Multilinguality

These days I am writing so many formal/academic papers that when I sign in wordpress I am usually without any idea to put down! Its been almost a month since I didn’t copy paste from somewhere else. Today would be no exception. I was just reading an interesting paper on Multilinguality written by my instructor, who is one of the most noted linguist in the country. Am just putting an extract here which I liked.

My distinguished friends and colleagues often paint a dreadful picture of the
world for me when I, for example, am engaged in some of what I regard as
routine situations:

• Drink water that is not bottled.
• Eat grapes.
• Consume anything white: milk, sweets, eggs, curd, cashew, cheese, and so forth.
• Come home after shopping with a handful of plastic bags.
• Discard a sheet of paper one side of which can still be used.
• Use my mobile phone at a petrol station.
• Open an e-mail from a new person.
• Wish to get rid of an old pencil cell or an outdated laptop and so forth.

They often look at me with a sense of amazement when I tell them certain
things that, by now, should be common knowledge:

• Share the fact that language (always defined as multilinguality) is at once a site and medium for the construction of knowledge; it is not just a means of communication; it is an experience that historically constructs us and sociopolitically models our collectives.
• Suggest that there is nothing sacred about a “standard” language and that all languages are equally systematic linguistically although certainly not socially.
• Try to show that there is no difference between language and dialect and that “a language is only a dialect with a navy and an army.”
• Argue that we need to reconceptualize language; reject the concept of “a language”; fully understand and appreciate its formal aspects but in the social arena recognize its diversity and dynamism and its use as an instrument for action and exploitation.
• Suggest that multilingualism is an asset and can be used as a resource, a teaching strategy, and a goal; that the analysis of subaltern discourses has already brought out the significance of the contribution of the underprivileged
in history and such sites need to be invoked in day today teaching in the classroom.
• Show evidence to prove that multilingualism correlates highly significantly with language proficiency, scholastic achievement, cognitive flexibility, and social tolerance.
• Argue that without discarding the overwhelming importance of formal instruction through textbooks and teachers, we do need to recognize that children and adults actually learn much more than what anybody can ever
teach them.

One could, of course, go on. There is obviously a lot of work to do, probably a series of small steps to gradually move toward the big dream outlined in Spring (2007/this issue). Chakrabarty (2002, p. 39) asked the question, “Should the aim of education be to educate people out of the practices that are contrary to the principles of modernity, to move them away from activities or ideas that scientific rationality, democratic politics, and modern aesthetics find disturbing, if not downright repulsive?” The answer, I am sure, is an emphatic “yes.”

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