Thursday, September 15, 2016

Securing the Future: Multilingualism as a Social Resource

  • Speaker: Prof Joseph Lo Bianco, University of Melbourne
  • When: Monday 17 October, 6.00-7.30pm
  • Where: Auditorium, China in the World Building, ANU
Registration: seating is limited please

In this talk I will argue that there is a ‘container’ within which language policies are imagined, and language politics occurs. I think of this container as either an institutional setting, such as the education ministry of a state, or even of ‘the state’ itself, since in the Pacific what counts as a ‘state’ is a question of substantial importance. So much of the theory of sociolinguistics as it has emerged from North American and Western European research in recent decades takes for granted assumptions of a bounded space within which society and language interact with each other. However this assumed container, for reasons of scale, but also historical inheritance and language ideologies, is inapplicable to some parts of the world and represents a major obstacle to language planning.

The themes of ‘security’ and the assumption that our future is insecure dominate a lot of public discussion because of the deep transformations to the taken for granted world most adults living today inherited, of western cultural and political dominance at the military and economic levels, and therefore at cultural and ideologically also. To truly ‘secure’ the future, however, is to re-think all the assumptions we have inherited, one of them begin the naturalisation of monolingualism as a more stable, normal and necessary state. Most of the world, and many of the world’s peoples, have lived in and with multilingualism as the ‘normal’ state for much longer. Not just multilingualism, but also mixed and hybrid communication forms are needed to produce better education outcomes in Pacific Island countries, more secure ‘national’ futures, and more ‘intact' cultural systems. 

The multilingualism of Pacific island futures, and the containers within which they are conceived, will include languages of wider communication, of immigration and global space, but also the multiple languages and codes of locality.

Lo Bianco, J. (2015), Multilingual Education across Oceania pp. 604-617 in The Handbook of Bilingual and Multilingual Education, First Edition. Edited by Wayne E. Wright, Sovicheth Boun, and Ofelia Garcia. Published 2015 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Joseph Lo Bianco is professor of Language and Literacy Education in the Melbourne Graduate School of Education at the University of Melbourne. Currently he is completing a four year project in SE Asia on language – policy and peace building in conflict zones in SE Asia.

Recent publications include: Learning from Difference: Comparative Accounts of Multicultural Education, (Springer, 2016) and Conflict, Language Rights, and Education: Building Peace by Solving Language Problems in Southeast Asia.

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