From language-in-education policy to language practices in local classrooms: A linguistic ethnographic study in primary schools in Timor-Leste
Ildegrada da Costa Cabral University of Birmingham, UNITED-KINGDOM
This paper makes the case for conducting critical ethnographic research of a multi-layered nature that links language policy processes and ideologies of language with everyday practices, on the ground, in local schools and classrooms (Martin-Jones and da Costa Cabral, 2018). As with other researchers engaged in the ethnography of language policy (e.g. McCarty, 2011), my concern is with the ways in which language policies in multilingual contexts are translated into classroom practice, the ways in which teachers and school administrators understand and respond to policy changes and the ways in which communication between teachers and learners is shaped by the introduction of a new medium of instruction. The research presented here focuses on language policy and classroom practices in Timor-Leste. On Independence in 2002, Tetum and Portuguese were chosen to be the two official languages of the country and the main languages of teaching and learning. My main research sites have been primary schools and classrooms in Timor-Leste and I have adopted an ethnographic and discourse analytic approach, combining ethnography with close analysis of classroom discourse and with critical discourse analysis of policy documents and interview data. I am using the notion of language ideology (Schieffelin, Woolard and Kroskrity, 1998) as an analytic lens in researching language policy discourses in this nation-building context. In working in this multi-layered fashion, my main aim has been to “unpeel the policy onion” (Ricento and Hornberger, 1996). Teachers in Timor-Leste are regarded by policy-makers as the facilitators of the process of ‘implementing’ Tetun and Portuguese language-in-education policy within the educational system. And, indeed, my research shows that teachers assume this role – as facilitators of policy-making – and share the belief that Tetun and Portuguese are legitimate official languages for Timor-Leste. Nevertheless, the day-to-day uses of Tetun and Portuguese are fluid and complex. This paper focuses on the interplay between language ideologies and language practices at the level of the classroom. I describe and analyse the classroom language practices of one teacher in a Year 6 classroom in a Catholic school involved in my study. I show how values around Tetum and Portuguese were being discursively constructed by the teacher in the daily routines of classroom interaction, particularly in talk around monolingual texts in Portuguese.