Multilingual literacies

Authored by: Doris S. Warriner

The Routledge Handbook of Multilingualism

Print publication date:  May  2012
Online publication date:  May  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415496476
eBook ISBN: 9780203154427
Adobe ISBN: 9781136578144


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Although multilingualism is a centuries-old phenomenon, debates about the value of multilingualism and multilingual literacies in social, educational, and workplace contexts continue to attract great interest in scholarly and public conversations worldwide (Hornberger 2009). This is especially true in geographic contexts where the constant movement of people, goods, ideas, and practices has become increasingly commonplace, and this is clearly demonstrated by the significant body of research conducted on literacy and biliteracy among (emergent, partial, and fluent) bilinguals from a range of linguistic, cultural, and national backgrounds. Over the past three decades, the research conducted on bi-multilingual literacies has provided nuanced accounts of the non-linear dimensions of literacy development, including how multiple literacies interact, and the socially situated ways in which bi-multiliteracy might facilitate language revitalization efforts, intergroup connections, and academic achievement. In addition, research on multilingual literacies has added to our understanding of the relationship between transnational processes, social practices, and the social identities of multilingual learners themselves. At the same time, the field remains relatively new, and so we are still actively trying to identify the actual processes by which the transnational movement of people and ideas contributes to language contact and change, influences the relative prestige and power of local languages and literacies, or impacts the interactional dynamics and educational opportunities of multilingual peoples. Of particular interest is the influence of literacy in and through two or more languages on the locally specific ways that multilingual peoples might live, work, and learn together. The field also continues to wrestle with the many logistical and pedagogical challenges that arise when attempts are made to enact educational policies that would support, foster, or curtail multilingual literacies, especially in a time of increased standardization and accountability worldwide.

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