Recerca i gestió del multilingüisme /
Mehrsprachigkeitsforschung und Mehrsprachigkeitsmanagement
Europäische Ansichten /
Algunes propostes des d’Europa
2010, Mehrsprachigkeit / Multilingualism, Band 25, 314 pages, E-Book (PDF), 23,90 €, ISBN 978-3-8309-7325-6
Multilingualism and contact between languages have always been normal phenomena, which the speed and size of contemporary migrations have only intensified. Government bodies, and often the academic world too, have acted in line with the idea that the world is organised into homogeneous linguistic areas and that contact through migration brings with it some interference that time then neutralizes. In general, multilingualism has been seen as a problem. Lately, however, there are indications of a certain change in perspective. Multilingualism could be something that enriches societies, a resource that needs to be conserved and a factor in creating social cohesion. This perspective would not only profoundly alter political priorities, but also academic ones. The contributions to this book are along these lines. Europe in general and some of the areas within it in particular are today a specially well-endowed space for research into multilingualism. In Catalonia, for example, several complex factors converge, which makes it a particularly interesting place to study: an ancestral language, Catalan, repressed for a long time and in process of recovering its functions, which has to share its official position with Castilian Spanish, the language of the state; a very large Castilian-speaking immigration from other parts of Spain during the second half of the twentieth century; and more recent immigration, which is highly multilingual and very sudden, coming from all over the world. Many of the contributions to the book are precisely by Catalan writers. In addition, the book includes research work from the Universities of Hamburg and Tilburg, two cities with a long multilingual migratory tradition.
In Catalonia, the recent migratory wave has brought a high degree of linguistic diversity. Mònica Barrieras, who is a member of the project of the Study Group of Threatened Languages (GELA, in Catalan) to make an inventory of the languages of this immigration, explains how at first there were numerous indications of the profound ignorance that the host society had of the new cultural and linguistic realities. Much of the real multilingualism was hidden by simplifications such as the assumption that every citizen from a particular country would talk its official language, which could lead to grave errors of management and care of these citizens. This underlines the importance of making real linguistic diversity visible through research and information that raises Catalan society’s awareness of the complexity of the linguistic challenges it faces. Barrieras asks why this diversity needs to be understood; and her reply is a proposal of integration that enables Catalan to be conserved as a language of cohesion and at the same time is based on recognition of the value contributed by diversity. The task is to place understanding at the service of a model of living in harmony that avoids both assimilation (implying that immigrants give up their own cultural past) and ghettoisation (conserving one’s own specific nature, but at the cost of social fragmentation).
Jochen Rehbein, in his contribution, analyzes the spaces for multilingualism created by two phenomena that flow together: urbanisation and migrations. For Rehbein, multilingualism cannot be understood as a phenomenon of belonging to various isolated linguistic areas, but as the configuration of linguistic constellations. The author also affirms that the difference between regional languages and immigration languages has become blurred. The article starts from the analysis of three multilingual urban settings – Barcelona, Istanbul and Hamburg – and the role of urban space and the institutions that interact there in linguistic exchange. It then sketches out three quite different ways of making multilingual communication effective. Variables such as social and economic structure, linguistic policies, history or the hierarchy of linguistic varieties explain these differences and enable points of comparison to be established. Finally, Rehbein puts forward certain measures that are essential to making conservation of multilingual communication and respect for citizens’ linguistic rights possible.
Although apparently a European discourse in favour of multilingualism exists, Kutlay Yağmur shows that this is often only a superficial position. Yağmur explains the different treatments in linguistic planning for state languages on the one hand and for the languages called regional and immigration languages, on the other. Thus, the linguistic rights of speakers of languages that are not official state ones are jeopardised and still understood as suspicious and fragmenting. The author analyses European public discourses on integration and immigration and points to their main contradictions, whilst showing that the languages of immigration are the ones most discriminated against. In effect, while on the one hand an ill-defined, supposed integration is demanded of citizens of extra-Community origins, they continue to all effects and purposes to be seen as “foreigners”. The author also reviews the presence of the languages of immigration in the school system and makes a proposal to introduce them into the system.
Sílvia Romero introduces the concrete case of the linguistic management of the recent migratory wave into Catalonia from the perspective of teaching Catalan to adults. Romero analyses the transformation of the Consortium for Linguistic Normalisation, an institution set up to provide native Catalan speakers with linguistic competence in the standard variety of Catalan, in order to adapt to legislation focusing on the linguistic reception of immigrants. This adaptation demanded big changes in its operating dynamics and enormous efforts because of the volume of population that it has to attend to. Romero analyses briefly some experiences of this institution, which bases its activity on the idea that knowledge of Catalan within a respect for diversity is a fundamental element in social cohesion and inclusion. Also in the area of managing the multilingualism contributed by recent immigration, and wishing to maintain the Catalan language as an essential element of cohesion, the article by Josepa Ribera introduces certain experiences of linguistic reception in Southern Catalonia. Ribera explains how the reception classes work. These are spaces within compulsory education designed to offer alloglot students who have just arrived minimum skills in Catalan language and culture, which will enable them to join normal classes. Similarly, it explains the functioning of what are called environment plans, which aim to link school and society in an inclusive model that makes possible, at the same time, the acquisition of the Catalan language, intercultural contact and conservation of the immigrant’s own identity.
Then, Carles Solà focuses on the potential that the major public communications media, in this case Catalan television, have for supporting mutual exchange and understanding of the various linguistic cultures and realities that make up Catalan - and European- society today. Solà looks at the various initiatives of Television of Catalonia to make the broad diversity and wealth that recent migrations have contributed to Catalan society visible. There have been programmes designed to make cultures of origin better known; and there have also been attempts to give voice and public presence to immigrants through television and to reflect the effects of this immigration on the host society. Solà points to positive results in this direction, but also criticisms and deficiencies that continue to allow stereotypes to be broadcast.
The last texts in the book examine the current state of research into multilingualism in both Catalonia and Hamburg. Conxita Lleó in her article thoroughly explains the activity of the Collaborative Research Centre on Multilingualism of the University of Hamburg. By describing in detail each of the centre’s projects, Lleó makes clear three fundamental features of its research: individuals’ acquisition of more than one language and the development of multilingualism; the functional rules and conditions of communication in multilingual situations; and the role of the contact of languages in linguistic change. The activity of the centre is based on the conviction that human capacity for language is inherently predisposed to multilingualism, which is more the norm rather than the exception in the history of humanity.
The work of Llorenç Comajoan is a synthesis of multilingualism research in Catalonia from a socio-linguistic perspective. Comajoan tries to explain what research into multilingualism is, who is carrying it out in Catalonia and what fields it includes. He shows how this area of research has evolved over time and the impact of recent history on the choice of methodology and objectives. He highlights five major themes on which Catalan research has mainly focused: demolinguistics, linguistic rights and legislation, study of linguistic effects and attitudes, educational sociolinguistics, and linguistic diversity and ecology. Finally, Comajoan analyses from a critical perspective where the future of Catalan sociolinguistics is heading and points to some basic deficiencies in it. Applied research is the subject of the book’s final study. Lluïsa Gràcia explains two of the research lines of the Office of Linguistic Advice for Immigration of the University of Girona (GALI in Catalan). The group has developed contrasted linguistic analysis tools, designed to make teaching Catalan to alloglot students easier and to give teachers an idea of their students’ languages of origin, in order to understand their specific needs better. This has led to a series of manuals, each focusing on an immigration language. The group is also working on drawing up materials to assist communication between health service staff and patients.