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Becoming Multilingual

Language Learning and Language Policy between Attitudes and Identities

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Konrad Bergmeister and Cecilia Varcasia

Research into the complex phenomenon of multilingualism is rapidly increasing. This book looks at multilingualism through its interfaces with language policies, language attitudes and issues of language awareness and identity. The aim is to examine the dynamic processes that lead or hinder the development of such phenomena. One of the scopes of the volume is to represent the complexity of the multilingual speaker by shedding light on different multilingual settings in the world. The chapters of this volume tackle the topic from a sociolinguistic perspective by showing how multilingualism is dynamically constructed. They provide empirical research on language learning in different multilingual environments in the world as well as practical suggestions for the investigation of multilingualism and the improvement of its education.

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RENATE KÄRCHNER-OBER - Effects of National Language Policies and Linguistic Reorganization – Long-term Issues in a Society, Cultures and Languages - 17

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RENATE KÄRCHNER-OBER Effects of National Language Policies and Linguistic Reorganization – Long-term Issues in a Society, Cultures and Languages 1. Introduction This chapter addresses the relationships between multilingualism, nation- al language policy, educational reform processes and related issues neces- sary for understanding the fundamental linguistic challenges multiethnic and multilingual Malaysia has faced in the first decade of the 21st century. Despite successful attempts to profoundly change language policy and language education, controversies and problems with regard to languages still exist, as language policy reforms are perceived as disappointing for the respective affected population segments. Sociological and socio- economic factors affect the use and learning of languages, as well as mul- tilingual education in particular, as an egalitarian multilingual educational policy is not really advocated by any of the ethnic groups. The majority of Malaysians have two or more languages and dialects at their disposal and make use of all their available languages, dialects, registers, and codes, depending on social context, social purposes, and given commu- nicative situation. Language education in Malaysia has undergone drastic changes since colonial times. A major reason for this was to foster unity among the country’s diverse racial groups. The realization of policymak- ers’ attempts to promote multilingualism is marred by political issues. Symbolic political power, not always in favour of a heterogeneous socie- ty, very often overshadows ambitions to project the country as a melting pot of cultures and languages. As Lo Bianco (2003: 22) puts it, “Asian multilingualism is more than a demographic reality...

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