Something to think about: English-only linguicism (by Jacqueline Peters)

“English is not the speech of exile. It is the language of conquest and domination.”

“Something to think about” was the subject line of an email that Megan Neely, the now former director of graduate studies at Duke University in North Carolina, sent her ethnic Chinese biostatistics graduate students. According to her email, these students had been “observed” speaking Chinese in the student lounge and study area. This deleterious action was reported to Neely by two self-appointed language sentinels who were faculty members. These faculty members went to Neely’s office to request photos of her biostatistics graduate students (Neely is also an assistant professor of biostatistics), in order to be able to recognize the students, who were not only speaking Chinese but speaking it LOUDLY (caps in original) and make note of their names so they could spot them if they came in for internships or master’s supervision.

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What words come to mind…(by Sumanthra Govender)

Not long ago, I was watching an episode of a popular American talk show. The host took issue with a word that a colleague used; the word was socialist. The host commented on how some words have become “buzzwords”. Merriam Webster’s Dictionary provides two different definitions for “buzzword”: 1. an important-sounding usually technical word or phrase often of little meaning used chiefly to impress laymen, and 2. a voguish word or phrase. Buzzwords are socially and culturally dependent and can be domain specific. In this particular instance, the host commented that socialist and other words like liberal and feminist are being diluted, changed, or skewed to suit a current political agenda. People are throwing these words and other words around so freely like simple catchphrases, without truly knowing their meaning. In many ways, I have to agree. The words of the day are taking on so many different uses apart from the original intentions that at times it’s hard to keep up with the shifts. Many terms are simply being overused and overgeneralised to suit blanket perspectives or agendas. This made me wonder about how people define words, more specifically how “well” they know the buzzword(s) of the time.

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Our linguistic and cultural journeys (by Yecid Ortega with Claudio Jaramillo)

Today’s guest blogger, Yecid Ortega, brings us the first episode of his new podcast series, Chasing Encounters. Click on the link below to hear Yecid’s conversation with fellow OISE/UT (University of Toronto) PhD candidate Claudio Jaramillo. Yecid has also provided an abstract and a listening guide.

Chasing Encounters: Episode 1 — Our linguistic and cultural journeys

This conversation between Yecid and Claudio explores their own visions on ideology, capitalism, identity and language in today’s world. As a point of entry, we deploy our ideas based in the concept of investment (Norton, 2013; Peirce, 1995) as a form of identity navigation in our lived experiences as language educators and researchers in different contexts. We identified some key elements of what makes a good educator in today’s post-truth times. First, how tolerating the other is not enough but accepting and understanding is key to human development. Second, we posit that being an expert is not enough because we as teachers need to acknowledge the complexity and intersectionality (Crenshaw, 1991) of our classrooms. And finally, we need the pedagogical, political and disciplinary knowledge in order to address contemporary issues inspired by plurilingual instruction (Galante, 2018). We conclude by hoping society will move from individualistic to more collective ideologies that would support our communities and our future generations.

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Enseigner le français, oui, mais quel français ? (by Caroline Dault)

This week’s blog post includes a linked audio file. Just click on the link below if you would like to hear the post read aloud. Scroll down to read the text.

C’est le premier cours. Ils sont nombreux à vouloir apprendre le français. À avoir envie d’interagir avec les gens qu’ils rencontrent dans cette ville où ils ont pour la plupart décidé de s’établir le temps de leurs études – ou d’une seule session, c’est selon. Certains connaissent déjà quelques mots, bien sûr. « Bonjour! », « ça va? ». Ils sont curieux devant cette langue qu’ils entendent depuis quelques jours, quelques semaines, quelques mois. La prof, enjouée, leur donne leurs premières clés. « Je m’appelle X ». « Je suis Québécoise. Tu es Coréen? ». Une main se lève : un étudiant aux oreilles affutées explique, en anglais – évidemment, qu’il a entendu une autre prononciation pour « je suis », qu’on lui a expliqué qu’elle était propre au Québec.

« Déjà!? », pense la prof. Elle lui demande : « Chuis ? Chus? »

« Yes, something like that. »

Et la prof s’interroge. C’est le premier cours d’une session qui sera bien chargée. Des étudiants, tout au fond de la classe, semblent déjà en surcharge cognitive. Dépassés parce qu’eux, ils découvrent réellement le verbe « être » pour la première fois. Contrairement à d’autres, ils n’ont pas encore entendu d’« au revoir » ou de « comment allez-vous? ». Peut-être parlent-ils une langue dans laquelle le verbe ne se conjugue pas, peut-être leurs connaissances en anglais ne leurs permettent-elles que difficilement de suivre ces premières explications grammaticales sur le français. La prof se demande si elle doit répondre à la question de l’étudiant, au risque d’en perdre quelques autres.

À partir de quel moment dans l’apprentissage d’une langue seconde doit-on enseigner le vernaculaire, la langue courante ?

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L’invasion linguistique des assistants vocaux, ou comment la langue anglaise s’est introduite au sein de mon foyer ? (by Florence Sedaminou Muratet)

New BILD member Florence Sedaminou Muratet was born and raised in France.  She studied history and ethnology at the University of Paris, taught French and History in the Parisian suburbs, and decided to travel the world and share her passion for education, living and working in several countries. While at the Hong Kong Baptist University, she developed a platform for teaching French as a foreign language. Her research interests focus on developing digital tools to improve language learning and studying cultural inference in oral exchanges between humans and artificial intelligence. Florence now teaches at McGill’s French Language Centre.

La période des fêtes a pris fin et mes petits monstres se complaisant dans leur routine découvrent petit à petit les jouets que le père Noël a gentiment déposés au pied du sapin. De ces innombrables joujoux, un d’entre eux se distingue parmi les autres. Sa présence est devenue indispensable au bon déroulement de notre quotidien. Un joujou féminin au nom d’Alexa a élu domicile dans notre belle demeure.

Alexa, c’est le nom de ce petit haut-parleur doté d’une intelligence artificielle, que la société Amazon a introduite au mois d’octobre dernier au public québécois soit un an après sa sortie officielle sur le territoire canadien. Mais attention, il est clair qu’Alexa ne correspond pas à la représentation que l’on a de l’intelligence artificielle.

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