Plenarfilm: Prof. Anne Pitkänen-Huhta (youtube)

First, second, foreign languages – or linguistic resources for multilingual practices?

Prof. Anne Pitkänen-Huhta

University of Jyväskylä

Anne Pitkänen-Huhta
Anne Pitkänen-Huhta

Modern societies are increasingly characterized by concepts such as mobility, diversity, instability and individuality. Formerly fairly stable communities of practice take on new forms and shapes both locally and translocally through new means of communication and participation. Consequently, due to hybrid and mixed uses and truncated repertoires (Blommaert, 2010), languages are more aptly characterized as fluid (Pennycook, 2007) rather than fixed. In this talk, I will draw on two ethnographic data sets to illustrate the complexity of language use and learning today.

I will firstly show how skillfully and creatively multilingual Sámi children navigate the complex language situation in the endangered indigenous language context of the North while engaging in creating new literacy practices by drawing on different linguistic and multimodal resources of their immediate environment.

With the second set of data, I will discuss the problematic notions of first and foreign languages by showing how young Finns construct their identities and futures as language learners and users through their relationship to Finnish and English and through their participation in real and imagines communities.

This empirical evidence raises a number of questions. Is there a new great divide between current day language practices and current day language education? Are we still relying on fixed languages with clear boundaries and identifiable roots in practices of language education and assessment and in official language policies? Should we teach first, second and foreign languages or should we provide learners with linguistic resources for multilingual practices?