Linguistic resources

Mainstream models of language teaching tend to envisage a progression towards “fluency”. In accordance with the ‘monolingual norm’ (Jørgensen et al., 2011), the goal is to be able to engage in monolingual interaction in the language being studied. This goal sets a very high bar for learners and overlooks the great potential for making use of snippets of language right from the start.

An alternative approach is to legitimise the reality of how individuals incorporate features associated with various languages. Blommaert (2013) notes, ‘[p]eople do not use “Languages”, they use resources for communication’ (p4, original emphasis). These ‘resources’ (vocabulary, linguistic concepts, styles and genres) could be drawn from a range of “Languages”, depending on the experience of the individual. An individual’s combined resources comprise their ‘repertoire’. A focus on ‘resources’ as opposed to ‘languages’ carries implications for the language classroom. Rather than casting learners as struggling through the foothills in a grand ascent towards eventual “fluency”, they are empowered from day one to be adding ‘resources’ to their global ‘repertoire’. Snippets of languages which learners acquire do not have to be banked for future use in “fluent” monolingual interactions. Instead, learners can employ their new knowledge from day one, incorporating it into their repertoire for use alongside other linguistic resources. This is already the state of play amongst multilingual school students, who are often eager and comfortable to borrow resources such as greetings (and expletives) from the “home” languages of their peers.