Towards a new linguistic citizenship: action-research for the recognition of speakers in the Madrid educational context

Higher education communities in Madrid constitute a sociolinguistic context of exceptional interest because of the convergence of three key sociolinguistic processes: (1) the persistence of monolingual practices and ideologies in line with the monolingual status of the autonomous community; (2) an increase in (inter)national mobility whereby the linguistic and cultural diversity of students is also increasing; and (3) a large presence of English as a vehicular language in the classrooms because of the internationalization processes of universities, meant to face the challenges of a knowledge-based globalized economy and the search for the employability of college graduates. In this context, EquiLing Madrid proposes a novel theoretical and methodological framework with which to investigate the sociolinguistic processes that are taking place in university classrooms.

The objective is to generate theoretical and applied knowledge that contributes to the construction of new axes for sociolinguistic education. To this end, we will address the implications (for the equitable distribution of linguistic resources, for the recognition of speakers and for their equal participation in the educational community) of the contradiction that can be observed between, on the one hand, the acknowledgement of the existing linguistic diversity and its valuation as an enriching wealth, and on the other hand, the sociolinguistic prejudices fraught with social representations and monolingual ideologies.

This contradiction devalues the resources and communicative practices within the university community, and reproduces inequalities that generate lack of recognition, subaltern identities, and negative emotions. Some of these emotions include frustration and shame due to lack of legitimacy, which hinder the participation of some speakers and lead them to self-censor their participation and undervalue their own linguistic variety, knowledge, and strengths. In relation to these processes, there are formal and informal spheres within the university institution itself in which alternative linguistic attitudes and practices that do not respond to the dominant sociolinguistic order are used and that offer a window for a possible transformation.

For this reason, this project proposes a participatory action-research plan that generates tools with which to strengthen the commitment of participants to understand and reverse the processes of inequity, in order to achieve redistribution, greater recognition and equitable participation of speakers, based on a model of inclusive and open linguistic citizenship. Based on this reflection, it will be possible to design systematic interventions, developing devices, tools and materials for (in)formal language education to encourage the acceptance and recognition of plurilingual practices and skills, and their re-signification as socially valuable resources for the people and institutions involved.

EquiLing Madrid thus brings a novel approach to sociolinguistic studies, including an original theoretical framework and new concepts within the discipline (speakerhood, linguistic citizenship) and a novel method within the framework of PAR (Participatory Action Research). At the same time, the project takes up the challenge of transforming society with this knowledge, and ensuring the transfer of work developed by the humanities and social sciences.

We study the sociolinguistic processes that take place in the universities of Madrid to generate tools with which to reverse the language-mediated processes of inequity through participatory action research. We seek the recognition and redistribution of sociolinguistic resources to encourage the equitable participation of all speakers.

Facebook: @mircouam

Reference number: Proyecto I+D, ref. PID2019-105676RB-C41/AEI/10.13039/501100011033