Residential courses

Researching multilingualism: key concepts, methods & issues

These two 5-day residential courses were designed for post-Foundation doctoral researchers and for (early careers) post-doctoral researchers who are engaged in research on multilingualism .

They were organised as part of an advanced research training project on Researching multilingualism, multilingualism in research practice (RES 046-25-0004), funded by the ESRC under its Researcher Development Initiative (RDI), from May 2010 to April 2013.

The aim was to build a network of researchers who are concerned with the refinement, consolidation and development of approaches to the study of multilingualism in different contexts. This RDI project took forward the work initiated in the highly successful RDI project on Ethnography, language and communication (coordinated by Ben Rampton and colleagues at King’s College, University of London), January 2007-December 2009.

The 5-day courses were the first of a series of advanced research training activities which were organised in collaboration with other researchers across the UK. The other activities included: 5 follow-up support days, organised as small group clinics related to the research interests of participants; one day regional workshops in England, Scotland and Wales; a 2-day workshop on transcribing bilingual discourse; 2 master classes (with Alastair Pennycook and Monica Heller) and a final conference for those involved in the teaching of research methods.  

Researching multilingualism 

The last two decades have seen a rapidly growing interest, internationally, in research on bilingualism and multilingualism. This is largely due to the significant linguistic, cultural and demographic changes that have been ushered in by globalisation, by transnational population flows, by the advent of new technology, by the changing political and economic landscape of Europe and the accession of new nation-states to the European Union and, in the UK, by language policy changes introduced in the wake of political devolution.

The last two decades have also seen the emergence of new strands of research on multilingualism and new lines of enquiry which have incorporated critical and post-structuralist perspectives from social theory and which have embraced new epistemologies and research methods. Different research strategies have been employed in different kinds of sociolinguistic spaces: in local neighbourhoods, across transnational diaspora, in multilingual workplaces, complementary schools/community classes, mainstream educational settings, health care centres, religious gatherings, legal settings, bureaucratic encounters and in the mass media, on the internet. Researchers have provided detailed accounts of face to face encounters in multilingual settings and in mediated, virtual interactions. They have also explored the interface between spoken and written language use and multimodality, seeking connections between local situated practices and wider social processes.

These new strands of research on multilingualism have not only deepened our understanding of the particularities of the multilingual practices emerging in specific research sites. They have also begun to provide new insights into the nature of the changes taking place within the wider communicative order. Research in multilingual settings is thus making a significant contribution to the forging of a new sociolinguistics which is better attuned to the description and analysis of the profound linguistic, cultural and societal changes taking place in the late modern era.

Multilingualism in research practice

Multilingualism is also becoming a significant dimension of research practice in some areas of social science, due to the increasing linguistic and cultural diversity of contemporary society. This is particularly evident in research that is of relevance to social and educational policy in multilingual urban contexts. Monolingual researchers increasingly find themselves seeking bilingual assistance from interpreters and translators at different points in the research process (e.g. in producing bilingual questionnaires, translating or transcribing audio-recorded interviews, conducting advisory group meetings, consulting with stakeholders or in disseminating research findings in different languages). This throws up key epistemological issues and questions relating to researcher identity and to asymmetries of power in the knowledge-building process. In Wales and Scotland, there are now legally binding requirements within the public sector regarding the use of languages other than English (e.g. in Wales, the requirement under the Welsh Language Act of 1993 to treat Welsh and English on a basis of equality).

Some social research in bilingual or multilingual settings involves collaboration between researchers speaking different languages or with different degrees of proficiency in those languages, but research timetables rarely allow opportunities for reflection on the production of knowledge in more than one language or on the nature and significance of interpretation and translation in the research process.

This RDI offered a forum for researchers across the social sciences who are working in multilingual settings, in the UK and elsewhere, to engage in dialogue about bilingual ways of working and to consider the issues arising from work in multilingual teams. It is also hoped that it served as a route into research on bilingualism and multilingualism for social scientists who speak one of the languages widely spoken in the UK. There is, at present, a rather small pool of bilingual researchers who are qualified to undertake world-class research on bilingualism or multilingualism in contemporary social life.

The 5-day residential courses at Birmingham

The 5-day courses were organised into sessions, with different themes and orienting theories. The sessions were led by different members of the MOSAIC Centre for Research on Multilingualism and by guest lecturers.

Session 1: Researching multilingualism: why, what and how?
Session 2: Discourses about multilingualism
Session 3: From policy to communicative practice in multilingual schools and classrooms
Session 4: Bilingual practitioners in monolingual institutional contexts
Session 5: Creating multilingual spaces: complementary schools and local life worlds
Session 6: From language policy to bilingual education practice
Session 7: Literacy practices in bilingual and multilingual educational contexts
Session 8: Multilingual literacy practices in local life worlds (including the internet)
Session 9: Multilingualism in research practice

Marilyn Martin-Jones 
Deirdre Martin 

July 5-9, 2010

pdficonsmallDownload the timetable for the 2010 residential weekend (PDF, 138KB)

Reading relevant to the course

Blackledge, A. (2005) Discourse and power in a multilingual world. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Blackledge, A. and Creese, A. (2010) Multilingualism: a critical perspective. London: Continuum.

Block, D. (2006) Multilingual identities in a global city. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Blommaert, J. (2007) Commentaries: on scope and depth in linguistic ethnography. Journal of Sociolinguistics 11(5), 682-688.

Blommaert, J. (2010) The sociolinguistics of globalization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Brinton, D., Kagan, O. and Bauckus, S. (eds.) (2008) Heritage language education: a new field emerging. New York: Routledge

Cooke, M. and Simpson, J. (2008) ESOL: a critical guide. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Creese, A. (2005) Teacher collaboration and talk in multilingual classrooms. Clevedon, Avon: Multilingual Matters.

Creese, A. (2008) Linguistic ethnography. In K. A. King and N.H. Hornberger (eds.) Encyclopedia of Language & Education, Second edition, Vol. 10: Research Methods in Language and Education. New York: Springer.

Creese, A., Bhatt, A. and Martin, P. (2009) Multilingual researcher identities: interpreting linguistically and culturally diverse classrooms. In J. Miller, M. Gearon and A. Kostogriz (eds.) Linguistically and culturally diverse classrooms: new dilemmas for teachers. Clevedon, Avon: Multilingual Matters, 215-233.

Creese, A., Martin, P. and Hornberger, N. (eds.) (2008). Encyclopedia of Language and Education, 2nd Edition, Volume 9, Ecology of Language. New York: Springer.

Creese, A. (2010) Linguistic ethnography. In Evangelia Litosseliti (ed.) Research methods in Linguistics. London: Continuum.

Gafaranga, J. (2007) Code-switching as a conversational strategy. In P.Auer and Li Wei (eds.) Handbook of multilingualism and multilingual communication. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Garcia, O. (2009) Bilingual education in the 21st century: a global perspective. New York: Wiley-Blackwell.

Gregory, E. and Williams, A. (2000) City literacies: learning to read across generations and cultures. London: Routledge.

Gardner, S. (2008) Integrating ethnographic, multidimensional, corpus linguistic and systemic functional approaches to genre description: an illustration through university history and engineering assignments. In E. Steiner and S. Neumann (eds) Proceedings of the 19th European Systemic Functional Linguistics Conference and Workshop: Data and Interpretation in Linguistic Analysis. Universität des Saarlandes, Saarbrücken, July 2007.

Gardner, S. and A. Yaacob. (forthcoming/ available on request) Young learner perspectives through researcher-initiated role play in multilingual contexts. In S. Gardner and M. Martin-Jones (eds) Multilingualism, discourse and ethnography. London: Routledge.

Heller, M. (ed.) (2007) Bilingualism: a social approach. Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.

Heller, M. (2006, 2nd edition) Linguistic minorities and modernity. London: Continuum.

Heller, M. and Martin-Jones, M. (2001) Voices of authority: education and linguistic difference. Westport, CT: Ablex.

Jorgensen, J.N. (2006) Plurilingual conversations among bilingual adolescents. Journal of Pragmatics, 37, 391-402.

Jorgensen, J.N. (2008) Polylingual languaging around and among children and adolescents. International Journal of Multilingualism,5 (3), 161-176.

Jorgensen, J.N. and Lytra, V. (ed.) (2008) Multilingualism and identities across contexts: cross-disciplinary perspectives on Turkish-speaking youth in Europe. Copenhagen Studies in Bilingualism, vol. 45, University of Copenhagen, Faculty of Humanities.

Ivanič, R. et al. (2009) Improving learning in college: rethinking literacies across the curriculum. London: Routledge

Hornberger, N.H. and Johnson, D.C. (2007) Slicing the onion ethnographically: layers and spaces in multilingual language education policy and practice. TESOL Quarterly 41, 509-532.

Li Wei and Moyer, M. (eds.) 2008 Research methods in bilingualism and multilingualism. Oxford: Blackwell.

Lin, A. M-Y. and Martin, P.W. (eds.) (2005) Decolonisation, globalisation: language education policy and practice. Clevedon, Avon: Multilingual Matters

Luk, J.C-M. and Lin, A. M-Y.(2007) Classroom interactions as cross-cultural encounters. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Makoni, S.and Pennycook, A. (2007) Disinventing and reconstituting languages. Clevedon, Avon: Multilingual Matters.

Martin, D. M. (2005) Communities of practice and learning communities: do bilingual co-workers learn in community? In D. Barton and K. Tusting (eds.) Beyond communities of practice: language, power and social context. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Martin, D. (2009) Language disabilities in cultural and linguistic diversity, Clevedon: Multilingual Matters

Martin-Jones, M. (2007) “Bilingualism, education and the regulation of access to language resources: changing research perspectives”. In M. Heller (Ed.) Bilingualism: a social approach. Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 161-182.

Martin-Jones, M. and Jones, K. (Eds.) (2000) Multilingual literacies: reading and writing different worlds. Amsterdam: John Benjamins (especially Chapters 14-16).

Martin-Jones, M. and Saxena, M. (2003) Bilingual resources and ‘funds of knowledge’ for teaching and learning in multiethnic classes in Britain. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, Vol. 6, Nos. 3 & 4, (Special issue on ‘Multilingual classroom ecologies’), 267-282.

Martin-Jones, M., de Mejía, A.M and Hornberger, N. (eds.) (2008). Encyclopedia of Language and Education, 2nd Edition, Volume 3, Discourse and Education. New York: Springer.

Martin-Jones, M., Hughes, B.A. and Williams, A. (2009) “Land, language and new literacies: the working/learning lives of young people in North Wales”. In a special issue of the International Journal of the Sociology of Language (Vol. 195), edited by Nik Coupland and Michelle Aldridge, on ‘Welsh in Wales and its diaspora: social and subjective issues’, 39-62.

May, S. (2001) Language and minority rights: ethnicity, nationalism and the politics of language. London: Longman.

McCarty, T. (ed.) (in press) Ethnography and language policy. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Pavlenko, A. & Blackledge, A.J. (2004) Negotiation of identities in multilingual settings. Clevedon, Avon: Multilingual Matters.

Pennycook, A. (2001) Critical applied linguistics. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Pennycook, A. (2010) Language as local practice. London: Routledge.

Rampton, B. (2007) Neo-Hymesian linguistic ethnography in the United Kingdom. Journal of Sociolinguistics, 11(5), 584-607.

Ricento, T.L. and Hornberger, N. H. (1996) Unpeeling the onion: language planning and policy and the ELT professional. TESOL Quarterly 30 (3), 401-428

Saxena, M. (2009) Negotiating conflicting ideologies and linguistic otherness: code switching in English classrooms. English Teaching: Practice and Critique, Vol. 8, No. 2, pp. 167-187

Saxena, M. (2008) Ideology, policy and practice in bilingual classrooms: Brunei Darussalam. In A. Creese & P.W. Martin (eds.) Encyclopedia of Language and Education, Volume 9. The Kluwer/Springer pp. 249-262

Saxena, M. (2006) Multilingual and multicultural identities in Brunei Darussalam. In A.B.M. Tsui & J. Tollefson (eds.) Language policy, culture and identity in Asian contexts. Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum

Saxena, M. (2001) Taking account of history and culture in community-based research on multilingual literacy. In M. Martin-Jones and J. Kathryn (eds.) Multilingual literacies: reading and writing different worlds. Amsterdam: Benjamins. Pp. 275-298.

Saxena, M. (1995) Literacies among Panjabis in Southall. In J. Maybin (ed.) Language and literacy in social practice. Clevedon, Avon: Multilingual Matters, in association with the Open University.

Schiefflin, B.,Woolard, K. & Kroskrity, P. (1998) Language ideologies: practices and theory. New York: Oxford University Press.

Stritikus, T. T. and Wiese, A. (2006) Reassessing the role of ethnographic methods in education policy research: implementing bilingual education policy at local levels. Teachers College Record, 108 (6), 1106-1131.

Warriner, D. (2007) Transnational literacies: immigration, language learning and identity. Linguistics and Education, 18 (3 & 4), 201-214.

Wortham, S. (2003) Linguistic anthropology of education. In S. Wortham and B. Rymes (ed.) Linguistic anthropology of education. Westport, CT: Praeger Press.


April 4-8, 2011

pdficonsmallDownload the timetable for the 2011 residential weekend (PDF, 75KB)

Unimagined communities: print languages, prescription and multilingualism in writing

Guest lecture given as part of the 5 day residential held at the University of Birmingham

Speaker Mark Sebba, Department of Linguistics and English Language, Lancaster University

Wednesday 6 April 2011

In Benedict Anderson’s (1983) notion of imagined communities, print languages have a central role in creating national consciousness, the ‘nationally imagined community’, by creating ‘unified fields of exchange and communication’, by giving language fixity, and by empowering certain dialects and vernaculars at the expense of others. This goes some way to explaining the dominant language ideologies of prescription, purism and – particularly – monolingualism which still pervade the writing practices of many or most societies. But alongside the highly standardised monolingual texts which epitomise the monolingual nation-state, there are genres based on other models, where two or more languages may coexist, side by side, each making different contributions to the content of the text.

Such multilingual texts, though less widespread than monolingual ones, are not uncommon. Yet they have been studied surprisingly little by linguists. They include, but are not limited to, examples of ‘written code-switching’, which (though it is not a new phenomenon) has recently been thriving in computer-mediated discourse. They exist in a range of different material forms, in old media (like printed newspapers) and new media (like web sites). They present a challenge to the notion that the nation-state is necessarily either simply monolingual (like most Western European countries) or ‘monolingual in parallel’ (as in the case of countries like Switzerland).

Recent developments in the study of multimodal semiotics (e.g. Kress and van Leeuwen (1996/2006), Scollon and Scollon 2003) have provided linguistics with some new tools for the analysis of such texts. In my presentation I will give examples of multilingual texts of different genres – newspapers, advertising signs, web pages -from several contemporary societies. I will propose an analytical framework for such texts, and suggest how they may be instrumental in forming previously ‘unimagined communities’ based on multilingual and multimodal, rather than monolingual and monomodal, literate practices.


Kress, Gunther R. and T. van Leeuwen (1996/2006) Reading images : the grammar of visual design. Routledge.
Scollon, Ron and Suzie Wong Scollon (2003). Discourses in Place: Language in the Material World. London: Routledge