Salman Rushdie and the chutnification of language (by Dr Mela Sarkar)

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.

chutney (noun): a mixture containing fruit, spices, sugar, and vinegar…(Cambridge English Dictionary)

…a willingness to use untranslated words from another language….This was the way we spoke English in Bombay, sprinkling it with Hindi, Urdu, Marathi, or Gujarati words. It was also the way we spoke Hindi, Urdu, Marathi, and Gujarati, sprinkling those languages with English words where they seemed appropriate….English, I understood, could be chutnified. That was a moment of real liberation. (Rushdie, Languages of Truth, 2021, p. 92)
Rushdie interviewed after the attack by EuroNews

Nearly fourteen months ago—on August 12, 2022—the author Salman Rushdie was rushed by a surprise attacker on the lecture stage in upstate New York where he was about to speak to an audience of about 2,500 people. Rushdie, then 75, was stabbed several times; fortunately people on the scene and first responders were quick enough to make it possible for him to survive the attack, though the stab wounds were severe, and “resulted in damage to his liver, lost vision in one eye and a paralysed hand caused by nerve damage to his arm.”

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When you are the first generation in your family to be able to attend school (by Dr. Mela Sarkar in collaboration with Chhanda Bashuri, Titli Das Bairagya, Aduri, Bharati & Puspa Mirdha, Shraboni Mondal, and Manjari Roy Chowdhury)

Introductions at the ISW Chella site. Left to right: Bharati, Puspa, Aduri, Sitola, Shraboni & Chhanda

A village in rural West Bengal, India, where as early as February the temperature goes up to 35 degrees Celsius or so every day, with no prospect of rain until April or May, is about as far from a Montreal winter as one can imagine. It’s where I have just spent four weeks working with several gifted and enthusiastic young women who teach at supplemental schools run by a local NGO, the Institute of Social Work (ISW). Like many NGOs across India and in the developing world, ISW works in the local language (here, Bengali) and draws mostly on local resources. My cousin Nupur Sarkar has been part of ISW since its inception in 1978; I am much indebted to her for having made it possible for me to spend time at ISW’s Birbhum-district schools. After a previous visit in 2019, I wrote about the experience here on the BILD blog, and have dreamed ever since then of coming back and staying awhile.

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Reconciling what you believe in and what you have to do: English-only policies in language schools (by Grace Labreche)

This week’s guest blogger is Grace Labreche, a PhD Student at McGill University. She is interested in accent bias towards second language speakers, specifically in shifting the focus off of accent reduction practices and towards addressing accent bias among native speakers. In her research, Grace asks: How can we mitigate the bias in listeners instead of asking speakers to reduce their accent? How does a listener’s language attitudes and ideologies impact their listening bias? As an applied sociolinguist, she hopes to use her research to inform educational policy in language learning institutions. When she is not working or in school, Grace loves to paint and cross stitch. She also enjoys gardening while listening to horror podcasts, much to the dismay of her neighbours.

It is a little over a year today that I began the exciting new chapter in my life as a language school administrator in a private language school. This language school, like many others in Montreal, is a boutique language school, whose main clientele are wealthy international students and tourists looking to take some language courses while visiting abroad. The courses are costly compared to government funded language programs and the school’s main source of student recruitment is international language tourism agencies and advisors. 

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Au-delà de l’approche monolingue en enseignement des langues (by Geneviève Brisson)

Our guest blogger this week is Geneviève Brisson. Geneviève est professeure adjointe au Département de pédagogie de la Faculté d’éducation de l’Université de Sherbrooke. Ses recherches explorent les liens entre la didactique des langues secondes, le bi/plurilinguisme, la littératie (écriture, lecture, multimodalité) et la construction des identités. Ces activités de recherche lui permettent de documenter les pratiques de littératie des enfants bi/plurilingues tant à l’école qu’à l’extérieur de l’école. Elle s’intéresse aussi à la littérature jeunesse canadienne francophone ainsi qu’à son utilisation en classe pour l’enseignement des langues, de la lecture et de l’écriture.

Les deux langues officielles du Canada, le français et l’anglais, ne sont pas complètement représentatives du tissu linguistique du pays. Les langues écrites, parlées, chantées, vécues, etc. ici ne se limitent pas à ces deux langues officielles. Lors du recensement de 2016, près de 260 550 Autochtones ont déclaré pouvoir soutenir une conversation dans une langue autochtone (Statistique Canada, 2017b). Plus de 70 langues autochtones distinctes sont parlées sur le territoire (Rice, 2020; Statistique Canada, 2017b) ainsi que de nombreuses langues dites « immigrantes » (Statistique Canada, 2017a). En effet, lors du même recensement, plus d’un cinquième de la population canadienne déclarait faire usage d’une langue immigrante à la maison (Saint-jacques, Chambers & Cooper, 2019). Ces langues étant bien souvent des marqueurs identitaires, il est important de réfléchir à la place accordée aux langues dans les systèmes éducatifs au Canada. Dans les lignes qui suivent, je ne ferai pas de portrait exhaustif de la place des langues au sein des milieux éducatifs canadiens. Je vous présenterai plutôt brièvement trois approches qui m’apparaissent offrir des avenues pertinentes afin d’ouvrir l’espace AUX langues dans les écoles canadiennes. Mais tout d’abord, commençons par quelques assises théoriques qui servent de cadre à ma réflexion.

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Why is my reflection someone I don’t know? On language, culture, and being a critical applied linguist (by John Wayne N. dela Cruz)

We are all plurilinguals (Piccardo, 2019).

This is a quote from one of my courses in Fall 2020, one that has resonated with me profoundly. It’s a line that I keep hearing in my head, and a lesson that I’ll take with me beyond this course’s online classroom (thanks for that, COVID-19!). For the final course assignment, I decided to take inspiration from this quote: to create a digital collage, and to write a blog post to go with it. Through the digital collage and post, I wish to unpack this quote by asking and responding to the question: if I am a plurilingual, how so and in what ways?

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