Conference on Heritage/Community Languages

Second International

professional development \ conferences \ 2014 conference

Elana Shohamy

Tel Aviv University


Elana Shohamy is a professor of Language Education at the School of Education, Tel Aviv University, where she researches topics of multilingualism within the contexts of critical framework, language rights, and co-existence. Her work in language testing focuses on the power and misuses of tests in education and society and more recently on multilingual testing. The work in language policy addresses mechanisms used for creating de facto policies that penalize immigrants and minority groups. In the past decade she has researched the wide-ranging dimensions of Linguistic Landscape (LL), referring to languages displayed in public spaces with a focus on LLs as arenas of conflicts and contestation. Her books include: The Languages of Israel: Policy, ideology and practice (w/ B. Spolsky, 1999); The power of tests: A critical perspective of the uses of language tests (2001); Language policy: Hidden agendas and new approaches (2006); Linguistic landscape: expanding the scenery, (ed. w/ Durk Gurter, 2009); and Linguistic landscape in the city (ed. w/ Ben Rafael and Barni, 2010). Elana is the editor of the journal Language Policy and the winner of the 2010 lifetime achievement award granted by International Language Testing Association, Cambridge, UK.

Linguistic landscape and heritage languages: research, critical awareness, and pedagogy

While languages are all around us, especially in urban spaces (“the city is like a textbook”), languages in public spaces have been overlooked in Applied Linguistics. However Linguistic Landscape (LL), referring to multilingual written texts (signs, brochures, names, instructions) as well as other multimodal devices such as images, sounds, and movements displayed in public spaces, is a fast growing field which provides a unique lens to interpret power relations, ethnic and immigrant identities, language vitality, participation, marginalization, and deletions of languages in society. This paper will begin by theorizing the field of LL within the context of spaces, places, ownership, contestation, and activism. It will report on a number of LL research studies that point to the role that LL can play in policy making, either leading to domination and control of certain languages and people or to increased visibility of marginalized languages and growing participation of heritage language speakers. It will also report on a number of studies that focus on the use of LL as an educational tool where students and lay people, of all ages, engage in the documentation, analysis, and interpretation of languages in public spaces, which in turn leads to intense language learning, growing critical awareness of diversity of language, including heritage languages, in institutions (schools, hospitals, etc.), neighborhoods, and larger urban communities. Practical implications as to the use of LL as a major resource and effective tool for enhancing, encouraging, and introducing heritage languages within schools and other spaces are proposed.