugal: from home schools to institutional schools ("Cultural local association"); but should they be part of mainstream educational system?

How do these two groups compare?

We seem to have different scales of recognition and investment. In practice, we need to improve waqys of engaging interactive dialogue between community schools and mainstream education. We also have to assume messiness going on in spaces of multilingualism, including classrooms! => different language, migrant, professional trajectories.

This was a story of structure. How can we imagine the story of agencies? Trajectories of people, items etc. -- how do these meet? How can we as researchers imagine, what has been missed?

Question /Comment: As researchers, we seem to be stuck with the current state of affairs. We need to take into account more thoroughly. Answer: histories become more and more important as we go on.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Paper session 11: Language education policy in the UK


Language education policy in the UK: Is English the elephant in the room?

(by Dr Ursula Lanvers, Open University, UK)

(And elephant in the room is a metaphor describing something that people are aware of existing, but are uncomfortable to talk about and rather avoid the subject)

In short:
There is a contradiction between what is said and what is happening. In other words, even though officially there's a lot of talk and 'action' promoting the people in UK learn foreign languages, people don't do so. Why is that? Have the attempts to increase language take-up been serious enough? Do people in UK actually think that it is essential and necessary for the UK to raise profiency in foreign languages?

In her research, Ursula Lanvers, has come to a conclusion that there is a assumption that English alone is enough and people in general are not at all convinced that there is need to promote other languages.

Language education policies

There has been many goverment initiatives (The National Languages Strategy for England, 2002: Languages for all: languages for life)
supporting community languages, promoting careers by promoting languages at work etc.

Reports and reviews:

The Dearing Report, 2007 with some recommendations.
Nuffield Enquiry 2000, conclusion: 'English is not enough', with several recommendations towards that, (e.g language supremo)
National Languages Strategy, 2002

Lots have happened on Secondary sector too:

2004: 14+ compulsory language learning abolished in England
GCSE results: 71% of pupils achieved Grade A* – C grades in 2009
Steady increase from 1994 (about 53%) to 2009

  • A level = ISCED level 3 results:

Those who do language for A levels get very high grades in general. Huge increase of good marks especially on languages.

Multilingual UK – Community languages
14.3% of primary school children and 10,6% of secondary school children speak a first language other than English (2008)

  • UK Language skills: some figures Eurobarometer 2006 are quite embarrassing for the UK, for example: Average number of foreign languages studied at school per student:
  • A level: UK 0,1, while Finland 2,7

For Primary languages there is no curriculum – only suggested framework
Other weaknesses:

  • no specialist teachers
  • very narrow selection of languages ( 2008: French 89% school, Spanish 25%, German 10%)

Community languages

  • very few take "community language GCSE"
  • Low uptake, low status

High education sector

Many language department s have been closed, (UWE, Belfast, Sussex) and language programmes have been closed.
The rhetoric is politically correct, has emphasis on qualifications not proficiency and there are initiatives and reports on this subject, BUT the reality is rather different.

When looking at the news and media texts some interesting discourses start to emerge.
UK poor linguistic skills are recognized there (One headline: "UK heads for bottom of the class for poor linguistic skills")
and also the students voices echo this. In many ways the students are well ahead of what the politicians have figured out.
The students are highly aware of negative attitude towards languages and about the fact that global English demotivates them.

"English is enough – English language is the global language" –assumption seems to emerge here and there, although it is never mentioned in any official papers.
For example Gordon Brown has said (2008), "… If you have skills, educated in Britain, you can work almost anywhere in the world", which obviously refers to the language.

What to do?

Some suggestions:

  • acknowledge global English as potential threat and demotivator to UK language learning
  • address the fallacy publicly: losses to UK

In the discussion and comments coming from the audience, it was noted that it would be very important not to raise awareness only among the citizens but also of the politicians too.
What about language marketing for spreading multilingualism?
As it had already come evident there have already been many initiatives with good recommendations, but it has not lead to proper action – lots of words, yet not much has happened.

Workshop: Muiris O Laoire, "subaltern agency..."

Muiris started by telling about his own trajectory in language education: teacher, policy actor, researcher. HE then went on to warn the audience that he will make us work ; Great!

He explained the term "subaltern" (refers to something / someone outside the hegemonic power). HE went on to talk about his own original understanding of policy implementation (something that happens regardless of individuals, based on "policy texts"). Undertanding of policy can also be historical: "This has always been the policy"

Part I: preliminary discussion

Policy as should be (not just the new, but also the old keeps coming back as should not be) Muiris then continued to introduce a short discussion on some typical issues / questions in language in education that need / evoke policy from your own interest and perspective. We came up with different kinds of situations that dealt with multilingual education, language of instruction, writing a policy strategy, bottom up vs. top down situations etc., creating a network for policy making etc. Implementation of policies vs. dialogical creation of policies? How to create a policy space for policy making?

=> Is the policy always clear, is it named (see Lo Bianco's plenary)? We need a norm in order to create / solve a problem, but the problem of problems is that people have different understandings of the norm. Problem of "bottom up": sometimes "bottom up" supports majority views, and minorities can sometimes be better supported by top down action.

On the other hand, is there a problem or not? => is change always necessary? Policy, especially top down, implicitly assumes that change is inevitable and necessary.

Muiris went on to present Baldauf's eight components of language policy: access policy, personnel policy, curriculum policy, methods and materials policy, resourcing policy, community policuy, evaluation policy, teacher-led policy (Baldauf, Li & Zhao, 2010, Language acquisition management in and outside school. In Spolsky & Hult, The Handbook of Educational Linguistics.

The participants presented some criticism of the list (a noticeable omission of learners; the narrow understanding of community etc. Sjaak came up with a three-dimensional system of describing problems.

Part II: Looking again at implementation

IS policy implementation really just a rationalistic exercise, or should we admit that policy is also about values, emotions etc.? Policy is also about local, but the problem with traditional understanding of policy implementation that it appears to bring the global or the general to the local => this creates problems!

On the other hand, local is not just bottom up, or micro, or contextual, but a "spacial practice (Pennycook 2010:54; Language as local practice. London: Routledge). Ecample: government changes policy. Where does this "policy" become action? Does it "touch" something?

Part III: Different perspectives / orientations: policy maker and policy implementer

1. Policy decisions made based on attitude / ideology
2. Options at disposal, i.e. cost /resources, plan, evaluation...
3. participation (those who buy in to policy and will implement) => policy now named!

Part IV: Evidence from a case study

OLE (2003): Official languages act
All public institutions were expected to prepare a scheme based on this policy.

Research questions: Which social actors engage in what activities using which spaces drawing on which discourses using which discursive strategies coming to which results?

How is policy implemented? Orientation / habitus => imposed constraint => interaction / link with other spaces => economic/social constraints in agents' circulation => language as social action - consequences

Part V: Conclusions / Final discussions

Are actors active or reactive? How do they operate on the policy implementation level? CAn we get from implementation to dialogical construction of policy.

=> policy is process.

=> How can we build this into a working model of LPE? Open source policy making? Policy is imposed on someone, and that person takes that policy and starts to implement it - why? He is translating the policy into something in his / her environment?

(policy) text => trigger => creation of policy (in action -- what do people do when they do policy). We should not set up a dichotomy of policy makers and policy objects!

Session 10

Dufva, Suni, Salo & Aro:
Policy-making in the mind: A socio-cognitive approach to language education

The focus in their research project(s) is in the interplay between external policies and internal beliefs.

They have been using dialogical, systemic and ecological approach to the relationship between mind and social sphere. The presentation discusses the following questions:

  • Who is/are the policy-maker(s)?
  • Who needs languages and for what purposes?
  • Do linguistic resources of the environment function as affordances and learning opportunities?

Three cases: English, Swedish and Finnish

English is the most popular choice in primary schools (starting from 3rd grade). According to latest survey English is considered most useful language from the language learner point of view.
Student views of learning are quite traditional. Social view of language learning isn't represented. Also many of the children do not consider informal learning as learning. Many learners of Swedish are unmotivated, because they think they don't need the Swedish language.

Dufva posed many useful questions: How do learners see the language? How do learners see themselves as agents in learning process? How do learners see the learning process? It is clear that there is not only one answer to these questions, and perhaps for that reason they are so fascinating. But as usual, more research is needed.

In the end of the presentation Dufva pointed out that in addition to language policies it is important to consider pedagogical implication as well.


Abdoul Aziz Diop:
Tales of Gnostic nightmares and cases of cognitive dissonance: Another perspective on mother tongue education

Learners have a certain linguistic background when they come to school no matter where they come from, and this should not be ignored.

What kind of cognitive pitfalls do we create for children as we poorly educate them in a language that is totally foreign to them?

Furthermore, what do we lose when we teach kids with a language that they don't speak very well? What do we lose when we don't understand the culture from which learners come from?

"Nothing is impossible to understand if it is unhidden well."

I am sorry for this entry being mostly questions but as someone once said good questions are more important than answers.

English villages, English the way to prosperity and beautiful English (Tuesday workshop, part II)

In Lo Bianco's workshop on Tuesday there were several examples of language planning and policy making taking place on 'levels 2 and 3' (see my last blog entry on the same workshop) that have a huge effect on English usage and the way people see English. I want to put some of the examples in a separate blog entry, since I personally see them as very thought-provoking. (Maybe because I'm closely involved in both English teaching and Finnish Sign Language – the first one being the 'bachelor that everybody runs after' as one of my Deaf research participants described in an interview, and the latter one being the language of a very small minority whose right to use their language has many times been denied.)

- Language policy through becoming "Official" or a "mission"

Korea: "English to our 2nd language"
One interesting example and a current phenomena: English villages.
English villages, Wikipedia.

- English in China and making language policy through identity change and conflict:
"Teaching barbarian"

(An interesting curiousity: There are more Chinese English learners than there are Americans)
Special about China and English in China:

Laws are vague about the status of English in China, that makes the teachers key actors in language policies. Policies say: English is only a tool to know the world – however, in practice it seems to be a question of something more than just using a tool for something.

Recent debates in China about English have been about efficiency and identity, actually it is becoming patriotic to know English. (With English we make our country known and appreciated.)

An example of a person/a phenomena, where language policies are being made just through behaviour: Yu Minhong – "Godfather for overseas study": "English means accumulation of capital". His key message is that English as a tool for prosperity

At the same time, also in China, there is this phenomena of "Young women's inspirational English" that is seen, for example, in a very famous book Beautiful English. ("acclaimed as a book of methodology and inspiration for English learners throughout China … a self-help manual and an autobiography … " (Li, 2009)

These both offer success stories on how learning English is the key factor for gaining something desired.

On the other hand there are strong opinions about Chinese becoming the universal language instead of English.

Another example: radical new methodology "Crazy English"
"To shout out loud, you learn" (Crazy English in Wikipedia)

In the discussion someone noted that it is really happening that people are made to choose between their minority mother tongue and English. What makes them choose that way and what is gained and what is lost when doing that?

Another point made by a member of the audience: For rather monolingual, English speaking countries it is typical that people who are used to one big language it is difficult to imagine learning even more languages. As if thhere is room for your mother tongue and maybe one foreign language.

In the discussion, one 'slogan' (made by Lo Bianco) was made: It is a major disadvantage not to know English BUT it is a major disadvantage to know ONLY English.


The final points in the workshop and its vivid discussion were on teachers and their role in LP.

Lo Bianco gave example of a student–teacher interaction where teacher is doing a lot more (doing LP) when teaching orthography that was the topic of teaching. She/he was, among other things, stating what is proper language, how this view is unquestionably something that the students also have. There are unnoticed practices of teachers doing language policy. For example, what languages they pay attention to, what is recognized, talked about etc. Teachers are giving many strong messages between the lines.

When language education policies are talked about in the media, for example, one voice that is never there is the voice of experience, the teachers' voice!

Teachers have the power to neglect or take the general language policy (the 1st level of making LP) when the classroom door is closed. Only thing that matters there is the interaction between the pupils and the teachers. Teachers' voice is the most important and the most silenced when it comes to making (official) language education planning and language policy.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Workshop on Tuesday: Lo Bianco, A closer look at making and shaping language education policies and practices

In the workshop Lo Bianco guided the participants (which were merry and many!) to take a closer look at what the language education policies and practices actually consist of.

As he had introduced yesterday in his plenary, he suggest that language policies should be seen as done on three different levels:

1. A textual legal-political element, policy makers, conducted with the instruments of law and administration.

2. A discursive argumentative-rhetorical element, citizen-centred, conducted in debate, argument and persuasion;

3. A performance dimension, in the hands (or mouths) of teachers, >> linguistic choices, shaping the communicative fortunes of learners. (What actually is going on?)

In other words, we would get a better understanding of language policy and planning by seeing it as three types of activity.

1. Things that look like a law or regulation (top down)
2. Middle level: Public discourse, which can enforce or undermine the 1
3. Often unnoticed: Performative behaviour – e.g. how teachers make language policy and planning

In the workshop Lo Bianco concentrated on giving examples of the last two: public discourses and performative behaviour. Mainly because especially the third one is often unnoticed , and research tends to focus on the first one especially.

By going through examples from Australia, Bangladesh, China, Sri Lanka, Timor Leste, the United States we got a good view on how language education policy is done by politicians, media people, educators etc. and one of the main messages were that language policies in education and society come into existence through and the role of teachers and teaching.

Here are some examples (in short) that Lo Bianco gave on what talks, discourses and action that take place around language policy and planning. Even though they are not about legislation or official statements coming ‘from above’, they have a huge effect on how people think about languages, use languages and have access to languages.

AUSTRALIA: Socio-political context: What has happened during each era of prime ministers?
Varying from Australianism, cultural multiculturalism, class multiculturalism, Asia-literacy, Anglo-nationalism etc. in rather short period of time.

National debates in which language questions have featured: Should languagess ‘reflect’ the nation, or help ‘remake’ the nation?, Indigenous affairs (‘closing the gap’, rights, assimilation etc), British connections and American ties (what kind of English), Asian geography and commerce (FL teaching), Multiculturalism (what languages and why)

Five phases of language policy:
Australia has a strong tradition of getting along with multiple languages, eg. invented community interpreting!

SOUTH EAST ASIA: Rejecting English in 1956 Restoring it in 2002
For example Singapore: 1956 Unnatural to Teach in English 2002 Internationally Excellent Education in English

There has been huge changes around English in a rather short period of time!

Following these examples, there were many very, very interesting examples of what kind of a role has English language got in some countries, why and how it has gained a status that is pretty unbelievable for at least me to understand. (Yes, English, great, but is really the road to prosperity and happiness?)

For example, some minority groups in the district are are against their children being taught in the mother tongue and have demanded that their children should be taught in English instead. They think that their children will not get a competitive edge without English…
This is understandable when taken into account how they have seen teaching/the school failing with their children again and again.

[More about English and “very effective language planning around English” later..
“To Be Continued”]

Language teaching and diversity: teaching of Finnish in plurilingual context

Last workshop I participated today was about teaching Finnish as a second language.

The presenters argued that the syllabuses of finnish as a SL and as a mother tongue should communicate with each other (curriculum and teaching practices). Unfortunately this doesn’t takes place very often.

After a short intro we were grouped into three teams. Each team had their own theme that was discussed.

After a long and fruitful conversation the conclusions of each group were discussed together. Here are the brightest points:

  • Text books used in schools don’t take into consideration that FSL students tend to have diverse language skills. They know something about languages and learning languages.

  • Syllabus can be read in different ways. Some basic ideas (philosophy) are already there and with small adjustments it could support multilingual and multicultural learning environment.

  • Learner in the syllabus of mother tongue and in the syllabus of FSL: a thinking individual vs. a learner who needs to be taught.

  • Missing in mother tongue: learner's own observations in the language community

  • Foreign languages and mother tongue are quite separate subjects, FSL is located somewhere in between.

  • According to syllabus it seems that the values of a FSL learner are very much different compared to Finnish culture.

  • Languages could be presented as a whole in syllabus with a common intro.

Peppi pointed out that if the change is to take place there is a call for a larger concept (for example multiliteracies) that would encompass both different languages as well as different medium.

The exercises in text books guide students to analyze the structure not meaning. Though it depends also on teacher how the text books are being used. One critical question is the one dealing with what is being done with texts. It makes no difference whether the text is authentic or not if the activities around it are not. For example what kind of added value does it provide if objects are being searched in a text that is about Shakira? In addition to that, it’s the follow-ups that are missing.

Last but not least we talked about literacy in syllabus. I pointed out that often when dealing with FSL students literacy is not seen as a social practice but as an individual mechanic performance. This makes no sense because even though the level of learner’s language skills is not high rather complex things can be said or read. It may require some support but isn’t that what language competence is about – getting things done.

When the janitor standing at the door indicated that we should leave the room, Eija concluded the discussion and argued that perhaps supporting plurilingualism is not about new tasks but rather a new way of thinking, a new point of view for current contents.

The role of languages at Finnish universities

In the beginning Sabine Ylönen presented shortly the structure and motivation of the study. Ylönen argued that in the long run the role of other languages than English has decreased.

One of the questions asked in the research was how important are different languages considered in a university working environment by the staff.

Even though most of the participants considered different language skills important, many of them meant English.

It is interesting that university staff do master (fluently or not) 4—5 languages but they are not interested in using them for academic purposes.

In the end Ylönen posed two questions:

1) What is the advantage of academic multilingualism?
2) How can academic multilingualism be promoted?

The power of English has definitely been one of the most discussed topics in this conference.

Paper session 4

In the beginning of her presentation Sabine Fiedler posed a question of English as a scientific lingua franca. This is definitely a question that concerns Finnish language as well. Lately there has been a lot of discussion whether Finnish is losing its position as a language of science.

Or from another point of view, does using English endanger (the idea of) multilingualism?


  • New terms more a reflection of problems than a way to solve them
  • English as a “native-culture-free code” attempt to justify the hegemony of English
  • English not a genuine lingua franca >>> disadvantages


Coleman continued with his topic that was in part dealing with the same theme. In the beginning he asked why Irish people speak English rather than Irish and why Finnish people speak Finnish instead of Swedish? Coleman as a historian was convinced that the answer was to be found in history of these two languages.

It was interesting that there have been remarkable changes in the amounts of speakers of Swedish and Irish.

Coleman argued that in case of Irish, what has happened could be called a suicide of a language. The Irish people practically gave up their language.

The following quote probably emphasizes well the bottom line: “The Irish people loved their language but they loved their children more.”

For further reading: You Might All Be Speaking Swedish (2009)


In his presentation Olli-Pekka Salo discussed the state of the official languages in Finland.

In recent years there has been less interest in language studies in basic education. Is it the mandatory Swedish that is the root of all evil?

When it comes to public discussion about the mandatory Swedish, there are various voices about the Swedish for all. Swedish speaking personnel is needed but there is also a need for wider variety of language skills.

Arguments often misplaced. Does giving up from mandatory Swedish at school equal with putting an end to Finland’s bilingualism? Does optional Swedish guarantee that a wider range of languages will be studied in future?

In the end of his presentation Salo discussed the future of basic education. It seems that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Session 6: family language policy

Xiao Lan Curdt-Christiansen opened by presenting her study of family language planning and its links with macro policies. Family language planning cannot be looked at without a look at the bigger, societal picture. Her context is SIngapore, where there exists a policy of "public" English (langiuage of schooling, official domain) and "restricted" mother tongue (four designated mother tongues; for instance only Mandarin for all ethnic Chinese).

From her data, we see that a lot of families use English also in home situations, although a lot of families seem to be bilingual. From different evidence, it seems that as English is the language of schooling, and things like cultural identity and allegiance do not figure high in the parents' values and actions. It seems that "bilingual policy" (English + one of the designated "Mother Tongues") brings about educational and cultural homogenisation.

Question: Are there examinations in mother tongue? Yes, there are examinations, but the policy is changed very often and the status is not high.

Question: is there any questioning of the system? Of course there are critical people, but the rumour ;) is they are recruited to develop the system and made into part of system!

Question: what kind of an understanding of Mother Tongue does this kind of a system create? For instance Chinese: all other versions except Mandarin gradually seem to vanish.

Next, Ya-ling Chang discussed language ideologies among parents of New Taiwanese children. It seems that South-East Asian languages (usually the mother's) are not transmitted to children. Her data dealt with the situation of the languages of Vietnamese female spouses in Taiwanese families. She looks at her data from the point of view of language ideologies and (critical) discourse analysis.

Data was recordings of informal interviews with mothers in their 20s and 30s.

It seems that Vietnamese has the nature of the economy, of future work possibilities in Vietnam (economic capital) but not as social capital and not within Taiwan. Mandarin seems to provide the capacity for social advancement and education; Vietnamese has not comparable social status.

Questions: Have you interviewed children of Vietnamese, in order to find out their views? Not yet.

Question: What is the mother tongue in Taiwan? Younger ones shifting to Mandarin. There are different definitions for Mother tongue (for instance "home language"). Mandarin is the language of instruction.

Martinyuk -- Supranational level of language education policies

Waldemar Martyniyk from ECML started by briefly describing the role of the Council of Europe( (as opposed to the Council of the European Union,
He then went on to point out that the linguistic and cultural diversity of Europe is a fact, and claimed that it is not a problem to be solved, but offers potential to benefit from.

Martyniuk then discussed the idea of plurilingualism ("plurilingual people living in multilingual societies"). He referred here to the concept of "languaging" the world -- plurilingualism allows for different ways of conceptualising the world.

Plurilingual education, then, aims at producing competencies and skills that, in turn, help produce unrestricted access to good quality education, which, in turn, is a prerequisite for societal cohesion and democratic participation.
Martyniyk suggests that there has been a clear shift towards more supportive policy for "additional languages" in Europe. It seems, however, that at the level of practice, the developments have been somewhat uneven. The Council of Europe is now shifting its focus towards a wider understanding of languages into "languages of schooling" (language competencies required for schooling); not just foreign or classical languages, but regional, minority and migration languages, as well as language as a subject or language(s) in other subjects. This would put all language competence(s) on top of the picture.
Next, Martyniuk went on to discuss different documents and tools for plurilingual and intercultural education (CEFR, ELP, EPOSTL, CARAP, Manual for CEFR, Autobiography Intercultural Encounters).
Questions from the audience:
CEFR has been adapted outside Europe (although it has been developped for Europe); what's your view on this? Answer: Martyniuk sees no problem with that; the concept seems usefult independently of continent. The simplicity of scale is both attractive and dangerous. Maybe it would need to be developped further, to allow for different global understandings.
Co-operation between Council of Europe and the European Council? The major challenge in the difference in the ways in which the organisations operate, the differences in structures. The legal status of the Union has changed with the Lisbon Treaty.
Languages of schooling model: C of E intends to extend the idea of language education beyond the group of foreign languages. Intention of creating a platform of language experts, not just foreign language teachers.
Some references:
The language policy division (
European Charter for Regional anjd Minority Languages (
Language Portfolio (
European Centre for Modern Languages (
European Language Gazette (

Monday, 7 June 2010

Language policies in municipalities

The workshop begun with a discussion around the following topics:
- How decision making takes places in municipalities
- Is it possible to influence the language education in municipalities

A workshop participant shared an experience of a CLIL teaching that took place in Espoo as an initiative that that was taken by the parents.

Interesting point was the one about the outsourced politics that situates also the language education into a new context. Who makes the decisions? Whose voice is heard?

Taina Saarinen pointed out that in media there are mainly two kinds of discussion around language resource questions. One is about language skills as opportunity for future, another states that teaching languages is expensive.

Short background presentation dealt also with such things as motivation, values and attitudes. Even if the young people consider language skills valuable how can it be seen in practice? Do they choose more languages in schools? Do we as educators and policy makers support that kind of development or do we just want our students into work life as soon as possible? Do we encourage students to take different paths? As the conference title suggests one might ask “who needs languages” and for what purposes?

Interesting discussion aroused around the topic. For example the following topics were discussed:

  • Pisa research vs. children’s wellbeing in schools – a paradox?
  • Question of equality: when there is no chance to provide some languages in smaller schools they are not provided in bigger schools either. Could ICT make any difference?
  • Languages as skills vs. languages as tools
  • Assessment practices: even though we have all kinds of ideals what language teaching could be we still evaluate students with traditional methods
  • Language as a social practice
  • Teachers as language policy agents – can they make a change?
  • Continuum of language teaching and learning; what if one moves to another city?
  • Question of schools’ image: could and should the schools specialize when it comes to language teaching?

Part II - Workshop - Regimes of Portuguese in different multilingual contexts in Europe

The two groups are now desperately (?) trying to get inside the two mindsets and contexts: the Portuguese speakers in London and the Russian/Ukranians in Portugal and identify the role of the different trajectories in the literacy practices/events/artefacts and in their narratives. The instances of mobility should be identified and the rhizomatic nature of the narratives discovered. The people are also encouraged to compare and constrast their own experiences with the biographical data on the handouts.

The group reported that they had been been discussing for instance the following: the migrations cannot be considered as on homogenous group but they should be given their own voice to state where you belong (a community idea rather than a fixed group), the myth of return, the economic value of literacy in community languages, the Eastern European situation in Portugal is a lot younger and the value of the local language vs. own language is different, and also the parents' background and ambitions matter. Clara closed the session with a short discussion on methodological issues, how to research a multifaceted and a complex area as this. No simple answers and nothing conclusive to post here.
Sorry for the messy summary, this hasn't been a simple task :)

Workshop - Regimes of Portuguese in different multilingual contexts in Europe

Clara Keating and Olga Solovava (hello Olga, at a distance!) lead the workshop participants through a multifaceted, multispaced existence of the Portuguese language. Their exploration draws upon literacy research, integration ideologies in education policies and uses a critical sociolinguistic and ethnography approach. Deleuze and his idea of rhizomatic analysis is also a part of the exploration. It is comparative work, but with a very deep understanding of the uniqueness of each place and position. The two data sets come from London (European Portuegese speakers, Group 2) and Eastern European migrants (Ukranian/Russian, Group 1) in Portugal.

The bipolar position of Portuguese migration needs to be understood as the basis and underlying fact. Different temporalities, different understandings and different multiliteracies of the language due to a longstanding history
of emigration.

Then audience was divided into two groups according to the two focus groups. People were to choose which identity they would adapt. Clara gave a policy/societal backdrop for each group. The groups have now initiated their work and I will pause to post this entry. Just in case Olga is online and would like to say something to us here. More soon!

Mind the gap! Young immigrants in national and local language education policies in Finland

Minna Suni begun her presentation arguing that there is a gap between national and local policies.

Plurilingualism has increased in Finnish schools starting from early 1990’s. Nowadays there are give or take 50,000 students whose L1 is other than Finnish, Swedish or Sámi.
Russian and Estonian are the largest immigrant groups by native language in Finland.

The study reported in presentation is about how multilingualism is encountered in Finnish schools.

Background: a collection of problems from teachers at in-service training programs. Focus on the teacher perspective as distinct from previous research.

Functional bilingualism set as a goal of all immigrant education (both young and adults)

According to policy texts students whose native language is not Finnish, Swedish or Sámi receive instruction in Finnish as second language. And as the possibilities allow, immigrants also receive instruction in their own native tongues. But is it really so? Is L1 instruction available? What means “as the possibilities allow” in practice?

Suni and her colleague found out that there are differences between schools and municipalities. In many cases, no mother tongue instruction is provided.

Another problem is that when L1 instruction is organized, student doesn’t attend it. One reason for not attending is that families are not interested in L1 instruction and that’s why they don’t send their kids there. Also there are timetable problems.

Teachers that participated in the study told that the lack of language skills is a common topic at their meetings but there is no willingness to give resources for FSL instruction.

The status of FSL instruction: teacher voices

“FSL is considered to be between special education and remedial teaching.”

“The class teacher takes his/her student away from FSL lesson every now and then because he/she has more meaningful activities to offer.”

“One might say say that the student has to be present in “real finnish L1 classes” to avoid lagging behind.”

Where are we now?

Multilingualism has become an inevitable part of the daily life at Finnish schools and
teaching arrangements have developed, knowledge and experience have accumulated.
All in all, general awareness has increased.

However, equality can be questioned: educational arrangements are not tailored for all. Despite the good news, there are still challenges to face.

In the discussion came up one interesting point: Teachers are not always aware of the languages their students master and they don’t always know whether the student is a native speaker or a second language speaker.

The first plenary: A text, some debate, and the talk of teachers: Dimensions, problems and rights in language education planning today by Lo Bianco

[This talk is available in Moniviestin: click here.]

Here are some points I picked up for my first blog entry:

Lo Bianco started off with a critical question: What do teachers (and others) who are dealing with multilingualism in everyday context actually do compared to what they are said to do? Do language policy makers recognize those practices?
Taking that account he is working towards a new conceptualization of language planning.
1. A textual legal-political element, policy makers, conducted with the instruments of law and administration.
2. A discursive argumentative-rhetorical element, citizen-centred, conducted in debate, argument and persuasion;
3. A performance dimension, in the hands (or mouths) of teachers, >> linguistic choices, shaping the communicative fortunes of learners. (What actually is going on?)

He showed very interestingly how language planning and language policy making has been around already very early in the history, in various forms: Verbal policing, i.e. stating what language(s) can be talked and where for verbally cleansed space, or wanting to break the hold of traditional culture by doing language politics on genre (by Plato).

One effective tradition of European language planning is to name the language after the ethnic national group, “Create a nation by inventing a new language first and name it after the collectivity”. This tradition is also related to how many times multilingualism is seen as a threat for creating a sovereign state. Multiple languages create mayhem and war. It is thought that one language creates peace on earth.

When talking looking at language planning texts it is important to pay attention on what is named as a key problem. When key problems are named there are some interesting points that affect how the problem is formulated:
What is counted as literacy. Documents of ‘black on white’ or are graphs and other multimodal texts included at all when people talk about literacy? When talking about literacy skills and 100% rates of literacy it would be interesting to ask who is actually fully literate when reading, for example, a phone bill or patterns for making clothes?

What about different groups and their literacy skills? For example all Australians have variable literacy, so the question is: Can there be a comprehensive policy for general literacy improvement?

Lo Bianco wrapped up his talk by stating that language policy in the future should be more public:
public texts, public discourse (debate, argument, persuasion) and performative action (e.g. parenting, teaching, identity formation)

A comment from the audience used an interesting phrasing for this: Open source language planning. Would this kind of an approach guarantee for more people to get involved in language planning, especially those whose language practices are controlled by policy making?

He will continue this discussion in his workshop on Tuesday.

Solving problems (Lo Bianco)

The traditional view of LP as "solving problems" is still going strong, and this is what we researchers are facing when we are dealing with macro-level policy-makers in various development projects etc. We are asked to find a one size fits all solution to a specific problem, usually predefined by ministries etc. There's no much space for performance or giving alternative scenarios, because "this is too academic, rocket science". This is a true challenge and worth thinking about in redefining the status and position of LP in society.

The conference has now been opened!

The university rector, Ms. Aino Sallinen opened the conference by welcoming all the delegates warmly welcome to Jyväskylä and to Jyväskylä university. She presented the university's new strategy where languages play a significant role.

The conference is now official open! We'll keep you posted on the happenings with our bloggings, do comment and join in. Both virtually and on site.

The blogging team is now at your service.