Linguistic and Cultural Interchange Workshop – Warwick26 Jan 2016, by MC Events workshops in
Naomi Wells (TML Team)
Linguistic and Cultural Interchange: Policies and Practices, University of Warwick, February 2015
Beginning a dialogue around sites of linguistic and cultural exchange, the first TML workshop brought together local and international policy-makers, practitioners and experts to share their experiences from both their personal and professional practices.
Introduction by Loredana Polezzi and Panel 1: Community and Memory
Our speakers took us to sites across the globe, from a community project in Coventry, to a public library in Bologna and the Museo Italiano in Melbourne. Across these spaces, the question of visibility was a central focus, in relation to how diversity, and in particular the efforts of multilingual people, often remain hidden from view.
We addressed potential barriers to making connections, reminding us of how language intersects with questions of gender, age, race and class. We also saw the importance of spaces such as these to bring people together, as well as the need to consider creative solutions which depart from the multilingual resources of those present.
Panel 2: Multilingual and Multicultural Practices
Speakers also highlighted the need to challenge the idea of self-contained cultural and language systems. The ways in which people move across not just languages but also visual and other signs to produce meaning was emphasised in Li Wei’s presentation of translanguaging as a research perspective, but also echoed in the experiences of creative workshops at Drummond Community High School.
Tensions emerged between these experiences and formal language teaching contexts, where monolingual ideals have often been at odds with everyday multilingual, and multisensory, practices. Shirin Ramzanali Fazel emphasised the emotional and affective dimension of language in building relationships. What emerged was a need to relate the languages taught to the people who use them, and not only in their supposedly ‘national’ contexts but also in contexts of migration and mobility.
Response from Susan Bassnett and Panel 3: Language in Policy-Making
These points were echoed in Susan Bassnett’s response to the morning’s panels, which addressed the relationship between language teaching and the dangers of stereotyping otherness in the classroom. The affective dimension of how people relate to language was also contrasted to the concept of ‘linguistic muteness’, whereby questions of language often go ignored, or even feared, in academic, political and media discourses.
The final panel moved on to address more explicitly these tensions between policies and practices. We saw again the invisibility of multilingual repertoires, such as the Swedish and Dutch spoken by many Somali students in a Birmingham school or the typically ignored efforts of multilingual migrants in Luxembourg. How we overcome the mismatches between individual language resources and repertoires, and policies which often ignore or erase these details, or even the question of language itself, emerged as a key challenge.
Concluding Remarks by Charles Forsdick and Round Table Discussion
Charles Forsdick’s concluding comments also focused on the need for clearer mechanisms to bridge gaps between policymakers, academics and those who experience policies. The dialogue initiated at the workshop posed a series of challenging questions of critical relevance both to the case study of Italian mobilities and to the role of research and teaching in Modern Languages in the public sphere.
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