2. The study of competences situated within the languages of the schools
3. Sociolinguistic setting: the description of settings and methodology
The presence of migrant students in the classrooms of Catalonia has raised issues and initiates a debate between educationalists, politicians and the general public on the management of diversity and interculturality. It also creates debate on related issues, such as discrimination, school failure, interethnic tension, etc. (Heller, 1999). additionally, in Catalonia itself, the immigrant population stimulates debate on the balance between the use of Catalan and Spanish, and the future of the Catalan language (Junyent & Unamuno, 2002; Nussbaum, 2003).
From the sociolinguistic point of view, the presence of young immigrants in school –the institution strongly linked to official language policy in Catalonia– provides an opportunity to observe the dynamics of language use and language learning. Indeed, in multilingual contexts, people learn the various different languages involved by using them in different sociolinguistic settings. The latter are the range of physical and symbolic spaces that may define specific practices. And it is precisely this situated use of languages which awakes in the individual the capacity to categorise each setting to then be able to perform therein in an effective way –sociolinguistically speaking– in one or more languages. Taking the view that verbal interaction between speakers is a context both for use and learning, it would seem relevant to ask how the new users of the languages of the school understand the activities in which they participate. And how they categorise their interlocutors and position themselves, highlighting specific identities by means of the linguistic resources at their disposal (Zimmerman, 1998).
We consider verbal interaction as a context of use and as a place where repertoires become visible and are restructured. (Mondada, 1999), bringing about modification in the perception of the relationship between social norms and language use. In this way, the social norms regulating for example the use of one language or another, or which explain a language switch, cannot be accessed by imagining the processes of reproduction or invoking the established rules. Rather, these practices have to be seen as the responsibility of the language users themselves, who carry them out to achieve practical ends. The way in which speakers orientate themselves conversationally vis-à-vis their own or collective objectives in a particular verbal activity thus reveals the manner in which they articulate linguistic usage, identity and local activities. They effectively define and describe (drawing on linguistic resources) the setting in which they find themselves. The detection of recurrent patterns in particular procedures illustrates the relationship between local and broader functions; such patterns provide the analyst with an indication of social fact in the widest sense (Auer, 1984b; Schegloff, 1987) such as the relationship between languages and a specific community.
For a study of this type there is a need for an interaction-orientated brand of sociolinguistics that has as its object of study specific patterns of language use, demanding great care in the construction and description of the area of research, and the processing and meticulous analysis of data. These principals in turn imply thattheoretical studies with this orientation should take due care in designing the approach to sociolinguistic phenomena as an integral part of the data
The present article is divided into four sections. In the first, we consider the framework of the research, the population and the data under consideration. Next, we come to the ambits of language learning –the sociolinguistic setting– of these young people and looking at the categorisation that they make of the different languages basing ourselves on the analysis of data derived from the interviews. In the third section, we consider some ways of managing the multilingual resources at the disposal of boys and girls when carrying out tasks in language-learning classrooms (learning Catalan, Spanish and English). Lastly, there are some final comments and conclusions.
2. The study of competences situated within the languages of the schools
The present work is part of research that includes the study of sociolinguistic patterns of use in thirty school students, aged from 10 to 15 years, attending various educational centres in Barcelona, Lleida, Molins de Rei and Salt (all in Catalonia). These are schools and instituts (upper schools and sixth form colleges) with a substantial number of pupils on role who were born outside the European Union. The research has as its objective the description of the variables that affect the learning of language and communicative skills among immigrant pupils, to be able to go on to formulate, at a subsequent stage, proposals for action in the school setting.
Our way of analysing linguistic and communicative competence was by observing these from three angles. Firstly, we consider the performance of the language learners in terms of the demands of the activity itself and what the speaker can or cannot do. In second place, we take stock of the way each individual understands the activity which they are carrying out, co-ordinating it with their interlocutor. Lastly, the verbal performance of the young immigrants is contrasted with that of their Catalonia-born classmates carrying out the same activity.
It is proposed to adopt a theoretical and methodological approach that examines learning in socially situated activities, in which the individuals use language for practical ends (Mondada and Pekarek, 2000; Unamuno and Nussbaum, 2005). This approach is far-removed from those with an abstract perspective that take the ideal speaker, the norms and monolingual repertoires as the point of reference (Nussbaum i Unamuno, 2000).
The activities studied included, on the one hand, interviews with school students carried out by the research team and, on the other, recordings of group activities in the classroom, carried out in similar fashion by foreign-born (“immigrant”) boys and girls and by locally-born boys and girls. The interviews were conducted by adults (based on a script), in a school setting and, almost always, in Catalan.
These oral data were complemented by observational data –at times with participation. The transcripts were produced by the interviewer-observer in question and were checked by other members of the team. The symbols used in the transcript (2) reflects both linguistic and paralinguistic elements.
3. Sociolinguistic setting: the description of settings and methodology
Here we set out to answer a complex question: how de the young adults in question represent the sociolinguistic setting and how do this depict this interaction wìth an adult?
We see the interview not just as a tool for obtaining factual information but as a social activity that takes place in the conversational history of the subjects and which, therefore, places the event in relationship with others with a similar format in which the
subjects have participated. These include tutorials and the welcoming or induction interviews which adults give the young newcomers (Nussbaum, 2003). The format becomes an index of contextualisation (Gumperz, 1982) which allows those interviewed to place the interview within the institutional framework and to categorise those conducting it as educationalists or people linked to the school. Accordingly, in the majority of cases complimentary identities are attributed: on the one hand there is the interviewer, seen as an adult linked with the institution, and on the other, there is the student wìth varying degrees of identification with the school. Description of the relationship between settings and language use has to be understood as the result of ad hoc construction of identities. Let us consider a representative case. Here is a fragment of an interview between Cecília, the interviewer, and Jony, a boy of Filipino origin.
109. CEC: and in the street/ with people like that _ how_ if you go to a shop or-|
110. JON: Spanish\|
111. CEC: Spanish\|
112. JON: yes \|
113. CEC: and-| and you don’t speak Catalan with anybody./|
114. JON: no·· \| [laughs] just here at the school\|
115. CEC: at school/|
116. JON: = yes=
117. CEC: = and= who with?|
118. JON: with my friends and with the teachers\|
119. CEC: with your friends you speak Catalan/|
120. JON: yes \| sometimes Hafi speaks to me in Catalan as well\|
121. CEC: with Hafil/| ah-| that’s good\| and so| in the playground-| when you’re playing, and in the dining hall and so on\|
122. JON: in the dining hall-| Catalan \| sometimes\| though in Spanish in the playground \|
123. CEC: mm\| and in_ in the dining hall who do you speak Catalan to?|
124. JON: with the monitors\|
In this fragment, Jony explains that Catalan is the language which is only spoken at school, with friends, with the teachers, and with the dinner monitors. The sequence of turns 113-114 allows us to see that language choice is not just Jony’s responsibility. In the preceding turns he explains that Spanish is the usual language in his neighbourhood. But Cecília equates Catalan with “not spoken with anybody”, something which Jony at first confirms and then goes on to laugh. This laugh implies that Jony has categorised what he has said to a certain extent as a transgression which he attempts to mitigate by introducing settings and speakers for Catalan. In response to Cecilia’s comment (115) Jony he says he uses Catalan with the teachers and with his friends, and cites the case of Hafi, a Pakistani boy. The syntactic structure of this utterance (120) is significant. Cecília has asked Jony for confirmation of part of his preceding utterance which contradicts his observations, since he has indicated that the children speak Spanish amongst themselves. Her utterance (turn 119) seems to challenge what Jony has said. Accordingly, he opts for limiting the scope of his previous affirmation, by inserting “sometimes” (as opposed to “always”), with one of his classmates –Hafi- (as opposed to friends in general), and “as well” (as opposed to “exclusively”). The same type of sequence is repeated in lines 122 and 124.
Beyond the correlation with empirical reality, the interaction shows that the description is the result of the articulation of interactive movements which show mutual orientations and adjustments between the interviewer and the interviewee. It could be said that the description of language use presented here suggests diglossic distribution (distributing language use between more or less institutional and asymmetric domains). Now, the analysis of the way in which the speakers here continue to deal with questions and answers over the course of the interview suggests that it is the discursive contributions of the researchers that delimit settings as monolingual and having complementary language use. Even so, most interviewees answer these suppositions in the way that can be observed in the next fragment:
53. CEC: you give a lo··t of work, I’m sure\| and what language do you speak with your brothers and sisters?|
54. HAF: ah-| sometimes in Spanish but_ and _ and_ more times I speak in Urdu and Panjabi\|
55. CEC: Panjabi\| because·· you are from the Panjabi(-speaking) area./|
56. HAF: yes\|
57. CEC: with your parents-| what language do you speak?|
58. HAF: to_ the same\| ah-| Urdu and Panjabi\|
Here Cecilia wants to know thelanguage which Hafi uses with his brothers and sisters and his parents. After the first question, Hafi stops and begins an utterance that opens with “a vegades... més vegades” (sometimes... more times) and this serves to introduce Spanish as the focus in his organisation of the phrase. He immediately mitigates the statement, with an adversative particle which is a corrective addition, bringing in the two other languages which he also uses, and indeed uses more often. Formulations of this sort highlight or point up the speaker’s orientation to his interlocutors. That is, it recognises the relationship between the two turns, putting in first place that which he considers relevant to the connection between the two turns. This orientation, a basic procedure in cooperative communication, shows that Hafi understands the interviewer’s intention, but also his ability to resist, without actually ceasing to be cooperative. Hafi thus introduces multilingual spaces and practices beyond the insistence of his interlocutor (Cecilia) (turn 57) in situating everything in terms of monolingual practices.
As the study shows, a large part of the corpus that we have collected, in the inner and outer settings of the school world, shows multilingual language use, in which the Spanish language is categorised as the local language, which at times alternates with other family languages in settings not institutionally regulated (conversations in the family setting, with classmates in the class room, in the playground, with neighbours in the neighbourhood, etc.). Catalan on the other hand, is attributede to settings where practice is regulated by the educational institution. In the orientations speakers evince towards institutionally regulated activities, Catalan emerges as an important presence in the range of language use. However, it is also true that the statement about the use of Spanish among peers is not categorised or perceived as a transgression, but rather as a correlate of the usage observed in non school settings where boys and girls learn languages. According to their descriptions, there Catalan has a minority presence, restricted to the internal practices of a group (among people known as “Catalans”) and functionally limited.
At the same time, the description of the sociolinguistic settings has to be linked with the identities that make the speakers relevant during the interview. Thus, certain interviewers seek to make less institutional identities more relevant and therefore initiate sequences involving language negotiation. As the following fragment shows, these movements are not always acceptable to the interviewees, who make it clear they want to play the role of pupil, and show their adhesion to institutional practice.