Starting the 2018-2019 academic year with some planning for Language Policy and Planning (by James Meanwell)

Welcome to BILD’s fifth year of active blogging! We start off this September with a PRE-regular post about last week’s Language Policy and Planning conference at the University  of Toronto’s OISE  (Ontario Institute for Studies in Education). McGill MA student James Meanwell attended and wrote it up for us; we wanted to get the news out while LPP2018 still is news. There is a strong probability that from 2020 on, LPP will move to Montreal under BILD’s auspices, so where this conference is concerned we are looking ahead as well as back. Watch this space—our regular posts will start next Sunday, September 9th.

The 2018 LPP (Language Policy and Planning) conference at OISE in Toronto, August 23-25, is officially a wrap! HUGE shout out to conference co-chairs Jeff Bale and Eve Haque, and all of the volunteers, for doing such a wonderful job organizing and hosting us all. It was my first year attending the conference; not only did I learn a great deal from the presenters, but I also saw how passionate the LPP community really is. The multidisciplinary conference was started by Tom Ricento at the University of Calgary in 2012, and has been held at OISE/UT the last two years. Attendees include professors, researchers, and graduate students the world over looking to disseminate (and possibly collaborate on) cutting-edge research within language policy and planning. For those thinking about attending next year, keep an eye on the conference homepage for 2019 important dates, program information, calls for papers (2018 content shown in image), and past video livestreams. For those who missed the conference this year, what I hope to provide below is a brief overview of some of the sessions, and to share some of the more memorable moments of the conference in general.

The conference started off on a refreshing note by going beyond the ‘routinized’ land acknowledgement to encourage participants to reflect on the concept—for me at least—in a more meaningful way. Superimposed on a current map of Toronto was a map of waterways, most of which are now paved over, shedding light on how some of Toronto’s landscape looked long before settler arrival. This led to small moments of discovery while walking around campus—for example, connecting the dots between Taddle Creek park, and Taddle Creek identified on the map. Though seemingly small, the conscientious decision to place greater emphasis on the land acknowledgment cultivated space for a ‘continuity of reflection’ as opposed to, perhaps, an isolated event at the time of the acknowledgement. Miigwech.

As might be expected, some of the sessions focused on discourses of power, and how, increasingly, calls for multi-culturalism are being co-opted away from grassroots social justice movements by the State to (re)establish asymmetrical power relationships. For instance, Kathleen Corley’s research on Arizona public schools showed how court rulings prohibited the provision of bilingual Spanish/English education for L1 Spanish speakers, only later to permit bilingual education for only those already proficient in English. Viewing policy as a tool, then, this undeniably demonstrates how it can be used to further advantage some groups while at the same time marginalizing those who have been historically and institutionally neglected. Flores (2017), scathingly critiques the same phenomenon:

“How soon is it before the commodification of bilingualism leads to all dual language bilingual programs becoming ‘gifted and talented’ programs for language-majoritized white students with latinxs and other language-minoritized students pushed out of these programs into less desirable English-only classrooms? The irony is that this accumulation by dispossession can now be done under the guise of a celebration of diversity through the offering of a bilingual education option to white students (p.76).”

Optimistically, Arizona’s infamous SB 1070 (the you-don’t-look-American-so-show-me-your-documents bill) was reportedly repealed in 2016. I don’t know the ins and outs of the bill, but this seems to be a small win for anti-racist movements across the US, and one can only hope anti-racist agreements with teeth urgently permeate the educational sector (I’m sure there are more positive stories coming from Arizona, and I encourage any readers to share in the comment section below!).

Sticking with language hierarchies, but moving from the US to Morocco, Abderrahman Zouhir described a similar situation in which ‘Arabicization’ has pushed a de jure language agenda of Modern Standard Arabic at the expense of local varieties and indigenous languages. And though there has been institutional support for Berber in Morocco, the top-down nature of the implementation was not conducive to meaningful consultation with Berber-speaking parents, nor did it engage with concerns of both (1) graphicization, and (2) social mobility opportunities for their minority-language-speaking children.

Another significant focus was on problematizing elements of English for Academic Purposes (EAP). Shakina Rajendram and one-time BILD guest blogger Jennifer Burton, drawing on Ruiz’s orientations of language-as-problem, language-as-right, language-as-resource, argued that “translanguage-as-resource” was a useful way to describe what is happening (or what ought to be happening?) in the EAP classroom. Some poignant questions emerged during the Q&A, seeking more details regarding the implementation of a translanguaging policy—decided by whom, teachers and/or students? Enacted how and to what effect? I am excited to follow this research, especially in light of Jennifer MacDonald’s compelling session, in which Canadian universities’ tacit position was framed as ‘language-as-problem’ by revealing how all kinds of diversity are embraced except linguistic diversity, and how the language-resource information for students is categorized online with other ‘problems’ (e.g., medical, funding issues, etc.).

Interestingly, there were some ‘meta’ elements of LPP that emerged in some of the sessions with the ASL interpreters. Each day of the conference, one of the presenters was interrupted to be reminded that they were being interpreted and needed to slow down. It must be a nerve-wracking experience to be presenting. There might be a natural tendency to speak faster than usual ,so I am not trying to assign blame here. It wasn’t until the very last talk of the conference that I saw a presenter ask the translator if she was speaking too fast, and this acknowledgement seemed to be much appreciated. During one of the breaks the previous day, I asked one of the translators what makes someone an ideal speaker to translate for, and he said that advance preparation, visual aids during the presentation, pace of speech, and not reading aloud pre-written, densely complex text made his work easier.

Three days’ worth of presentations is far too much to unpack in one post—but, if you’re keen to know more, I strongly encourage you to read through the abstracts in the program and contact the authors for information you may require for your own research purposes.


Flores, N. (2017). From language-as-resource to language-as-struggle: resisting the coke-ification of bilingual education. In M. Flubacher & A. Del Percio (Eds.), Language, Education and Neoliberalism: Critical Studies in Sociolinguistics. USA: Multilingual Matters.




One thought on “Starting the 2018-2019 academic year with some planning for Language Policy and Planning (by James Meanwell)

  1. A great reflective and informative post, James! You commented on a few of the sessions I wanted to go to but couldn’t.

    I’m also glad you felt a sense of community. Perhaps, we’ll hear about your work at the next one?

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