Vernacular Literacy: A Re-Evaluation

By R. B. Le Page; Penelope Gardner Chloros et al. | Go to book overview

5
Vernacular Literacy in New Minority Settings in Europe

PENELOPE GARDNER-CHLOROS with contributions from T. Bull, G. Varro, and J. Warwick


I. INTRODUCTION

Vernacular literacy for migrant populations represents a further complication compared with vernacular literacy for indigenous groups. The 1953 Unesco report, which recommended that all children should have the right to education in their 'mother tongue', did not lead to any widespread implementation of the latter. Reasons for this range from a lack of theoretical precision as to what the concept of 'mother tongue' is intended to mean (see Introduction to this volume and Section 2.2 below) to the fact that a nation's resources to introduce new teaching programmes may be limited in proportion to the number of dialects or vernaculars in which such teaching needs to be conducted.

These problems are compounded when one considers whether and how the report could be applied to immigrant populations or communities. On the one hand, the problem of defining the 'mother tongue'--or tongues--is likely to be greater. Within a community coming from a particular country there may be a number of different varieties represented, none necessarily corresponding to the official language(s) of the country of origin, nor, consequently, with the variety used as the medium of education in the country of origin, in which the migrants may or may not already have been schooled.

On the other hand, resources for teaching facilities of all kinds are likely to be even more grudgingly granted by the host country to migrant groups than to native minority communities, particularly if they represent linguistically and geographically fragmented groups within the host-country society.

In this chapter we consider the question of vernacular literacy as it affects the education, the rights, and the ethnic identity of migrant populations in various European countries. After having clarified the scope and terminology of the chapter, we discuss a number of background issues relating to the host countries, their policies, and prevailing attitudes. We then illustrate the variety of problems and attempted solutions from a number of recent case histories. Next, we discuss theoretical and practical issues relating to these groups, an understanding of which is

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