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


Fragment 7

41. SAN: door and-|
42. LAU: window\|
43. SAN: and window porque_
44. LAU: {(DC) because·-}|
45. SAN: porque_ bueno\| por_ becausebe_ becausethey are used for_ tra_
46. MON: {(A) oh yeah\} <0>
47. LAU: why do they have to·?|
48. SAN: window ("finestra", switch to Catalan)\|
49. MON: ah\|
50. LAU: mm-| because-<3> a_
51. MON: a a\|
52. TER: a window- <6>
53. MON: what?| ah/<6>
54. SAN: this-| {(P) because_ you put it like this\| |
55. MON: this/|
56. SAN: {(P) xxx xxx \| when you do something\| something_ something like that\}|
57. MON: {(A) oh yes\}| banana and_
58. LAU: a·nd| and ioghurt/| and-
59. MON: banan_
60. TER: apron apron\|
61. MON:banana and apron because if you do a banana so as not to get yourself dirty\|
62. SAN: door and-|
63. LAU: window\|
64. SAN: and window porque_
65. LAU: {(DC) because·-}|
66. SAN: because_ well\| be_ becausebe_ because they are used as_ tra_
67. MON: {(A) oh yeah\} <0>
68. LAU: because they are what·?|
69. SAN: window\|
70. MON: ah\|
71. LAU: mm-| because-<3> a_
72. MON: a a\|
73. TER: a window- <6>
74. MON: what?| ah/<6>
75. SAN: this-| {(P) because_ you put it like that \| |
76. MON: this/|
77. SAN: {(P) xxx xxx \| quan fas una cosa\| una cosa_ una cosa així\}|
78. MON: {(A) oh yes\}| banana and_
79. LAU: a·nd| and ioghurt/| and-
80. MON: banan_
81. TER: apron apron\|
82. MON:banana and apron because if you do a banana so as not to get yourself dirty\|

Sandrine and Montse are carrying out an activity where they pair objects represented by drawings on cards. Laura, one of the researchers, offers the participants (turn 44) the English connector “because” to assist in the discussions over the pairing of the cards, they way they have paired them off. For example in turn 45: Sandrine begins her contribution in Spanish, and then carries out self-repair. Immediately afterwards she uses the connector which Laura has supplied her, but stops again and continues in Spanish until the last word “finestra” (Catalan for "window"). There is no indication that Sandrine recognises there has been a switch. It seems to be the placing of the word ‘finestra’ in a paradigmatic relationship with “window”, a word which Teresa –the other researcher– introduces in turn 52. The difficulty that is involved for the girls in pairing off the cards is resolved by recourse to Spanish and Catalan, codes which seemingly form a complementary repertoire to English.

The use of the other languages comes into this activity not just as a lexical base for certain words or as a structural model for certain phrases, but also as a tool for asking for assistance or clarification (turn 53), guaranteeing comprehension (turn 56), etc. It is interesting to note that in terms of recurrence, Catalan is the language most fallen back on to handle words or invent new ones (creolisation), while Spanish seems to be the language used to manage the task, most often marking the internal and external boundaries of the tasks. As we see in the following fragment:

Fragment 8

1. RAU: money\|
2. HAF: what about money? <0>
3. CEC: in English\| only in English\||
4. HAF: yes\|
6. HAF: with money\|
7. RAU: the picture XXX\|
8. HAF: XXX apple\|
9. RAU: apple [+aipel+]/|
10. HAF:apple [+eipl+]\|
11. RAU: ah\| hello\| XXX\ yes\| XXX\|
12. JON:hello\| this is a Hafi\|
13. RAU: banana\|
14. JON:this is Hafi\| Hafi/this is Hafi\|
15. RAU: hello hello my name is Raül i sóc el millor del món\|
16. JON:no\| ets el David Bisbal\|
17. RAU:sí\| jo sóc el David Bisbal XXX una merda XXX\|
18. HAF: tienes que preguntar\| cuánto valen er- las las manzanas?| XXX XX\|
19. CEC: bueno\ una diferència\ heu de trobar set\|
20. HAF: hala\|
21. RAU: XXX XXX\ er ioghurt\| ioghurt/| is-| vale\| llavors-| tu_
22. HAF: las diferencias/|
23. RAU:XXX\|
24. HAF:er-| claro\|

In this fragment, the sequence between 12-17 is interesting. Jony bursts in (turn 12) changing the constellation of the participant (Auer, 1984). This is now a group of three, playing with the cassette recorder and simulating a radio interview. The use of Catalan indexes this change of activity, at the same time as it suspends the pupil-pupil identities in order to establish others (journalist, for e.g..). In the next turn, Hafi suggests returning to the designated school activity and does this in Spanish, the language in which activities are usually managed. Next (turn 21), Raül proposes a new object (yoghurt) and cedes his turn to Hafi. In this case, management of the activity is done in Catalan.

Our data show that the use of Catalan and Spanish during the English language activities are open and available for different ends. At the same time, in terms of recurrence, it seems that Spanish occurs most –as in the Catalan language activities– in the sequences that are categorised as external to school activity. Catalan, on the other hand, shares with English the status of school language, and, from this vantage point, often shares with English the sequences tagged as school tasks, and which (as in the above fragment) establishes identities other than the habitual ones of friends, classmates, etc.

5. In closing

The ability to categorise spaces and linguistic resources that are available or in the process of being acquired, makes part of the communicative competence developed by the speakers. This capacity permits them to appropriate the languages for themselves socially, in a situated way. This is a practical competence, in the sense that it offers users the opportunity of predicting and articulating local contexts with language use.

Indeed, the use of Catalan (the language of the school) in the interviews points to the fact that language use has to be seen as a set of resources drawn on for specific purposes. Here, use of Catalan allows the interviewees to make relevant: (1) the orientation to an institutional and monolingual activity and use with the speaker, and (2) an institutional (and not for example, "immigrant") activity. The exploitation of this resource makes it possible, in short, to carry out efficiently the task in hand.

Observation of the interviewees orientation to the interview situation also makes it possible to observe the sociolinguistic setting on behalf of the speakers. In this situation, the family or original languages are relegated to minority usages, Spanish is the language of practices not regulated by the institution and acts as a bridge between school and non-school settings. Catalan is the language which accords institutional associations to language and social usages.

The description of language practices, and more specifically of language switching enables us to define the environment of these school activities. A difference that seems fundamental for the participants is that existing between the teaching-learning tasks and the sequences characterised by them as lying outside this. From the participants' point of view, the sequences pertaining to the task itself have a strong linguistic requirement, while the others can be realised in any language. In the case of the English learning activities, this requirement comes into conflict with the availability of speaker resources. The gap is frequently bridged by the use of Catalan, the language categorised by the speakers as institutional. In terms of frequency of language switching there is a dominant direction here: speakers switch from Catalan to Spanish to define sequences external to the school task; English alternates with Catalan in task-internal sequences and gives way to Spanish for the management of the activity. The employment of language switching to mark internal boundaries within the activities is not a procedure foreign to the school community, rather it is habitual also with teachers in the classroom (Unamuno, 2000).

oth the interview and the language activities illustrate the way in which users learn and manage a part of their linguistic resources. They learn to categorise the setting and to use the languages to differentiate activities, to solve problems and to manage simultaneously complex identities that become fundamental in the definition of the work with an adult or with peers. The languages enter into differentiating relationships (e.g. in changes in activity) or in convergence (in the solving of language problems), at the same time that they are manipulated to achieve different ends in an effective way.

This, clearly, contrasts with the normative and monolingual view of the languages and their teaching, frequently visible in official dispositions and often found, too, among researchers. As researchers carrying out the research, we articulate our own vision of the languages and their social complementary distribution with those that we discover through ongoing analysis of the data.

6. Bibliography

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Auer, P. (1998a) (ed.): Code-switching in Conversation. Language, interaction and identity, London & New York: Routledge.

Auer, P. (1998b): “Introduction: Bilingual Conversation revisited”, in: Auer, P. (1998) (ed.), 1-24.

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Nussbaum, L. (2003): “Immigration et dynamiques polyglossiques en Catalogne”, in: Mondada, L. & Pekarek-Doehler, S. (eds.) Plurilinguisme - Mehrsprachigkeit - Plurilingualism. Enjeux identitaires, socio-culturels et éducatifs. Festschrift pour Georges Lüdi. Francke. Tübingen.

Nussbaum, L. & V. Unamuno (2000): “Fluidité et complexité dans la construction du discours entre apprenants de langues étrangères”, in: Acquisition et interaction en langue étrangère (AILE), 12: 27-49.

Nussbaum L. & Unamuno, V. (2004): “La construcció de la identitat d’expert en la comunicació entre alumnes”. Paper read at the Jornades de Tardor de Xarxes XED I XELFEM / Autumn seminars for the XED and XELFEM networks, Barcelona, 1st-2nd Octuber 2004.

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Unamuno, V. (2000): “Frente a frente: lenguas, diversidad y escuela”, Grenzgänge, 7, 37-49.

Unamuno, V. & L. Nussbaum (2005): “Competències orals multilingües d’alumnat estranger a Catalunya”. Actes de les III Jornades Institut Europeu de programes d’immersió (in press).

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Virginia Unamuno
Autonomous University of Barcelona

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