Book Chapter

Beyond multilingualism: Heteroglossia in practice


Blackledge A, Creese A & Takhi JK (2013) Beyond multilingualism: Heteroglossia in practice. In: May S (ed.) The Multilingual Turn: Implications for SLA, TESOL, and Bilingual Education. New York: Taylor & Francis, pp. 191-215.

In recent times, scholars in sociolinguistics have found that language use in late modern societies is changing. Rather than assuming that homogeneity and stability represent the norm, mobility, mixing, political dynamics, and historical embedding are now central concerns in the study of languages, language groups, and communication (Blommaert & Rampton, 2011). As large numbers of people migrate across myriad borders, and as advances in digital technology make available a multitude of linguistic resources at the touch of a button or a screen, so communication is in fl ux and in development (see also García & Flores, this volume; Norton, this volume). In these conditions the notion of separate languages as bounded systems of specifi c linguistic features may be insuffi cient for analysis of language in use and in action ( Jørgensen, Karrebæk, Madsen, & Møller, 2011; cf. Block, this volume; Ortega, this volume). The idea of “a language” therefore may be important as a social construct, but it is not suited as an analytical lens through which to view language practices. Blommaert and Rampton (2011) propose that “it is important to avoid the a priori separation of ‘fi rst’ and ‘second language’ speakers” (Blommaert & Rampton, 2011, p. 15). They point to a need for careful clarifi cation of links and incompatibilities in the idioms commonly used to analyze heteroglossia (see below) on the one hand and standard second language learning on the other. Reporting a linguistic ethnographic study of language practices in and around a Panjabi school in England, this chapter responds to some of the limitations of an approach to language teaching and learning that relies on the naming and separation of languages-that is, an approach that relies on the concept of multilingualism to describe the language competence of speakers in the context of language contact. We tentatively propose that a return to literary scholar Mikhail Bakhtin’s theoretical and practical notion of heteroglossia offers potential to go beyond multilingualism and develop language-learning pedagogy that is rooted in the communication patterns of students in late modern societies. First, however, we briefly review some recent developments in the study of multilingualism.

Education; language & literature;

The Multilingual Turn: Implications for SLA, TESOL and Bilingual Education

Publication date24/07/2013
Publication date online24/07/2013
PublisherTaylor & Francis
Place of publicationNew York