Connecting research between bilingual/multilingual speech at home and at school

Year: 2012

Author: Rubino, Antonia

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


This paper presents a critical overview of some major studies conducted in Australia that concern multilingual practices in the informal and private site of the home in relation to some Community Languages that are widely spoken in the Australian context.

The first aim of the paper is to discuss the main trends that emerge from such research, in order to highlight the main functions and values of such practices, as they occur particularly in communication between the first and the second generation of speakers. Special attention will be paid to the prominent role that code-switching plays in such interactions, as a flexible resource that allows the realization of particular speech activities and at the same time indexes the construction of a range of social identities (as in e.g. the case of role reversal between parents and children).

The second aim of the paper is to consider in what ways these findings, and in particular the flexibility of such multilingual practices, can constitute useful background knowledge for the preparation of teachers who engage in teaching Community Languages.  This is particularly crucial in view of attested purist attitudes shown by some language teachers vis-à-vis such practices by the pupils as e.g., use of non-standard varieties or resorting to code-switching.

In exploring the possibility of creating a closer link between multilingual speech at home and in the educational context, we will also take into account studies that have been conducted in other contexts, for example the United Kingdom, that show the benefits of a 'tolerant' and flexible approach to multilingualism in the language classroom, particularly in the specific case of Community Language schools. It is hoped that this will provide an incentive for more research in this area also in the Australian Community Language schools.

Chair: Jan Wright