A sociolinguistic take on the future of language teaching and learning with assumed boundaries: Taking stock of Code Switching and Translanguaging research

In recent years, received wisdom about water-tight monolingual language teaching methodologies in foreign/ second language pedagogies has been challenged through the latest research and by practitioners. Historically speaking, the roots of English language teaching are in the Direct Method – an approach which advocates that the only language, teachers, and students can use in the foreign language classroom is the target language. There still are practitioners who believe that languages should be compartmentalised and that English language classrooms should be strictly English-only. The arguments are based on the assumption that exposure builds language skills as well as habit forming assumptions of Behaviourism. 

While a growing body of research has helped demystify monolingual myths about second/foreign language teaching, policy and practices still often continue to work within a monolingual bias. However, there is a growing consensus that the use of the first language supports second language learning in the classroom as there are benefits of using the students’ full repertoire. According to Garcia and Wei (2014), translanguaging is the use of the full multilingual repertoire of an L2 learner, which is naturally developmental. In contrast, when the learners are restricted to speaking the target language only through language policing (Amir, 2013) and reprimanded when they codeswitch to L1, they cannot use their full potential to communicate and convey their message. 

During this plenary, I will attempt to outline where we have reached so far at the intersections of Applied Linguistics and Sociolinguistics by incorporating research from translanguaging and bilingual teaching models. Earlier models of language focused on linguistic aspects especially within psycholinguistic framework, but later sociocultural and sociolinguistic aspects started to be included in the 1960s, when Sociolinguistics as a field emerged as well. The early theories were based on language skills and competence especially within psycholinguistic framework where the social contexts of language were often ignored. The concept of communicative competence means not only knowing the vocabulary, grammar, structure etc. of a language but also its social context. Moreover, early second/ foreign language teaching models assumed the learners to be monolinguals only, while strict boundaries for languages were assumed by policymakers and language practitioners where mixing languages was supposed to be enforced, while the rules to speak the target language were always supposed to be enforced through language policing. Building on this, we could also say that a sociolinguistic view of bilinguals is also more positive and holistic than a linguistic view. 

Even though in modern times a more sociolinguistic and communicative competence view is generally held for language and bilinguals, at the level of practice, the dominant views are still of the ideal target model for an L2 learner is deemed to be a monolingual native speaker of the target language. Linguistic competence is thought very essential in formal schooling and for employability for instance. Even if a person has some communicative competence, if he/she does not have enough linguistic competence, then they might be disadvantaged in language testing and assessments that still follow traditional models. 



Alia Amir is a Research Associate at SOAS University of London as well as an Associate Professor in English Linguistics at Halmstad University. Before joining SOAS this year, she worked at Stockholm University, Uppsala University, Linkoping University to name a few. She has also been on short teaching missions to three Turkish Universities namely: Muğla Sıtkı Koçman Üniversitesi, Cukurova University and Hacettepe University through Erasmus for teacher mobility funding. 

Her research lies at the intersection of Sociolinguistics and Applied Linguistics with a focus on micro and macro level language policy and practices. She employs qualitative research methods including interviews, linguistic landscaping discourse analysis, and conversation analysis. Her research interests encompass specifically the language policy practices of Pakistan, Turkey, British India, and Sweden. 

Having been raised in a Pakistani-Kashmiri household where several languages were used in parallel at a one communicative setting, she was not much aware of language boundaries, or the notion of keeping languages separate in her childhood, until, as an adult, she started noticing and thinking about how language policies differ in all multilingual polities at the macro and micro-levels, how language as a tool is used and can be used for inclusion and exclusion, and how histories of a society are intertwined in their language use over time. While doing research on the English language policy of the British Indian period (Amir, 2008), languages of the Mughal dynasty (Amir, 2020), present-day Pakistan, and language policing in the interactional micro-level policy in interaction (Amir, 2013), she grasped the ecology and nature of fluidity of all living languages in contact. 

Her current research projects are focused on Pakistani languages and culture including food practices, music, and literature in Europe especially London and Stockholm. 

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