Posted: May 1st, 2015

Language choice in multilingual communities’

Language choice in multilingual communities’

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Assessment item 3: Essay

For this assignment, you will write an essay on your topic of choice from the list below.

Language choice in multilingual communities

It has been suggested that certain social factors – who you are talking to, the social context of the talk, the function and topic of the discussion – are important in accounting for language choice in many different kinds of speech community. Consider your own community. Are these factors useful in capturing broad generalisations about your own community? Are there other factors that come into play? Support you answer with specific examples.

Language maintenance and shift

Pauwels (2005) demonstrates the importance of the role of the family in maintaining the community language in the Australian immigrant environment. Consider the strategies proposed by Pauwels to promote the maintenance of the community language. In your opinion, are these strategies effective in countering the economic, social and political factors which contribute to the shift from the community language to English?

World Englishes and linguistic imperialism

Pidgins and creoles are often perceived negatively by people who do not speak them. They have been described as mongrel jargons and macaroni lingos, and given negative labels such as Broken English and Kitchen Kaffir. What are the possible reasons for these negative attitudes? To what degree are they justified? You may consider the origins, the linguistic features, and the roles and functions of these languages in your discussion.

Language variation and change

According to Holmes (2013), “interaction and contact between people is crucial in providing the channels for linguistic change” (p. 225). Consider your own variety of English. What are some of the linguistic features of your variety of English which can be attributed to contact with another language? Support your answer with an explanation of when and how these languages came into contact.

Cross-cultural communication

The fact that ESL classes (e.g., in Australia) include students from a variety of linguistic and cultural backgrounds can pose certain difficulties in communication. What are some of the potential problems that could be caused due to cultural differences in the forms of directives (how people get others to do things) and politeness used in the classroom? How might you, as a teacher of English, use these differences to achieve a positive outcome?

Sociolinguistics and education

According to Rajagopalan (2004), “English Language Teaching is poised to undergo some dramatic changes as native varieties of English give way to World English as the most coveted passport to world citizenship” (p. 111). To what extent do you agree with this proposition? Do you see Rajagopalan’s prediction as being relevant to the context of Australia?

Assessment criteria

This assessment item contributes 40% towards your final assessment for this unit. You will be marked according to the following assessment criteria:
1.   Demonstrated understanding of the chosen topic, associated propositions, concepts and issues (15 marks);
2.   Demonstrated mastery of the subject through the use of appropriate, relevant and compelling content to develop a focused argument (10 marks);
3.   Appropriate choice of references, and demonstrated understanding and critical grasp of main arguments contained in the literature cited (10 marks); and
4.   Effective organisational structure, and coherence in writing (5 marks).

A marking rubric will be available on Moodle for your reference.

Q1: I would like to do the ‘Language choice in multilingual communities’ topic but I’m not sure how to approach it. It says to consider my own community. Does that mean I can talk about the multilingual community within Australia as a whole or does it have to be more specific (such as the  Spanish community or the French community etc)?
A1: You should aim to be specific for this question. Talk about ONE particular community: it can be one that you belong to or one that you know intimately (perhaps a good friend is a member of this community). So, discussions and examples should be about this  particular community. You will however need to connect this community’s experiences to earlier findings, literature and theories on language choice in multilingual communities. This literature can be either general (multilingual communities all over the world), and specifically about the community that you are talking about (e.g., Greek Australians in Melbourne), or may even be about other communities elsewhere (e.g., Italians in New York).

Q2: If I am talking about my own community, should I use first person writing?
A2: You can discuss this by presenting yourself as a member of the community (therefore, first person pronouns like I, me, we, us, ours), but you can also present yourself as an observer (and the community is referred to in the third person–they, theirs, etc). In the case of the latter, the community (although your own), is the focus of your study. The advantage of the latter is that it emphasizes your role as the objective observer and analyst. You maintain appropriate distance as an observer. Some writers are very skillful in using third person throughout, and where appropriate, making references to their own experience in the first person.

Q3: Should the examples be from our own community? Or do you want us to look for examples in the literature?
A3: The question requires you to make observation of your own community. So the examples should be from your community. BUT, you should relate this community’s experiences to earlier studies. Hence, you will be citing (using appropriate citation methods) examples from other communities as well.

Addresses learning outcome(s):
On successful completion of this unit, students will be able to: 1. Demonstrate a general understanding of the complexity of relations between language and society and increased their sensitivity to the social and cultural factors that inform language teaching and learning; and
2. Demonstrate, in appreciable depth, a sociolinguistic topic that bears on their present or future work as language teachers.
Related graduate attribute(s):
1. UC graduates are professional – communicate effectively
2. UC graduates are global citizens – communicate effectively in diverse cultural and social settings
2. UC graduates are global citizens – think globally about issues in their profession
2. UC graduates are global citizens – understand issues in their profession from the perspective of other cultures
3. UC graduates are lifelong learners – reflect on their own practice, updating and adapting their knowledge and skills for continual professional and academic development

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