Reframing Monolingual Ideologies in the Language Classroom

Wednesday is the one day I teach in person this semester, and this past Wednesday was the first time I’d been to my office on campus since March. I was excited to discover the 2019 volume of the American Association of University Supervisors, Coordinators, and Directors of Foreign Language Programs (AAUSC) in my mailbox! The editors are Beatrice Dupuy and Kristen Michelson, and the collection is called “Pathways to Paradigm Change: Critical Examinations of Prevailing Discourse and Ideologies in Second Language Education”.

As you might imagine if you regularly read this blog, this is exactly the shift in second language education I think our field needs! I’m excited to read all of the chapters in this book, and today I’ll be highlighting my own contribution, which I’m excited to see in print.

A fun fact is that this is the 2019 volume with a 2021 publication date, which has made me confused as to how to cite it this year, but it turns out it had the right idea to skip 2020 all along!

So, how do these contrasting language ideologies impact our field? In my chapter, I show that learners’ expectations for their interactions during study abroad and virtual exchange were largely informed by monolingual language ideologies. They mapped spaces and speakers associated with Arab nations to Arabic, and expected monolingual Arabic immersion in these spaces, imagining that they would speak “only Arabic abroad” or evaluating their success in a virtual exchange by how little English they used. These included frustration with racial mappings of their language abilities, where White students felt that the expectation that they could not speak Arabic hindered their opportunities to use Arabic, and students of color sometimes felt frustrated that their national identity was questioned based on their race. Despite their frustrations with these racialized experiences, learners engaged in these same mappings themselves, expecting locals to always use Arabic (rather than their full linguistic repertoire including English) and fellow study abroad students to use English (unless in a program with a language pledge).

In short, these monolingual expectations contrasted sharply with the plurilingual realities of the study abroad and virtual exchange environments, and the actual linguistic repertoires of the learners (all of whom spoke English and had studied at least one language other than Arabic) and their interlocutors (frequently multilingual themselves). Examining what learners actually did with their linguistic repertoires abroad demonstrates that translanguaging practices were the norm and that these served a variety of functions, including using existing linguistic resources to access new ones, mapping language and social function, mapping language and topic, and establishing social connections.

Yet because these plurilingual realities were framed with expectations rooted in monolingual language ideologies, students generally interpreted their translanguaging practices from a monolingual perspective, expressing “frustration” or “regret” at their inability to remain monolingual, or feeling forced to choose between language practice and friendships. They also reproduced problematic mappings among race, nation, and language, despite their own frustration with these assumptions. Thus, this monolingual framing of plurilingual practices actually limited learners’ ability to pursue their language learning goals in plurilingual environments.

If you’re interested in reading more, check out the chapter itself (contact me for access), as well as the rest of the book!



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