Navigating between a Monolingual Utopia and Translingual Realities: Experiences of American Learners of Yorùbá as an Additional Language

Navigating between a Monolingual Utopia and Translingual Realities: Experiences of American... Abstract Translingualism advocates for the appreciation of multilingual speakers’ fluid, flexible, and creative deployment of semiotic resources without regard to the ideological constructs of named languages. While this scholarship has been developed primarily in the contexts of world Englishes, English as a lingua franca, and bilingual education in Anglophone nations, its implications to foreign language education in higher education have not been fully explored. The current article addresses this issue by shedding light on the conditions of teaching and learning of indigenous languages spoken in once-colonized regions of the world as an additional language for English speakers. More specifically, it examines how American students who participated in an eight-week Yorùbá study abroad program in Nigeria navigated a rather conspicuous gap between a monolingual utopia promoted by the program and the complex translingual realities of everyday language use outside of the classroom. Through the review of the perspectives of students with diverse backgrounds, the article discusses the significance of taking sociohistorical and geopolitical contexts surrounding the target language into account to cultivate informed learners. Ironically, the previous postcolonial move of reviving local languages against the hegemony of colonial European languages has been abandoned without much fanfare as everyone has been swept off their feet with the lucrative neoliberal discourses associated with English. (Canagarajah 2017a: 13) 1. INTRODUCTION In a postcolonial and neoliberal context, one of the ongoing controversies in the field of applied linguistics is how to grapple with the ideological constructs of discrete, named languages, developed through the creation of modern nation-states. ‘Translingual scholars’, to borrow Canagarajah’s (2017a) term, have advocated for the appreciation of multilingual speakers’ fluid, flexible, and creative deployment of semiotic resources without regard to the clearly demarcated named languages (e.g. García 2009; Creese and Blackledge 2011; Canagarajah 2013, 2017a, b; Li 2011, 2017; García and Li 2014; Pennycook and Otsuji 2015). While other researchers have cautioned against the uncritical embracement of hybridity and insufficient attention to power relations among languages and their speakers (McNamara 2011; Flores 2013; Kubota 2016), translingual scholars assert that their scholarship does acknowledge the ‘real and material consequences’ of national languages (Wiley and García 2016: 58) and the ‘limitations and dangers involved in flouting established norms and conventions’ (Canagarajah 2017a: 7). The current article explores this controversy over the status of named languages in translingualism by examining a context of teaching and learning of a West African language, Yorùbá, as an additional language for speakers of American English. In the works of translingual scholars, the history of language use in Africa has often been discussed as a reminder that the concept of named languages is an invention of the modernist enlightenment project (Makoni and Pennycook 2007; Blommaert 2010; Canagarajah 2017a). Complex translingual practices involving local languages had already existed in these regions, upon which the European framework of nation-states and the languages of colonizers were imposed. As the opening quote of Canagarajah (2017a) suggests, however, the postcolonial attempts to revive local languages have been faced with the increasing currency of English in the global economy. The resulting linguistic and cultural superdiversity observed in these regions, as well as linguistic lives of those who moved from these regions to Western nations, have been discussed in applied linguistics literature. Yet, the field has paid relatively little attention to the conditions of teaching and learning of indigenous languages spoken in once-colonized regions of the world as an additional language for English speakers (with notable exceptions such as Higgins (2004, 2011) and Thompson (2013) on Swahili). In the USA, and likely elsewhere, languages of the formerly colonized are positioned as less commonly taught languages (LCTLs) in contrast to the ‘traditional foreign languages of culture and literary prestige’ (Lo Bianco 2014: 317). Somewhat ironically, these LCTL programs often adopt monolingual models of instruction, despite the profound heteroglossic practices involving the ‘target’ languages. The site of the current study, a Yorùbá language study abroad program in Nigeria designed for American students, for instance, strives to create an imaginary world of ‘purely homogeneous Yorùbá society’ (in the director’s words) and encourages students to speak monolingual Yorùbá as much as possible. This is in stark contrast to the surrounding environments, where one regularly encounters what have been described as Nigerian English, Yorulish, Yorùbá-variant of Pidgin English, or the more than 500 local languages, all of which contribute to frequent translingual practices. The contrast, however, in part stems from the ongoing sense of crisis in the local language under the hegemony of English (Crystal 2000; Igboanusi and Peter 2016). In this context, the teaching of Yorùbá to American students has been promoted as a way of valorizing the rich linguistic and cultural heritage of Yorùbá. Hence, students are simultaneously exposed to the idealistic vision of a ‘linguistic utopia’ (Pratt 1987) promoted by the program, and the complex translingual realities of everyday language use outside of the classroom. The current article examines how American students who participated in the eight-week study abroad program navigated this rather conspicuous gap. By tapping into the perspectives of the study abroad participants, who come from diverse backgrounds, the article considers what it takes for English-speaking foreign language (FL) learners to become resourceful multilingual speakers, imbued with critical awareness of the social implications of their choice of repertoires. In the contexts of world Englishes (WEs), English as a lingua franca (ELF), or bilingual education (BE) in Anglophone nations, where the majority of translingual scholars have conducted their research, the appreciation of multilingual speakers’ unconventional, creative repertoires, which might otherwise be viewed as deficient vis-à-vis the traditional monolingual standard, has been the primary focus. Such a renewed appraisal has led to the empowerment of speakers of minoritized languages. In contrast, as pointed out by Train (2012: 151), ‘learners in foreign language programs in the United States… occupy a complex and asymmetrical position as speakers of English (whether native or nonnative) in regard to other peoples, languages, and cultures of the world’. The article thus considers whether and how elements of translingual scholarship, primarily developed in the contexts of WE, ELF, and BE in Anglophone nations, are compatible with a situation where speakers of English are trying to learn a language that is threatened by the hegemony of English. Our aim is twofold: to introduce an underrepresented context of language learning to the ongoing discussion on translingual scholarship and to encourage the FL profession to engage in critical reflection of pedagogical practices and program policies.1 2. CONUNDRUMS ON TRANSLINGUALISM IN FL EDUCATION The established yet contentious label of the field, ‘foreign’ language education, usually signifies the separation of languages and cultures of self and other. This orientation, which has been described as ‘parallel monolingualism’ (Heller 1999) or ‘separate bilingualism’ (Creese and Blackledge 2011), is at odds with the fluidity, flexibility, and creativity advocated by translingual scholars. The notion of ‘translanguaging’, for instance, is defined by Otheguy et al. (2015: 281) as ‘the deployment of a speaker’s full linguistic repertoire without regard for watchful adherence to the socially and politically defined boundaries of named (and usually national and state) languages’. Advocating for the reconceptualization of language education through the translanguaging lens, Wiley and García (2016: 58) recommend educators (i) abandon a definition of language as simply what speakers of the same cultural or national affiliation have; (ii) give up on teaching an additional language as a linear process that eventually leads to acquisition; and (iii) relinquish the idea of only using the target language in instruction. These recommendations directly challenge commonly adopted structures of FL programs, which tend to define courses by the names of languages and sequenced levels of proficiency, as well as enforce the target language only policy. However, Wiley and García (2016: 58) also acknowledge the ‘need to continue to allocate separate spaces for the named languages’ while creating ‘an instructional space where translanguaging is nurtured and used critically and creatively’. Details as to when and how to allocate these different spaces in a given program, however, are yet to be articulated. As discussed by Kramsch (2012, 2014) and Kramsch and Huffmaster (2015), among others, in programs whose raison d’être is defined by the names of languages, instructors face the need to reconcile the changing contexts of language use in globally connected society with the fostering of historical and cultural awareness enabled through the study of one named language and culture. 2.1. Fostering translingual competence By introducing notions such as ‘translingual competence’ (Canagarajah 2013) or ‘translanguaging competence’ (Wiley and García 2016), translingual scholars have urged language educators to reconsider conventional language pedagogy. Canagarajah (2013: 32), for instance, articulates the essence of translingual competence as follows: … translingual competence constitutes not grammatical competence, but performative competence, that is, what helps achieve meaning and success in communication is our ability to align semiotic resources with social and environmental affordances. We bring with us a capacity for social practice that enables us to give meaning to words and construct patterns out of disparate grammars by seeking alignment between cognitive, social, and physical contexts. While there have been debates among translingual scholars in regard to how cognitive, social, and physical dimensions are accounted for in their respective works, the stance shared among them is to problematize the common understanding of linguistic competence conceptualized as the ability of idealized monolingual speakers of one particular named language. Another aspect of their shared understanding is that the proposed competence is not necessarily something unique to multilingual speakers, but what all speakers have, to varying degrees. That is, even those considered to be monolingual also exhibit the ability to recognize and adopt different registers, dialects, and discourses within their own ‘language’, which also embraces resources adopted from various other named languages. The understanding of how these variants contribute to the creation of social indexical meanings is considered to be a fundamental element of translingual competence. While the essence of translingual competence is deemed recognizable in all speakers, its further development largely depends on socialization in multilingual ecologies. According to Canagarajah (2014, 2017a), resourceful multilingual speakers such as the skilled migrants whom he interviewed demonstrate translingual dispositions consisting of ‘language awareness, rhetorical sensitivity, and negotiation strategies’ that have been developed through years of engagement in the complex dynamics of language mobility. He acknowledges that these dispositions ‘take time to develop’ and that ‘they are difficult to be taught or tested in a “one size fits all” pedagogical model’ (Canagarajah 2017a: 60). From an FL educators’ point of view, then, a fundamental question is: What can be done in the FL classroom to instill in English-speaking students studying a particular FL, especially those who have been raised in monolingual households, the kinds of qualities that multilingual speakers have attained through their years of lived experience? In his discussion of teaching English as an international language, Canagarajah (2014) suggests that a classroom accommodating both native and nonnative students of English becomes a contact zone that resembles the diversity in globalization, and thus serves as a site for fostering language awareness. In his classroom situated in a US institution of higher education, ‘native speaker students often recognize their own translingual competence (as they tap into the FLs they have learnt in high school, study abroad, or foreign teaching experiences)’ (p. 777–8). While this statement is encouraging, we cannot help but wonder if students’ prior FL study and their exposure to a limited amount of contact zone afforded by the classroom alone can ensure the development of translingual dispositions, especially if FL programs that these students experienced happened to adhere to the traditional parallel monolingualism model. Indeed, in the context of US FL education, the notion of ‘translingual and transcultural competence’ has its own history, appearing in the 2007 Modern Language Association (MLA) report. The MLA version of ‘translingual and transcultural competence’ was presented as ‘the ability to operate between languages’ (MLA 2007: 237), or the ability to grasp and mediate ‘differences in meaning, mentality, and worldview as expressed in American English and in the target language’ (p. 238). The direction presented by the report was a departure from the traditional focus on linguistic accuracy and pragmatic appropriateness defined by the idealized native speakers of a standard national language, but it still retains the emphasis on separate languages and cultures, or self and others. According to Kramsch (2012), the formulation of this notion was initiated by Mary Louise Pratt, the chair of the committee that authored the report, and it was developed largely based on her postcolonial work (Pratt 2002) that examined the painstaking process of cultural translation between two languages representing incompatible worldviews and unequal power relationships. As discussed by Kramsch (2012, 2014), the subsequent developments in applied linguistics have reframed this humanistic conceptualization of ‘translingual and transcultural competence’ with increased attention to practices of multilingual speakers who make use of a variety of linguistic and other semiotic resources, crossing the boundaries of named languages. This shift, however, has not been readily palatable for FL educators who envision their mission to be the students’ development of proficiency in one named FL. Kramsch (2014: 306) responds to these skeptics by saying, ‘We have to continue teaching what we have always taught, but use the opportunity to reflect on language and language use’. Many of the concrete suggestions for creating the opportunity for reflection, however, center on the intermediate and advanced levels, except for the recommendation of ‘teach[ing] language choice right from the start’ (p. 306). In the context of English as an international language, Canagarajah (2014) recommends teachers ‘to focus more on developing procedural knowledge (i.e. a knowledge of how, or negotiation strategies) rather than propositional knowledge (i.e. a knowledge of what, or norms and conventions of a language) in their classrooms’ (p. 767). However, in FL contexts, in particular for students new to a particular language to which they do not have regular access, the development of basic propositional knowledge must serve as a prerequisite for their expansion of repertoires that incorporate the new language. 2.2. Global English and local languages: Revitalization or disinvention One of the most significant conditions of the changing contexts of language use that impact FL education is without doubt the global spread of English. The status of English as a global language, as well as its impact on other languages, has been a topic of academic and public interest for some time. Some scholars have portrayed English as a ‘killer language’ responsible for endangering indigenous languages (Phillipson 1992, 2003; Crystal 2000; Skutnabb-Kangas 2003) and promoted the revitalization of endangered languages. Yorùbá, the language of our focus, was indeed mentioned by Crystal (2000) as an example of languages that have been deprived because of the dominance of English. Nigeria, a former British colony, maintains English as its official language in part because of its neutrality vis-à-vis a number of ethnic groups within the nation, who speak different local languages. The Nigerian Constitution recognizes three major languages, Hausa, Igbo, and Yorùbá, as national languages, and stipulates bi/multilingual education involving both English and these Nigerian languages (Bamgbose 1996). In practice, however, policies developed in support of bi/multilingual education have not been fully implemented. According to Igboanusi and Peter (2016: 565), the demand for English, ‘viewed as a gateway to socioeconomic advancement at the national, regional and global levels’, overshadows the mastery of local languages in the minds of parents, school children, teachers, and ministry officials. In fact, many of the public-school teachers, who have been primarily educated in English, stated in interviews their preference for English as a medium of instruction because of their lack of competence in using Yorùbá. While Nigerians themselves have felt the need for this emphasis on English for various reasons including anticipated socioeconomic gains, their fear of language loss has also been expressed through public discourse. Major Nigerian newspapers, published in English, have featured articles such as ‘Help, Nigerian languages are disappearing!’ (The Nation, 13 November 2013) or ‘Why Nigerian languages are dying’ (Vanguard, 7 September 2013). These articles urge parents to start speaking to their children in ‘mother tongue’ at home, and call for music, TV programs, and films featuring Nigerian languages to enhance their positive images. Bamgbose (1996: 360) writes: In all the years that English has been Nigeria’s official language, there has always been a pull between those who acquiesce in this dominant role of English and those who for nationalist reasons would like to see greater prominence given to Nigerian languages. More than 20 years later, the tension between these two stances continues to exist, while the balance appears to be tipping toward the former. Translingual scholars such as Makoni and Pennycook (2007), Blommaert (2005), Canagarajah (2017a), or Li (2017), on the other hand, offer an alternative perspective; they point out the irony that those who advocate for the preservation of indigenous languages uncritically adopt ‘a classic nationalist model of language-and-ideology’ (Blommaert 2005: 400), which affirms the straightforward simple one-to-one connection between one language and one group of speakers. In Makoni and Mashiri’s (2007: 72) words: The concept of indigenous languages is a post-colonial response to the consequences of colonialism. Indigenous languages are therefore a post-colonial prism through which pre-colonial Africa is imagined. These scholars remind us that those named indigenous languages granted the status of national languages are indeed the results of invention through the Western conception of enlightenment and boundary drawing. This process, according to them, alienated speakers of other variations that did not earn this national language status. Hence, Makoni and Pennycook (2007) argue for the need to ‘disinvent’ and ‘reconstitute’ languages; they assert that attention should be shifted away from indigenous languages and redirected toward urban vernaculars. Their view also resonates in Canagarajah’s (2017a: 56) proposal that heritage languages should no longer be defined by ‘modernist notions of ownership, territoriality, and autonomy’, but rather should be redefined by celebrating hybrid and fluid semiotic resources gained from contact with other languages and cultures. While these scholars’ critiques present a forward-looking view concerning actual practices, the modernist understanding of the relationship between mother tongue and native speakers persists in the society. As exemplified by the newspaper articles mentioned above, the emotional attachment to a particular named language considered ‘their own’ also remains real for many. A distinction between ‘languages for communication’ and ‘languages for identification’ proposed by House (2003) as a way of maintaining the coexistence of ELF and national languages points to this sentiment. For English-speaking students of Yorùbá as an additional language, the understanding of these competing views on the relationship between the dominant exoglossic language and indigenous languages constitutes a critical component of language awareness. What is more, as speakers of the dominant language, the students should be encouraged to be mindful of how their actions could play ‘the dynamic and evolving role… in shaping their own and others’ worlds’ (Douglas Fir Group 2016: 25). How to develop such self-awareness is another critical point of consideration. 2.3. Learners and teachers of LCTLs The growing value of English fueled by economic globalization has created a bifurcation between hyper-utilitarian demand for English and narrowed choice of FLs in non-English-speaking countries and low-utilitarian demand for FLs and diversification of FL choices in English-speaking countries (Lo Bianco 2014). According to Goldberg, Looney, and Lusin (2015), the survey led by MLA indicates that the 2013 ratio for modern language enrollments per 100 college enrollments in the USA stands at 8.1, which is half of what it was in 1960. Western languages—Spanish (50.6 per cent), French (12.7 per cent), German (5.5 per cent), and Italian (4.6 per cent)—occupy the top five spots in the enrollment figures along with American Sign Language (7.0 per cent), followed by Japanese (4.3 per cent) and Chinese (3.9 per cent). Yorùbá, the second most studied African language after Swahili, is one among the 304 other LCTLs, which together constitute a share of just 2.6 per cent. Profiles of those students who choose to study LCTLs reportedly differ from those who select commonly taught languages (CTLs); LCTL students tend to show more personal investments in the language and culture of their choice because of their heritage affiliation or their affinity with and curiosity toward the language and culture deemed different or difficult to grasp (cf. Murphy et al. 2009; Mugane 2010). Other differences between CTL and LCTL students reported by Magnan et al. (2014) include LCTL students’ likelihood of having studied more languages than CTL students and their tendency to value their native-speaking instructors as ‘an extracurricular resource’ who can ‘transmit cultural experience apart from the curriculum’ (p. 237). Indeed, the great majority of LCTL instructors in the USA are ‘foreign-born native speakers’. As discussed by Kramsch and Zhang (2015), native speakers continue to be valued in FL programs as a ‘symbolic authority’ equipped with ‘authentic linguistic skills and insider’s cultural knowledge’ (p. 87), despite the growing body of applied linguistic studies that have challenged the model of language education based on norms assumed by monolingual native speakers of the standard national language. Kramsch and Zhang go on to point out that these native-speaking FL instructors’ multilingual and cosmopolitan qualities tend to be unrecognized or undervalued. As a result, these native-speaking FL instructors regularly face the conundrum of ‘hav[ing] to model for their students a monocultural native speaker that, with their translingual and transcultural experience, they no longer represent’ (p. 111). This conflictual tension can be said to intensify for instructors of a language like Yorùbá, many of whom came to the USA to pursue graduate education, and who had received their secondary and tertiary education in English in their home country of Nigeria. These instructors know firsthand that monolingual native speakers of Yorùbá rarely exist in Nigeria today, especially in its urban centers. They are also aware that some of the expressions presented in textbooks have long been replaced by English in everyday interactions. These instructors, who typically occupy non-tenure-track positions, however, are not positioned to make major curricular changes. Further, the operation of many of the smaller LCTL programs has been supported by grants from the US federal government, which require programs and students to demonstrate their accomplishments in the form of pre- and post-proficiency tests in the target language. These conditions also affect how language teaching and learning operate in LCTL programs. To continue pondering the conundrums discussed in this section, the remainder of the article will consider how a diverse group of American students experienced a summer study abroad program in Nigeria and approached the study of Yorùbá. 3. STUDYING YORÙBÁ AS AN ADDITIONAL LANGUAGE IN NIGERIA 3.1. The fieldwork and interviews The eight-week Yorùbá language program was held in Nigeria from 12 June to 8 August.2 It was funded by the Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad and operated through the collaboration of an American university and a Nigerian university, located in Ibadan, one of the major Yorùbá cities of historical significance. The university is known for its strength in Yorùbá language studies and its role in advocating for the sustainment of Yorùbá language education to the local population. A total of 11 fellowship recipients (six graduate and five undergraduate students, eight women and three men) participated in the program. They included five Nigerian Americans, three African Americans, one South American, and two White Americans, whose entry-level proficiency varied from Novice to Intermediate-Mid based on the Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) test conducted by the program. The second author (a Yorùbá-speaking Nigerian pursuing his graduate degree in the USA) conducted fieldwork from early June to mid-August. During this period, he lived on campus where the program was situated and spent every day shadowing the students. He did not have any official role in the program, but assisted in its operation from time to time as a Yorùbá speaker. A variety of data, including field notes, audio-recorded interviews, video-recorded interactions between the participants and locals, weekly self-reflection reports, and various public documents on the program were collected for a larger study. Given space limitations, however, the current article primarily focuses on the participants’ narrative accounts of their experiences as disclosed during the interviews. Between the third and sixth weeks of the program, the second author interviewed each participant once or twice. Each interview lasted for approximately 20–60 min. During the last week of the eight-week session, a group interview was also conducted involving all of the participants. This group session lasted for nearly 100 min. During these semi-structured qualitative interviews, the participants were asked to discuss how they approached the study of Yorùbá, how various activities arranged by the program helped their study, and how they communicated with locals outside of the classroom. In addition, the director of the Nigerian university’s Yorùbá Language Center, who oversaw the local operation of the program, was interviewed after the completion of the eight-week session. The interviewees were all given the option of having the interview done in either Yorùbá, English, or a mix of both languages, but all of the students and the center director opted for English to begin the interview, although they mixed in some Yorùbá on occasions. Thematic analysis was conducted to identity common themes that emerged across the participants’ accounts, as well as to discern some distinct perspectives shared by the individuals. All the names of the participants are pseudonyms. 3.2. The making of the monolingual orientation The Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad states its aim to be the enhancement of the participants’ intensive study of languages that are ‘indigenous to the host country’ through maximum exposure to opportunities only available in the host country. The expectations of the funding agency, which reflect the traditional monolingual orientation in its conceptualization of language learning, undoubtedly had an impact on the design of the program. The website of the American university administering the program presented the program as ‘Intensive Yorùbá in Nigeria’, whereas the website created by the Nigerian university’s center responsible for the local operation described the program as adopting ‘a competency-based approach… with emphasis on interpersonal communication structured around the four skills, namely, speaking, reading, listening and writing’. The latter referred to a number of classroom activities as well as co-curricular activities that had been arranged ‘for the purpose of engaging in communication with Yorùbá native speakers’ and ‘to maximize the exposure of participants to Nigerian culture’. The center director indeed emphasized the importance of immersive experiences by asserting, ‘since the society is purely homogenous Yorùbá society, immersion will not be complete, will not be really meaningful if we don’t send the students to the field to interact’ (interview, 11 August). The promotion of the monocultural and monolingual ideal corresponds to the US agency’s expectations. However, the realities surrounding the program were far from the homogenous monolingual society projected by the program: all personnel in the program, including the host families, were multilingual speakers of Yorùbá and English who had learned to mix these languages in various domains of communication;3 a few of the host families admitted having raised their children using only English; some of the host families even comprised members who identified themselves as Igbo or Igbo-Delta and second language speakers of Yorùbá. Nevertheless, the program demanded that all of the locals involved in the study abroad program speak Yorùbá with the American students. Translingual practices that the students frequently encountered outside of the classroom were seldom addressed in the program, in which the supposed default language in all activities was monolingual Yorùbá. In the meantime, the presence of American learners of Yorùbá was made known to the local community through their engagement in field trips and other out-of-classroom activities; it was mentioned in the media that called for the local residents’ efforts to continue speaking and teaching the indigenous language. As a part of the final assessment of learners’ language proficiency, the students were required to make an oral presentation of their final paper to an audience of their classmates, instructors, the center staff, and invited guests such as the presenter’s host parents and friends. Listening to the final presentations delivered by the first few students, the center director expressed his distress over ‘too much of English’ used in their presentations despite the program’s emphasis on monolingual Yorùbá (field notes, 30 July). Because of the symbolic significance of this event to the program and to the local community, the amount of English mixed in their presentation appeared to be a major disappointment for the center director. 3.3. The students’ experiences In the interviews, the students also acknowledged that what drew them to the program was the ‘intensive’ and ‘immersive’ nature of the program highlighted in its promotional materials. The aspiration for improving their speaking ability through abundant opportunities to interact with native speakers of Yorùbá was another common theme in their narratives. Once in Nigeria, however, the students soon realized that the kind of immersion that the program description promised and that they imagined was not easily afforded. The majority of students mentioned their difficulty in finding locals who consistently spoke Yorùbá to them.4 The phenomenon of locals speaking English to study abroad students has been discussed in previous studies conducted in European contexts as well (Kinginger 2008; Levine 2015; Wagner 2015), but the situation in this Nigerian community seems particularly pronounced because of the degree to which English, or translingual practices involving English, has become everyday repertoires among the majority of locals. Under the circumstances, many noted that conversation partners assigned to them were the most successful part of the program because these partners, aside from their language instructors, were often the only people who consistently spoke to them in Yorùbá and helped them learn the language. While these students noted that their proficiency in Yorùbá did not improve as much as they hoped, the eight weeks in this Nigerian city, in theory, gave them opportunities to observe the language use of the local Nigerians and to develop language awareness and negotiation strategies by leveraging their existing translingual competence. However, to what extent such opportunities were utilized, and what sort of sensitivities were developed through the experiences, varied among the participants. To illustrate how the students’ diverse personal histories, investments, and claimed or ascribed identities (Norton 2013; Darvin and Norton 2015) impacted their experiences in the community, we introduce three strikingly different cases of graduate students. 3.3.1 Learning French versus learning Yorùbá Colleen is one of the two White American students who participated in the program. As a graduate student majoring in African history, she was conducting research on French influence upon education in West African colonies. Her research had taken her to Benin, Senegal, France, and Italy, and she decided to study Yorùbá, one of the local languages also spoken in Benin, where she planned to continue her research. Colleen thought that it was important to receive training in an African language for her future research, and for the enhancement of her credentials in the academic job market. She took two semesters of Yorùbá prior to the summer program, but her entry-level proficiency was assessed as Novice. Colleen admitted that she found her first visit to Anglophone Africa to be rather challenging. Her extensive international experience in Francophone settings did not fully prepare her for the challenges she encountered as an English-speaking learner of Yorùbá. While discussing her experience in Nigeria, Colleen often brought up her prior language learning and study abroad experiences as a comparison: what worked for her when learning French was often unavailable for the study of Yorùbá. For instance, Colleen asserted that she learned French ‘in France where people refused to speak English’ (interview, 4 July).5 While accepting the abundant use of English as a practical reality of multilingual Anglophone Africa and an efficient way for conducting business at hand, she considered it to be a major hindrance for her learning of Yorùbá. Colleen also shared her feeling that the locals’ lack of expectation for Oyinbo (a Nigerian term for a person of White European descent) to speak Yorùbá, or more precisely, her perception of not being treated as a legitimate learner of Yorùbá, was a letdown: People really laugh when you speak Yorùbá, which I know it’s not supposed to be taken personally, but I find it like discouraging? I’ve never, not experienced that like in other, in Francophone settings? So, that’s for me is just like disincentive, even though I know it shouldn’t be. (Interview, 4 July) Indeed, Mobola, a heritage learner to be introduced later, also noted the locals’ differential reactions. Reflecting on the group excursions arranged by the program, Mobola mentioned, ‘It’s always a little bit of spectacle… everyone wants to see the white people speaking in Yorùbá’ (interview, 9 July). Being outnumbered by Nigerian/African-American peers in the program also made Colleen self-conscious about her deficiency in common knowledge of the culture seemingly shared by her fellow students. Colleen further expressed her wish that she had more free time to explore opportunities for ‘authentic interactions’ on her own, rather than being ‘corralled’ into the activities held at the language center from 8:30 am to 3:00 pm on weekdays. This corralling in some ways reflected the program’s attempt to ensure the use of Yorùbá under the instructors’ monitoring. Colleen’s limited experience of self-directed activities outside of the language center often resulted in encounters with speakers who did not speak Yorùbá: But not all of them are Yorùbá, though. So like yesterday, I talked to an Igbo girl. Uhm, so even that, was stuff like I really like to make it happen, and this center is not actually like, they try hard for it not to happen, so. And those would have been like more authentic, experience. (Interview, 4 July) Colleen sensed the program’s attempt to keep the study abroad students away from authentic experiences in the local community that did not involve immersion in Yorùbá. Colleen’s case illustrates that previous FL study and international experience do not guarantee, or could even adversely affect, the study of another language in a different context. French and Yorùbá are situated in vastly different sociohistorical and geopolitical contexts, and they present very different personal and utilitarian significance to Colleen. The locals’ conflicted views toward their own language and English in the particular postcolonial and neoliberal context also affect how they interact with English-speaking, White learners of the indigenous language (Higgins 2011). At the end of eight weeks, Colleen expressed diminished interest in seeking further opportunities to continue studying Yorùbá, and indicated that she had no plans to return to Nigeria in the future. In the meantime, Colleen did mention improvement in her ability to communicate with locals in English. Initially, she found it ‘really difficult’ to understand the locals’ English or to be understood by them, but as time passed, it became easier for her to understand. She also learned to adjust her English to match the ways in which the language is used in the local community: Feel like English is a foreign language… Now I’m saying like things that I know are incorrect, but it’s just the way people say them here. I said to ah Jamie, I was like, ‘Do you want me to pick6 some bananas for you?’ That’s just- I would never say that, ever. (Interview, 4 July) While it was not her primary purpose, Colleen expressed that ‘English as a foreign language’ was the area into which she gained some insight. 3.3.2 Preservation of African heritage Brian is an African-American, who was about to embark on his PhD study in computer graphics in the subsequent fall semester. He is not a Nigerian American, but Yorùbá came into his life through his wife and her family who migrated to the USA from Nigeria. Prior to this summer program, he had taken two semesters of Yorùbá in the USA, and his entry-level proficiency was assessed as Novice High. In the interview, he stated that his eventual goal was to produce cartoons written in Yorùbá and English, geared toward Black children, with the aim of reintroducing them to ‘morals, ethics, spirituality, and all of the things that are sometimes glanced over in the Western media’ (interview, 10 July). Identifying himself as an African-American, Brian discussed his interest in Yorùbá language and culture in relation to his broader agenda of preserving African heritage. He selected Yorùbá as a way into this grand project not only because of his wife’s connection to Nigeria but because of the presumed status of Yorùbá as ‘the most developed of the (Nigerian) languages academically’ (interview, 10 July). At the same time, he also acknowledged that he had heard about the decline of interest among Nigerians in speaking and learning Yorùbá, and stated that he was motivated to assess the situation firsthand: So, I wanted to see for myself, some of the things I hear from the outside. You know, people not speaking Yorùbá, or some of the kids not knowing Yorùbá, those kinds of things. So, I can help, so I can better reason in real time what the issues are, how we can help, how we can intervene. (Interview, 10 July) Brian indeed came to observe the condition of a fading presence of Yorùbá language. His host parents revealed that they did not normally speak Yorùbá, and that they just spoke English to their own children, although they provided their daughter an opportunity to study Yorùbá from a tutor. Since Brian joined the family, the host parents began to speak Yorùbá regularly, in part because of the program’s mandate to collaborating host families to do so. Brian also shared the story of being invited to a local school by a member of a church in the neighborhood. The proposed purpose of the visit was to speak Yorùbá to Yorùbá children unmotivated to learn the local language. The schoolteacher hoped that the children’s encounter with Brian, an American learner of Yorùbá, would increase their interest in Yorùbá. Thus Brian, who envisioned his role of rediscovering African heritage and reintroducing it to African-American youth, found himself also serving as a catalyst for encouraging Yorùbá youth to learn what is supposed to be their language. While Brian was somewhat satisfied with his exposure to the culture that he gained through the program, he expressed his disappointment in the lack of an immersive language learning experience and his dissatisfaction with the classroom instruction, which did not provide sufficient support for the development of his grammar. While he originally thought that Yorùbá language had been studied more academically than many other African languages, participation in the program convinced him that further efforts are necessary to sustain the language: So what I found is that the language itself is not really developed academically to the point it should be, to really sustain for the long haul, I mean, still so much work needs to be done. (Group Interview, 5 August) For Brian, the hegemony of English and omnipresent translingual practices that he witnessed, and the lack of reference materials that he experienced as a learner, served to enhance his belief that something must be done to preserve the language and culture. Indeed, his conviction was validated by the locals who shared his concern over the future of the language. 3.3.3 What it means to be Yorùbá today While Colleen was disillusioned with her experience as a learner of Yorùbá and Brian reaffirmed his belief in the need for language revitalization, Mobola, a heritage learner, was the most observant of all the students concerning the dynamic nature of language and culture. While the other participants tended to discuss their own and others’ language use in terms of an on-and-off switch between the two languages, Mobola touched upon her observations of the locals’ intricate incorporation of linguistic resources that cannot be readily classified into one language or the other, as exemplified in the following quotes: So, my goal is to be conversant in Yorùbá, which means that some words- it's okay if I say them in English I don’t mind. (Interview, 9 July) I don’t mind people say certain words in English. I actually pay attention to which words they say in English because that’s the part of language you are learning… Like people still speak Yorùbá, but they’ll interject different English words in it, so that’s what I pay attention to, and I think that’s important to know. (Group Interview, 5 August) Multiple factors appear to have contributed to her development of such dispositions: they include her upbringing in transnational households, her professional aspiration to become a medical anthropologist conducting research in Nigeria, and her entry-level proficiency (Intermediate Low), which was higher than the other two participants discussed. Mobola was born in the USA and raised by Yorùbá-speaking parents who moved to the USA from Nigeria. Mobola’s parents raised her in English, although they, to a degree, tried to make her familiar with Yorùbá through children’s books, songs, and so on. As an undergraduate, Mobola decided to take Yorùbá language courses because she thought it important for her to know her own culture. While taking Yorùbá language courses at university, her personal interest in her heritage developed into her academic interest, and she decided to conduct research in Nigeria as a doctoral student in medical anthropology. ‘Now, I’m learning Yorùbá for my research. But it’s like a full circle because the reason why I do my research in Nigeria is because I’m attached to the culture’, said Mobola, who exhibited both personal and professional investments in the study of the language (interview, 9 July). Mobola expressed that her priority was to develop speaking and listening abilities that could be put to use during her future fieldwork. Unlike other students, Mobola was able to articulate detailed ways in which she planned to use the language in specific activities. She imagined that she would likely encounter people who would not speak English when conducting her research interviews at obstetrics clinics in rural villages, and that the ability to conduct interviews in Yorùbá would be useful. In addition to interviews, to ‘pick up all the nuances of the situation’ during the fieldwork, she also thought that it would be important to listen to and understand what people at the research site were saying to each other. Such interactions among the locals, not tailored for an English-speaking researcher, could be happening in Yorùbá, according to Mobola. Mobola revealed that her original expectations for the program were not completely met. Like the others, she commented on the lack of intensive and organized instruction on sentence structures and the local people’s tendency to speak to her in English despite her efforts to speak to them in Yorùbá. However, she also mentioned that she had adjusted her expectations based on her actual experiences. She related what she observed in Nigeria to what she had experienced in her own household where her parents often mixed English and Yorùbá when talking to each other. Mobola summed up by saying, ‘What it means to be Yorùbá today is different than what it meant to be Yorùbá before’ (group interview, 5 August). The essence of her statements resonates with what translingual scholars propose as a way of reconceptualizing heritage languages. At the same time, she also expressed her desire to learn the traditional ways of speaking Yorùbá, which she expected to encounter among villagers during her fieldwork. She wanted to know both the traditional ways of speaking as well as today’s urban vernacular, and according to her, ‘that’s like learning two different languages’ (group interview, 5 August). With her enhanced understanding of language use in Nigeria, she renewed her goal of continuing her language study in preparation for her fieldwork that she planned to embark on in the following year. For Mobola, the eight-week program did not help improve her Yorùbá proficiency as much as she hoped but provided ample opportunities to examine how people in the Nigerian city mix and mesh different linguistic resources in their everyday interaction. 3.4. Summary The three participants’ narratives illustrate divergent ways in which translingual realities of the local community affected their study of Yorùbá. Without any facilitated discussion on the out-of-classroom experiences in the program proper, the tendency among the students was to perceive the world around them from the lens of parallel monolingualism with the notable exception of Mobola. 4. CONCLUSION: CULTIVATING INFORMED LEARNERS The gap between an imagined monolingual utopia and translingual realities exists for all languages to varying degrees, but the amplified tension between the two observed in this Yorùbá study abroad program makes visible how power relationships among languages and competing ideologies affect the contexts of teaching and learning of an additional language. Under the ever-expanding presence of English, the monolingual orientation appears to be intensified by the fear of losing the indigenous language on the part of locals, especially those who tried to use this program to propagate the significance of language preservation, as well as by the frustration of not being able to access the target language on the part of English-speaking learners. These dynamics clearly present a sharp contrast to the contexts of teaching and learning of English as an international language. For our participants, ‘efficient bricolage’ (Canagarajah 2017b) of resources deemed effective for successful accomplishment of activities in the local community often translated to the exessive use of English, which prevented them from trying to use Yorùbá as much as possible. Given the context, it seems unjust to unilaterally frown upon the program’s and the students’ focus on the one target language and their insufficient attention to translingual practices. While the current article has focused on the students’ experiences, it is evident that the administrators and teachers in the program also have their own struggles to meet the demand from the US agency, to honor the advocacy for the preservation of the local language, and to create the desired language immersion experience in the midst of linguistic heterogeneity. Federal, local, and institutional priorities constitute critical layers of an ecological system within which the teaching and learning of the language took place. While some impetuses for the adamant insistence on monolingual Yorùbá are understandable, given the condition of Yorùbá language use today and based on what we learned from our participants, we consider it essential for the program, and Yorùbá language educators in general, to acknowledge from the outset the tug between the increasingly dominant role of English and the movement to maintain and revitalize the indigenous language, rather than attempting to seal students off from these realities. These sociolinguistic issues must be seen as opportunities for learning as the diverse population of American learners of Yorùbá begin to play a role in the local community. We also believe that candid discussion of these issues will help study abroad students develop dispositions and strategies to engage in interactions with locals, and enhance critical language awareness through the process. In fact, the group discussion conducted for the purpose of this research at the end of the program in some ways provided an opportunity to explore these issues. While many participants primarily shared their frustration as to how they had not been able to use Yorùbá in authentic, out-of-classroom contexts, the observations offered by Mobola challenged the others’ understandings as to what it means to speak Yorùbá, or to interact with Yorùbá speakers, or Nigerians more broadly. And like even learning pidgin, that’s important. Like I pay attention to pidgin because that’s- Some people speak pidgin, but don’t speak Yorùbá… Cause I’m I’m doing research in Nigeria, not necessarily only among Yorùbá people. So learning pidgin is also important. It’s part of the culture here. (Group Interview, 5 August) Sharing of such perspectives from the beginning might have helped ease some of the participants’ frustration and redirected their focus. The upfront acknowledgement of the complexity of current linguistic dynamics does not mean giving up the teaching of traditional Yorùbá language. Classroom instruction may continue to focus on the development of propositional knowledge of the target language that the students desired to gain; the kind of criticality and creativity identified as part of multilingual speakers’ competence entails their awareness of cultural and historical meanings behind the lexical and grammatical items used as part of their repertoires. On the other hand, classroom instruction should also accommodate space to examine the language use that students experience outside of the classroom. One student indeed suggested that the program consider the enhanced integration of in-class and out-of-class activities, and shared the idea of reviewing video-recorded out-of-classroom interactions in the classroom to analyze language use. The analysis of video-recorded interactions, we believe, could also allow students to examine individual differences in how they position themselves, or are positioned in an interaction with the locals, or what kinds of semiotic resources may be adopted by the different participants. The audio and video recordings collected by the second author indeed demonstrate how both the students and their local interlocutors incorporate various linguistic and non-linguistic resources in their interactions. Ways of assembling resources, however, differ between the students and the locals, as well as among them. The critical analysis of the spur-of-the-moment actions captured in the recordings, akin to what is described as ‘Moment Analysis’ by Li (2011), can be considered as part of instructional activities. In the literature on translingualism, spaces where critical and creative ways of incorporating diverse and alternate resources have been described as spaces where such practices are ‘admissible’ (Canagarajah 2017b) or ‘allow[ed]’ (García and Li 2014: 24), implying a default orientation to established norms and conventions. In the current research site, while a monolingual orientation was enforced in the language program, the program was situated in a society where established norms and conventions of the language taught are losing traction. This reality undeniably alters the experience of teachers and learners of the language and how translingual practices are regarded in the process. Thus, approaches in FL education, we believe, need to be adjusted to the sociohistorical and geopolitical contexts surrounding each language. At the same time, we also believe this study has far-reaching implications for foreign, heritage, or indigenous language education in general, as it illustrates the significance of fostering translingual competence that should be transferrable when learners embark on the study of any additional languages. Notes Footnotes 1 One of the reviewers rightly pointed out the relevance of heritage language education and indigenous language education to what is discussed in this article. Given space limitations, however, we focus primarily on the context of FL education, where our professional identities are rooted. 2 The fieldwork was conducted in the early 2010s. The specific year is not disclosed to protect the participants’ identities. 3 All the host families lived in university housings on campus. This means that at least one of the host parents was affiliated with the university as faculty or staff. 4 One notable exception was an undergraduate heritage learner, who considered that he received the immersion experience that he hoped for. However, he acknowledged that his case might have been different than the others because his host parents were very used to speaking Yorùbá all the time, unlike the others’ host families. 5 This is different than what has been reported in recent studies on American learners’ experiences in France (Kinginger 2008), but Colleen recollected her experience in this manner. 6 In this context, to ‘pick’ means to ‘pick up’, for example from a store. References Bamgbose A. 1996. ‘Post-imperial English in Nigeria 1940-1990’ in Fishman J. A., Conrad A. W., Rubal-Lopez A. (eds): Post-Imperial English: Status Change in Former British and American Colonies, 1940-1999 . Mouton de Gruyter, pp. 357– 72. 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Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   © Oxford University Press 2018 http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Applied Linguistics Oxford University Press

Navigating between a Monolingual Utopia and Translingual Realities: Experiences of American Learners of Yorùbá as an Additional Language

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Oxford University Press
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© Oxford University Press 2018
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0142-6001
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1477-450X
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10.1093/applin/amx042
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Abstract

Abstract Translingualism advocates for the appreciation of multilingual speakers’ fluid, flexible, and creative deployment of semiotic resources without regard to the ideological constructs of named languages. While this scholarship has been developed primarily in the contexts of world Englishes, English as a lingua franca, and bilingual education in Anglophone nations, its implications to foreign language education in higher education have not been fully explored. The current article addresses this issue by shedding light on the conditions of teaching and learning of indigenous languages spoken in once-colonized regions of the world as an additional language for English speakers. More specifically, it examines how American students who participated in an eight-week Yorùbá study abroad program in Nigeria navigated a rather conspicuous gap between a monolingual utopia promoted by the program and the complex translingual realities of everyday language use outside of the classroom. Through the review of the perspectives of students with diverse backgrounds, the article discusses the significance of taking sociohistorical and geopolitical contexts surrounding the target language into account to cultivate informed learners. Ironically, the previous postcolonial move of reviving local languages against the hegemony of colonial European languages has been abandoned without much fanfare as everyone has been swept off their feet with the lucrative neoliberal discourses associated with English. (Canagarajah 2017a: 13) 1. INTRODUCTION In a postcolonial and neoliberal context, one of the ongoing controversies in the field of applied linguistics is how to grapple with the ideological constructs of discrete, named languages, developed through the creation of modern nation-states. ‘Translingual scholars’, to borrow Canagarajah’s (2017a) term, have advocated for the appreciation of multilingual speakers’ fluid, flexible, and creative deployment of semiotic resources without regard to the clearly demarcated named languages (e.g. García 2009; Creese and Blackledge 2011; Canagarajah 2013, 2017a, b; Li 2011, 2017; García and Li 2014; Pennycook and Otsuji 2015). While other researchers have cautioned against the uncritical embracement of hybridity and insufficient attention to power relations among languages and their speakers (McNamara 2011; Flores 2013; Kubota 2016), translingual scholars assert that their scholarship does acknowledge the ‘real and material consequences’ of national languages (Wiley and García 2016: 58) and the ‘limitations and dangers involved in flouting established norms and conventions’ (Canagarajah 2017a: 7). The current article explores this controversy over the status of named languages in translingualism by examining a context of teaching and learning of a West African language, Yorùbá, as an additional language for speakers of American English. In the works of translingual scholars, the history of language use in Africa has often been discussed as a reminder that the concept of named languages is an invention of the modernist enlightenment project (Makoni and Pennycook 2007; Blommaert 2010; Canagarajah 2017a). Complex translingual practices involving local languages had already existed in these regions, upon which the European framework of nation-states and the languages of colonizers were imposed. As the opening quote of Canagarajah (2017a) suggests, however, the postcolonial attempts to revive local languages have been faced with the increasing currency of English in the global economy. The resulting linguistic and cultural superdiversity observed in these regions, as well as linguistic lives of those who moved from these regions to Western nations, have been discussed in applied linguistics literature. Yet, the field has paid relatively little attention to the conditions of teaching and learning of indigenous languages spoken in once-colonized regions of the world as an additional language for English speakers (with notable exceptions such as Higgins (2004, 2011) and Thompson (2013) on Swahili). In the USA, and likely elsewhere, languages of the formerly colonized are positioned as less commonly taught languages (LCTLs) in contrast to the ‘traditional foreign languages of culture and literary prestige’ (Lo Bianco 2014: 317). Somewhat ironically, these LCTL programs often adopt monolingual models of instruction, despite the profound heteroglossic practices involving the ‘target’ languages. The site of the current study, a Yorùbá language study abroad program in Nigeria designed for American students, for instance, strives to create an imaginary world of ‘purely homogeneous Yorùbá society’ (in the director’s words) and encourages students to speak monolingual Yorùbá as much as possible. This is in stark contrast to the surrounding environments, where one regularly encounters what have been described as Nigerian English, Yorulish, Yorùbá-variant of Pidgin English, or the more than 500 local languages, all of which contribute to frequent translingual practices. The contrast, however, in part stems from the ongoing sense of crisis in the local language under the hegemony of English (Crystal 2000; Igboanusi and Peter 2016). In this context, the teaching of Yorùbá to American students has been promoted as a way of valorizing the rich linguistic and cultural heritage of Yorùbá. Hence, students are simultaneously exposed to the idealistic vision of a ‘linguistic utopia’ (Pratt 1987) promoted by the program, and the complex translingual realities of everyday language use outside of the classroom. The current article examines how American students who participated in the eight-week study abroad program navigated this rather conspicuous gap. By tapping into the perspectives of the study abroad participants, who come from diverse backgrounds, the article considers what it takes for English-speaking foreign language (FL) learners to become resourceful multilingual speakers, imbued with critical awareness of the social implications of their choice of repertoires. In the contexts of world Englishes (WEs), English as a lingua franca (ELF), or bilingual education (BE) in Anglophone nations, where the majority of translingual scholars have conducted their research, the appreciation of multilingual speakers’ unconventional, creative repertoires, which might otherwise be viewed as deficient vis-à-vis the traditional monolingual standard, has been the primary focus. Such a renewed appraisal has led to the empowerment of speakers of minoritized languages. In contrast, as pointed out by Train (2012: 151), ‘learners in foreign language programs in the United States… occupy a complex and asymmetrical position as speakers of English (whether native or nonnative) in regard to other peoples, languages, and cultures of the world’. The article thus considers whether and how elements of translingual scholarship, primarily developed in the contexts of WE, ELF, and BE in Anglophone nations, are compatible with a situation where speakers of English are trying to learn a language that is threatened by the hegemony of English. Our aim is twofold: to introduce an underrepresented context of language learning to the ongoing discussion on translingual scholarship and to encourage the FL profession to engage in critical reflection of pedagogical practices and program policies.1 2. CONUNDRUMS ON TRANSLINGUALISM IN FL EDUCATION The established yet contentious label of the field, ‘foreign’ language education, usually signifies the separation of languages and cultures of self and other. This orientation, which has been described as ‘parallel monolingualism’ (Heller 1999) or ‘separate bilingualism’ (Creese and Blackledge 2011), is at odds with the fluidity, flexibility, and creativity advocated by translingual scholars. The notion of ‘translanguaging’, for instance, is defined by Otheguy et al. (2015: 281) as ‘the deployment of a speaker’s full linguistic repertoire without regard for watchful adherence to the socially and politically defined boundaries of named (and usually national and state) languages’. Advocating for the reconceptualization of language education through the translanguaging lens, Wiley and García (2016: 58) recommend educators (i) abandon a definition of language as simply what speakers of the same cultural or national affiliation have; (ii) give up on teaching an additional language as a linear process that eventually leads to acquisition; and (iii) relinquish the idea of only using the target language in instruction. These recommendations directly challenge commonly adopted structures of FL programs, which tend to define courses by the names of languages and sequenced levels of proficiency, as well as enforce the target language only policy. However, Wiley and García (2016: 58) also acknowledge the ‘need to continue to allocate separate spaces for the named languages’ while creating ‘an instructional space where translanguaging is nurtured and used critically and creatively’. Details as to when and how to allocate these different spaces in a given program, however, are yet to be articulated. As discussed by Kramsch (2012, 2014) and Kramsch and Huffmaster (2015), among others, in programs whose raison d’être is defined by the names of languages, instructors face the need to reconcile the changing contexts of language use in globally connected society with the fostering of historical and cultural awareness enabled through the study of one named language and culture. 2.1. Fostering translingual competence By introducing notions such as ‘translingual competence’ (Canagarajah 2013) or ‘translanguaging competence’ (Wiley and García 2016), translingual scholars have urged language educators to reconsider conventional language pedagogy. Canagarajah (2013: 32), for instance, articulates the essence of translingual competence as follows: … translingual competence constitutes not grammatical competence, but performative competence, that is, what helps achieve meaning and success in communication is our ability to align semiotic resources with social and environmental affordances. We bring with us a capacity for social practice that enables us to give meaning to words and construct patterns out of disparate grammars by seeking alignment between cognitive, social, and physical contexts. While there have been debates among translingual scholars in regard to how cognitive, social, and physical dimensions are accounted for in their respective works, the stance shared among them is to problematize the common understanding of linguistic competence conceptualized as the ability of idealized monolingual speakers of one particular named language. Another aspect of their shared understanding is that the proposed competence is not necessarily something unique to multilingual speakers, but what all speakers have, to varying degrees. That is, even those considered to be monolingual also exhibit the ability to recognize and adopt different registers, dialects, and discourses within their own ‘language’, which also embraces resources adopted from various other named languages. The understanding of how these variants contribute to the creation of social indexical meanings is considered to be a fundamental element of translingual competence. While the essence of translingual competence is deemed recognizable in all speakers, its further development largely depends on socialization in multilingual ecologies. According to Canagarajah (2014, 2017a), resourceful multilingual speakers such as the skilled migrants whom he interviewed demonstrate translingual dispositions consisting of ‘language awareness, rhetorical sensitivity, and negotiation strategies’ that have been developed through years of engagement in the complex dynamics of language mobility. He acknowledges that these dispositions ‘take time to develop’ and that ‘they are difficult to be taught or tested in a “one size fits all” pedagogical model’ (Canagarajah 2017a: 60). From an FL educators’ point of view, then, a fundamental question is: What can be done in the FL classroom to instill in English-speaking students studying a particular FL, especially those who have been raised in monolingual households, the kinds of qualities that multilingual speakers have attained through their years of lived experience? In his discussion of teaching English as an international language, Canagarajah (2014) suggests that a classroom accommodating both native and nonnative students of English becomes a contact zone that resembles the diversity in globalization, and thus serves as a site for fostering language awareness. In his classroom situated in a US institution of higher education, ‘native speaker students often recognize their own translingual competence (as they tap into the FLs they have learnt in high school, study abroad, or foreign teaching experiences)’ (p. 777–8). While this statement is encouraging, we cannot help but wonder if students’ prior FL study and their exposure to a limited amount of contact zone afforded by the classroom alone can ensure the development of translingual dispositions, especially if FL programs that these students experienced happened to adhere to the traditional parallel monolingualism model. Indeed, in the context of US FL education, the notion of ‘translingual and transcultural competence’ has its own history, appearing in the 2007 Modern Language Association (MLA) report. The MLA version of ‘translingual and transcultural competence’ was presented as ‘the ability to operate between languages’ (MLA 2007: 237), or the ability to grasp and mediate ‘differences in meaning, mentality, and worldview as expressed in American English and in the target language’ (p. 238). The direction presented by the report was a departure from the traditional focus on linguistic accuracy and pragmatic appropriateness defined by the idealized native speakers of a standard national language, but it still retains the emphasis on separate languages and cultures, or self and others. According to Kramsch (2012), the formulation of this notion was initiated by Mary Louise Pratt, the chair of the committee that authored the report, and it was developed largely based on her postcolonial work (Pratt 2002) that examined the painstaking process of cultural translation between two languages representing incompatible worldviews and unequal power relationships. As discussed by Kramsch (2012, 2014), the subsequent developments in applied linguistics have reframed this humanistic conceptualization of ‘translingual and transcultural competence’ with increased attention to practices of multilingual speakers who make use of a variety of linguistic and other semiotic resources, crossing the boundaries of named languages. This shift, however, has not been readily palatable for FL educators who envision their mission to be the students’ development of proficiency in one named FL. Kramsch (2014: 306) responds to these skeptics by saying, ‘We have to continue teaching what we have always taught, but use the opportunity to reflect on language and language use’. Many of the concrete suggestions for creating the opportunity for reflection, however, center on the intermediate and advanced levels, except for the recommendation of ‘teach[ing] language choice right from the start’ (p. 306). In the context of English as an international language, Canagarajah (2014) recommends teachers ‘to focus more on developing procedural knowledge (i.e. a knowledge of how, or negotiation strategies) rather than propositional knowledge (i.e. a knowledge of what, or norms and conventions of a language) in their classrooms’ (p. 767). However, in FL contexts, in particular for students new to a particular language to which they do not have regular access, the development of basic propositional knowledge must serve as a prerequisite for their expansion of repertoires that incorporate the new language. 2.2. Global English and local languages: Revitalization or disinvention One of the most significant conditions of the changing contexts of language use that impact FL education is without doubt the global spread of English. The status of English as a global language, as well as its impact on other languages, has been a topic of academic and public interest for some time. Some scholars have portrayed English as a ‘killer language’ responsible for endangering indigenous languages (Phillipson 1992, 2003; Crystal 2000; Skutnabb-Kangas 2003) and promoted the revitalization of endangered languages. Yorùbá, the language of our focus, was indeed mentioned by Crystal (2000) as an example of languages that have been deprived because of the dominance of English. Nigeria, a former British colony, maintains English as its official language in part because of its neutrality vis-à-vis a number of ethnic groups within the nation, who speak different local languages. The Nigerian Constitution recognizes three major languages, Hausa, Igbo, and Yorùbá, as national languages, and stipulates bi/multilingual education involving both English and these Nigerian languages (Bamgbose 1996). In practice, however, policies developed in support of bi/multilingual education have not been fully implemented. According to Igboanusi and Peter (2016: 565), the demand for English, ‘viewed as a gateway to socioeconomic advancement at the national, regional and global levels’, overshadows the mastery of local languages in the minds of parents, school children, teachers, and ministry officials. In fact, many of the public-school teachers, who have been primarily educated in English, stated in interviews their preference for English as a medium of instruction because of their lack of competence in using Yorùbá. While Nigerians themselves have felt the need for this emphasis on English for various reasons including anticipated socioeconomic gains, their fear of language loss has also been expressed through public discourse. Major Nigerian newspapers, published in English, have featured articles such as ‘Help, Nigerian languages are disappearing!’ (The Nation, 13 November 2013) or ‘Why Nigerian languages are dying’ (Vanguard, 7 September 2013). These articles urge parents to start speaking to their children in ‘mother tongue’ at home, and call for music, TV programs, and films featuring Nigerian languages to enhance their positive images. Bamgbose (1996: 360) writes: In all the years that English has been Nigeria’s official language, there has always been a pull between those who acquiesce in this dominant role of English and those who for nationalist reasons would like to see greater prominence given to Nigerian languages. More than 20 years later, the tension between these two stances continues to exist, while the balance appears to be tipping toward the former. Translingual scholars such as Makoni and Pennycook (2007), Blommaert (2005), Canagarajah (2017a), or Li (2017), on the other hand, offer an alternative perspective; they point out the irony that those who advocate for the preservation of indigenous languages uncritically adopt ‘a classic nationalist model of language-and-ideology’ (Blommaert 2005: 400), which affirms the straightforward simple one-to-one connection between one language and one group of speakers. In Makoni and Mashiri’s (2007: 72) words: The concept of indigenous languages is a post-colonial response to the consequences of colonialism. Indigenous languages are therefore a post-colonial prism through which pre-colonial Africa is imagined. These scholars remind us that those named indigenous languages granted the status of national languages are indeed the results of invention through the Western conception of enlightenment and boundary drawing. This process, according to them, alienated speakers of other variations that did not earn this national language status. Hence, Makoni and Pennycook (2007) argue for the need to ‘disinvent’ and ‘reconstitute’ languages; they assert that attention should be shifted away from indigenous languages and redirected toward urban vernaculars. Their view also resonates in Canagarajah’s (2017a: 56) proposal that heritage languages should no longer be defined by ‘modernist notions of ownership, territoriality, and autonomy’, but rather should be redefined by celebrating hybrid and fluid semiotic resources gained from contact with other languages and cultures. While these scholars’ critiques present a forward-looking view concerning actual practices, the modernist understanding of the relationship between mother tongue and native speakers persists in the society. As exemplified by the newspaper articles mentioned above, the emotional attachment to a particular named language considered ‘their own’ also remains real for many. A distinction between ‘languages for communication’ and ‘languages for identification’ proposed by House (2003) as a way of maintaining the coexistence of ELF and national languages points to this sentiment. For English-speaking students of Yorùbá as an additional language, the understanding of these competing views on the relationship between the dominant exoglossic language and indigenous languages constitutes a critical component of language awareness. What is more, as speakers of the dominant language, the students should be encouraged to be mindful of how their actions could play ‘the dynamic and evolving role… in shaping their own and others’ worlds’ (Douglas Fir Group 2016: 25). How to develop such self-awareness is another critical point of consideration. 2.3. Learners and teachers of LCTLs The growing value of English fueled by economic globalization has created a bifurcation between hyper-utilitarian demand for English and narrowed choice of FLs in non-English-speaking countries and low-utilitarian demand for FLs and diversification of FL choices in English-speaking countries (Lo Bianco 2014). According to Goldberg, Looney, and Lusin (2015), the survey led by MLA indicates that the 2013 ratio for modern language enrollments per 100 college enrollments in the USA stands at 8.1, which is half of what it was in 1960. Western languages—Spanish (50.6 per cent), French (12.7 per cent), German (5.5 per cent), and Italian (4.6 per cent)—occupy the top five spots in the enrollment figures along with American Sign Language (7.0 per cent), followed by Japanese (4.3 per cent) and Chinese (3.9 per cent). Yorùbá, the second most studied African language after Swahili, is one among the 304 other LCTLs, which together constitute a share of just 2.6 per cent. Profiles of those students who choose to study LCTLs reportedly differ from those who select commonly taught languages (CTLs); LCTL students tend to show more personal investments in the language and culture of their choice because of their heritage affiliation or their affinity with and curiosity toward the language and culture deemed different or difficult to grasp (cf. Murphy et al. 2009; Mugane 2010). Other differences between CTL and LCTL students reported by Magnan et al. (2014) include LCTL students’ likelihood of having studied more languages than CTL students and their tendency to value their native-speaking instructors as ‘an extracurricular resource’ who can ‘transmit cultural experience apart from the curriculum’ (p. 237). Indeed, the great majority of LCTL instructors in the USA are ‘foreign-born native speakers’. As discussed by Kramsch and Zhang (2015), native speakers continue to be valued in FL programs as a ‘symbolic authority’ equipped with ‘authentic linguistic skills and insider’s cultural knowledge’ (p. 87), despite the growing body of applied linguistic studies that have challenged the model of language education based on norms assumed by monolingual native speakers of the standard national language. Kramsch and Zhang go on to point out that these native-speaking FL instructors’ multilingual and cosmopolitan qualities tend to be unrecognized or undervalued. As a result, these native-speaking FL instructors regularly face the conundrum of ‘hav[ing] to model for their students a monocultural native speaker that, with their translingual and transcultural experience, they no longer represent’ (p. 111). This conflictual tension can be said to intensify for instructors of a language like Yorùbá, many of whom came to the USA to pursue graduate education, and who had received their secondary and tertiary education in English in their home country of Nigeria. These instructors know firsthand that monolingual native speakers of Yorùbá rarely exist in Nigeria today, especially in its urban centers. They are also aware that some of the expressions presented in textbooks have long been replaced by English in everyday interactions. These instructors, who typically occupy non-tenure-track positions, however, are not positioned to make major curricular changes. Further, the operation of many of the smaller LCTL programs has been supported by grants from the US federal government, which require programs and students to demonstrate their accomplishments in the form of pre- and post-proficiency tests in the target language. These conditions also affect how language teaching and learning operate in LCTL programs. To continue pondering the conundrums discussed in this section, the remainder of the article will consider how a diverse group of American students experienced a summer study abroad program in Nigeria and approached the study of Yorùbá. 3. STUDYING YORÙBÁ AS AN ADDITIONAL LANGUAGE IN NIGERIA 3.1. The fieldwork and interviews The eight-week Yorùbá language program was held in Nigeria from 12 June to 8 August.2 It was funded by the Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad and operated through the collaboration of an American university and a Nigerian university, located in Ibadan, one of the major Yorùbá cities of historical significance. The university is known for its strength in Yorùbá language studies and its role in advocating for the sustainment of Yorùbá language education to the local population. A total of 11 fellowship recipients (six graduate and five undergraduate students, eight women and three men) participated in the program. They included five Nigerian Americans, three African Americans, one South American, and two White Americans, whose entry-level proficiency varied from Novice to Intermediate-Mid based on the Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) test conducted by the program. The second author (a Yorùbá-speaking Nigerian pursuing his graduate degree in the USA) conducted fieldwork from early June to mid-August. During this period, he lived on campus where the program was situated and spent every day shadowing the students. He did not have any official role in the program, but assisted in its operation from time to time as a Yorùbá speaker. A variety of data, including field notes, audio-recorded interviews, video-recorded interactions between the participants and locals, weekly self-reflection reports, and various public documents on the program were collected for a larger study. Given space limitations, however, the current article primarily focuses on the participants’ narrative accounts of their experiences as disclosed during the interviews. Between the third and sixth weeks of the program, the second author interviewed each participant once or twice. Each interview lasted for approximately 20–60 min. During the last week of the eight-week session, a group interview was also conducted involving all of the participants. This group session lasted for nearly 100 min. During these semi-structured qualitative interviews, the participants were asked to discuss how they approached the study of Yorùbá, how various activities arranged by the program helped their study, and how they communicated with locals outside of the classroom. In addition, the director of the Nigerian university’s Yorùbá Language Center, who oversaw the local operation of the program, was interviewed after the completion of the eight-week session. The interviewees were all given the option of having the interview done in either Yorùbá, English, or a mix of both languages, but all of the students and the center director opted for English to begin the interview, although they mixed in some Yorùbá on occasions. Thematic analysis was conducted to identity common themes that emerged across the participants’ accounts, as well as to discern some distinct perspectives shared by the individuals. All the names of the participants are pseudonyms. 3.2. The making of the monolingual orientation The Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad states its aim to be the enhancement of the participants’ intensive study of languages that are ‘indigenous to the host country’ through maximum exposure to opportunities only available in the host country. The expectations of the funding agency, which reflect the traditional monolingual orientation in its conceptualization of language learning, undoubtedly had an impact on the design of the program. The website of the American university administering the program presented the program as ‘Intensive Yorùbá in Nigeria’, whereas the website created by the Nigerian university’s center responsible for the local operation described the program as adopting ‘a competency-based approach… with emphasis on interpersonal communication structured around the four skills, namely, speaking, reading, listening and writing’. The latter referred to a number of classroom activities as well as co-curricular activities that had been arranged ‘for the purpose of engaging in communication with Yorùbá native speakers’ and ‘to maximize the exposure of participants to Nigerian culture’. The center director indeed emphasized the importance of immersive experiences by asserting, ‘since the society is purely homogenous Yorùbá society, immersion will not be complete, will not be really meaningful if we don’t send the students to the field to interact’ (interview, 11 August). The promotion of the monocultural and monolingual ideal corresponds to the US agency’s expectations. However, the realities surrounding the program were far from the homogenous monolingual society projected by the program: all personnel in the program, including the host families, were multilingual speakers of Yorùbá and English who had learned to mix these languages in various domains of communication;3 a few of the host families admitted having raised their children using only English; some of the host families even comprised members who identified themselves as Igbo or Igbo-Delta and second language speakers of Yorùbá. Nevertheless, the program demanded that all of the locals involved in the study abroad program speak Yorùbá with the American students. Translingual practices that the students frequently encountered outside of the classroom were seldom addressed in the program, in which the supposed default language in all activities was monolingual Yorùbá. In the meantime, the presence of American learners of Yorùbá was made known to the local community through their engagement in field trips and other out-of-classroom activities; it was mentioned in the media that called for the local residents’ efforts to continue speaking and teaching the indigenous language. As a part of the final assessment of learners’ language proficiency, the students were required to make an oral presentation of their final paper to an audience of their classmates, instructors, the center staff, and invited guests such as the presenter’s host parents and friends. Listening to the final presentations delivered by the first few students, the center director expressed his distress over ‘too much of English’ used in their presentations despite the program’s emphasis on monolingual Yorùbá (field notes, 30 July). Because of the symbolic significance of this event to the program and to the local community, the amount of English mixed in their presentation appeared to be a major disappointment for the center director. 3.3. The students’ experiences In the interviews, the students also acknowledged that what drew them to the program was the ‘intensive’ and ‘immersive’ nature of the program highlighted in its promotional materials. The aspiration for improving their speaking ability through abundant opportunities to interact with native speakers of Yorùbá was another common theme in their narratives. Once in Nigeria, however, the students soon realized that the kind of immersion that the program description promised and that they imagined was not easily afforded. The majority of students mentioned their difficulty in finding locals who consistently spoke Yorùbá to them.4 The phenomenon of locals speaking English to study abroad students has been discussed in previous studies conducted in European contexts as well (Kinginger 2008; Levine 2015; Wagner 2015), but the situation in this Nigerian community seems particularly pronounced because of the degree to which English, or translingual practices involving English, has become everyday repertoires among the majority of locals. Under the circumstances, many noted that conversation partners assigned to them were the most successful part of the program because these partners, aside from their language instructors, were often the only people who consistently spoke to them in Yorùbá and helped them learn the language. While these students noted that their proficiency in Yorùbá did not improve as much as they hoped, the eight weeks in this Nigerian city, in theory, gave them opportunities to observe the language use of the local Nigerians and to develop language awareness and negotiation strategies by leveraging their existing translingual competence. However, to what extent such opportunities were utilized, and what sort of sensitivities were developed through the experiences, varied among the participants. To illustrate how the students’ diverse personal histories, investments, and claimed or ascribed identities (Norton 2013; Darvin and Norton 2015) impacted their experiences in the community, we introduce three strikingly different cases of graduate students. 3.3.1 Learning French versus learning Yorùbá Colleen is one of the two White American students who participated in the program. As a graduate student majoring in African history, she was conducting research on French influence upon education in West African colonies. Her research had taken her to Benin, Senegal, France, and Italy, and she decided to study Yorùbá, one of the local languages also spoken in Benin, where she planned to continue her research. Colleen thought that it was important to receive training in an African language for her future research, and for the enhancement of her credentials in the academic job market. She took two semesters of Yorùbá prior to the summer program, but her entry-level proficiency was assessed as Novice. Colleen admitted that she found her first visit to Anglophone Africa to be rather challenging. Her extensive international experience in Francophone settings did not fully prepare her for the challenges she encountered as an English-speaking learner of Yorùbá. While discussing her experience in Nigeria, Colleen often brought up her prior language learning and study abroad experiences as a comparison: what worked for her when learning French was often unavailable for the study of Yorùbá. For instance, Colleen asserted that she learned French ‘in France where people refused to speak English’ (interview, 4 July).5 While accepting the abundant use of English as a practical reality of multilingual Anglophone Africa and an efficient way for conducting business at hand, she considered it to be a major hindrance for her learning of Yorùbá. Colleen also shared her feeling that the locals’ lack of expectation for Oyinbo (a Nigerian term for a person of White European descent) to speak Yorùbá, or more precisely, her perception of not being treated as a legitimate learner of Yorùbá, was a letdown: People really laugh when you speak Yorùbá, which I know it’s not supposed to be taken personally, but I find it like discouraging? I’ve never, not experienced that like in other, in Francophone settings? So, that’s for me is just like disincentive, even though I know it shouldn’t be. (Interview, 4 July) Indeed, Mobola, a heritage learner to be introduced later, also noted the locals’ differential reactions. Reflecting on the group excursions arranged by the program, Mobola mentioned, ‘It’s always a little bit of spectacle… everyone wants to see the white people speaking in Yorùbá’ (interview, 9 July). Being outnumbered by Nigerian/African-American peers in the program also made Colleen self-conscious about her deficiency in common knowledge of the culture seemingly shared by her fellow students. Colleen further expressed her wish that she had more free time to explore opportunities for ‘authentic interactions’ on her own, rather than being ‘corralled’ into the activities held at the language center from 8:30 am to 3:00 pm on weekdays. This corralling in some ways reflected the program’s attempt to ensure the use of Yorùbá under the instructors’ monitoring. Colleen’s limited experience of self-directed activities outside of the language center often resulted in encounters with speakers who did not speak Yorùbá: But not all of them are Yorùbá, though. So like yesterday, I talked to an Igbo girl. Uhm, so even that, was stuff like I really like to make it happen, and this center is not actually like, they try hard for it not to happen, so. And those would have been like more authentic, experience. (Interview, 4 July) Colleen sensed the program’s attempt to keep the study abroad students away from authentic experiences in the local community that did not involve immersion in Yorùbá. Colleen’s case illustrates that previous FL study and international experience do not guarantee, or could even adversely affect, the study of another language in a different context. French and Yorùbá are situated in vastly different sociohistorical and geopolitical contexts, and they present very different personal and utilitarian significance to Colleen. The locals’ conflicted views toward their own language and English in the particular postcolonial and neoliberal context also affect how they interact with English-speaking, White learners of the indigenous language (Higgins 2011). At the end of eight weeks, Colleen expressed diminished interest in seeking further opportunities to continue studying Yorùbá, and indicated that she had no plans to return to Nigeria in the future. In the meantime, Colleen did mention improvement in her ability to communicate with locals in English. Initially, she found it ‘really difficult’ to understand the locals’ English or to be understood by them, but as time passed, it became easier for her to understand. She also learned to adjust her English to match the ways in which the language is used in the local community: Feel like English is a foreign language… Now I’m saying like things that I know are incorrect, but it’s just the way people say them here. I said to ah Jamie, I was like, ‘Do you want me to pick6 some bananas for you?’ That’s just- I would never say that, ever. (Interview, 4 July) While it was not her primary purpose, Colleen expressed that ‘English as a foreign language’ was the area into which she gained some insight. 3.3.2 Preservation of African heritage Brian is an African-American, who was about to embark on his PhD study in computer graphics in the subsequent fall semester. He is not a Nigerian American, but Yorùbá came into his life through his wife and her family who migrated to the USA from Nigeria. Prior to this summer program, he had taken two semesters of Yorùbá in the USA, and his entry-level proficiency was assessed as Novice High. In the interview, he stated that his eventual goal was to produce cartoons written in Yorùbá and English, geared toward Black children, with the aim of reintroducing them to ‘morals, ethics, spirituality, and all of the things that are sometimes glanced over in the Western media’ (interview, 10 July). Identifying himself as an African-American, Brian discussed his interest in Yorùbá language and culture in relation to his broader agenda of preserving African heritage. He selected Yorùbá as a way into this grand project not only because of his wife’s connection to Nigeria but because of the presumed status of Yorùbá as ‘the most developed of the (Nigerian) languages academically’ (interview, 10 July). At the same time, he also acknowledged that he had heard about the decline of interest among Nigerians in speaking and learning Yorùbá, and stated that he was motivated to assess the situation firsthand: So, I wanted to see for myself, some of the things I hear from the outside. You know, people not speaking Yorùbá, or some of the kids not knowing Yorùbá, those kinds of things. So, I can help, so I can better reason in real time what the issues are, how we can help, how we can intervene. (Interview, 10 July) Brian indeed came to observe the condition of a fading presence of Yorùbá language. His host parents revealed that they did not normally speak Yorùbá, and that they just spoke English to their own children, although they provided their daughter an opportunity to study Yorùbá from a tutor. Since Brian joined the family, the host parents began to speak Yorùbá regularly, in part because of the program’s mandate to collaborating host families to do so. Brian also shared the story of being invited to a local school by a member of a church in the neighborhood. The proposed purpose of the visit was to speak Yorùbá to Yorùbá children unmotivated to learn the local language. The schoolteacher hoped that the children’s encounter with Brian, an American learner of Yorùbá, would increase their interest in Yorùbá. Thus Brian, who envisioned his role of rediscovering African heritage and reintroducing it to African-American youth, found himself also serving as a catalyst for encouraging Yorùbá youth to learn what is supposed to be their language. While Brian was somewhat satisfied with his exposure to the culture that he gained through the program, he expressed his disappointment in the lack of an immersive language learning experience and his dissatisfaction with the classroom instruction, which did not provide sufficient support for the development of his grammar. While he originally thought that Yorùbá language had been studied more academically than many other African languages, participation in the program convinced him that further efforts are necessary to sustain the language: So what I found is that the language itself is not really developed academically to the point it should be, to really sustain for the long haul, I mean, still so much work needs to be done. (Group Interview, 5 August) For Brian, the hegemony of English and omnipresent translingual practices that he witnessed, and the lack of reference materials that he experienced as a learner, served to enhance his belief that something must be done to preserve the language and culture. Indeed, his conviction was validated by the locals who shared his concern over the future of the language. 3.3.3 What it means to be Yorùbá today While Colleen was disillusioned with her experience as a learner of Yorùbá and Brian reaffirmed his belief in the need for language revitalization, Mobola, a heritage learner, was the most observant of all the students concerning the dynamic nature of language and culture. While the other participants tended to discuss their own and others’ language use in terms of an on-and-off switch between the two languages, Mobola touched upon her observations of the locals’ intricate incorporation of linguistic resources that cannot be readily classified into one language or the other, as exemplified in the following quotes: So, my goal is to be conversant in Yorùbá, which means that some words- it's okay if I say them in English I don’t mind. (Interview, 9 July) I don’t mind people say certain words in English. I actually pay attention to which words they say in English because that’s the part of language you are learning… Like people still speak Yorùbá, but they’ll interject different English words in it, so that’s what I pay attention to, and I think that’s important to know. (Group Interview, 5 August) Multiple factors appear to have contributed to her development of such dispositions: they include her upbringing in transnational households, her professional aspiration to become a medical anthropologist conducting research in Nigeria, and her entry-level proficiency (Intermediate Low), which was higher than the other two participants discussed. Mobola was born in the USA and raised by Yorùbá-speaking parents who moved to the USA from Nigeria. Mobola’s parents raised her in English, although they, to a degree, tried to make her familiar with Yorùbá through children’s books, songs, and so on. As an undergraduate, Mobola decided to take Yorùbá language courses because she thought it important for her to know her own culture. While taking Yorùbá language courses at university, her personal interest in her heritage developed into her academic interest, and she decided to conduct research in Nigeria as a doctoral student in medical anthropology. ‘Now, I’m learning Yorùbá for my research. But it’s like a full circle because the reason why I do my research in Nigeria is because I’m attached to the culture’, said Mobola, who exhibited both personal and professional investments in the study of the language (interview, 9 July). Mobola expressed that her priority was to develop speaking and listening abilities that could be put to use during her future fieldwork. Unlike other students, Mobola was able to articulate detailed ways in which she planned to use the language in specific activities. She imagined that she would likely encounter people who would not speak English when conducting her research interviews at obstetrics clinics in rural villages, and that the ability to conduct interviews in Yorùbá would be useful. In addition to interviews, to ‘pick up all the nuances of the situation’ during the fieldwork, she also thought that it would be important to listen to and understand what people at the research site were saying to each other. Such interactions among the locals, not tailored for an English-speaking researcher, could be happening in Yorùbá, according to Mobola. Mobola revealed that her original expectations for the program were not completely met. Like the others, she commented on the lack of intensive and organized instruction on sentence structures and the local people’s tendency to speak to her in English despite her efforts to speak to them in Yorùbá. However, she also mentioned that she had adjusted her expectations based on her actual experiences. She related what she observed in Nigeria to what she had experienced in her own household where her parents often mixed English and Yorùbá when talking to each other. Mobola summed up by saying, ‘What it means to be Yorùbá today is different than what it meant to be Yorùbá before’ (group interview, 5 August). The essence of her statements resonates with what translingual scholars propose as a way of reconceptualizing heritage languages. At the same time, she also expressed her desire to learn the traditional ways of speaking Yorùbá, which she expected to encounter among villagers during her fieldwork. She wanted to know both the traditional ways of speaking as well as today’s urban vernacular, and according to her, ‘that’s like learning two different languages’ (group interview, 5 August). With her enhanced understanding of language use in Nigeria, she renewed her goal of continuing her language study in preparation for her fieldwork that she planned to embark on in the following year. For Mobola, the eight-week program did not help improve her Yorùbá proficiency as much as she hoped but provided ample opportunities to examine how people in the Nigerian city mix and mesh different linguistic resources in their everyday interaction. 3.4. Summary The three participants’ narratives illustrate divergent ways in which translingual realities of the local community affected their study of Yorùbá. Without any facilitated discussion on the out-of-classroom experiences in the program proper, the tendency among the students was to perceive the world around them from the lens of parallel monolingualism with the notable exception of Mobola. 4. CONCLUSION: CULTIVATING INFORMED LEARNERS The gap between an imagined monolingual utopia and translingual realities exists for all languages to varying degrees, but the amplified tension between the two observed in this Yorùbá study abroad program makes visible how power relationships among languages and competing ideologies affect the contexts of teaching and learning of an additional language. Under the ever-expanding presence of English, the monolingual orientation appears to be intensified by the fear of losing the indigenous language on the part of locals, especially those who tried to use this program to propagate the significance of language preservation, as well as by the frustration of not being able to access the target language on the part of English-speaking learners. These dynamics clearly present a sharp contrast to the contexts of teaching and learning of English as an international language. For our participants, ‘efficient bricolage’ (Canagarajah 2017b) of resources deemed effective for successful accomplishment of activities in the local community often translated to the exessive use of English, which prevented them from trying to use Yorùbá as much as possible. Given the context, it seems unjust to unilaterally frown upon the program’s and the students’ focus on the one target language and their insufficient attention to translingual practices. While the current article has focused on the students’ experiences, it is evident that the administrators and teachers in the program also have their own struggles to meet the demand from the US agency, to honor the advocacy for the preservation of the local language, and to create the desired language immersion experience in the midst of linguistic heterogeneity. Federal, local, and institutional priorities constitute critical layers of an ecological system within which the teaching and learning of the language took place. While some impetuses for the adamant insistence on monolingual Yorùbá are understandable, given the condition of Yorùbá language use today and based on what we learned from our participants, we consider it essential for the program, and Yorùbá language educators in general, to acknowledge from the outset the tug between the increasingly dominant role of English and the movement to maintain and revitalize the indigenous language, rather than attempting to seal students off from these realities. These sociolinguistic issues must be seen as opportunities for learning as the diverse population of American learners of Yorùbá begin to play a role in the local community. We also believe that candid discussion of these issues will help study abroad students develop dispositions and strategies to engage in interactions with locals, and enhance critical language awareness through the process. In fact, the group discussion conducted for the purpose of this research at the end of the program in some ways provided an opportunity to explore these issues. While many participants primarily shared their frustration as to how they had not been able to use Yorùbá in authentic, out-of-classroom contexts, the observations offered by Mobola challenged the others’ understandings as to what it means to speak Yorùbá, or to interact with Yorùbá speakers, or Nigerians more broadly. And like even learning pidgin, that’s important. Like I pay attention to pidgin because that’s- Some people speak pidgin, but don’t speak Yorùbá… Cause I’m I’m doing research in Nigeria, not necessarily only among Yorùbá people. So learning pidgin is also important. It’s part of the culture here. (Group Interview, 5 August) Sharing of such perspectives from the beginning might have helped ease some of the participants’ frustration and redirected their focus. The upfront acknowledgement of the complexity of current linguistic dynamics does not mean giving up the teaching of traditional Yorùbá language. Classroom instruction may continue to focus on the development of propositional knowledge of the target language that the students desired to gain; the kind of criticality and creativity identified as part of multilingual speakers’ competence entails their awareness of cultural and historical meanings behind the lexical and grammatical items used as part of their repertoires. On the other hand, classroom instruction should also accommodate space to examine the language use that students experience outside of the classroom. One student indeed suggested that the program consider the enhanced integration of in-class and out-of-class activities, and shared the idea of reviewing video-recorded out-of-classroom interactions in the classroom to analyze language use. The analysis of video-recorded interactions, we believe, could also allow students to examine individual differences in how they position themselves, or are positioned in an interaction with the locals, or what kinds of semiotic resources may be adopted by the different participants. The audio and video recordings collected by the second author indeed demonstrate how both the students and their local interlocutors incorporate various linguistic and non-linguistic resources in their interactions. Ways of assembling resources, however, differ between the students and the locals, as well as among them. The critical analysis of the spur-of-the-moment actions captured in the recordings, akin to what is described as ‘Moment Analysis’ by Li (2011), can be considered as part of instructional activities. In the literature on translingualism, spaces where critical and creative ways of incorporating diverse and alternate resources have been described as spaces where such practices are ‘admissible’ (Canagarajah 2017b) or ‘allow[ed]’ (García and Li 2014: 24), implying a default orientation to established norms and conventions. In the current research site, while a monolingual orientation was enforced in the language program, the program was situated in a society where established norms and conventions of the language taught are losing traction. This reality undeniably alters the experience of teachers and learners of the language and how translingual practices are regarded in the process. Thus, approaches in FL education, we believe, need to be adjusted to the sociohistorical and geopolitical contexts surrounding each language. 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Applied LinguisticsOxford University Press

Published: Feb 1, 2018

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