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‘A classroom is not a classroom if
students are talking to me in Berber’:
language ideologies and multilingual
resources in secondary school English
classes in Libya

Adel Asker & Marilyn Martin-Jones



Mosaic Centre for Research in Multilingualism, School of
Education , University of Birmingham , Edgbaston , Birmingham ,
United Kingdom
Published online: 20 May 2013.

To cite this article: Adel Asker & Marilyn Martin-Jones (2013) ‘A classroom is not a classroom
if students are talking to me in Berber’: language ideologies and multilingual resources
in secondary school English classes in Libya, Language and Education, 27:4, 343-355, DOI:
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196] at 17:30 17 March 2015 Conditions of access and use can be found at .205.181.Downloaded by [187.

employing the contrast between these languages as a communicative resource and as a means of indexing wider cultural values. only Arabic was recognized as the language of the nation on Independence from the Italian colonizers in 1952. Adel Asker’s aim was to investigate the ways in which beliefs and ideologies about ‘appropriate’ language use. The Berber language (also known as Tamazight) is the language of the indigenous inhabitants of Libya. with teachers and learners. English and Arabic. It is the only other local language spoken in Libya. 343–  C 2013 Taylor & Francis . Arabic.Language and Education.788189 ‘A classroom is not a classroom if students are talking to me in Berber’: language ideologies and multilingual resources in secondary school English classes in Libya Adel Asker and Marilyn Martin-Jones∗ Mosaic Centre for Research in Multilingualism. sometimes colluding with and sometimes contesting the teachers’ agenda. the strong association between Arabic and Islam has allowed Arabic to continue to dominate the linguistic landscape of the region. United Kingdom Downloaded by [187. We demonstrate how they did this in whole-class teacher–student interactions and in student–student interactions.doi.196] at 17:30 17 March 2015 (Received 18 March 2013. Libya remained the only North African country with a Berber population which not only refused to recognize the Berber language. Birmingham.martinjones@bham. In this paper. Berber. Edgbaston. in situated negotiation of language learner identities. In modern history. English. in local English classes. We also describe the ways in which students moved in and out of Berber. the dominance of Arabic has been made even greater by government policies and constitutional arrangements in different nation states in the region.205. political and historical contexts. Under the Gaddafi regime. but most teachers and students in this region are Berber 27. but people from the Berber minority group. 2013 Vol. http://dx. Email: m. Arabic is the official medium of instruction in all Libyan secondary schools.1 In ∗ Corresponding alongside Arabic. Keywords: language ideologies. Berber-speaking people live in towns and villages that are concentrated in the north-west of Libya along the Nafosa mountain range which extends from the south of Tripoli towards the south-west. Although Arabic arrived in North Africa fourteen centuries ago. embedded in broader socio-cultural.1080/09500782. we show how teachers and students’ own accounts of their multilingual practices revealed different beliefs and ideologies about the ‘appropriacy’ of different language choices with teachers and with members of their peer group. Libya The sociolinguistic background to the study The vast majority of Libyans are Arabic-speaking. School of Education. were being reproduced through multilingual classroom interaction and codeswitching practices. University of Birmingham. language policy. In Libya. in English classes in a secondary school in the north-west of Libya. speak Berber and Arabic. 4. No. which represents between 10% and 15% of the population of Libya. final version received 18 March 2013) This paper reports on an ethnographic study carried out by Adel Asker in 2009. but also refused to recognize the existence of Berber-speaking people as a minority group.

after a significant rise in a trend among Berber speakers of using Berber names for their children. the authorities issued an Arabic-only educational policy which strictly prohibited teachers and educational officials from using any language other than Arabic in formal communication in educational institutions (with the exception of foreign language classes).Downloaded by [187. with close friends and family members.196] at 17:30 17 March 2015 344 A. or commercial units such as shops. Martin-Jones fact. in addition to its association with sacred ritual and religious observance. where teachers and school officials are required to ensure the implementation of the Arabic-only policy within the school premises. Language practices and values among Berber speakers in Libya Geography. The research presented in this paper describes the influence of these ideologies and policies on day-to-day communication in the classroom in the town of Nalut which is considered to be the second largest Berber town in Libya. Classical . However. Hadith2 and Islamic Sharia law were taught. We begin this paper by providing a brief background to the Berber-speaking community in Libya. for example. Asker and M. If they use Arabic. raised in this community. As one travels from the north-west to the south-west of Libya. the former government’s attitude towards languages other than Arabic was so extreme that it prohibited the display of non-Arabic writing systems in public spaces such as road signs. these Berber speakers make predominant use of Berber. advertisement billboards. many Berber speakers in settings such as these have come to have a high regard for Arabic and they endorse the values that are commonly associated with possessing good Arabic skills. Take schools. In fact. In their daily interactions in local life worlds. Before that. While Berber is used in local life worlds. the use of Modern Standard Arabic has long been embedded within the schools in Berber areas in Libya. There is no available research literature on multilingualism in this region of Libya. In an even more extreme move.181. and especially within classrooms. the presence of Arabic speakers recedes gradually from one neighbouring town or village to another and. it is in response to the presence of Arabic speakers in different communicative events or to the demands imposed by public institutions. The Libyan regime’s exclusion of the Berber language from public life was part of a broader authoritarian strategy of achieving national ‘unity’ through the strict imposition of a ‘one-language-one-nation’ ideology. bilingual interactions are less frequently heard among Berber speakers in the south-west. The section that follows draws primarily on Adel Asker’s own knowledge of this community and on his lived experience as a Berber speaker. demography and the history of local patterns of settlement are significant factors in determining the extent to which Berber speakers use Arabic. there are institutional settings where the use of the Arabic language is closely monitored. This is because. the government issued a law in 2001 prohibiting people from naming their newborn babies with ‘non-Arabic names’. ever since the establishment of the modern school system in the early 1950s.205. In the mid-1970s. Although the wording of these policies and laws did not explicitly refer to the Berber language. the only schools in the region were faith schools in which the Quran. Arabic has become a resource for participating in public institutional life. it was commonly understood that the reason for the introduction of this policy was to disseminate and enforce the use of Arabic in Berber-speaking areas. In contrast. even though Arabic is spoken out of necessity by some people in Berber communities in towns such as Nalut. Arabic is not viewed in a negative light by Berber speakers. It is important to stress the fact that. consequently. Arabic provides access to scarce rewards in the professional domain as well as being a means of displaying the attainment of a desired social status.

However. Woolard 1998). their language practices and choices contribute to the reproduction of these beliefs. Moreover. Cincotta-Segi 2011. situated ways in which teachers’ instructional discourse is shaped by explicit (de jure) or implicit (de facto) language policies. Drawing on this concept from the work of Bourdieu. 2) argue that key questions to address in school-based research include: ‘what ways of using language. dominant language ideologies are not reproduced uniformly across teaching/learning contexts and teachers assume different stances vis-´a-vis official language policies. never been used in schools and there has been no tradition of reading and writing in Berber. Arabic has become not only the official medium of education. because language policies often . they come to be seen as a ‘legitimate languages’. over time. As shown by Moore (1999) and by Canagarajah (2001). Researchers have traced the ways in which language ideologies circulate within broader socio-cultural and socio-political arenas and they have examined how such ideologies are reproduced and/or contested within the daily interactional routines of classrooms. signifying classroom discipline and the professionalism of teachers. normal. what kinds of language practices are valued and considered good. economic. Multilingual classroom discourse: a critical. Hornberger and Johnson (2007. Jaffe 1999. Saxena 2009. particularly in institutional settings such as schools. some languages come to be seen as having greater value than others. we draw on critical sociolinguistic and ethnographic research in which language ideology is seen as an essential part of the social grounding of language use. 510–511) argue that we need to investigate the specific ways in which the processes of language policy and planning are played out in different multilingual settings and show how ‘they create or restrict ideological and implementational spaces for multilingual pedagogies’. The processes involved in the translation of policy ‘on paper’ into classroom practices are highly situated. Heller 1999. Gal and Woolard 2001. or correct in the framework of ideological orientations connected to social. In research on education in multilingual contexts. Creese (2005) and Menken and Garc´ıa (2010) note that. values and commonsense understanding (Blackledge 2008. but also a key dimension of classroom practice. As Creese and Leung (2003) point out. therefore. In Bourdieu’s (1991) terms. there are often discontinuities between students’ home. Heller 1999. and political interests’. ethnographic perspective In this paper. there has been an enduring concern with the interactional and ideological processes involved in the construction of legitimate language (e. Heller and Martin-Jones 2001. The Berber language has. Blackledge and Creese 2010. In multilingual communities where language ideologies are most visible. In this view.and community-based discourses and the discourses about language that they encounter in their classrooms. and. They have also revealed the specific. and who may speak and in what manner (Mertz 1998). language ideologies may function as a ‘hidden curriculum’ and classroom discourse practices can convey deeper messages about how the world operates. Chimbutane 2011). cumulatively. about what kind of knowledge is socially valued. the language practices and language choices of individual speakers are shaped by beliefs. appropriate.Language and Education 345 Downloaded by [187.g. Individual students have to navigate these discontinuities. Heller and Martin-Jones (2001. In this same vein. Lin and Martin 2005.196] at 17:30 17 March 2015 Arabic and Libyan Arabic were the language varieties used for instruction. commonsense notions and values related to particular languages in their social world.205.181. teachers respond to language policies within an interactive frame which includes their own interpretation of policy imperatives and their own knowledge of and affiliation to local communities of practice.

During the four months of fieldwork. indexed wider language ideologies and policies. teachers and students resort to a range of creative strategies for dealing with these constraints. to provide explicit comments on the structure of English. to guide students and to navigate between activities or to convey other formal and casual messages. . captured in audio-recordings of particular episodes. The data presented here was gathered with two student participants and two teachers based in two different classrooms. Adel Asker identified the following recurring patterns of language choice in these classrooms: for the most part. the teachers used English to read from the textbook or from the board and to give basic organizational instructions.196] at 17:30 17 March 2015 create circumstances in which the range of options available in deciding what to do is limited. in the heart of the Berberspeaking region in Libya. Asker and M.181.205. Our analysis focuses on the ways in which the multilingual practices. His focus was on two secondary school English classes in a school where English was taught as a speciality subject. the data also includes consecutive ethnographic interviews with the participants. but they never switched into Berber. Martin-Jones Downloaded by [187.346 A. They then switched to Arabic when they needed to explain something. The wider study from which this data is drawn was investigating the links between the students’ motivation to learn English and their daily classroom learning experience. They followed a largely traditional approach to language teaching and teachers’ instructional discourse dominated the interactions. This paper is based on field notes made during daily observations of the two classrooms over a four month period and on audio-recordings of particular moments of multilingual classroom interactions (Berber/Arabic/English). all the students and teachers spoke Berber as their first language and Arabic as a second language. the teachers frequently switched between Arabic and English. Since these were English language classes. In the English classes discussed here. The teacher-led nature of the talk in Arabic limited the extent to which the students were exposed to English and created very few opportunities for meaningful interaction or for spontaneous student contributions to classroom conversations. As well as audio-recordings and field notes. The students were learning English as a foreign language. where Adel Asker carried out ethnographic fieldwork over the whole of the school year in 2009. The data extracts discussed below reveal the subtle and complex nature of the multilingual interactions within different participant structures in these classrooms and they show the different ways in which individual teachers and students drew on the linguistic resources available to them and the specific manner in which their discourse practices were indexically oriented to wider language ideologies. These interviews were conducted in Berber and explored the participants’ attitudes towards language use and documented their accounts of the language choices they made in the classroom. this included the enduring ideologies regarding the sole use of the target language in the classroom. The teachers put a great deal of emphasis on explicit and accurate explanation of English language structures and accurate Arabic translation of English texts. The study We turn now to the classrooms in Nalut. Navigating language policies and dominant language ideologies: multilingual resources in classroom interactions Since the two classrooms in the school in this study were in Nalut. to translate individual words and sentences. in the west of Libya.

This prompted Hanna to insist (line 7) that at least the Arabic equivalent of the word should be provided. or. yes. one student (S2) used Berber (line 4) to answer Hanna’s question. Hanna is initiating a warm-up activity by inviting the students’ to talk about social gatherings (the transcription conventions for this and other extracts are set out in the Endnotes4). who had six years of teaching experience. They were learning how to make requests in English. . they used Berber when speaking to each other and when they wanted to signal disengagement with the lesson or to mount small challenges to teacher authority. This contrast between the multilingual-discourse practices of the teachers and the students indexed different language ideologies regarding the use of Arabic and of Berber in the school context.181. that of helping the student to fill a lexical gap). despite the fact that Berber was a language that she shared with the students and despite the fact that either Berber or Arabic could have served the same communicative purpose at that moment in the lesson (i. birthday parties. Blommaert 2009). the students were studying the function of modal verbs. but the student said (in Arabic) that she did not know the English word (line 6). Hanna. drawing on examples from the textbook. Hanna engaged in ‘language policing’ in different ways. or. . . . One other strategy she employed was that of recasting the students’ utterances and replacing Berber words with Arabic words as shown in Extract #2 below. Extract 1: 1 2 3 4 5 T: where do we meet new friends? S1: birthday parties? T: yes. Berber and English.e. Her insistence on the use of the Arabic word indexed her commitment to classroom observance of the Arabic-only policy. we see Hanna’s reaction to the use of Berber by one of her students. 8 9 S2: <A> [<A> weddings] T: in weddings. In contrast. She repeatedly asked her students to switch to English or Arabic when they initiated talk in Berber in whole-class interactions or when they responded in Berber to her questions or prompts.? S2: <B> [<B> weddings] T: in English 6 7 S2: <A> T: in Arabic. However. Here. . appeared to exercise what can only be described as ‘language policing’ (cf.205. In Extract #1 below. as we will show in the sections that follow.Language and Education 347 Downloaded by [187. . . In this extract. For instance.. Hanna responded by asking the student to use the English equivalent (line 5). Upholding the Arabic-only policy in whole-class interactions Some teachers in the school in the wider study (even English teachers) showed a particularly strong commitment to the Arabic-only policy and reacted negatively to the students’ use of Berber in whole-class interactions. They used English and Arabic when they were required to do so and when they were going along with the teachers’ agenda.3 the grammar teacher. where else do you meet new friends? [<A>I do not know what it is in English] Here.196] at 17:30 17 March 2015 The predominant use of Arabic was partly due to the teachers’ lack of confidence in their own abilities in spoken English and partly due to their concern about observing school and national policy regarding the official medium of instruction. the students moved in and out of Arabic. .

The classroom is not a classroom if students are talking to me in Berber.5 Fadiya keyword in Berber ( merely took up the Arabic version provided (line 7) and then Hanna repeated the utterance in English (line 8). She thus allowed the communicative practices in her classes to be fluid and multilingual and. .205. we see that both Berber and Arabic could have served the same purpose. In this interview. Martin-Jones Extract 2: 1 2 3 4 F: Amal. what are you asking for here? F: use the laptop T: yes. Hanna recast in Arabic ( Downloaded by [187. Hanna began by referring to the students’ use of Berber in her classes as ‘disrespectful’. Here. she built on her understanding of the students’ Berber utterances to facilitate communicative interaction. Asker and M. Here again. may I use your laptop? T: Fadiya.196] at 17:30 17 March 2015 [<E> may <A>in this [æleð n]) (line 6) the [ i:r t]) given by the student (Fadiya) in (line 5). at the same time. In her class. Extract #4 below illustrates the fluid multilingual pedagogy that characterised her classes. This particular exchange took place while the students were doing group work. It is difficult to control their language and you waste half of the class watching their language. (Interview with Hanna in Berber.’ When asked about her reliance on Arabic in her class. she represented the speaking of Berber as a threat to her professionalism as a teacher. but what is the function of ‘may’ here? 5 F: <E> may <A> . which was actually carried out in Berber. students do not show respect to anyone. Hanna made an unexpected revelation when Adel Asker asked her what she thought about students speaking Berber in her classes. In an interview conducted later. the balance was tilted more towards constructing a ‘legitimate language’ than providing opportunities for learners to draw on their strongest language resources in classroom conversations with her. Hanna clearly revealed her views about what languages she deemed to be ideologically ‘appropriate’ in the secondary English classroom. Relaxing the Arabic-only policy in whole-class interactions Unlike Hanna. and in her contribution to interactions in her classroom. referred to here as Wafa. case asks for <B>permission] 6 T: <A> 7 8 F: <A> (repeats) [<A> asks for permission] T: it asks for permission <B> [<A>asks for permission] In the multilingual interaction above. In addition. Hanna merely models the legitimate language of the lesson rather than making a meta-comment as in Extract #1. Extract #3: As you see yourself.181. another English teacher. After this they went on to work on the main reading text for the lesson which was based on a myth: . that of enabling the student to show understanding despite the fact that she had a lexical gap. saying: ‘The classroom is not a classroom if students are talking to me in Berber. I do not insist that they use English all the time because I know it is difficult and unrealistic but there is no excuse for them to use Berber in the classroom. discussing the concept of myth. October 2009) During this interview. . did not always require her students to switch to Arabic when they addressed her in Berber. she attributed this to the difficulty of communicating solely in English.348 A.

. . your day is ruined] T: yes. She asked one of the students (S3) to elaborate on how ravens were related to the concept of myth. Moreover. She did this in English (lines 10 and 12). .205. this could be a good example. the fact that all students shared a double study desk with one of their peers meant that they were continuously engaged in . So we can describe a myth as. (Interview with Wafa in Berber. <E> myth 6 S3: <B> [<B> like the raven] 7 T: <A> morning raven?] (teacher joins S1. one of the consequences of her approach was the opening up of more opportunities for genuine teacher–student dialogue. I started every New Year telling myself that I would not let the students speak Berber but that turned out to be impossible. Extract #5: There is nothing you can do about it. and S3’s interaction ([<A> what about a 8 9 10 11 12 S3: <B> [<B> if the first thing you see in the morning is a raven. . aliens are science fiction. Although Wafa’s pragmatic approach to language policy implementation in her class may not have been motivated by an understanding of the potential of Berber for the development of meaningful communicative practice. Wafa also raised her voice to address the whole class and share the example with them. neither of them attempted to prohibit the students from using it in when they interacted with their peers. . She was responding to Adel Asker’s questions about the students’ use of Berber in her classes. You have two options: either you spend the whole class telling the students off for speaking Berber or ignore it and get on with your lesson. . Student group work: a space for the use of Berber While the two teachers contrasted in their reactions to the students’ use of Berber in whole-class interactions.] <E> myth? [<B> what is the meaning of <E>myth?] [<E>myth <B>means something [<B> something like Aliens?] . Her tolerant attitude towards the use of Berber in her classes was clearly expressed in the following interview extract. an old story that is passed down from one generation to another Student S1 was discussing the concept of ‘myth’ in Berber when Wafa overheard their conversation and joined in the interaction (line 7). .. Her intervention was made in Arabic. but her account above and her actual classroom practice revealed her tolerant attitude towards the students’ use of Berber. The student continued in Berber and gave an example of a myth in a louder voice and.196] at 17:30 17 March 2015 Extract 4: 1 2 3 S1: <B> S2: <E> myth <B> imaginary] 4 S1: <B> 5 S2 <B> <B> is like. November 2009) Wafa never spoke Berber herself during all the classroom observations carried out by Adel Asker.181. [<B> no. following her example. S2. The thing is that many students stop engaging with the class when I insist on speaking only Arabic or English and that has made me decide that speaking Berber is better than silence and disengagement. S2: an old story T: yes.Language and Education 349 Downloaded by [187. In my first years of teaching.

they were discussing the meaning of the verb ‘try’ which occurred in a reading passage that they were reading silently. but her abilities in spoken English were less developed. She could also read and write English with ease and fluency. This commonsense view was also expressed by some students and guided their communicative practices in the classroom. She was also a class leader who often spoke on behalf of her peers. Arabic and English) to clarify and correct each other’s use of English. Take. Those students with less competence in Arabic were sometimes subjected to mocking by their peers when they uttered unusual Arabic phrases and this meant that they showed considerable reluctance to speak in Arabic. Asker and M. at this stage. motivated. She spoke Berber and Arabic with ease and fluency. Martin-Jones on-task and off-task interactions. It was during these ‘on-stage’ interactional sequences. managing relationships When this study was carried out. she rarely spoke English in the class and these were occasions when she was participating in classroom tasks focused on the textbook. which typically followed the initiation–response–(feedback) pattern. and to explain and translate structures and utterances in the textbook that they did not comprehend. most students at the secondary school level in Libya were expected to be able to communicate in Arabic because. Hajer was an outstanding third-year student who strived to earn top grades and outperform her peers. even when the students were on-task. such as Hanna. hard working and a responsible student. for example. Downloaded by [187. but with varying degrees of competence and fluency. The commonsense view. did not express much sympathy with those students who claimed that they were not confident in speaking Arabic. Extract 6: 1 2 S: <E> The case was tried (reading from the textbook) <B> [<B>I cannot understand it] 3 H: <B> (turns to the teacher) . such as the ones in this study. In fact. Arabic and English as she was engaged in a task with her desk partner (Sarah). What really counted was being able to provide convincing ‘on-stage’ performances during whole-class. they had spent a minimum of nine years using Arabic as the main medium of instruction. All the students in the two classrooms discussed here appeared to speak Arabic. On this occasion. As she pointed out in her interview.181. was widely articulated by teachers. relying on her good social and communication skills. Hajer was one of the few students in her class who never attempted to address the teachers in Berber. She was 17 years old at the time when Adel Asker’s fieldwork was carried out.196] at 17:30 17 March 2015 Switching languages. they drew on all the linguistic resources available to them (Berber. speaking Berber reflected ill-disciplined and challenging behaviour. At the same time. Hajer was described by her teachers as clever. that is. However. The codeswitching that they engaged in during peer interactions was shaped by the demands of the communicative situation and by their own language capabilities. She had been top of her year group in her first and second year in the current school. the case of one of the students from the school in this study. the teachers paid little attention to these ‘off-stage’ interactions between students. teacherled interactions. she used Berber consistently when she interacted with her peers. inside and outside the classroom.205. that dominant ideologies about the use of Arabic or English surfaced most often. secondary school teachers. Extract #6 below shows how Hajer moved in and out of Berber. As we will see in the sections below.350 A.

teacher?] [<A> tries. a legal term] [<B> how do I know which is the (turns to the We can see how Hajer responded to Sarah in Berber (line 3) in order to try to explain to her the specialist. engaging and disengaging with learning and with teacher authority For those students who wanted to express dissatisfaction or frustration. Nada indicated. It’s bad enough that we do not speak enough English in the classroom and the class sometimes becomes anything but a class when everyone is speaking in Berber. she often engaged in challenging and disruptive behaviour.<A> Teacher. <E> tried <A> does not mean attempted here. her desire to become a fluent speaker of English was not part of a wider career-oriented strategy. she used Berber.Downloaded by [187. However. speaking Berber served as a key communicative resource.181.205. She was equally keen to remain socially accepted by her peers. (Interview with Hajer in Berber. Describing the sound of English as music to her ears. her English-speaking skills were still developing. it means <A> 6 7 8 S: <B> intended meaning?] H: <B> 9 teacher) <A> [<B>Try to focus on the context and guess the meaning. At the same time. Nada was one such student. in one of her interviews with Adel Asker. Right. does it?] 5 T: <E> no.196] at 17:30 17 March 2015 Language and Education 351 4 <A> [<B> Because you thought <E> tried <B> means ‘attempted’. she never used these languages with her peers. To express solidarity with them. December 2009) While she made concerted efforts to maintain her image as an ‘ideal student’ by always addressing her English teachers in Arabic and English. Nada spoke Berber at home and in her local neighbourhood and was fluent in spoken Arabic. Hajer was consistent in addressing her peer in Berber and her teacher in Arabic. Nada had expressed her frustration with the level of spoken English that she had attained after spending almost three years in the current school. it was clear that Hajer thrived in the institutional context of the school and had also embraced its dominant language ideology: she saw no official role for Berber in the main ‘on-stage’ spaces of the classroom. She then turned to the teacher (line 4) and asked her in Arabic to validate her explanation. Extract #7: I think it is disrespectful to talk to your teacher in Berber and also damaging to your image as a student. Addressing them in Arabic or English would have been seen as showing off. that she had chosen to become an English-major student because she was motivated by the desire to become a fluent speaker of English. Like Hajer. The same pattern of interlocutor-related language choice continued throughout the interaction. . Switching languages. In the following interview extract. Although Nada was considered to be one of the top students in her class. However. early on in these interviews. She had described her learning experience as a ‘waste of three years’. From her interviews with Adel Asker. legal use of the term ‘tried’. <A> the context is the key to understanding. she made explicit her views about her language use in the classroom. Hajer clearly employed her language resources in order to negotiate and build different relationships and to position herself in different ways within the complex communicative spaces of the language classroom.

The teacher dealt with this by agreeing but also asking for an example that could be distinctly ‘Libyan’. Nada switched to Berber twice: once in her second turn at talk (line 5) when she argued that the ‘thumbs-up’ sign was an instance of ‘local’ body language and once again in her third turn at talk. in 2009. we have provided some insights into the ways in which these ideologies and commonsense understandings of language shaped some of the daily rounds of . we see her switching from Arabic to Berber and vice versa. whereas she tended to switch to Berber as she withdrew from constructive engagement with an activity. to indicate that she knew the answer. With reference to interviews. Adel Asker’s field notes from his classroom observations revealed that Nada’s disruptive behaviour involved practices like being argumentative with the teachers. The teacher has just asked the whole class to think of local examples of body language: Downloaded by [187. Arabic and English that were circulating at the time. Moreover. along with the ideologies about Berber.205. Nada tended to switch to Arabic when she was positively engaged with an activity or when a teacher paid attention to what she said and appeared to value it. Among these aspects of challenging behaviour. In the original Berber utterance.352 A. ‘local culture’ meant ‘national culture’ and her use of Arabic could be interpreted as a means of indexing this ‘national culture’. was Nada’s frequent use of Berber in addressing her teachers. this challenge was made in a context where students rarely challenged teacher authority. we have considered some of the ways in which teachers and students in an English language specialist school in Libya. N: <B> teacher? Don’t we all use the thumbs-up sign?] 6 7 8 9 T: yes we do <A> a sign that is specific to us as Libyans] [<B> there are many] N: <B> T: can you tell one? 10 11 N: <A> We say I do not know] [<A> but I meant [<A> like shrugging shoulders when In this extract.181. her wording was particularly challenging. resisting her teachers’ authority.196] at 17:30 17 March 2015 Extract 8: 1 2 T: can you think of an example of a local body language sign we use? N: thumbs up. this is an example of body language <A> [<A> Can you think of a sign more local to our culture] [<B> what do you mean by ‘local’. making unnecessary comments at inappropriate times. were navigating national-languagein-education policies. Martin-Jones She consistently maintained that her main aim was just to speak English and she would think about a future career at a later stage. audio-recordings and observations of classroom talk. In other similar interactions with her teachers observed by Adel Asker. As we see in this extract. Concluding comments In this paper. observed by Adel Asker. she switched back to Arabic in her final turn to refer to another example of ‘local’ body language and to illustrate when it is used. and sometimes withdrawing completely from engagement with learning and refusing to participate in any activity. In Extract #8 below. Nada challenged the feedback she received from her teacher by insisting that the thumbs-up sign was an example of local body language. 3 4 5 T: yes. Asker and M. When the teacher asked her to elaborate. For this teacher.

official language policies are accorded legitimacy and authority. In English classes. . Both of the teachers overlooked the students’ use of Berber both in their ‘off-stage’ group work and in discussions with their peers. The teachers and students in the classes in this study were clearly constrained by the wider institutional and ideological context in which they were working. it can also illuminate the daily consequences of language policies for those most closely involved. In contrast. The recent political transformation of Libya has opened up opportunities for the development of research of this kind. and Kurvers (2011).196] at 17:30 17 March 2015 Language and Education 353 communicative life in English lessons and we have shown some of the ways in which these ideologies and understandings were articulated in the teachers’ and students’ own accounts. as active and artful social actors. 2. see El Aissati. this was coupled with a preoccupation with the use of the ‘target language’ in the classroom. a particularly authoritarian strategy for achieving national unity was imposed through the Arabic-only policy in education. Karsmakers. Ethnography requires extended fieldwork and engagement with research participants. in the whole-class interactions. Cincotta-Segi 2011. interpretive and ethnographic research in classrooms in other postcolonial settings (e. Earlier critical. For an account of policy vis-´a-vis Berber (Amazigh) in another North African country. multilingual pedagogy. Her challenges to teacher authority were indexed through her use of Berber. The two students also differed in their responses to the ‘regimes of language’ (Kroskrity 2000) in the classes in which they found themselves. drawing on Berber in communicating with her classmates and building a relationship with them. However. Nada engaged in small acts of resistance or disengaged from the learning process altogether. the two teachers reacted in different ways to ‘on-stage’ use of Berber. a critical ethnographic approach gives us ‘a view into LPP [language planning and policy] processes in fine detail – up close and in practice’.g. into the institutional spaces of the school and into the English classroom. the spoken language of their local life worlds. we see teacher and student agency at work in the extracts of classroom talk. Notes 1. we see that the teachers and students were responding in different ways to these constraints. facilitating interactions and constructing a fluid. Both students brought Berber. The term Hadith denotes actions and/or statements ascribed to the Prophet Muhammad and his companions. In particular. During the years when the Gaddafi regime held sway in Libya. at the same time. However. Saxena 2009. Arabic and English in education. albeit in different ways and with different purposes. at the same time. so it allows researchers to engage in critical dialogue with teachers and students as the research unfolds. Lin and Martin 2005. As McCarty (2011. Hajer showed an ideological affiliation to her teacher’s views regarding the use of Berber in the classroom and colluded with her teacher’s agenda while. 17) puts it.Downloaded by [187. it would allow researchers to build a sound understanding of the ways in which students’ language resources are used inside and outside the classroom and to contribute this knowledge to future debates about the respective roles of Berber. in the brief classroom conversations and in the interview extracts we have examined here. When combined with analysis of multilingual-classroom-discourse practices. with one teacher upholding the Arabic-only policy and with the other teacher taking a more relaxed approach and. reminding us that the imposition of power and of legitimate language has to be interactionally accomplished and is therefore always open to challenge. In this north-west region of Libya. Arthur 2001. Chimbutane 2011) has shown that the impact of language ideologies and language policies is keenly felt in public schools because of the way in which they operate as institutions linked to the nation-state and as spaces where national.205.181.

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