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Sociolinguistic settings and the construction of linguistic repertoires among immigrant pupils in Catalonia, by Virginia Unamuno


Fragment 3

8. PAC:I’ll ask you some questions-| and if you want to ask me questions too, you can \|all right?|| if there is anything that_ that you’re interested in <2.0> em-| let’s see-| we’ll start| we’ll talk_ we’ll do it in Catalan in Spanish/| how do you want to do it\ <2.0> just as you prefer\| I don’t care\|
9. SAN:{@ Catalan\}|
10. PAC:Catalan/| yes/| if you want it in Spanish/ as you like\|not in Fre.._ not in French\|
11. SAN:{@oui\}|
12. PAC:Français-| =je _je ne parle pas français\=|
13. SAN:=[laughs]=
14. PAC:I can’t do it in French\| [laughs] Catalan or Spanish, which one will it be?=
15. SAN:={(P)Catalan\}= Catalan\|
16. PAC:in Catalan\ very good\|| so| eh-|you can do it better in Catalan than in Spanish?<3>
17. SAN:yes\|understanding it but not speaking it\[laughs]<0>
18. PAC:not speaking it\|
19. SAN:[laughs]
20. PAC: there is someone__
21. SAN:writing it too_ I can write it\|
22. PAC: mm\|
23. SAN: in Catalan\|ç
24. PAC: why? why do you think?||
25. SAN: the thing is I like it a lot\|
26. PAC: you like Catalan\
27. SAN: yes\|more than Spanish|
28. PAC: mm\|

Paco is interviewing Sandrine, a girl who was born in Cameroon. At the beginning of the interview, Paco begins a sequence in Catalan to negotiate language use, bringing up the possibility of using Spanish. Turn 19 is significant. Here Sandrine laughs at the paradox of wanting to do the interview in Catalan, and being able to speak Spanish better. This paradox is resolved by relating Catalan with writing, an activity linked to the school. The sequence ends with a clear position taken by the girl with respect to the two languages, with a clear expression of linguistic preference. The identity of the student, linked with the use of Catalan and the use of discursive practices that this usage endows with an institutional tone, all become relevant in a privileged way in the linking of Catalan with reading and writing practices. There is the profession of adherence –or affiliation, in Colon's terms, 1993– to the rules of the institution, and scholastic evaluation. This is clear in the next fragment.

Fragment 4

214. CEC: {(&) for example} {@ I really used to like sleeping at my friends’ houses-| I don’t know_}|{(P) really\}| and what I was going to ask-| that_ you liked reading/|
215. SAL: reading/| I like that very much\|
216. CEC:and what do you read?
217. SAL: {(P) in Catalan\}| a book that_ that I _ I chose from the classroom to read and learn\||
218. CEC: because you think it’s important to know Catalan\|
219. SAL: yes\|
220. CEC: to speak to?|
221. SAL: to speak to the teacher so that way you’ll see that I’m getting better and that_ that {(&) she_} || [laughs]
222. CEC: {@ why are you laughing?} || why are you laughing?| [laughs] you can_ speak Spanish if eh/ you want\ I don’t mind \||| just say_ what_ what you prefer / what you want\}| what was I going to say to you-| eh-| what do you want to do when you grow up?|
223. SAL: well-| I want to be-| eh_ a playground lady looking after little children\|
224. CEC: {(A) Oh really/}|
225. SAL: because I like it a lot \|

Salma, the daughter of a Moroccan family, answers the question on what she has been reading by saying “in Catalan” –that is, the language in which it is done. Her contribution in turn 221 is even more significant: after explaining that Catalan is important because you speak it to the teacher and to recognise her function in institutional evaluation, she laughs. The researcher / interviewer takes this laugh as irony, and acts –doing prospective repair? –an instance of language negotiation of the language in which the interview is being carried out. After this there is a silence, which Cecilia interprets as a rejection of the language –causing her to propose changing language. Salma immediately goes on to ratify her adhesion to the norm of the institution, expressing the desire to form part of it in the future (turn 224).

We will close this part by returning to the original question. According to interactional analysis which we have done on the interviews, these young immigrants represent the sociolinguistic setting where they learn languages as a cluster of settings for language use which are more or less regulated. The use of Catalan gives the interaction an institutional cast in the way that no other language can do. In the multilingual situation, Spanish enters into relationship with other familiar languages in the configuration of the practices (patterns of language use) not regulated by the institution. At the same time, Spanish is differentiated from the other languages owing to its belonging to the territory and its majority status in the settings relevant to these young people (house, neighbourhood, playground, etc.), and is thus describable as a bridge language. The language use ascribed to the spaces in the mid zone, such as the playground, are a clear metaphor of this.

This description is constructed interactively with an adult, someone who might be a member of the institution, and active in this description, for example, through the delimitation of settings that distribute monolingual complementarity. It is in the logic of this functional division of linguistic practices (language use) that we have to understand the movements of those interviewed, their friendly but firm resistance to the questions that assume monolingual usage and their insistence that they speak from an identity linked with the institution. It would seem ertinent to recognise Spanish as the habitual language, Catalan as the language of schooling, but also the minority status of other possible languages.

4. The management of linguistic resources in the accomplishment of language activities

Complementing the interviews, as interactive activities with an adult, we will now look at activities carried out in pairs (pairwork) where we can see linguistic usage among equals in contexts that are more or less institutionally regulated. The parallel activities of this sort may be described as events that are doubly regulated, in fact. On the one hand they are classroom activities regulated by a single adult person, thus submitted to a certain didactic contract which includes clauses that are more or less explicit on the language or languages that have to be used. On the other hand they are, a priori, symmetrical because both participants share the place of learning, the classmates, the school etc. (Nussbaum & Unamuno, 2004).

In this section we will set out to answer a second question: in what way do these young people categorise and manage their linguistic resources to complete the language tasks and their aims?

Interactions when doing the Spanish language tasks are the most homogenous, in that frequent or recurrent switches are not observed. At the same time, Catalan does not disappear completely from the repertoire which is activated in these activities. Perhaps the most recurrent case of the use of other languages is where they are used metaphorically (Gumperz, 1982) and they introduce, in this wise, different voices. We shall now take a particular instance:

Fragment 5

97. CEC: [to all the group] pair off the cards\| yes/| come on\| we have five minutes for this\| it’s three twenty-five\|
98. JON: from right now\|
99. CEC> [to all the group] from now- | right now\|
100. JON: molt bé (very good)\| {(PP)look\ XXX this and this\}|
101. SAL: {(PP) well let me see\}| where is it?| I can’t see that here\|

Notice, sequentially, that Jony’s utterance in Catalan, in turn 100, does not seem to be triggered by a Catalan language marker –rather it appears to be an imitation of the teacher-researcher, a game which he played in the previous sequence, getting in before her in saying the kind of thing she says in her instructions. This, then, is an interesting language switch because it invests his turn with a polyphonic tone and assists Jony in organising the discourse, marking the boundary between two parts of the task.

In contrast, in the tasks carried out in Catalan, recourse to Spanish is frequent. Within pair work, switching from Catalan to Spanish marks the boundary between different stages or parts of the activity. The use of Spanish signals sequences in which they handle or regulate the task. Observe the following fragment:

Fragment 6

97. RAQ:I ne_ need an overcoat sca_ an overcoat a scarf a_ a_ <0>
98. KAM:what colours does he like?|
99. RAQ>some gloves the red, the blue _\|
100. KAM:for example this \ <6>
101. RAQ:ho_ how much are the gloves and the scarf and the _ ?<2> [laughs]
102. KAM:where are we?|
103. RAQ:{(P) search me\}| I think_ <2> how much are_ <4> the anorak the gloves andthe scarf?| everything\|

In this instance, Raquel and Kamal are preparing role play in Catalan based upon a written script. At the same time, in turn 101, Raquel stops, there is a long pause, and she laughs. Kamal starts a new sequence (turns 101-103) in which both carry out another activity: reaching agreement on the script, to be able to continue the task. Raquel apparently looks for the information, pointing to the place in the script, and marking the boundary of this sequence (turn 103) returning to Catalan.

Activities in English are the most heterogeneous in terms of multilingualism, since here we find sequences, speech turns and even utterances in three languages. The explanation for this lies, on the one hand, in the pupils' low level of competence in English, and on the other hand, the fact that these tasks are defined as more or less neutral vis-à-vis Spanish or Catalan. I shall look at this aspect briefly.

From the interaction point of view, in carrying out a practical activity, language switching is an effective resource when organising the discourse and refers to local and wider contexts, which can be described or labelled by the analyst using ethnographic data (Auer, 1998b). In the case of English lesson activities, recourse to other languages can be explained by considering that conversation is most clearly defined towards the exolingual pole (Porquier, 1979; Lüdi & Py, 1986); that is, towards a style of conversation where there are statements from the participants commenting on a lack of resources to be able to complete the task in hand. In this context, recourse to other languages suppletes the lack of competence in English and seems a more economic and habitual sort of facilitating strategy. Consider, for example, the following fragment.

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