Frances Giampapa: Reflections on the Multilingualism Seminar Series

As first term comes to a close I reflect on the final two seminars in our GESF Mulitilingualism series.  In Seminar One we had a wonderful presentation by Angela Creese and Adrian Blackledge from the University of Birmingham. In Seminars Two and Three – which is the topic of this post,  we were treated to a glimpse of the politics of bilingual schools within the Spanish context where the commodification of bilingualism through the promotion of English has become an important marker of distinction.

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Dr. Ana Maria Relaño Pastor, visiting scholar from Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha offered a fascinating picture of the transformation of one Spanish public school from servicing minority and marginalized communities in a working class neighbourhood to its current rebirth as a bilingual school providing distinction and prestige for its middle class families. The tensions that are raised through the narratives of bilingualism that Dr. Relaño Pastor traces bring forth a set of ideologically driven institutional structures set up by this bilingual school that has not only marginalized particular community groups but also reconceptualized the roles of English native speaker teachers. For more on Dr. Relaño Pastor’s research see her webpage.

In the final seminar, Dr. Jan Andrews from UWE presented emerging issues on the role of multilingualism in a recently funded AHRC project “Researching Multilingually at the Borders of Language, the Body, Law and the State”. Dr. Andrews pushed the audience to think about the uses of language at sites of pain and pressure (such as borders).

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She highlighted the interdisciplinarity of the research and the use of creative partners (poets, artists) have come together through translingual practice to critically challenge the norms of fieldwork. Dr. Andrews set out a series of compelling case studies illustrating the interlocking voices of researchers, participants and artists in their endeavor to examine life on the borders.


Editor’s Note: Dr Frances Giampapa is Senior Lecturer in Education (TESOL/Applied Linguistics) in the Graduate School of Education, University of Bristol. Her research interests focus on the migration, language and identities nexus across multilingual contexts. Contact: frances.giampapa@bristol.ac.uk