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Rajend Mesthrie (ed.), Language in South Africa.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2002. Pp. xvii, 485. HB
Language in South Africa (LinSA) is a very handsome book,
beautifully edited, carefully proofread, and produced on thick paper in
elegant fonts. It is in fact the same book, although revised and
updated, as Language and social history: Studies in South African
sociolinguistics (Mesthrie 1995). Just
looking at the two volumes, side by side on my desk, I could write an
essay on publishing and face validity. I am happy that this book has
found an international publisher, because it deserves wider reading and
better promotion (I never saw the first book reviewed or promoted), but
the easy conclusion that the book under review is a better book is not
necessarily warranted. As the Irish say about their horses, handsome is
as handsome does, and both volumes do handsomely indeed.
The two books under review, Motivation
in language planning and language policy (MLPP)
and Multilingualism and government (M&G),
are both about language policy, at least at one level, and both
are, or claim to be, based on case studies. That is the end of
any similarity between them.
Language Ideologies is a two-volume anthology, published in conjunction with the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and “designed for educators, administrators, ESL experts, scholars, and all those who are concerned about language as a source and product of discrimination in our schools and society” (Vol. 1, p. xliii)—not that a reader will learn very much about language ideologies, a topic that has surfaced in the 1990s (see Woolard & Schieffelin, 1994; Schieffelin, Woolard, & Kroskrity, 1998). The ideology here refers solely to the ideas and beliefs used by the Official English Movement and English Only to legitimate their interests, “specifically by distortion and dissimulation” (see Eagleton, 1990, p. 30). This ideology is mostly not analyzed but rather labeled with assertions of “hegemony of the dominant culture” and the like, whereas the ideology that motivates this publication is never problematized and barely acknowledged (but see James Cummins's intelligent Foreword to Vol. 1). The result is a curious sense of English Only bashing at the same level as H. L. Mencken's “If English was good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for you.”
Elizabeth Coelho's Teaching and Learning in Multicultural Schools(TLMS) is a very good book for its kind. Its primary audience is teachers at the primary and secondary level of schools in situations of cultural pluralism, the “multicultural” of the title. Schools are actually rarely multicultural, even if their students represent different cultures in contact, but rather serve as the major instrument of acculturation and assimilation into the dominant ideology. TLMSattempts to counteract this tendency by a valiant attempt of an “account of what is required to teach and learn effectively in multicultural schools” (p. x)! Coelho's ultimate goal is using the schools as agents for change in society, affirming the richness and stimulation to be found in cultural diversity.
Nancy Lemberger's Bilingual education: Teachers' narratives is an
interesting book, although probably not to SLA-type scholars. Bilingual education is
written “to inform preservice and veteran teachers about the field of bilingual education
on a very personal level” (back cover), presumably to be used as a text.
This chapter provides a descriptive review of research on language-ineducation policy and planning. We intend no theoretical generalizations but rather a descriptive summary of present research (1990–1993). With various interpretations of language-in-education policy available in the literature, it is first necessary to establish the perspective which guides this review. Ingram (1990), for example, confines language-in-education to second or foreign language teaching and learning although he mentions literacy and bilingual education as topics in language-in-education.
This chapter explores the range of policies and their implications for language teaching (developing bilingual proficiency) that reasonably seem to follow from the data, findings, and discussions in all the DBP reports, including the second-year report (Allen et al. 1983) and the three-volume final report: Volume I, The Nature of Language Proficiency; Volume II, Classroom Treatment; and Volume HI, Social Context and Age (Harley et al. 1987).
In what follows, two of the major factors in considering research on bilingual education are ignored. The first concerns the theoretical perspective on which the research is based. In an earlier discussion of the immersion programs research, I concluded (with a conflict theory bias) that “unless we try in some way to account for the socio-historical, cultural, and economic-political factors which lead to certain forms of bilingual education, we will never understand the consequences of that education” (Paulston 1980:33). Here I have chosen to ignore all these factors and have indeed considered instruction and school programs as the independent variables in trying to understand the consequences of the various programs. A caveat in passing, however: We have to be extremely cautious in drawing generalizations based on a sample of middle-class children with IQs around 115–117 (Harley et al. 1987, Vol. 111:223) who are in voluntary programs. Although we would not expect any reputable scholar to recommend it, we should be concerned about those who advocate importing the immersion program model for minority bilingual education in the United States.
One who has lived soon an entire century must learn to change all her habits, and habits of address surely are not the easiest. What comes simply and naturally in one place is wrong and ill-mannered in another (Former servant-girl, informant KU 2849).
Even an ordinary simple worker has today became aware of the fact that he also is a human being, and that the great machinery would not function if he did not play his part. An old conservative postmaster's wife said once to my mother, who was the simple wife of a worker: ‘I think things now are not the way they should be; the workers' conditions are so good that they dress so well that nowadays one cannot tell the difference between workers and fine folk.’ This utterance from a woman who believed she belonged to the fine folk my mother never forgot, and I myself have also remembered it (Retired railroad worker, informant KU 2768)
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