Posted by Cheryl Lingjuan Yan (Post #2)
The word “Multilingualism” refers to the use of two or more languages, either by an individual speaker or by a community of speakers (Tucker, 1999). When I first came to Canada, I found people here in Montreal to be amazing. Most people are at least bilingual and almost everyone can speak three or four languages. People all come from different background, or, to be more specific, have different identities, for instance, Canadian, French, half-Spanish, full-Korean, etc. The reason why Montrealers can speak so many languages derives from the city’s history, and it also may partially be because of its colonial culture. Quebec was founded and colonized by French settlers for a long time. Therefore, French culture has a strong influence on Quebec. In addition, Canada is one of the members of the British Commonwealth. Perhaps these are the reasons people in Montreal are at least bilingual in English and French.
I feel that with the background of multilingual communities, people today have greater mobility. And everyone has different identities on different occasions. Take myself as an example, I am Chinese, an international student in Canada, an ESL teacher at language schools, classmates of other SLE students, the daughter of my parents, etc. I come from China, which is a monolingual society. Mandarin is the only language we use to talk with friends or colleagues at work and in classroom settings. After being here in Canada, I use English as a lingua franca to talk with Anglophones, Francophones and speakers of other languages. The use of language is one way of emphasizing personal identities.
According to Crump (2014), “Identity is something someone has, and it is static, uniform, and countable. This enables sweeping much diversity into discrete, countable categories, which renders that heterogeneity invisible” (p. 208). We always categorize people according to where they come from, and we always label others as “white” “Jewish” “homosexual” “upper middle class”, etc. This reminds me of when we discussed ethnicity in class three weeks ago. The first thing we came up with when we wanted to categorize people was their ethnicity. Every ethnic group has its own culture and heritage language. Or, maybe because of English colonization, people in certain countries have become more comfortable speaking English instead of their heritage languages.
We often name a language according to where it originates from. For example, English people speak English; French people speak French. However, this is not necessarily always the case. Montrealers serve as a good example to illustrate this point. As I mentioned previously, they are proficient in both English and French without necessarily coming from England or France. I was really intrigued by the video clip Alison showed to the class three weeks ago about the history of English language. The great diversity of English shows how important languages are. English has become a dominant language in almost all facets in our society, politics, economy, education, etc. Doubtlessly, L2 English users continue and will continue to grow, far exceeding the the number of native speakers. I believe English has become a language with the most most speakers in the world not only because of Britain’s previous colonization in many places, but also because of the value associated with it. In China, learning English represents a better future and more job opportunities. Thus, English, as a language universally used, is developing so fast because of the enormous economic and academic values invested in it.
I found two video clips which is quite relevant, and you might want to see these:
Crump, A. (2014). Introducing LangCrit: Critical Language and Race Theory. Critical Inquiry in Language Studies, 11, 3, 207-224.
Tucker, G. R. (1999). A global perspective on bilingualism and bilingual education. Georgetown University round table on languages and linguistics, 332Á340.