A call for an increased focus on language variation and Critical Language Awareness within Mother Tongue Instruction in Sweden

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Submission Summary

The paper argues for the need to include an increased focus on language variation and Critical Language Awareness in Mother Tongue Instruction in Sweden, using an additive expansion-oriented pedagogy (Leeman 2018). Currently, these perspectives are largely lacking in MTI. The aim is to expand students’ linguistic repertoires beyond written standards.

Submission ID :
AILA1609
Submission Type
Abstract :

This paper argues for the need to include an increased focus on language variation and Critical Language Awareness (CLA) in so-called Mother Tongue Instruction (MTI) in the Swedish context. It brings attention to the fact that these issues have hardly been addressed with respect to MTI, neither in research nor in public debate. Instead, the MTI practice has hitherto been dominated by a standard language ideology, and tends to focus predominantly on standard language use and written forms of language (similarly to what has been observed in heritage language instruction in the North American context, see e.g., Leeman, 2018). The paper proposes the inclusion of CLA in MTI, using the additive expansion-oriented pedagogical approach advocated by Leeman (2018, see also Valdés 1995). The idea behind this approach is to expand the students’ linguistic repertoires beyond written standard varieties, and to be inclusive of students’ different spoken varieties of the mother tongue. Moreover, a CLA informed pedagogy should foster students to become critical agents (Parra 2016), who understand the social, political and ideological dimensions of language in society. In the paper, we discuss why and to what extent such an approach would be fruitful and possible to implement within MTI, taking into consideration the challenges specific to the Swedish context. The discussion will be anchored in critical analyses of official national language and educational policies, as well as in observation and interview data from an earlier research project on MTI in Sweden. Furthermore, the argumentation will be supported with comparative data from studies of heritage language instruction in other national contexts, where critical perspectives and increased linguistic diversity have successfully been included.

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Stockholm University
Uppsala University

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