- Bilingualism in a Plurilingual CanadaResearch and Implications
The idea for this special issue of the CMLR owes its origin to a colloquium sponsored by the Official Languages and Bilingualism Institute (OLBI)1 of the University of Ottawa in spring 2008 under the same title as this editorial. For three years, beginning with the academic year 2004/2005, researchers throughout Canada had been conducting studies financed by the Official Languages Research and Dissemination Program, a joint initiative of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) and the Official Languages Support Program of the Department of Canadian Heritage (PCH). The federal ministry had provided a special grant, administered by SSHRC, to stimulate development of research on Canada's official languages. As senior officials involved in the decision at Canadian Heritage commented, researchers have played a major leadership role in previous decades in paving the way for policy initiatives in the field of official languages, and it was hoped that new research would be valuable for future initiatives in promoting the government of Canada's Action Plan for Official Languages. The Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages provided a special grant to fund the publication of this special conference issue of the CMLR.
The resulting research projects, more than 35 in number, covered many aspects of official languages, ranging from studies of language issues affecting Canada's official linguistic minorities to experimentation with pedagogies of teaching French and English as second languages (FSL, ESL), along with topics relating official languages to the multicultural and multilingual context of contemporary Canadian society.2
Both the colloquium and the special issue of CMLR were open to submissions from all researchers in the field, not just those who had received grants under the joint program. The intent was, at all times, to foster the broadest possible discussion involving researchers from disciplines that often are not represented in the same learned societies and publications, though a special emphasis was given in the [End Page 693] colloquium to the dissemination of information relevant to educational practitioners.
The articles in this special issue were selected through the normal peer-review process. The resulting collection is focused entirely on teaching French as a second language; no articles dealing with language of official linguistic minorities,3 ESL, or language policy per se (evaluation of policy effects, analysis of policy implementation, etc.) reached the final stage of publication, though all were well represented in the colloquium. The absence of certain topics results partly from the smaller number of submissions but may also derive from the use of evaluation criteria that are structured mainly around constructs appropriate for hypothesis-testing or theory-validating research rather than the more open-ended exploratory nature of policy studies, in which policy effects, particularly unintended or unexpected consequences, are examined using case-study methods borrowed from ethnography or, for some practitioners, from art criticism and aesthetics (see Eisner, 1985).
It is noteworthy that most of the articles pay particular attention to policy implications, particularly for the 2003 federal Action Plan (Government of Canada 2003; see Carr; Gentil, O'Connor, & Bigras; Mady, Arnott, & Lapkin; Netten & Germain). Indeed, the article by Gentil et al. examines the outcomes of an internal language training program established for federal personnel and seeks to define factors that determine the impact on individual employees, providing information that might be directly relevant for policy decisions and coming close to being an outright policy study. Furthermore, Netten and Germain report on a research program that has become a focus for policy attention throughout Canada. All the authors show awareness of conducting research in an environment of intense public interest in how language is taught and how better to reach national goals relating to bilingualism.
The research presented here may be examined first for its relationship to teaching practice and second for its implications for future research that illuminates options for policy to improve the teaching and learning of second languages.
The simplest way to envision the teaching implications of the research presented here is to examine the articles in terms of the related models of instruction. The first such model, the Accelerated Integrated Method [End Page 694] (AIM...