B.T. Aubakirova, K.M. Mandel
MA, PhD Student, Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Hungary, e-mail:
PhD, habil, Associate professor, Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Hungary, e-mail:
THE CONCEPT OF MULTILINGUALISM
This article is dedicated to the issues of identifying the concept of “multilingualism”. The relevance of designating multilingualism and multilingual education is also presented in this article. It grasps different approaches and definitions towards “multilingualism” from different perspectives taking into consideration the researchers’ research field and focus. The concept of “multilingualism” is analyzed in various contexts including the European and Kazakhstani cases. It should be mentioned that this article also involves important reasons of why different nations are implementing multilingualism policy and multilingual education as well as Kazakhstan. Definitions from different dimensions were classified and analyzed in this article accordingly.
Key words: multilingualism, bilingualism, language, multilingual education, research, concept
Multilingualism and diversity is regarded as an intrinsic part of European Union. Nowadays there are a number of learners residing with various cultures and languages experiencing different school systems. While growing up in such a shifting multilingual and multicultural society people may represent themselves not only with one language and culture but they are able to be adjust to any situation with a plenty of languages. Therefore, in such a changeable social contexts multilingualism is considered as the way of life but not a big poser that needs a solution .
Multilingualism began to become an essential trial for a great number of national educational systems which lead to the diversification in the nations. As a result of it there are a flood of learners with different language and cultural backgrounds and it leads to the requirement for them to communicate in multitudinous languages because their native languages are not applicable in the schools they study . That is why Blommaert (2010) argues that expanding mobility are changing the learners’ cultural and language approach in the school system in Europe.
It is apparent that multilingual education is not a reality in most of the European countries but in some of them like Luxembourg and Switzerland multilingual education had started many decades ago. But there are a number of challenges in the field of multilingual education system in Europe and beyond. It is significant to indicate that there are several European Union countries such as The Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, Luxembourg and etc that are striving to develop multilingualism and multilingual education in their education systems and accordingly there are following vital reasons for its implementation:
Political and economic motivations;
Moving for professional reasons including multi-national couples; Historical heritage, geographically concentrated .
One of the basic reasons of why European Union is officially promoting multilingualism is the more nations launch multilingual setting in education, the more mobility among various countries is promoted. The challenging issue is to adapt to such a complex settings providing high quality education and at the same time to meet the learners’ necessities and equipoising political, cultural and social exigencies (Ibid).
As for the case in Kazakhstan related to the multilingualism and multilingual education settings is a bit different. For example, in Kazakhstan the introduction of multilingual education aims at holistic development of the country.
“Kazakhstan must be regarded as a high-educated country all over the world, the population of which speaks three languages: Kazakh as a state language, Russian as a language of international communication and English as a language of successful integration into global economics” (N.A. Nazarbayev in the Address to the Kazakhstani people “New Kazakhstan in new world”, 2007).
Kazakhstan is attempting to be a developed country and enter the list of thirty developed countries in the world (Course towards the future: modernization of Kazakhstan’s identity, 2017). The importance of implementing and developing multilingualism and multilingual education in Kazakhstan lies on acquiring knowledge of three languages Kazakh, Russian and English starting to be taught from primary school up to higher education. The competence of three languages would hopefully offer young people more opportunities to proceed their study abroad, to have access to a larger labor market, and to bring foreign investments and work assignments in the country. Learning languages contribute to the development of critical thinking and enlarging other cognitive and communication skills. To train competitive and competent people, as well as human capital through languages is the main priority for generating innovation and modernization in all spheres of life that supports the advancement of knowledge-based society .
The significance of multilingualism in Kazakhstan is taking its height due to the “State Program of Education Development for 2011-2020” developed by the Ministry of Education and Science the importance of learning three languages including Kazakh as state, Russian as language of international communication and English as the language of integration to global economy are highly emphasized . It indicates that Kazakhstani people should acquire all three abovementioned languages. Now on the basis of a multilingual education project “Trinity of Languages” it is being integrated and developed in the context of Kazakhstani higher education institutions. This is the most significant Kazakhstani language policy that requires the possession of three languages.
The widespread usage of more than two languages was driving the researchers discover the concept of multilingualism. In accordance with UNESCO, the concept of «multilingual education» denotes the usage and implementation in education at least three languages: native, regional, national and international .
There are several terms used in this research field (“polylingualism”, “bilingualism”,
“multilingualism”, “multilingual education”, “polylingual education”, “bilingual”, “multilingual”) which will be analyzed and differentiated in this study.
Both concepts of bilingualism and multilingualism are very complex and widely used multidimensionally. A number of researchers who argue on the needs of clarifying the distinction between bilingualism and multilingualism as opposed to using bilinguals as “a blanket term entailing multilinguals as one variation” (Aronin & Hufeisen, 2009, Cenoz & Genesee 1998; De Angelis, 2007). In this case the dilemma is that the definitions on bilingualism are also contradictory to each other. For instance Grosjean (2010) argues that bilinguals are “those people who need and use two or more languages (or dialects) in their everyday lives”. However at the same time another example can be seen in the work of Valdes and Figueroa (1994) they indentify it “as an individual who possesses more than one language competence”. The term bilingual “is used to refer to one type of multilanguage user who uses two languages, whereas multilingual refers to
users of more than two languages such as trilingual, quadrilinguals, and so forth” .
Multitude of researchers are being interested in the field of exploring multilingualism (Weinreich, 1953 & Vildomec, 1963, Kemp, 2009) but mostly they focused on the context of sociolinguistic studies and other researches are dedicated to the psycholinguistic studies . Notwithstanding the broad dimensions of multilingualism this term has been researching and analyzing in educational perspectives which allows us to know that this term is considered to be of utmost importance in building comprehensive interests that has been analyzed for few past decades with different methodologies .
The term of multilingualism sometimes betokens extended view of earlier research on bilingualism and second language acquisition . Hence, a multilingual is delineated as an individual who masters more than two languages in a native level of proficiency . Whereas Cenoz and Genesee (1998) highlight the importance of economic and social matter a large number of people possess two and more languages in their routine . But in accordance with SavilleTroike (2006) they argue that the researchers do not emphasize the proficiency level of languages of those people who we can consider as multilinguals . The goal of multilingual competence should not be acquired as native-like skills in speaking in other languages but learners’ language proficiency should be based on their necessities and intentions .
The Table 1 is outlining that there are various approaches towards the concept of “multilingualism”. These definitions are classified from different perspectives taking into consideration the authors’ research field and what they focus on.
Table 1 – Classification of definitions of terms
Terms in use Definitions given by the author(s) Author(s)
Multilinguali sm “the capacity of societies, institutions, groups and individuals to engage on a regular basis in space and time with more than one language in everyday life”. Aronin and
Polylingual education “a purposeful, organized, normalized triune process of training, education and development of an individual as a polylanguage personality on the basis of simultaneous acquisition of several languages as a «fragment» of the socially significant experience of the mankind embodied in the language knowledge and abilities, language and speech activity as well as in the emotional and valuable relation to languages and cultures” Zhetpisbayeva (2009)
Multilingual education- bilingual education “any school program in which more than one language is used in the curriculum to teach non-language academic subject matter or in Bialystok
which the language of schooling does not match the language of the home or community. The reasons for in-corporating the languages, the specific languages chosen, the structure of the program, and the relation between the school languages and the community, vary widely and influence educational outcomes”.
sm Multilinguali “usage of two or more languages referred to the individuals or to societies” being able to speak in a plenty of various contexts. Biseth (2009)
Multilingual “the ability to use three or more languages, either separately or in various degrees of code mixing. Different languages are used for different purposes, competence in each varying according to such factors as register, occupation, and education”. McArthur (1992)
The fundamental concept of “polylingualism” has almost the same meaning with the derivative term of “multilingualism” and the same as “polylingual education” and “multilingual education” and it is considered to be originated from English term . The term “Multilingualism” or “Multilingual education” are very often used and implemented alongside with the term “Polylingualism” in many different scientific and academic studies . The term “Multilingualism and multilingual education” is regarded to be applicable in this research because these terms are most broadly and frequently used around the world.
Researchers are defining the term multilingualism with slight differences due to the heterogeneous focus of their research areas. In the following part we will present and analyze in detail sociolinguistics, educational, linguistics, multilingual education and psychological, psycholinguistics approaches of this term.
Aronin and Britta (2009) are offering a sociolinguistic definition in their study The Exploration of Multilingualism: they understood as the multilingualism ad “the capacity of societies, institutions, groups and individuals to engage on a regular basis in space and time with more than one language in everyday life”. This definition put accent on the social issues indicating the usage of “more than one language” and making an emphasis on “everyday life” . In contrast, Bloomfield (1993) argues that a multilingual utilizes more than two languages as in a native level. Comparing to the definition of Aronin and Britta, Bloomfield emphasizes the usage of more than two languages but not more than one language also indicating the need of native level of proficiency without identifying the context of its usage or other functions. Sometimes the identification of only the amount of languages and level of proficiency while defining the term “multilingualism” is not sufficient for conducting research it means that the researchers should not limit the understanding of it by giving only a couple of characteristics. However, the most interesting thing that should be mentioned is that (Grosjean, 2010; Bhatia and Ritchie, 2012;
Fabbro, 1999 and many others) define “Bilingual” as the people who use two, or more languages in their everyday life or colloquially. Here we see the difference that “Multilingualism” defined by Aronin and Britta is devoted to the usage of more than one language and the other researchers tell that bilinguals use two or more languages. It seems to be that this is somehow contentious according to the amount of languages indicated by these researchers.
Another sociolinguistic researcher, Blommaert, is approaching the term in a different manner. Having decomposed and analyzed the variety of understandings and definitions related to the concept of “Multilingualism” it is apparent that almost all of the above-mentioned approaches towards this notion imply almost the same meaning stating that the term “multilingualism” means the knowledge and usage of more than two languages. However, in contrast to other opinions there is another extraordinary and unusual approach to the understanding of multilingualism in comparing with other researchers, for instance, in accordance with one of the contemporary sociolinguists Blommaert (2010) everyone in the world is multilingual and he defines:
“Multilingualism … should not be seen as a collection of ‘languages’ that a speaker controls, but rather as a complex of specific semiotic resources, some of which belong to a conventionally defined ‘language’, while others belong to another ‘language’. The resources are concrete accents, language varieties, registers, genres, modalities such as writing – ways of using language in particular communicative settings and spheres of life, including the ideas people have about such ways of using, their language ideologies.”
Blommaert elucidates that multilingualism consists of different kinds of repertoires that embrace a vast number of resources involving various linguistic varieties, styles, accents, dialects, genres, registers and it is a matter of degree and continuum in spite of “whether it belongs to only one conventionally defined “language” or several of them. In general, repertoire can be designated as the usage of the whole “means of speaking” those means by which people know how to use and why in the process of their communication and these means may range from linguistic (language varieties), cultural means (style, genre) and the latter is social means that embrace norms of language perception and production .These repertoires are dynamic because they shift over time. He identifies multilingualism broadly “as verbal repertoires consisting of two or more varieties (whether language or dialect)” .
Likewise, it is important to mention that Blommaert infers multilingualism not in terms of “languages” but through the use of linguistic repertoires and resources . Blommaert and Backus (2013) in the book of Multilingualism and Multimodality and the Future of Education Research describe deeply the whole spectrum of linguistic repertoires and language resources that is used by a multilingual individual. Repertoires may emerge from the extended variety of learning modes. They exemplify it with the implementation of thirty-eight languages and different types of learning modes in superdiverse environment, knowledge of languages by providing with potential examples. Repertoires are usually dependent on the personal and biographical sets of resources trapping the rhythms of human life. Blommaert and Backus (2013) argue that repertoires include the knowledge and competences of an individual and these very knowledge and skills, resources can be acquired by different ways including formal and informal learning environments. They also highlight the importance of learning by degree which consists of several language learning typologies (“Comprehensive language learning, specialized language learning, encounters’ with language, Age-group slang learning, Temporary language learning, single word learning, Recognizing language, Embedded language learning”) and each type involves the appropriate resources of knowledge and new skills because in every stage of life people learn new things not only the linguistic ones but as well as exploring and experiencing the world of life (Blommaert, Backus, de Saint-Georges, & Weber, 2013, p.11)that contribute to enlarging and enriching their learning repertoire.
It will be appropriate to use the terms as multilingualism and multilingual education because of its frequent implementation rather than “polylingualism” even though polylingual education is also more or less used in educational sector in the context of Kazakhstan. For instance, according to one of the Kazakhstani linguist and researcher Zhetpisbayeva whose research interest captures directly the theory and methodology of polylingual education, linguodidactic aspects of professional preparation of specialists designates polylingual education as
“a purposeful, organized, normalized triune process of training, education and development of an individual as a poly-language personality on the basis of simultaneous acquisition of several languages as a «fragment» of the socially significant experience of the mankind embodied in the language knowledge and abilities, language and speech activity as well as in the emotional and valuable relation to languages and cultures” .
From her complex approach it is clear that first she uses different term “polylingual education” in comparison with the other researchers. Secondly, she indicates that it is a “process of training, education” taking into account some features. Thirdly she emphasizes on the” development of a polylingual personality”, “experience of the mankind” with the emotional and valuable relation to languages and cultures”. This kind of approach is too broad with a number of specific features also pointing out the formal educational process. It may depend on the researcher’s research field and interest, focus. Nevertheless in comparing with the above-mentioned approaches she highlights the educational context of it.
However, another approach also differs from the mentioned ones to some extent. Elllen Bialystok, psychologist and professor whose research field is dedicated to the cognitive and language development in children, bilingualism from childhood to adulthood identifies
“multilingual education” as
“any school program in which more than one language is used in the curriculum to teach non-language academic subject matter or in which the language of schooling does not match the language of the home or community. The reasons for in-corporating the languages, the specific languages chosen, the structure of the program, and the relation between the school languages and the community, vary widely and influence educational outcomes” .
Unlike the other definitions this is considered to be appropriate and applicable in both sides taking into consideration the formal educational school program that she points out as the basic for teaching “non- language academic subjects”, with the usage of more than one language. High accent is paid to the mismatch between schooling language and home or community languages indicating several vital reasons for that. Such definition seems to be more pragmatic in terms of wide diverse relation among “school language and community” and impact on “educational outcome”. This definition is more specific in terms of educational issues as well as with the attempt to relate it with society. In this definition it is not so clear about “or in which the language of schooling does not match the language of the home or community” why those languages mismatch in the community or home. If to take English language as one chosen specific language it is apparent that English is somehow used in community if even not so frequent. It should be taken into account that the choice of specific teaching language cannot be chosen randomly so it means that that very used language is being in use to some extent either in community or at home. It may vary from these contexts but only to some extent. But the word “or” in the definition means its possibility of use at the same time. This point is somehow contentious in this definition but the rest characteristics of multilingual education may fit in educational sector.
Another definition of the term “multilingualism” is given by Biseth (2009), her research area is dedicated to the cultural, religion and social studies, multiculturalism related to education and may be therefore her definition (see Table 2) highlights the in this definition the author indicate the number of language acquisition (two or more), reference on the usage of languages of individuals and society in a number of different contexts without taking into account any educational or formal aspects of education . This approach is much more inclined to be general and may be more applicable for the researches on social studies.
The last but not the least is the approach of McArthur, 1992(see also Edwards, 1994; Vildomec, 1963). This researcher is the only one who denotes the usage of three or more languages which can be used separately or mixed (see Table 2). The researcher does not emphasize the language proficiency or the competence on contrary to Bloomfield (1993). McArthur states that it depends on the factors including education, occupation and etc. Having analyzed such kind of definition one can realize that the given definition provides us with much freedom without indicating the exact purposes, contexts, focus and even the competence and factors.
“Multilingualism conveys the ability of societies, institutions, groups, and individuals to have regular use of more than one language in their everyday lives over space and time. Language is impartially understood as a variety that a group admits to using as a habitual communication code (regional languages and dialects are also included, such as sign languages)” . She also indicates that multilingualism is based on the aptitude to communicate implementing several languages and therefore it shows the phenomenon that is inherent in cultural advancement. In one hand, according to Hornberger (1990) and most researchers multilingualism is designated as “able to use several languages especially with equal fluency” and “in which communication occurs in two (or more) languages in or around writing” .
Different approaches and steps towards the implementation of multilingual education development are proposed by a variety of researchers in this scope and their understanding in terms of “multilingualism” concept also varies. For instance, in the case of Kazakhstan there are a number of researchers (Issabekova, Abdillayev, Kasymbekov, Duysenov., 2013 and Toibekova et al., 2016) who are attempting to contribute to the development of multilingualism and multilingual education by designing or forming polylingual or multicultural personality in educational settings.
According to Issabekova (2013) multilingual education is understood as the basis of multilingual personality formation that designates the individual self-realization of a human being in terms of competitiveness, social mobility and relations. It implies arranged and focused learning and development process of a person as the multilingual personality build upon “simultaneous acquisition of several languages as a “fragment” of different cultures of humanity”. She also emphasizes that the content of multilingual personality embraces the knowledge and skills of native, official and other foreign languages as consistent with the “cross-cultural paradigm of modern linguistic education” . Thinking and speech development of an individual through mental, oral and written communication contribute to the development of an individual’s multilingual consciousness.
Although Issabekova (2013) characterizes the multilingual education as “education and contribution to students mastering other languages assimilation cultural values and traditions of the peoples of the world, their lifestyle as well as to education of youth in the spirit of respect for the worldview values of other nations”. At the same time she defines “multilingual personality” as an individual who is competent not only in their mother-tongue but in other foreign languages as well with developed linguistic and aesthetic consciousness. Whereas Toibekova et al., (2016) makes an emphasis on that polylingual personality formation occurs while acquiring native and foreign languages taking into consideration cultural features. Taking into consideration varied approaches to the multilingualism and multilingual education we consider that the usage of more than two languages can contribute to the better adaptation in any situation and to assist the international interaction. But the arguments concerning the language use and proficiency of multilinguals and in multilingual education also take place. The implementation and understanding of “multilingualism and multilingual education” varies and we found out that Kazakhstani researchers (Issabekova, 2013 and Toibekova, 2016) are developing multilingual personality formation constituting that it occurs in the process of learning languages and indicating a number of competences that polylingual personality should be competent at. However, Blommaert’s (2013) approach is rather different and seems to be more applicable for the development of multilingualism. He considers everyone to be a multilingual person. For example, Kazakhstani researchers argue on forming and developing a multilingual personality who should be competent in all linguistic skills whereas Blommaert highlights the importance of language repertoire and resources but not the knowledge of languages. It is also important to mention that these two researchers Zhetpispaeva and Blommaert have different research areas and depending on that they identify it in accordance with their research interest.
In general, it is significant to mention that there are a number of diverse definitions and approaches to the given concept and we endeavored to analyze them from different perspectives embracing the research fields, areas and interests in order to see the difference. Actually it is obvious form their definitions their tension and inclination of the subject matter. Notwithstanding this kind of diversity in defining this concept each of analyzed definition or approach can be of high importance in using in applicable scope of research. It is noticeable that the researchers indicated different amounts of languages that may be used by multilinguals but in this case it should be noted that the user of one language is monolingual, the user of two languages is bilingual, and the user of three languages is trilingual or multilingual. For due to this language amount issue one may notice it controversial because some of the definitions on multilingualism sometimes can confluence or overlap with the other definitions (monolingual, bilingual, multilingual).
As our research is dedicated to the educational sector we decided to choose that one which is closer by its meaning and context. Therefore, we adhere to the definition of McArthur (1992)  which will serve as the theoretical framework for this research as in our opinion McArthur’s approach is regarded as the most applicable and widely used in multilingual setting researches.
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2 Address of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, to the people of Kazakhstan, (2007).Retrieved in April 25, 2018 from www.akorda.kz
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14 Ospanova, B. R., Azimbayeva, Z. A., Timokhina, T. V., &Seydakhmetova, Z. K. Theoretical-and-Methodological Substantiation of Multilingual Model Activity in Kazakhstan Higher School Education System. International Journal of Environmental and Science Education, 11(10), 2016. 3450-3466.
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Б.Т. Аубакирова, K.M. Маndel
Университет Этвёша Лоранда
В данной статье рассматриваются вопросам определения концепции «мультилингвализма». В этой статье также представлена актуальность определения мультилингвализма и мультилингвального образования. Данная статья также охватывает различные подходы и определения к «мультилингвализм» с разных точек зрения, принимая во внимание исследовательскую область и фокус исследователей. Понятие
«мультилингвализм» анализируется в различных контекстах, в том числе в европейских и казахстанских кейсах. Следует отметить, что эта статья также представляет важные диверсифицированные причины по которым разные страны осуществляют политику многоязычия и многоязычное образование, а также Казахстан. Определения мультилингвализма из разных измерений были соответственно классифицированы и проанализированы в данной статье.
Б.Т. Аубакирова, К.М. Мandel
Этвёш Лоранд Университеті
Берілген мақалада «мультилингвализм» концептісіне арналған алуан түрлі анықтамалар мен ой-пікірлер қарастырылады. Сонымен қатар, аталмыш мақалада мултилингвализм және мультилингвалды білім беру түсініктерін анықтаудың маңыздылық өзектілігі ұсынылады.Зерттеушілердің зерттеу жұмыстарының аясына және назарына байланысты «мультилингвализм» түсінігіне арналған әртүрлі анақтамалар мен көзқарастар талқыланған. Бұл мақалада «мультилингвализм» концептісі әр алуан тұрғыдан, яғни Еуропалық және Қазақстан контекстінде талданған. Оған қоса, Қазақстандағы және тағы басқа елдерде орын алып жатқан «көптілділік» және «көптілді білім беру» саясатының алуан түрлі маңызды себептері баяндалған. Аталмыш мақалада «мультилингвализм» түсінігі әртұрлі тұрғыдан жүйелі түрде сараланып сәйкесінше талданды.