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What 'saving' languages might tell us about 'teaching' them.


Keith Horwood Memorial Lecture, AFMLTA 2009

This paper makes a link between two activities in which I am engaged, i.e. between work on 'saving' languages and work on 'teaching' languages. Since it is an invited address, the Keith Horwood Memorial Lecture, I will begin by making further, and chronologically prior, to Keith Horwood.

During the late 1960s to mid 1970s Horwood along with Wilga Rivers and, especially, Terry Quinn (the three originators of applied linguistics in Australia, see McNamara & Lo Bianco, 2001) worked to give applied language studies a secure place in the academy. They succeeded in doing much more, eventually laying the basis for the take-up of applied language studies throughout public administration and policy. The way these scholars approached language study helped to change what today we regard as applied linguistics and gives Australian applied linguistics its distinctive origins and character, distinguishing it from its counterparts in the USA and the UK.

In the UK--the most likely source for shaping how the discipline might have evolved in Australia--the key instrumental figure was Pit Corder. He helped forge a British applied linguistics by addressing the practicalities of classroom teaching in various overseas English language teaching projects for the British Council. The main focus of his work was syllabus design and materials preparation, ail informed by his unique view of errors, especially their role in an individual's unique pathway to language acquisition and learning, and the teaching implications of this 'creative' rather than negative view of errors. US applied linguistics owes a great debt to the Center for Applied Linguistics in Washington, DC and its focus on African American English and the English learning needs of immigrant students.

By contrast, Australian applied linguistics started from the teaching of modern languages in universities and was a mid 1970s outgrowth of Language Laboratory Workshops pioneered by Keith Horwood and, after Horwood's untimely death, by Terry Quinn. During the 1960s, Keith Horwood had been a lecturer in Science German but was also involved in helping students meet the compulsory foreign language reading requirements (French, German, or Russian) for science students. He then proceeded to direct the field of science languages more broadly. The practical needs of such students directed Horwood's interest towards 'efficient language teaching' to meet the expectations and needs of students primarily pursuing science degrees but who needed to access literature in selected foreign languages. Hence, the initial focus of Australian applied linguistics was on effective acquisition of foreign language reading skills in decontextualised settings and the approach to these skills was informed by a structural view of linguistics and supported by extensive use of language labs. Through his experimentation and persistent effort Horwood became an inspiration to those wanting to update language teaching methods largely because he was, by all reports, very open to learning from elsewhere--something that was far less common then than it is today--and, also, open to innovation in general, again, a rarer feature of academic life than it is now. However, the reason that I think he warrants naming as the spirit of the Modern Language Teacher Associations today is because his energy was always devoted to the needs and circumstances of learners. This learner-centredness appears as sharply different from the obsessive focus of language education today which is more focused on the needs and circumstances of the nation, the economy, or powerful elite interests than on learners and their individual language acquisition needs. Such a comparison reveals how unusual the apparently simple idea of placing the learner's needs at the centre of our attention has become in contemporary discussion of language education (Liddicoat & Scarino, 2010; Lo Bianco & Slaughter, 2009; Lo Bianco, 2010a).

So, my Keith Horwood Lecture for 2009 is inspired by this spirit, even if its content and my interests are in the sociocultural domain and far away from the cognitive domain of language study laid out by Horwood.

The three themes of the conference are Discourse, Dialogue, Diversity. I will address each of these directly in what follows.

Discourse will be addressed through looking at debates and policy positions related to how languages serve the interests of 'national revival' or reflect 'national integrity'. Both of these abstractions of nation-making link the realities of language teaching in interesting and challenging ways. Dialogue will be addressed as a conversation among 'vintages' of learners about the process and outcomes of learning. Specifically, I mean how new learners and old speakers position each other on questions of language form and norms, and, also, how political rhetoric and official policy about the language being learned and its role in 'national revival' and 'national integrity' are discussed between new learners and existing speakers.

Diversity will be addressed with reference to the always present realities of heteroglossia i.e. that no language is internally uniform in how it is used and how its norms are valued. This linguistic diversity links directly to identities, and, hence, we can see in all speech communities not just the continuing tradition that is easy to recognise but also the dynamic process of language change in which new forms, norms, and modes of expression continually arise.

To begin, I want to place the notion of identity and its relation with second language learning at the centre of things. Bonny Norton's much cited work (2000) on this is a useful starting point. The approach taken in this work distils a view which developed over much of the 20th century, with contributions from philosophers, historians, and social scientists, and has come to inhabit our domain of language education and language policy.

The way Norton stresses and frames identity in second language learning has become popular today because of its stress on the fluid and multiple character of how individuals psychologically and communicatively attach themselves to wider groupings in society. It is self-evident that bilingual individuals inevitably inhabit more than one unchanging body of identification and attachment and, so, Norton expressly rejects past constructions of identity as fixed and unchanging. Essentially she argues that identity refers to how individuals construe their relationship to the world around them, and this means both temporal and spatial aspects of material life as well as interpersonal relationships. All communication naturally links us to the past because we inherit the language forms we use, something that is especially true for new learners. Individuals use language that precedes them in all its forms, in present time and space, and in these processes come to understand and construe future possibilities.

We can readily see that this way to represent identity in language, and especially in second language acquisition, makes the identity concept a relational entity as it shifts with circumstances and is grafted with social values. This doesn't necessarily imply that identity understood this way is incoherent or fragmented, but this representation can be difficult for some people because it implies a challenge to the permanent or, at least, stable and secure personhood that underlies alternative constructions of how identity operates. This dynamic view of identity as it is revealed in language use also admits of constraints and possibilities because it is the subject of continual construction and display.

The connection that I develop in this presentation between the activity of 'saving' languages and the activity of 'teaching' languages can be informed by these reflections on dynamic views of identity. Individuals and collectivities of people access various symbolic and material resources in their economic and cultural lives. In their access and use of social resources they are facilitated by the power they hold and the privileges they can marshal. Because these vary according to power and opportunity differentials among individuals and social groups, we benefit differentially from what the world has to offer. Language in use, i.e. communication in real-world local settings, is the key medium through which we access and use such resources and influence relationships that make these resources available to us and closed to others.

New language learning has a special function because of the possibilities it opens up or precludes and the communicative environments into which new learners are admitted or from which they are discouraged. This is true in the transactional activity in the material world of jobs and education, but also in the symbolic world of belonging and sentiment.

Norton makes the point that: 'the question 'Who am I?' cannot be understood apart from the question 'What am I allowed to do?' And the question ' What am I allowed to do?' cannot be understood apart from material conditions that structure opportunities for the realization of desires' (Norton, 2000, p. 8). Here, the essential nexus between identity and activity in the world and how activity is conditioned by material realities that precede our presence, for the most part, is clearly drawn. Let us accept this as a premise for now, postponing discussion of problems and issues which one day will need to be accommodated and move on to looking at the basic argument of 'saving languages' to then return to identity questions.

The project of 'saving' of languages, especially the scale and depth of efforts at 'reversing language shift' (Fishman, 2001) is truly immense. Since 1994 when UNESCO joined the alarm ringing, the bells tolling for concern for languages have been loud and insistent. We can refer to the widely cited, if occasionally criticised, statistics on languages from the SIL International (Lewis, 2009) to get a measure of the scale involved. There are some 6,709 forms of speech in the world which a category of people called 'linguists' call languages. However, a category of people called 'native speakers' actually invoke some 40,000 names for these forms of speech.

The category of people called 'linguists' can for present purposes be considered 'outsiders'. They are essentially professional experts who apply scientific criteria for determining what counts as a language and what should be called a dialect or something else--some linguists use the term 'dialect' as the superordinate form, but that is another discussion. The predominant distinction between a language and a dialect is usually a combination of intelligibility (mutual comprehension) and elaboration (terminological and written standardisation, etc.). Applying these criteria linguists arrive at almost 7,000 languages.

The category of people called 'native speakers' can for present purposes be considered 'insiders'. They typically apply experiential, identification-based, political, and emotional criteria to deciding what is a language and what is not, and come up with almost five times as many languages. This huge disparity shows that both intelligibility and, to some extent, even elaboration are plastic notions. The comparison between insider and outsider designations of how forms of speech are named and distinguished is interesting from a philosophical point of view, but what is more immediately relevant is that UNESCO, the august body of the United Nations devoted to 'culture, education, science, communication', determined that the present state of languages warrants the ringing of alarm bells due to 'loss of languages'. The alarm was sounded in 1994 on the advice of 'the outsiders' on whose number count 90% of all languages were judged to be endangered within a few generations. Endangered in this context means not just under threat locally, as an immigrant language might be when its local speakers shift to exclusive use of their new host society's dominant language, but globally endangered. Global endangerment implies that the speakers shifting to another language are the sole speakers of the language, so its loss locally involves its extinction.

Since that 1994 alarm there have been other estimates about global endangerment, and over time there has also been greater participation of 'the insiders' in formulating estimates and rates of loss. However, there is no consensus as to how many languages are endangered, which ones can or should be saved and how, but many people and organisations tend to cite figures between 50% and 70% of the named languages of linguists as globally endangered, i.e. threatened with extinction. For argument's sake let's call this the 'agreed scientific total', combining insider and outsider estimations and linking the languages to their unique communicative, biological, and social ecologies. (Skutnabb-Kangas, Maffi, & Harmon, 2003).

What is more relevant for my discussion today is the distribution of endangered languages, of which, according to the SIL numbers, more than 70% of the 'agreed scientific total' are spoken by fewer than five thousand people. The official concern has spread from UNESCO to its parent body, the UN itself, as expressed by Secretary General, Mr Ban Ki-moon, on 23 July 2008. In his message for the International Day for the World's Indigenous People he spoke of language extinction as "the silent crisis confronting many of the world's languages'. He noted that action on behalf of indigenous languages aims to put an end to marginalization, poverty, expropriation of indigenous people's traditional lands and other grave human rights abuses' (Stark, 2009, p. 231).

Through migration and other kinds of population mobility languages move with their speakers to places other than their ancestral homes, and in their new locations settled communities of speakers also transfer linguistically, either rapidly or slowly. Unless there is outright prohibition, made effective in some extreme way, the rate of loss is typically three-generational, so that such migrant languages reduce 4% to 50% in each generation, from original language monolingualism, to bilingualism across generations, to host language monolingualism. This phenomenon ties time and space to language in a more dramatic way than with the loss of languages whose speakers are natives of the places in which they reside. Therefore, we have a complex picture of language attrition, in which variables such as time (generation), space (diasporas, schools, homes), and rates and mixtures of multiple language use, all co-vary in a complex ecology of communication whose patterns are discernible over long periods and, sometimes, over vast geographic spaces, and are mediated by all the technologies that are deployed to facilitate human communication today.

When we contrast the panorama of speech forms, whether determined by the numbers of science or the sentiment of speakers, a more dramatic contrast arises if we consider the number of states. There are complicated definitions of what counts as a 'sovereign political entity', i.e. an internationally recognised state, and what can be described by the more common terms of country, leaving aside the much more complicated question of what is a nation. Without going into this too deeply we can recognise about 193 internationally recognised states (acknowledged within the United Nations) and some ten de facto sovereign states. The approximately 7,000 languages are squeezed into these polities, entities which often make recourse to the argument of being characterised by a unique and distinctive language to justify their autonomous existence. Inevitably, this arrangement of many languages and few states, means a disparity between the total effort to afford legitimacy and institutional support to languages and the number of the 'agreed scientific total' of languages. The situation becomes even tighter when we recognise that many states (and the still uncounted 'non-sovereign entities' of the world which don't enjoy full or any political sovereignty) share a common language. The greatest number allocate English a juridical and official recognition: 58 through de jure recognition, i.e. English is official by law; while five (including Australia, the UK, and the US) have English as the de facto but not de jure language and another 25 non-sovereign entities (such as Guam and Gibraltar), have English as sole or joint official language, either de jure or de facto.

French counts 29 states with de jure recognition and twelve dependent territories, and a long list of partial acknowledgements of French in otherwise multilingual states and non-sovereign entities.

Spanish has fourteen de jure declarations of official standing, six by de facto realities (including major countries such as Argentina, Chile, and Mexico) and two dependent territories (Antarctic possessions of Spanish speaking states).

Arabic enjoys de jure recognition in 25 states and 26 if we include its liturgical official status in one other, though in several of these states it has few actual speakers. The next most spread language, Portuguese, is recognised in eight states through de jure statutes.

These languages might be considered the world's 'mega-languages' by the criterion of spread or distribution of acknowledgement in what language policy researchers call 'status planning'. However, by the criterion of total number of regular 'native' speakers, several of these languages cede to Chinese and some also to Hindi. It is easy to understand why 70% of the total number of all languages are spoken by fewer than 5000 individuals each.

No major language comes close to this group of colonially and imperially expanded languages for political recognition, domain, and institutional spread, and although several share official status with other languages, (such as Irish, Maori, and Swahili) their pervasive presence reduces, if not removes, state backing for other languages.

The key point, then, is that these languages tend to prevail in the choices made by national education systems, most extremely argued by Dutch sociologist, Abram De Swaan (1993), who uses the term Q-value to calculate the relative power of different languages. Q-value measures the communication potential of a language or cluster of languages for an individual speaker in a communicative system. De Swaan's basic idea is that individuals add to their existing linguistic repertoire the language that returns the greatest communication payoff, i.e. which increases Q-value.

English has immense Q-value because of its unique constellation of geographic spread, institutional presence, and existing resources, both human and technological.

Obviously, this way to measure language power dispenses with any sense of how English got to enjoy its specific endowments and, predictably, this weakness is the main burden of a scathing critique of this formulaic approach to calculating language power by Robert Phillipson (2004). Phillipson shifts emphasis away from abstract means for measuring power to a demonstration of where English lacks Q-value and a moral/ ideological argument challenging its legitimacy. However, De Swaan (2004) is unrepentant and rejects ideas of language rights and support for small languages claiming these are simply the politics of 'linguistic sentimentalism' and that language choice is ultimately governed by the operations of marketplaces. In this depiction, globalisation represents the consolidation of many small marketplaces into a seamless whole in which individuals can make language choices comparatively and with more reliable information as to the power and portability of this or that new language for learning. It is interesting here to recall Norton's notion of identity and language and how these are embedded in both symbolic and material reward systems that permit and foster identity patterns and possibilities.

In addition, deep inside the UNESCO and later calculations of language loss and the subsequent movements for saving languages lies a perception along the lines of De Swaan's idea. Many scholars point out that most languages being lest today are net being replaced by English but rather by the dominant and national languages (Portuguese among indigenous peoples of Brazil, Bahasa Indonesia in the multilingual provinces of Indonesia, etc.) of the national states in which minority language speakers reside.

Overlaid on this intra-national pattern of minorities shifting from local languages to national ones is the inter-national pattern of English increasingly forging Q-value functions globally. Sensing this coordinated operation of communicative power at the intra-national and the extra-national levels has led to the emergence of a vibrant field of language ecology research accompanied by a politics of reversing the attrition of endangered minority and smaller national languages (Skutnabb-Kangas et al., 2003). Much of the current discourse of saving languages draws on estimations of endangerment and cultural, psychological, and political costs of endangerment. All biological and natural ecological discourses carry deep assumptions about what the primary state of things was before attrition commences, and language attrition calculations are no different. These need to be problematised and discussed even if we accept their essential reasoning or agree with their political purposes. Perhaps the deepest assumption is that there has historically been an original and unblemished linguistic state of existence, a time when things were in their communicative 'state of nature', characterised by untroubled equilibrium among a myriad of forms of speech. This lurking assumption is then extended to the present time with the argument that this pristine state has been dislodged or damaged and, through such disruption, extreme language loss and, therefore, unacceptable risks to important aspects of human cultural values and intellectual possibilities have arisen.

One way to reflect on such assumptions is to tie languages to the governance of human societies. Once we do this, a clear link becomes established which, in fact, makes the human language drama actually rather different from any natural or biological ecosystem, though, some parallels are still tenable.

The pattern here is temporal, but has a strong spatial dimension too. We can associate this pattern to the emergence of bonds of nationality and their link to statehood. In the pattern we can identify a three part schema, which I have developed elsewhere in more detail (Lo Bianco, 2005)--I still consider this as a tentative proposal, since it applies more clearly to some settings (European and Europeanised states) than to others, though there are many states in non-European parts of the world where the pattern applies closely. In addition, the model of statehood that many nations adopt today is so strongly imprinted with the inheritance of European notions of citizenship, governance, and statehood/nationality that this pattern is worth elaborating for its demonstration and emulation effects, even where it doesn't apply directly.

Put most simply and, possibly, crudely, we can distinguish i) the pre-national state; ii) the national state, and iii) the post-national state. Between the pre-national state and the national state (or nation-state) a long period of transition, incomplete in some parts of the world and only partially attempted in others, involved making the bonds of nationality the basis for statehood. In the pre-national state, whose exemplar could be Middle Ages Europe, elites and masses related to their 'state' in radically different ways. Elites were often transnational in their identities, relating beyond local identities to Europe-wide bonds of religious or dynastic rule, while the masses were deeply bound to attachments of family and locality. Both were bound by patterns of feudal localism, however, and linked cross-nationally to Christendom, which was transnational. So, for a period of almost 1,000 years after the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century Rome remained the centre of the spiritual world of Europeans while dynastic and familial links the centre for ruling elites. The expectation of the masses was essentially to obediently pay taxes, to foment no trouble, to forge local bonds of family and fief, and no bonds beyond loyalty to ruler, place, and pope, and to be willing to be recruited to fight in faraway battles in defence of faith and ruler should the need arise.

What is absent from this rather brusque depiction are the ties of nationality. As nationality emerges, slowly and unevenly, its unique function is to tie rulers to ruled, local elites to local masses--processes whose operations are symbolised and produced through a shared language. In the pre-national state era a vast multiplicity of local speech forms, immense variation, and asymmetrical literacy characterise the world of the sub-elite level.

As the slow and uneven progress of nationality arose, for reasons and in ways too complex to discuss here, common shared languages, symbolising and helping to foster national groupings and, hence, named 'national' were 'invented'. The beginning inventor of this was Italy's national poet, Dante Alighieri, who advocated, and then enacted, his version of a national unifying language--a vernacular elevated to functional coverage of a geopolitical state (Lo Bianco, 2005). Later, this was given sentimental power by German romantic philosophers, especially Herder but also Fichte, and a special republican and egalitarian dimension by the political movement of the Jacobins in the French revolution. The national language as Herder imagined it distinguished one group from another, i.e. it offered identity and belonging, and for the French revolutionaries it provided for equal political presence in the state, but at the cost of cultural sameness. The emulation of this formula by more and more peoples extended the national state, not completely secured even today though we often imagine the national state (countries, nations) as though they were inevitable and ever-present. Whenever the formulations of national identity did not correspond with the idealisations of elites they were imposed forcibly, resulting often in the contraction or disappearance of local differences. Often this nationing was conducted with brutal imposition. I am telling a complex story quickly and much nuance is being left out, but it will need to be related in even more bare bones to make its essential point. The idea of the national state premised, at least partly, and in Europe often very greatly, on a unique, defining national language, was then taken abroad, as it were, by European colonial and imperial adventure. In making new nations in Africa, Latin America, and Asia the national state and the national language--and its classic formulation of an exclusive symmetry between them, i.e. one state, one language, and each nation defined by language--became established, and superimposed onto more complex sociolinguistic entities than existed in Europe. Its early and more complete adoption in Europe has greatly depleted the number of languages used in the European land mass, so that the SIL data show it to have only 3% of the world's native languages, less than in Papua New Guinea alone. This fact, however, obscures the insider naming effects of languages and that, prior to the national state, Europe was no more and no less language-creative than anywhere else. As this national state idea spread it carried its linguistic consequences.

So, we have moved from a highly localised linguistic pluralism in the pre-national state, synonymous with feudalism and supranational entities united by a common Latin, to the construction of both nation and national language in the national state, first in Britain and France, and then spreading more widely within and beyond Europe, in which distinctive languages claiming both identity and offering opportunity become standardised and official. National education systems emerge to inculcate masses into the required forms of speech and being.

If you can accept this, at least in broad terms so far, the next claim may be harder to swallow still, but is important to the story: this is the emergence today of the post-national state synonymous with globalisation. The evidence for the often made claim that the nation-state lies dying in the face of relentless forces of economic and technological globalisation and population mobility is contradicted regularly by the resurgence everywhere of national identities and conflicts.

However, it is net difficult to marshal evidence for the more limited claim of the decline of the exclusive sovereignty demanded by autonomous national states, and it is this more limited definition that I want to attach to the term 'post-national' state. In practically all fields where national states once claimed exclusive sovereignty (control of bounded territory, control of economy, exclusive remit over cultural inculcation, control of movement and residence, levying of taxation, conscription, passports, etc.), today there is overwhelming evidence of shared, pooled, and diminished sovereignty. In the boldest claim to be made here, it seems to me that the post-national state returns us somewhat to some of the conditions and characteristics of the pre-national state. We can see broad outlines of a post-national state in transnational capitalism, extended like the Church once was across space and time. The expansion of Islam from the 6th century onwards, first in the Middle East, then across North Africa, and then into South and South East Asia, covering vastly different 'national' entities has some parallels with the Western story I have depicted. Within the Asian land mass the expansion of both Hinduism and Buddhism across national differences is also relevant.

The broad outlines of post-national state structures, which pool and share sovereignty rather than conceding sovereignty altogether, is also being shaped today in how extra-national identities (of migrants particularly but of most people in ordinary but instantaneous ICT-mediated links with anywhere on earth) and supra-national polities, such as the European Union, in its most advanced form and in equivalent 'regional' organisations elsewhere, interact with local realities.

Transnational mobility and the multiplicity of identities that this all makes possible, also gives rise to new ideas on identity, ones steadily growing in acceptance through the 20th century, which discard the widely held view of an enduring and stable self in place of notions of personhood that are flexible, and which allow for shifts and multiplicity. These personal forms of self reflect and help produce the political forms of state. There is a clear shift from the once secure remit of national states premised on boundedness, of institutions as much as of territory, of firm and fixed nationality, faith and unitary language, in both popular understanding and academic discourse. But this shift, which destabilises old notions of how place would and should reflect particular versions of peoplehood, is also contested and alienating. Place and territory in the post-nationalising world might recall and reproduce some of the pluralism that the pre-national world allowed, but no pattern of identity is fully absent from the world today, rather it has to negotiate and justify its place. As national institutions struggle with mass movement of populations, and their borders become more porous, we also see strenuous efforts to recover and reinforce old kinds of belonging. The key instrument in these efforts to hold fast against globalising changes is national citizenship and the political struggles in many parts of the world to fill the conceptual category of citizenship with traditional meaning in the face of demands for more inclusive and plural meanings of citizenship.

Schools and schooling, teachers and teaching, are the institutions and processes vested with this task, to fix belonging and to inculcate behaviour deemed appropriate to that belonging. Society's levers to reinforce schooled and taught identities and behaviours become more fragmented once the compulsion of formal education cedes to the voluntarism of military service and other adult exercises of citizenship. The public administration of a polity, even in its routine operations, both depends on a schooled set of behaviours and reinforces them, whether through map-making, census taking, or the governance and routine of public administration. All these operationalise what has been schooled and locate citizens in given and particular political collectivities. They are not permanent because history records how deeply national entities shift and change, but all national entities seek permanence and give the illusion of permanence--indeed, a claim to continuous existence and antiquity is a common feature of nationalist discourse. That such states are still nervous about fragility in these claims is reflected in their need to spell out in so many national constitutions clauses that proclaim the nation and the state are 'indissoluble'.

No human structure is more vulnerable to globalisation's effects than the national state, and concessions that countries make to the realities of globalisation, such as dual citizenship, increased second language study, free trade, etc., also foreground anxiety and even conflict internally. This is arithmetically inevitable. Only 193 countries exist and their institutional and symbolic bolsters are deployed on behalf of a small number of languages. The privileged operations of education systems and the cultural favouritism of the state are attached to a single nationality or a small group of nationalities within a given state, leaving 7,000 identity groupings of language and culture without a state, or perhaps at the 'sub-state' level. These non-state 'nations' or language-defined peoples that reside beyond or below national states benefit from globalisation because of the loosened hold of national states.

One effect is that over recent decades the world has produced more national states. Some 300 or more 'non-sovereign entities' wait in the wings as 'potential' states, awaiting the time when existing national states either fragment to allow new political entities to emerge, released from the shackles of ideology and colonialism, or devolve more autonomy to regions and districts. The decolonisation process of the 1950s and 1960s saw the emergence of large numbers of new states in Africa and Asia. The past 20 years in Eastern Europe, following the dissolution of the supra-national structures of the USSR, saw another phase of proliferation of new states built on notions of unique national identity, often attested to linguistically. There has also been over the past quarter of a century the emergence of semi-autonomous intra-state regions, such as the devolution within Spain to five distinct regions claiming unique nationality, bolstered in all cases by linguistic particularity. All new proto-states enter a world where the exclusive sovereignty of classical national states is constrained. One key example is the adoption by the Council of Europe of the 1992 European Charter of Regional and Minority Languages, requiring of states that ratify it the provision of territory-specific recognition of minority languages that qualify--languages that many of these same ratifying states had devoted energy and effort over centuries to constraining or obliterating.

The greatest such constraint, however, is not the operation of supra-national legal powers, but the operation of corporate capitalism, strengthened by international rule-making agencies such as those of the World Trade Organisation, the International Monetary Fund, or the World Bank, and using the reasoning of the marketplace to determine patterns of behaviour once considered to be the exclusive province of autonomous nations.

However, even if the creation of new national and sub-national states, or the granting of statutes of autonomy expanded significantly to include an additional 300, the total number of language identity groups able to count on state support would be relatively small. Most would remain at best tolerated within national states concerned more with bolstering their national language and fostering skills in desired foreign languages than in questions of language rights for domestic minorities.

Globalisation, however, makes available to such minority language communities both threats and promises, technologies of instantaneous communication with separated nationals, the principles of international law, and the experience of experimentation and adaptation in other countries. Globalisation also offers the young in these communities the opportunity to forge separate identities, beyond and, sometimes, in defiance of the 'protonation'. The identities available are not only multiple but are also optional, fading, and temporary, and we cannot say what longer term significance these new and unique possibilities have, and what impact on the old staples of identity, nation, faith, ethnicity, language, will have.

So, here we see not just the dissolution of some old forms of identity, and the creation of new ones, but a fluidity in creation and dissolution. And, just as the politics of assertion of differences arises in the face of the weakened hold of national states so too is there a politics of resistance against change. Globalisation produces its flows of effects across the world and as Giddens (1999) argued, these effects produce regionalisation and localisation as much as globalisation, all of which characterise this 'runaway world'.

The language consequences, then, of attrition and extinction and, specifically, of the erosion of the exclusive power of the national state, however real or imagined, lead to two sobering thoughts. I draw these from two distinguished sociolinguists and from their thoughts on efforts at reversing language shift and fostering multilingualism.

The first is from Andrew Gonzalez, a key individual in the history of the management of language diversity in the Philippines, who wrote of the many cases of failure of language policies to produce the outcomes desired for them that '... benign neglect is better than deliberate language planning ...' (see Lo Bianco, 2010b for an extended discussion of these ideas). The second is from Joshua Fishman, reflecting on the scant success of language revival movements which have relied too much on schools to foster intergenerational language maintenance for minority languages. Fishman (2001) has cautioned that schools cannot be relied upon to be allies of language maintenance for minority populations, because schools frequently hasten language loss rather than its maintenance.

These are sobering thoughts because as educators who operate within established education systems, whether in schools or in higher education, in a stable society where public policy is developed in time-honoured ways through more or less public processes, we are inclined to attach a lot of power and agency to education, believing that if we introduce languages with noble purposes in mind to support minority communities these policies will achieve the goals we ascribe to them. However, Gonzalez and Fishman remind us that 'saving' languages is a much more complex endeavour than is often realised and that many policies established to do this job actually make things worse. These two points suggest that languages are more than school subjects, or that their fate depends on the world beyond the school as much as on what happens inside it, and here lies a profound and important insight which I will develop as I proceed.

Fishman has called this activity 'reversing language shift' (RLS) which encompasses both the extreme end of language death and extinction, and the less extreme fate of a group replacing its language with a locally dominant one, while in the original source country or elsewhere there remain native speakers of the abandoned language. In Fishman's reflections drawn from experiences of language loss in many parts of the world, RLS is difficult to accomplish because language loss is a 'late order' indicator of cultural loss. This means, essentially, that a rival identity has become naturalised in the communicative life of the community and this is well advanced when the erosion of the language becomes evident. Here, we see language maintenance or retention positioned in competition with a replacing language, usually one offering greater economic opportunity and material rewards. For the young of such communities particularly but, to some extent, for all its members language maintenance can be seen as opposed to social mobility, i.e. parochial, anti-modern, ageist, atavistic, nostalgic, etc., because stable maintenance of minority languages requires/produces social and institutional differentiation. For the mainstream members of the wider society the efforts of minority populations to maintain their distinctive languages can pose a problem because it can be seen as defying the ethos of participation and social cohesion on which national states operate. Maintaining minority language functions requires constant reinforcement and effort, rather than temporary effort or school-based teaching alone. As we shall see later in the case of Ireland, there is an important and crucial difference in 'saving languages' between even the most successful outcomes of language maintenance efforts in education and what the communication demands of the wider economy and society. Schools, ultimately, are institutions belonging to or dependent on the national state and economic paradigm within which they operate and, so, it has proved difficult in many examples of attempting to recruit schooling to effectively support minority language maintenance or RLS.

Generally, language recovery work such as RLS or 'saving languages' is approached within two broad frameworks: one ecological and the other sociological. Ecological approaches target communication practices of a given population and aim to change the language learning patterns and the symbolic and practical value of different communication alternatives available to speakers in that community. This approach is generally optimistic about RLS and tends to be sceptical about the role of economics and material rewards, believing that 'saving' languages requires changing how we communicate not what jobs people have or their social positions. Increasingly within this ecological approach, scholars and community members see parallels between language revival and the management of natural ecologies. They tend to frame requests for policy change on the basis of this link between the need to conserve biological diversity and linguistic diversity for more sustainable and healthy cultural futures. The main actors in such approaches to language revival are language professionals such as teachers, language planners, and linguistic anthropologists, but they usually work in collaboration with community representatives, who often endorse and advocate ecological approaches to language revival.

The sociological approach differs in major ways from this. It tends to target the wider socioeconomic context in which communication arises. Within this context close attention is paid to the distribution of languages according to prestige domains and level and problem of material rewards available to groups of speakers in this context. In my experience, people who stress the socioeconomic way to understand language shift and loss are rather sceptical about the possibility of RLS in general especially when the method for such reversal stresses the intrinsic value of languages. Socioeconomically oriented scholars argue that ecological approaches to RLS ignore the most important aspects of languages, issues such as the prestige and economic return that speakers can achieve by making particular language choices. The main actors who stress language revival by a focus on the socioeconomic domain are political activists, economists committed to language revival, employment and entrepreneurial interests, and community development officers, but also language professionals who recognise the links between language choice and material rewards.

In the literature on language planning around 'saving' languages, or more technically RLS, the Republic of Ireland has iconic significance. Between 2008 and 2010 an international team of researchers (O Flatharta, Nic Phaidin, Williams, Grin, & Lo Bianco, 2009a; 2009b), combining the ecological and the socioeconomic approaches to RLS, was commissioned to develop a long-term strategy to support the Irish language. The specific remit was to propose a plan that would raise the number of daily users of Irish from a currently estimated 74,000 to 260,000 over a twenty year period. A pioneer of the socioeconomic model of RLS is Francois Grin from Geneva University in Switzerland. As a member of the research team Grin synthesised research and documentation on language revival from diverse settings across the world. The research team built on this synthesis from a long history of documentation of language revival from many sources to propose a schema for the Irish authorities, based on both successes and failures in RLS effort globally.

In general, both of the sobering thoughts of Gonzalez and Fishman are confirmed, since the majority of failed RLS activity has focused too much on formal language teaching, i.e. transmission of the language through the formal process of schooling, or too much on formal legal instruments, RLS effort, or revival of endangered and eroding community languages, require simultaneous effort beyond teaching and learning and beyond formal legal recognition. A coordinated approach of action on three fronts simultaneously is more likely to produce success.

First, effort is required to increase linguistic ability or capacity (C) in the language. Second, effort is required to create and reward opportunities for use of the language (O). Third, policy and community initiatives are required to foster positive attitudes towards use of the language, i.e. desire (D).

This schema of C O D combines elements from the sociological/socioeconomic and the ecological approaches to RLS in a consolidated set of generalisations about language revival and recovery efforts. From successful language recovery and revival efforts around the world, such as those pertaining to Catalan and Welsh in Western Europe, and to a smaller extent with Kauma in South Australia, it is evident that actual language recovery results from the copresence of capacity, opportunity, and (positive) attitudes.

C or capacity (linguistic ability) refers to levels of competence produced through formal teaching. Research evidence is clear that a greater proficiency produced by formal education is highly influential in determining success of language revival efforts. Essentially, this generalisation holds that the higher the level of proficiency attained by learners the more likely they are to use and to want to use the target language. Ability or capacity is nurtured in two ways--informally, in homes and families and other intimate relationships (in processes of intimacy) as well as formally in the education system (in processes of instruction). Intimacy and instruction produce successful knowledge and use for most people in the world in their native languages. However, RLS situations typically involve language shift in homes so that parent to child intimacy transmission has been disrupted compared with 'native' situations. Further, we find highly ineffective instructed proficiency since most RLS involves minority languages. In 'normal' situations, or rather in mainstream settings of national languages, intimacy produces highly successful mother tongue learning and schooling, or instruction, completes the job by extending the linguistic repertoire of the young to include educated and literate forms of expression. In general, second language learning is less successful than mother tongue learning, so that we have universal success, under 'normal' conditions, of first language learning and far weaker attainment of proficiency in second language acquisition. It, therefore, becomes crucial for RLS to produce much higher levels of proficiency from both home and school transmission system to compensate for the weakness of one or other of these systems and to replicate as far as possible mainstream language success.

The second principle of RLS refers to O, or opportunities of use. It is often assumed that learners of second languages, even if this is their language of identity which they are attempting to 'save' or 'revive', will have unhindered access to domains where they can practise and use their growing knowledge of this language. However, domains are much more complicated than this. First, they are not automatically available or relevant for all learners, and tend to become available and relevant for learners only when policy, or social and economic arrangements are put in place that encourage use of the target language. This use of the language in these environments must be sensitive to the growing proficiency, meaning effectively the incomplete proficiency, of the learner. Native speakers in these domains must make space for learners to use their partial and learner-marked proficiency, naturalistically, in these domains. This means that the domains must be linked with roles and interactions between new learners and old speakers and ideologies supportive of participation between them. A useful comparison is with how the domain of child rearing produces naturalistic interaction for the learner. This arises with the process of intimacy (care and responsibility for the infant) in which practically all individuals involved, and all social roles, are made available to the learner as models of interaction. All are typically keen to converse with children acquiring their mother tongue, and adapt their communication to the needs and levels of the learner. However, for second language learners, and, importantly, for those studying a language that is being 'revived' at the same time as it is being taught, such opportunities and such domains are rare. The qualities we find in the domain of intimacy for a mother tongue that RLS efforts should seek to emulate are productive and stimulating occasions for naturalistic use of the growing language competence of the learner, that encourage new learning (development) and confirm what has already been acquired (communication).

The third part of the schema applied to the Irish language development project is D: desire. This refers to the need to foster positive attitudes, rather than assume they exist. Attitudes or desire, tend to determine whether the abilities (from intimacy or instruction) and the opportunities (available domains with the appropriate discourses), which are supplied in social and economic environments, are actually converted into practical use of the language. This desire is mostly generated by the learner, and the learner community, but whether and how it is fostered is a greatly neglected aspect of the puzzle of language revival.

In many language revival efforts there exists a complex and occasionally, tense relation between old speakers and new learners. Ideally, those who speak the endangered language and those who are acquiring it through instruction are linked to each other in a relationship of mutual commitment to normalising the language so that, at some future time, the informal transmission system of the home and intimacy, and the formal transmission system of the school, are linked with the domains of natural use in the community. In reality, many RLS projects involve struggles, tension, and even conflict around issues of 'authenticity' (what counts as an appropriate norm or form of the language a learner produces, and the level of toleration that should be afforded to errors and changes). Questions related to norms, usages, and even ultimately ownership claims around the language can arise. When new learners express their desire to use the language they are learning in an effort to 'save' it by becoming future native speakers, they often have to negotiate domains and discourses dominated by existing, usually older, speakers. The attitudes of established speakers to the learners and the space in which they allow them to express themselves, including what they are allowed to say and how, become crucial questions influencing the success of the overall endeavour. The questions of what counts as 'authentic' use of the language arise because learners not only make errors of acquisition but make changes to the language as they deploy it in actual communication. Such changes reflect unique meanings, circumstances, and purposes of learners and mirror what occurs with non-endangered languages, but with more serious consequences. How norms of appropriate and legitimate language are negotiated in endangered and recovering languages are questions of considerable subtlety negotiated in interpersonal interactive communication. In a myriad of micro instances old speakers project messages to new learners that help or hinder their commitment and ability to persist with the difficult task of using a language being recovered as it is being acquired.

C--competence, O--opportunities, and D--desire form a triple nexus in language revival projects with lessons for the teaching even of languages that are not endangered and being revived but which are strong and stable world languages. In language revival situations a particular dynamic applies to which we can apply the principles of C O D, but it is also one from which regular language teaching can draw critical lessons. These relate mainly to the idea of 'usage', as I will describe drawing on examples of three young people from different parts of the world. Two are learners 'using' what we can call socially invested languages, i.e. languages in which their communities and the young people themselves are ideologically strongly committed. These examples are real-life ones, given fictitious names here, and drawn from recent research in Ireland and Scotland. The third example is from Sri Lanka, also using a fictitious name and setting, but describes a small part of a real observation, previously reported in part (Lo Bianco, 2011). I will refer to them as Colleen, Wilson, and Siva.

Code-switching Colleen: 'no longer the joker'.

Evidence from consultations and research collected in support of the twenty year strategy project for Irish produced information from academic, business, and government sources as well as from users and learners of the language. For one young respondent Irish is a socially invested language. Colleen is a sixteen year old committed to participating in the national activity of reviving the ancestral and official language of her country. We can get an appreciation of the immense task involved if we look at maps of Ireland, available readily on the Internet, which mark, usually in deep green, the remaining parts of the country still speaking Irish. These are Gaeltacht areas, rapidly diminishing as the English wind coming from the east, blows across a once all green, i.e. all Irish-speaking, Ireland.

Ireland, Eire, is an ancient nation with a new state, dating from 1922, and one of its most insistent projects of national authentication has been to make its cultural character more aligned to its political autonomy. In this the renamed Gaelic becomes Irish, named for the nation. According to census figures, Irish areas have become restricted dramatically with the passage of time, confined increasingly now to narrow reaches of the far west of the country and offshore islands (Maps 1 and 2). Like maps of Australia that depict where Aboriginal languages are still spoken by children, these maps of Ireland give a stark reminder of shrinkage, and tell a tale of retreat against the advance of English, the replacing language in both cases. In the all Irish schools, among the most desired and academically successful in the country, students like Colleen are asked to reverse this process of the English wind blowing Irish off the map.

The Irish census shows that in 1996 1.43 million respondents claimed an ability to speak Irish, in 2002 this was 1.57 million, while in 2006 the figure had grown to 1.66 million. The temptation to interpret these figures as positive is tempered dramatically by the subsequent finding that in 2006 only 74,148 respondents claimed to speak the language on a daily basis, and this was projected to increase through both intimacy, transmission in the home, and instruction in school to 80,014 in 2016 and, only 87,279 in 2028--projections that many people considered optimistic and some people fanciful (O Flatharta et al., 2009b).

Clearly, what Colleen is asked to do and what she desires to do, is to change history, to reverse the predicted trend of language where about 1.66 million claim to know a language that the vast majority never use, and not an exotic or culturally distant language, but the language of their national culture and ancestral lands, a language elevated in public discourse and centrally featured in national history as the language of Eire. This is what l mean by social investment, a language having such overriding and overarching purposes attached to ideologies of nation. It is clear that capacity, opportunity, and desire come to have particular meanings and power for young people asked to do this job of revival. Colleen is a learner of Irish. Her home language was English but she declares herself a strong supporter of the language, 'my language', and in a 2008 discussion about language revival and language usage said:
   Well, you know, I don't really want to
   say it, but you know, well I love the
   Irish and, I mean I know I am, and
   all that, and I do, I do use it a lot, like
   camps and stuff, and school but,
   sometimes when it's all of us and
   we're talkin' about music and stuff,
   like the word for a joke, or how to slag
   someone, they don't like come so
   easy, so we go to the English ...

This is a perfect depiction of the connection between capacity, opportunity, and desire.

For Colleen the domains available are not the ones that allow her to be who she sees herself as being. She sees herself as enacted in how she talks, and how she is perceived discursively. She can't 'be the joker' in Irish in the way she more readily and naturally is in English--among her friends how you talk is a large part of how you are, and her Irish competence doesn't extend to that level. Colleen admits to a critical kind of code-switching, one that she goes on to say then pushes her speech more into English than she would like. Language teachers and language teaching lessons abound in this instance of self-perceived identity, of management of the projected self, and what this predicts for the outcome of learning. If we could tie social usage of a socially invested language to academic language learning then pressure on students like Colleen to switch would be less and her language usage could more closely align with her desires, and capabilities, in key domains. Colleen shows the validity of Norton's question posed earlier, about Who am I?, being unable to be answered without reference to What am I allowed to do? Structuring the possibility of the realisation of desire for Colleen, to be the language champion and language reviver, is the level of proficiency that the formal transmission system has bequeathed her. The D is high and committed but the C is insufficient in the domains of O most important to Colleen's sense of self to allow her to complete the job she and her nation have allocated her.

Wilson: 'trying' to be a champion

Just like Ireland, if we study a map of Scotland (Map 3) marking the Gaelic areas we can see the dark spots located at the furthest places from the source of the replacing English, the highlands, and the western isles. The English wind in this spatial organisation is blowing from the south.

In the middle of the 1990s Scotland voted in favour of a devolution package from the UK and established its first parliament at Edinburgh in 300 years in 1997 and in 2007 the Scots elected the Scottish National Party (SNP) to government. The ultimate intention of the SNP is to do as Ireland did in 1922 and forge a separate nation, a new national state, recovering an ancient one which had lost its autonomy. A key feature of post-devolution Scotland has been explicit language planning, issuing a series of reports on cultural and language questions which contain what I call 'discourses of obligation' to the ancient nation recovering its statehood. These discourses of obligation ask the young, new learners of Scottish Gaelic, to join old speakers, in a shared effort of revival. However, these discourses of obligation occur against a surrounding context of human capital advantages for English, overlapping sovereignty with Westminster, and rival language policy issues that might seem to be safely different from the task of reviving the endangered old national language of the Gaels, but in practice come to crowd the territory of language planning--issues like plain language usage, citizenship and literacy, and questions arising from globalisation, such as languages of trade, and meeting the citizenship communication needs of immigrants.


In previous discussion on Scotland, I include an analysis of the language policy developments that arose from this act of political devolution and its ongoing process. I draw the following two quotes from a key report to the Scottish Executive, as the government is called, the MacPherson Taskforce of 2000 commissioned to provide a plan for the revival of the language. This key report expresses the socially invested nature of learning a language of national revival, such as Scottish Gaelic. In the foreword the commissioning Minister writes:
   Gaelic ... precious jewel in the heart
   & soul of Scotland ... not constrained
   within strict boundaries or herded
   into tight corners. Gaelic is national,
   European & international ...
   fundamental to Scotland ... not on
   the periphery or ... the fringes ... must
   be normalised ... its rights must be


Later the report describes the language as 'a foundation-stone in building new Scotland, an integral, dynamic component of a self-assured community ... social stability and pride in linguistic ... cultural identity' (Lo Bianco, 2008, p. 58).

We can see here a clear 'responsibilising' kind of language: young learners who take on the job of studying this language are part of a process of national revival and cultural revitalisation, messages that are relayed into text books, replayed by teacher talk and other public acknowledgement of learning this language. This is not strictly a 'foreign' language even for those who don't know and never have used it. As part of the University of the Highlands and Islands a Scottish Medium College has been created on the Isle of Skye called Sabhal Mor Ostaig.

During several visits there I discussed language revival and language learning issues with students, recent graduates and, especially, with a group of teachers who were out teaching the language they had learned, and teaching it in some bilingual programs. These were champions for the language, and one young man, Wilson, made an arresting comment about the link between usage, learning and teaching.

Describing the same challenge facing Colleen, Wilson stated:
   You have to press on past the point
   when words stretch, switching, that's
   a problem, like we ask the kids to be
   champions and ride on through when
   you feel like switching, and as you
   use Gaelic you/earn it too ... but I don't
   always manage it, hmmm ...

Here, we see again in sharp relief the presence of capacity, opportunity and desire--a language champion, committed to meeting the goals and desires of the MacPherson Taskforce, of achieving a user community for a language much more endangered than Irish, and seeking to invest 'the kids' he teaches to 'ride on through' when they feel like their capacity is giving out and their communicative needs require them to switch to English.


Siva doing what no one expects

My third young person is from Sri Lanka, a young boy I met some years ago while working there and whose school I was working with on a bilingual education policy project. In 2001, Sri Lanka created a series of so-called 'Amity Schools', since renamed English medium schools, in which friendship would be forged across the bitter ethnic and communal divides by learning the language of the other, Sinhala for Tamils, Tamil for Sinhalese, and English for everybody.

A twelve or thirteen year old from the town of Likarawela, fictional name, who had never left this poor up-country tea plantation area, a Tamil Hindu boy in a mostly Buddhist school, was part of a class I was working with to trial some new language units being developed by the National Institute of Education. On more than one occasion this apparently dutiful student was described by his teacher, along with a group of others in his class, as a 'no hoper' with 'no English' and 'nothing much to say', and not a small hint that he was possibly stupid, perhaps even that the entire group of his friends were similarly unlikely to ever achieve anything positive at school. Some of these children were thought to be incapable of learning in general. The reasons and explanations varied from being 'too poor', or, in one instance, because they 'won't stop moving' and in another because 'you know', though I really didn't and assumed it was an ethnic slur, or that languages were for 'bright children' really.

The latter was the most common recourse to explanation, essentially a description of who has access to the social networks where standard kinds of English would be learned and, therefore, to social advantage. In this, not inaccurate, description the key link between usage and learning, opportunities that afford usage and naturalise it, and the effect on new learning that is produced by successful communication, that underlies the argument of this paper, was validated.


Whereas for Colleen and Wilson, the saving and the learning of languages were national projects to which they had willingly allowed themselves to be recruited, for Siva, the language learning task given him by the nation was one he was presumed to have failed utterly.

A few days after one visit to the school, colleagues and I visited a local shrine where a famous Buddha statue attracts tourists. There we saw a remarkable demonstration of language usage, this young boy, and a group of his friends, engaged in what no one thought possible.

Look at what Siva can do (see figure 2).

In a remarkable industry of trinket selling this boy judged incapable of learning English because he moves too much, is too poor, or is 'you know', was part of a process of intelligence gathering and multiple language salesmanship, persistent and pushy, but remarkably strong in pragmatic language communication. The interlocutors were a large number of relatively unwilling tourists getting down from buses.

At point 1, a 'dealer', a dishevelled older man, would issue either elephant (E) or Buddha (B) carvings, according to some mysterious selection system, to individual boys. The boys would take their assigned elephant or Buddha carving and gather behind some bushes to receive information from other boys who appeared to be intelligence scouts.

This intelligence seemed to be what determined how the whole sales pitch that took place was conducted. The sales pitch was organised spatially as shown in the figure 2, and appeared to respond to a classification of the tourist groups by language spoken, hastily conceived by the intelligence scouts. After some discussion, presumably about language strategy and key selling points, the boys would fan out in sweeps, so that some regularly 'attacked' some groups at points 4, others at point 5, and others at point 6, though often it wasn't as well organised as that. We noted a rough grouping of languages, English, Japanese, and Dutch often tried with single groups, so that an attempt at English or what sounded like Dutch, leading to a fall back use of English. A second reasonably clear grouping of apparently Latin looking types was assailed with something like Spanish or Italian and, possibly, French.


Observing this from the initial vantage point and later from among the tourists and noting as much as possible, it was clear that a pattern of language classification of tourists was operating and that the trinket selling children were language specialised, though the apparently high level organisation eluded observation.

Young Siva himself was heard to yell, attached to a young couple, in English:
   ... Buy, Buy! Sir Sir Sir SIIIIIRRRR
   Buy buy! Please You Buy! Lady Lady
   Elephant! Got gotta buy! Buy Get
   Elephant [indicating GIVE IT TO HER]
   SHE! For Lady Plis Plis man BUY/
   Black! [putting it against her clothes
   to show match] OOHHI! 2000 rupiah!
   Cheap Cheap! America [Australia,
   England ...] Take! Beuffil elephant Buy
   Buy! ... Lady ...

Failing to make headway Siva then produced the following Italian:
   .... Elefanteee! Cumprare, cumprare!
   Bass prezz! Due mila rupiah ! Italiyaa! Poco poccco! Costaa
   poccco! Cumprare elefanteee! Si Si Si
   Please comprare! Bell.. elefanteee ...
   bello! Costa Due mil rupiah! Si Si Si ...


The views and behaviours of Siva, Colleen, and Wilson all reveal important ideas and connections between the domains of 'saving' languages and work on 'teaching' and learning languages. Centrally important among the insights we can glean from them is the crucial relation between usage and learning, between psychological investment of individual learners (questions of active identity linked to behaviour), and the purpose of language study. They show that competence is tied to identity and that, in specific domains, the right kinds of competence attach closely to the crucially important processes of realising identity in communication. The claims of nations on the lingual behaviours of young people must be mediated by those young people themselves, and old speakers, and, indeed, teachers must grant the learner space and respect for their views and needs.

Saving languages, and using critical languages to bring some money home to a needy family, are activities in which opportunity and desire relate to capacity. In Siva's case capacity is less formal and accurate, and only incidentally relevant to his aims. For Colleen and Wilson linguistic capacity is fundamental to the task of preventing a shift to conversing in English. All three reveal and underline to us as language teachers and language researchers a unique quality about languages. Unlike other 'subjects' on the school curriculum, languages are irretrievably social activities, practices in lived contexts in which important consequences arise and which are inhabited by the real-world needs of learners, both material and symbolic. Saving languages and learning critically important languages for real world purposes highlight that using is also learning, learning to use is learning also to be fluent, and learning to be fluent is also learning to be the kind of self the learning wants to hear reflected in how they speak. We need to incorporate structured and authentic usage as part of a seriously intentioned approach to formal language learning in schools.

Applied language studies in Australia originated in the pioneering work of Horwood and Quinn focused on efficient language learning with a pedagogical and cognitive orientation. For effective language learning we should add insights from socially oriented work. I have wanted to show in this paper, by reference to how nations socially invest languages and how learners take on these obligations to save and support languages, that socioculturai contexts and identity research point to additional ways to teach languages well--ways pointed out most sharply by the drama of 'saving' languages.


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Joseph Lo Bianco is Professor of Language and Literacy Education at The University of Melbourne and President of the Australian Academy of the Humanities,

His recent books include: Austraiian Literacies (with P. Freebody, 2001), Australian policy activism in language and literacy (with R. Wickert, 2001), Voices from Phnom Penh, development and language (2002), Teaching invisible culture: Classroom practice and theory (with C. Crozet, 2003), Language policy in Australia (2004), The emergence of Chinese (2007), China and English: Globalisation and dilemmas of identity (with J. Often and Y. Gao, 2009), Second languages and Australian schooling (with Yvette Slaughter, 2009). He has more than 120 refereed publications.
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Title Annotation:Keith Horwood Memorial Lecture
Author:Bianco, Joseph Lo
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:4E
Date:May 1, 2011
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