Imagined Multilingual Schools: How Come We Don’t Deliver?

Elana Shohamy*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

35 Scopus citations


The chapter begins by portraying the ‘imagined multilingual schools’ where it is legitimate to use and develop multilingual languages, fusions and hybrids, even beyond languages and towards multimodalities, and where languages are used in free and creative ways beyond monolingual boundaries, purity and correctness. By identifying specific mechanisms that prevent the fantasies from becoming realities, the chapter then proceeds to describe reasons why such goals remain fantasies. Specifically, it claims that it is through a number of powerful mechanisms, used to promote ideologies of nation states, that monolingualism and standards for language correctness continue to be perpetuated. Presenting empirical data on academic achievements of immigrants in schools, as well as appropriate test modifications, the chapter argues that different language policies, language educational policies and especially high-stake language testing policies (e.g. the No Child Left Behind Act in the US) mean that the messages that are delivered and perpetuated are those of de-legitimacy and suppression of other languages, and promotion and perpetuation of criteria based on ʼnative’ varieties and language correctness. The chapter also identifies other mechanisms, such as language in the public space, language myths and propaganda. It is by examining the mechanisms that operate behind de facto language policies that we can reach some understanding of why ‘we don’t deliver’. The author calls for increasing understanding of these issues through language awareness and activism.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationImagining Multilingual Schools
Subtitle of host publicationLanguages in Education and Glocalization
PublisherChannel View Publications
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9781853598968
ISBN (Print)9781853598951
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2006


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