Review: Applied Linguistics; Sociolinguistics: Singh (2013)

AUTHOR: Navin Kumar Singh
TITLE: Multilingual Trends in a Globalized World
SUBTITLE: Prospects and Challenges
PUBLISHER: Cambridge Scholars Publishing
YEAR: 2013

REVIEWER: Elizabeth Maria Kissling, James Madison University


This book presents current trends in language education as reflections of and
responses to globalization. The intended audience is a diverse group that
includes students in linguistics and education, policy makers, educators, and
activists. The main thrust of the book is to advocate for bilingual and
multilingual education, positioning multilingualism as a resource rather than
a problem.

The introductory chapter presents a variety of definitions of globalization,
approaching the concept first from a cultural perspective and then from a
linguistic perspective. Singh argues that globalization can result in both the
homogenization and heterogenization of languages and cultures. The next
chapter briefly presents different perspectives on the relationships between
language forms and functions, with an emphasis on sociolinguistic approaches,
generally, and the systemic functional linguistic approach (Halliday, 1976),
in particular. Singh notes that Halliday categorized language functions
broadly as ideational, interpersonal, and textual (1976) but other
categorizations are possible, such as Schievella’s typology of functions:
ceremonial, expressive, aesthetic, practical and logical (1987). The chapter
concludes with a case study from Japanese that illustrates the
“misunderstanding that arises in confusing form with function” (p. 35)

Chapter 3 discusses global practices and prejudices with regard to
mother-tongue education. Singh provides a brief history beginning in the early
twentieth century and examines in detail the UNESCO declarations of 1953 and
2003, which advocated that all children be taught in their mother tongue for
as long as feasible. The case studies from India, Nepal, South Africa and the
Baltic states constitute an interesting set of examples of various
mother-tongue education policies, challenges, and success stories. Following
the case studies are several empirical studies (e.g., Hudleson, 1987; Swain et
al., 1990; Thomas & Collier, 2002) that demonstrate a linguistic and academic
advantage for learners who receive sustained education in their mother tongue.

Chapter 4 examines the influences of a first language (L1) on the learning
other languages, focusing on the concepts of positive and negative transfer at
multiple levels of language: phonological, morphological/grammatical,
syntactic, semantic, pragmatic, rhetorical, and metalinguistic. Though Singh
enumerates several examples of negative transfer (in which the L1 hinders
acquisition of an L2), he argues that the pedagogical implications to be
deduced from research on L1 influences is that, in general, “the learner’s L1
should be seen as constituting potentially a positive resource rather than as
an inhibiting factor in the language learning process” (p. 86).

Chapter 5 returns to the topic of trends in language education, drawing on
examples from India, South Africa, and the United States. The United States is
described as a historically multilingual population in practice, with a
laissez faire attitude towards language policy, and as subject to cyclical
patterns of advocacy for and opposition to multilingual education. It is
argued that in this globalized world, children should be provided with an
education that is multilingual and multicultural, or better yet, translingual,
adopting a perspective that eschews the arbitrary separation of languages from
one another and from other learning processes and types of knowledge. On the
other hand, the author notes that such programs face numerous limitations,
including a lack of funds to provide instruction in multiple languages and
resistance from parents who prefer that their children be educated in English
or other locally dominant or prestigious languages because of their erroneous
assumption that L1 education could hamper their development.

Chapter 6 examines the globalization of English, describing the economic and
political impetuses behind the increasing use of English as a lingua franca.
Singh argues that the spread of English amounts to linguistic imperialism and
provokes linguicide, but Singh balances this critique by also including
viewpoints from language communities that have chosen to use English for their
perceived benefit.

Chapter 7 introduces the concept of diglossia, the situation in which a single
language community uses two language varieties, often for complementary
functions and contexts. Singh relates diglossia to language revitalization
efforts and provides several examples of how diglossic practices can either
facilitate maintenance of a local language (such as with the high variety of
Eastern Cham in Vietnam) or encumber such efforts (such as with Luxembourgish,
now considered a low variety losing prominence to English).

Chapter 8 describes the social aspects of code switching (rather than, for
instance, the structural constraints), drawing on seminal and current research
in the areas of discourse and conversation analysis. Bilingual speakers employ
both situational and metaphorical code switching for a variety of effects,
which include providing contextualization cues, creating footing within a
conversation, and constructing identities. The chapter concludes with a
pedagogical focus, noting that code switching (both between languages and
between varieties of one language) should be embraced in the classroom
environment because it can have a positive effect on language learning.

The brief concluding chapter reports a few studies of parental practices and
beliefs towards language and the effects these can have on the promotion and
success of bilingual education in majority and minority languages. Several
studies point to a trend that parents in the US are becoming more positive
towards multilingualism and favoring bilingual education (Robinson, Brecht, &
Rivers, 2006; King & Fogle, 2006). Conversely, parents tend to believe that
monolingual instruction in English will provide an advantage to their children
in other communities such as Taiwan (Shang, Ingebritson, & Tseng, 2007) and
Korea (Linse, 2011).


This book has many strengths, including its broad coverage of many areas
relevant to the main topic and its highly accessible prose. Each chapter
provides case studies or detailed examples and references that describe the
multifaceted linguistic realities of communities around the world. These
examples cover such a wide range of geographic areas that most readers are
likely to find something new of interest. In general, the theories and
empirical studies referenced are described clearly and succinctly. Most
chapters conclude with a section that draws pedagogical implications from the
chapter’s theme, which will be of interest to the readers Singh hopes to
reach: policy makers, educators, and activists.

The book makes a few noticeable omissions. For instance, the explanation of
exactly why or precisely how mother-tongue education should provide cognitive
or academic advantages is quite cursory (p. 57) in Chapter 3, and so the
reader would have to read the studies referenced (e.g., Cummins, 2009) to
fully understand the theoretical underpinnings of mother-tongue education
principles. The Chapter about L1 influences on second language acquisition
(Chapter 4) makes no mention of a language acquisition device or the
generative tradition generally, nor does it reference contemporary theories of
L2 phonological acquisition. Though Chapter 5 discusses language education in
the United States, there is no mention of the highly important and contentious
‘No Child Left Behind Act’ of 2001. The book also suffers from incoherence at
times. The forward, for instance, presents a scathing critique of the
ethnocentrism of the United States and the resulting inadequacies in US
language education policies, leading the reader to believe that the book will
focus on the United States more than it actually does. In fact, just two
sections deal with US cases in detail, whereas the rest of the book presents
examples from a wide variety of communities outside the US. The second
chapter’s discussion of forms and functions of language seems tangentially
related to the rest of the book and better suited to an introductory
linguistics textbook than this volume. There are also a few minor
distractions, such as repeated sentences (pp. 112, 116) and typos (e.g., p.
143), but these are few and far in between.

In sum, this book achieves its goal of relating current trends in language
education to the larger phenomenon of globalization. It excels at succinctly
presenting the myriad manifestations of those trends around the globe and
various related topics, all while maintaining one unifying narrative thread:
language diversity is a resource to be valued rather than problematized. This
book is perhaps best suited to relative novices in the area of
multilingualism, for its broad coverage comes at the expense of depth in any
one area. Overall, it provides a solid introduction with a wealth of important
references for additional reading.


Cummins, J. (2009). Fundamental psychological and sociological principles
underlying educational success for linguistic minority students. In A.
Mohanty, M. Panda, R. Phillipson, & T. Skutnabb-Kangas (Eds.), “Multilingual
education for social justice: Globalising the local” (pp. 21-35). New Delhi:
Orient Blackswan.

Halliday, M. A. K. (1976). “System and function in language.” Oxford: Oxford
University Press.

Hudleson, S. (1987). The role of native language literacy in the education of
language minority children. Language Arts, 64(8), 827-841.

King, K. & Fogle, L. (2006). Bilingual parenting as good parenting: Parents’
perspectives on family language policy for additive bilingualism. The
International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 9(6), 695-712.

Linse, C. (2011). Korean parental beliefs about ELT from the perspectives of
teachers. TESOL Journal, 2(4), 473-491.

Robinson, J. P., Brecht, R. D., & Rivers, W. P. (2006). Speaking foreign
languages in the United States: Correlates, trends, and possible consequences.
Modern Language Journal, 90(4), 457-472.

Schievella, S. P. (1987). Critical analysis: Language and its functions. New
York: Routledge.

Shang, F. H., Ingebritson, R. & Tseng, L. (2007). Taiwanese parental
perceptions toward English learning in bilingual kindergarten. Bilingual
Research Journal, 32(2), 135-148.

Swain, M., Lapkin, S., Rowen, N., & Hart, D. (1990). The role of mother-tongue
literacy in third language learning. Language, Culture, and Curriculum, 3(1),

Thomas, W. P. & Collier, V. P. (2002) A national study of school effectiveness
for language minority students’ long-term academic achievement. University of
California Berkeley: Center for Research on Education, Diversity and
Excellence. Accessible at <>


Elizabeth Kissling is an assistant professor of Spanish at James Madison
University. She holds a MA in Hispanic Literature and a PhD in Linguistics.
She specializes in Second Language Acquisition, working most closely with
populations of Spanish FL learners. Her current lines of research include
phonetics and pronunciation instruction, foreign accent, interaction in study
abroad, and using a cognitive linguistic approach to develop FL teaching

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