Prof. Danuta Gabryś-Barker, University of Silesia Poland
Language repertoires versus individual dominant language constellations: the reality of instructed educational settings in a (mostly) monolingual context
A clear distinction is often made by researchers between a language repertoire and dominant language constellation of any multilingually competent language user (Aronin and Singleton 2012, Aronin 2019), the former term referring to all the languages a person knows and the latter describing dominant languages chosen by a person to function in a multilingual context. Functioning in a multilingual environment most naturally impacts the creation of individually structured DLCs depending on the contextual variables.
In some countries, which are mostly monolingual (such as Poland for instance), formal instruction in multiple languages is naturally offered, however, the development of learners’ competence in these languages does not necessarily become functional in “beyond the classroom contexts” as much as it would in a multilingual surrounding. Thus, the question arises, does the concept of DLC apply to these language learners, who do not necessarily become language users immediately beyond their educational activities? On the other hand, it should not be ignored that these learners do make choices about their preferred/dominant languages in various linguistic engagements. Some of these will be conscious (e.g. multilingual thinking, translanguaging) and some subconscious (e.g. multilingual dreaming, code-switching) (Gabryś-Barker 2014, 2015).
The study ( see presentation https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B42jojvgBFU starting from 1:43:00) focuses on the above-described context of a mostly monolingual country with the subjects being university modern languages students. Their immediate languages use is mostly activated in the course of their studies, but also expands out into their favourite pastimes and contacts beyond the university (e.g. internet surfing, online activity in social media, games, etc.). By means of personal metaphors and visualizations, I propose to observe whether, and if so, to what an extent, their language repertoires “turn into” their DLCs, thus contributing to these speakers’ language identity. The question is whether these are unique processes or whether there is a pattern of verbal behavior characteristic of this generally homogenous group of multilinguals, in terms of their learning history, language achievement and in fact choice of languages learnt.
In his discussion of the value of the concept of Dominant Language Constellation (DLC), Slavkov (2021) assesses its role in creating the educational language policies as ‘more explicit and targeted multilingual policies “ as well as “ awareness raising of multilingual values can contribute to an even larger proportion of the population having rich and interesting DLCs’ (p. 105). The most recent publication of Aronin and Vetter (2021) continuing the theme of researching multilingualism and individual multilinguality of the first volume (Lo Bianco, Aronin, 2020), does the above very satisfactorily by demonstrating through numerous empirical studies how the concept of DLC can be implemented in a variety of educational settings to construct multilingual policies in different contexts (global, regional, local).
In the present volume, the issues of DLC are raised in the context of language policies, different instances of their functioning within the frames of formal education at different levels and in relation to teacher education and teachers’ professional development. This chapter focuses on the EFL student teachers’ perceptions of their DLC expressed by explicit metaphors (similes) and symbolic visualisations. The data collected for the purposes of the present paper, also aimed at awareness raising of individual language identity of the subjects which is important not only in their individual language functioning but also as future language teachers. It constitutes an important dimension of their professional development. In this way the chapter continues the themes of Yoel’s study (2021) in her discussion of trainee students DLCs and Melo-Pfeifer’s (2021) paper in terms of methodology applied: visualisation, here expanded by reflective narrative comments. The novelty of the present study lies in its context as it was carried out in Poland, a fairly monolingual country. Polish educational system offers formal instruction in multiple languages simultaneously at different levels of education (both secondary and higher education make instruction and developing competence in two foreign languages obligatory). At the same time, competence developed by Polish students in these multiple languages learnt (studied) does not necessarily become functional in “beyond the classroom contexts” as the national/social context is hardly multilingual. Thus, it is interesting to see if the concept of DLC applies here or whether we just deal with various language repertoires (LRs) of these language learners (students).
Apart from the present study on DLC in language identities of this sample, I would like first to refer to the previous studies carried out with similar groups of subjects in relation to various contexts in which multiple language are used by them both consciously and subconsciously (Gabryś-Barker 2014, 2015) and interpret them though the lenses of the DLC concept.
Comparing this contribution with the previously published studies on DLC, its context can be singled out as different from those discussed in Lo Bianco, Aronin (2020) and Aronin, Vetter (2021). Those studies were in a great majority carried out in the societies and contexts of multlinguality being present around and playing an important role as a strategy of inclusion and integration within a given society.
In the present study, the context is a fairly monolingual society and the focus is more on awareness of how multilinguality expressed by individual DLCs contributes to one’s identity and understanding of the globalized world and one’s role in it in such a society. It may also show whether the constellations of languages constitute similar patterns in individuals, thus representing perhaps a more general pattern for the community in questions (here: university students and future teachers of FLs are treated as a community of practice). However, the question arises whether in such a context we can talk of DLs or just language repertoires.