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Institute of Education

Multilingualism as Social Practice – Situative and Language Biographical (Re-)Constructions of Difference and Belonging among Youths in the Multilingual Context


Duration: August 2010 to August 2015
Ensuing from a discourse on multilingualism, which is dominated by deficit-oriented and utilization-consistent arguments most of all, the study at hand choses an approach extending beyond which emphasis the multilingual daily routine of young speakers in its situative and in its biographical dimension as well. In order to do so, students of bilingual secondary school on the German-French language border in Switzerland were observed and questioned. The ethnography of multilingualism, extended by a biographical perspective, is suitable to illuminate the day-to-day interaction of youths with (their) multilingualism in an institutional setting and extending beyond in great detail. In this contribution, multilingualism is conceived as a social practice through which social positionings of the actors are produced and negotiated situationally as well as biographically, which can be read as practices of difference and belonging. To what extent the linguistic daily routine in a bilingual class is shaped in a multilayered way, but also the biographical courses and the youths’ constructions of multilingualism, becomes clear through the combination of an ethnographical and a biographical approach especially. The reconstruction of the observed language practices, but also of the way the youths talk about their languages and their (language) biographical experiences, allows for a differentiated depiction of the youths’ linguistic daily routine and also of the experienced requirements, e.g. concerning their daily routine or their biographies as reflected upon in the interviews, that going to a bilingual class entails. Therefore, also the question of self-positioning and becoming positioned with the accompanying settings of difference and the formation and reproduction of social belonging and, most of all, social inequalities can be addressed in a differentiating manner.

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