26.3.16

LINGUISTIC BIOGRAPHY Corina Moscovich.

LINGUISTIC BIOGRAPHY
Interview with Edouard B. (77 years old): He was born in Poland but raised in Belgium; he is married to a Polish woman and he has worked in an international environment (in Germany and in Luxembourg).
Before the interview, I did some research about my interviewee; wrote and reviewed my questions, found a time and place for the meeting and recording, etc. As behind a mother tongue and any other kind of contact with a second or third language there is a real story, reason or need; during the interview I had to concentrate and listen closely to what my interviewee said about his life in his early years.
C (Corina): Bonjour Edouard, merci beaucoup d´être ici aujourd hui. (...) 1. L'affectivité de la langue: Quelle langue vous sentez-vous est votre langue maternelle? (Polonais? Français?) Pour quoi? / L´affectivité de la langue: Which language do you feel is your mother tongue? (Polish? French?) Why?
E (Edouard) : Le français. ... D’abord parce que j’ai fait toute ma scolarité dans cette langue; ensuite, tout mon environnement extérieur à la cellule familiale ... (amis, activités sportives ou culturelles), durant mon enfance, adolescence, âge adulte, s’est déroulé en français.
C: 2. Donner de brèves informations de fond pour comprendre lieu et du contexte de temps. (Biographie langagière) / Give brief background information to understand place and time context. (Biographie langagière)
E: Né dans la partie flamande de Belgique de parents immigrés polonais, j’ai commencé à parler le polonais au sein de la famille et aussi en dehors, car la colonie polonaise, très importante, organisait des activités culturelles et sportives, notamment en dispensant des cours de polonais aux enfants; ... j’ai aussi appris à parler le flamand dans la rue, je ne suis pas allé à l’école, car la guerre battait son plein lorsque je devais y aller. ... A l’âge de 7 ans, je suis venu vivre avec mes parents dans la partie francophone de la Belgique, et, rapidement, le français a pris le pas sur le flamand et le polonais, ... ce dernier n’était plus utilisé qu’au sein de la famille. J’ai appris la langue anglaise à l’école secondaire qui était une deuxième langue obligatoire ; je l’ai perfectionnée en suivant des cours du soir. ... Quant à l’allemand, j’ai été forcé de l’apprendre lorsque j’ai trouvé un emploi en Allemagne.
As Lévy defined the language biography as: “Forme particulière de récit de soi, la biographie langagière” (Lévy, 2008), I decided to open my interview with a question related to affectivité de la langue: “Which language do you feel is your mother tongue?” (question nº1) . This way, I allowed Mr. E. to start talking frankly about his experiences with languages. Certainly, when analysing the answers of my interviewee, I had to compare “natural bilingualism” with school bilingualism”. The first one is done in a natural environment without a specific training, while in the second one the L2 appropriation is done in a school environment, mainly through instruction.
To learn a second language it is generally a requisite in order to graduate from school, university, etc. In answer to question nº2, Mr. E explained: “J’ai appris la langue anglaise à l’école secondaire qui était une deuxième langue obligatoire; je l’ai perfectionnée en suivant des cours du soir.”
Then, Mr. E. defined his German as... “Quant à l’allemand, j’ai été forcé de l’apprendre lorsque j’ai trouvé un emploi en Allemagne.” In effect, the knowledge on certain particular domains can be technical (limited knowledge for specialized usages) or functional (capacity of using two languages with or without a plain ease on the exercise of a function, a defined occupation, etc).
C: 3. En temps de guerre, avez-vous utilisé un langage spécifique uniquement à des fins spécifiques? / In times of war, did you use a specific language for specific purposes only?
E: ... Pas que je sache, je n’avais pas 2 ans lorsque la guerre a éclaté et près de 7 ans à l’armistice. ... Je peux cependant dire que la concentration de Polonais avant la guerre et pendant la guerre était telle qu’il existait un comité organisateur des activités polonaises où mon père était secrétaire ... (il avait appris à écrire, contrairement à ma mère qui savait lire, mais pas écrire, elle l’apprit par elle-même lorsque je commençai à aller à l’école, après qu’elle avait plus de 30 ans), les autochtones flamands se sont vus obligés d’apprendre à parler le polonais, ma mère ne savait pas parler le flamand, c’était inutile, ... car les commerçants ou bien s’exprimaient en polonais ou étaient tout simplement des Polonais.
In this diachronic approach to Mr. E.´s life in central Europe, the concept of family (and friends) is a key one: it acted as a motor as a driving force so as to incorporate new knowledges and new identities. In the context of language learning, Norton has stated: “I use the term identity to reference how a person understands his or her relationship to the world, how that relationship is constructed across time and space, and how the person understands possibilities for the future
(Norton, 2000).” Although Mr. E. did not give precise details about his linguistic identity (question nº3), his earliest memories of Polish language are closely related to the Second World War: “la concentration de Polonais avant la guerre et pendant la guerre...” We could appreciate that the Polish community in Belgium had an important role in trying to keep language alive, although historic and social circumstances were very difficult.
C: 4. Quelle décision de politique linguistique avez -vous fait au sujet de vos propres enfants? /Which language policy decision did you make regarding your own children?
E: ... Nous avons délibérément décidé de parler le français. ... Grandissant en Allemagne, les enfants auraient appris à parler l’allemand. ...Nous ne voulions pas utiliser le polonais (langue de la mère) afin de ne pas risquer de les perturber avec trop de langues d’une part, et, d’autre part, à cause du contexte politique général de l’époque où la Pologne vivait dans une dictature d’Etat communiste dirigée par l’Union soviétique. ... Avec le recul, j’estime que, sentimentalement, que c’est une faute que la mère ne parle pas sa langue maternelle à ses enfants qui sont alors privés d’une partie affectueuse que la mère n’a pu exprimer qu’artificiellement à travers d’une langue apprise.
Mr. Edouard B. was keen on answering my questions and sharing his thoughts about his schooling experiences in Belgium. Besides, he also identified some of these language practices in his own kids’ schooling.
As a necessary step when conducting social studies research, the interview represents a challenge, as both parties cannot know how everything will turn out. By answering “Which language policy decision did you make regarding your own children?”(question nº4), the spontaneity with which my interviewee connected geography, family histories and languages made me think the concept of translanguaging practice. Nowadays this term refers to a concept that goes beyond deliberate language switching in the classroom to embrace different practices of multilingualism, mostly considered within but not limited to an educational setting. Probably Mr. E. and his wife used translanguaging (Polish) to speak about topics they did not their kids to know about (couple stuff, money issues, etc). However, there seem to be some regrets about language policy: What would have happened if his wife had talked (and taught) to their children in Polish?
C: 5. Donnez une brève définition de l'importance de chaque langue (polonais, allemand, français, espagnol) dans votre vie. / Give a short definition for the importance of each language (Polish, German, French, Spanish) in your life.
E: ... Le polonais est une langue sentimentale parce que je l’utilisais avec mes parents et que je l’utilise quelque fois avec mon épouse et lors de mes séjours en Pologne, je le classe en deuxième position; ... l’allemand est une langue apprise à l’âge adulte que je domine au niveau de la compréhension et du parler, beaucoup moins pour l’écrit, il me servait durant ma vie en Allemagne et me sert encore lors de mes déplacement dans ce pays, je le classe en troisième position ; ... l’anglais, appris à l’école secondaire et perfectionné par la suite a été utile dans ma vie professionnelle, mais c’est une langue apprise, scolaire et non pratiquée journellement comme c’était le cas avec l’allemand, je classe l’anglais en numéro quatre ; ... enfin, le français est ma richesse personnelle pour ce qu’elle me permet d’exprimer le moindre de mes états d’esprit, je classe le français en première position. Je ne connais pas l’espagnol.
Mr. E. has a very clear picture of how and why he used and still uses each language. Although in some parts of the interview he gave me too much information all together, most of the data is relevant. Regarding content, in answering question nº5, Mr. E. opens up the most: “ Le polonais est une langue sentimentale parce que je l’utilisais avec mes parents et que je l’utilise quelque fois avec mon épouse et lors de mes séjours en Pologne”. He keeps the rhythm in his sentence; however I can notice a change in his voice due to emotions. In general, his voice is modulated but sometimes a bit low. It goes up and down, which makes his narration much more interesting as he catches my full attention. His speech is articulated, as he expresses his ideas and thoughts in a clear and effective way. Mr. E. gives his insight by using a simple and everyday language; he does not use many adjectives or adverbs.
C: 6. Vous considérez-vous d'avoir une identité plurilingue? Pour quoi? /Do you consider yourself to have a plurilingual identity? Why?
E: Oui, parce que je parviens facilement à passer d’une langue à une autre et à réfléchir dans chacune de ces langues. Je pense qu’il n’existe pas de traduction parfaite d’une langue vers une autre. Il est fréquent de rencontrer des cas où il est impossible de transposer une idée émise dans une langue vers une autre langue de manière identique. ... Ainsi, il m’est arrivé de lire des traductions françaises de romans anglais puis de lire les mêmes œuvres en anglais; j’éprouvais plus de plaisir dans lecture originale anglaise. ...Un deuxième exemple est le roman Anna Karénine de Léon Tolstoï que j’ai lu d’abord en français puis en polonais; la version polonaise m’était bien plus parlante que celle en français, probablement à cause de la proximité des langues russe et polonaise.
Within the process of learning additional languages, speakers may internalize different perspectives and, thus, restructure the thinking patterns they already have to describe events and scenes (Pavlenko, 2011). In a language biography, reflections on our attitudes towards language diversity and plurilinguism are crucial. When I asked Mr. E. if he considers himself to be plurilingual (question nº6), he answered: “Oui, parce que je parviens facilement à passer d’une langue à une autre et à réfléchir dans chacune de ces langues” (French, Polish, German, English). In this context, we agree with the concept of plurilingualism of the European Council, which takes into account the regional languages, the minority languages and the migration languages. In his linguistic biography, Flemish, Polish, French, English and German have played (and still play) a specific role.

REPRESENTATIONS OF LANGUAGES
We certainly have ideas about languages and cultures. Although we have received those images and ideas (mainly stereotypes), they vary according to the person. The social representations (RP) "ne requièrent aucun travail autre que l’acte de leur mise en œuvre énonciative" (Py, 2004: 8).
Besides, stereotypes about languages, countries or nationalities can be better understood by facing social issues, common fears, language rights, etc.
Globalization has an impact in the number of people who move around for diverse reasons. Originally, Mr. E.´s family (from Poland) migrated to Belgium searching new horizons (job opportunities) and when they did they found a new way of life and a new language. During his early years Mr. E. needed to deal with different people speaking other languages and who did not always dominate Polish. Therefore, in his linguistic experience, to learn French became urgent: there was an objective need to communicate in another language.
Learning new languages takes time and implies a great effort. Regarding the learning process, as we reflected in class, the goal of pedagogy and other social sciences is to go beyond the basic traditional knowledge of a language. Learners want to achieve a level which allows them to have a fluency in the language they are learning, making the learning (and teaching) process as much as experience-based as possible. This helps the learner to understand that not only the knowledge of grammatical structures is needed when acquiring a new language. To be able to speak a new language allows the learner to perceive other cultures in all their richness and complexities and to understand other ways of thinking and doing things.
Prof. Leo van Lier, in his book "Introducing Language Awareness” (1995) stated: "Language awareness can be defined as an understanding of the human faculty of language and its role in thinking, learning and social life. It includes awareness of power and control through language, and the intricate relationships between language and culture". Languages are also a mean to reach a goal and they present many angles. To be able to master our mother tongue and understand other ways of thinking and doing is key so as to see "from outside” the complexity, richness and social diversity of language. Because multilingualism keeps on growing constantly, languages and cultures become closer.
By increasing our own "language awareness” we will be able to understand our mother tongue or our own language "repertoire”. Although the focus on how to learn languages is more related to teachers and linguists, in a multilingual Europe the why has to be a main concern for politics, society, education, mediation and policy.
Considering and thinking language awareness paths (geography, linguistic diversity, economy, work demand, immigration) will help to build stronger links between languages and collective identities in different linguistic scenarios.
In psychology, sociology, and anthropology, identity is a person's conception and expression of their own (self-identity) and others' individuality or group affiliations (such as national identity and cultural identity). As Norton asserted: “biographical insights are important in understanding the relationship between identity and language learning” (Norton, 2000). In my interview with Mr. Edouard B. –through my questions and his answers– I consider to have covered vital topics related to a linguistic biography: schooling and family in connection to mother tongue, globalization, different kinds and types of language, translanguaging, language policies, language use, language strategies, language and culture, linguistic identity, plurilinguism, language awareness, etc.
We should identify how the language learner, in this case, Mr. Edouard B. understood his own world when he started to incorporate other languages. If we think in Bordieu´s terms (1984), Mr. E. is aware of his “cultural capital” and it looks like his identity as a French speaker is more powerful than his identity as a Polish speaker (son of immigrants).
Corina Moscovich

Bibliographical references
LÉVY, D. (2008). Introduction: soi et les langues. In G. Zarate, D. Lévy & C. Kramsch (dir.), Précis du plurilinguisme et du pluriculturalisme (pp. 69-81). Paris: Éditions des archives contemporaines.
Norton, B. (2000). Identity and language learning: Gender, ethnicity and educational change.
Harlow, England: Pearson Education.
Pavlenko, A. (2011). (Re-)naming the world: Word-to-referent mapping in second language speakers. In A. Pavlenko (Ed.), Thinking and speaking in two languages (pp. 198-236). Multilingual Matters.
Py, B. (2004). Pour une approche linguistique des représentations sociales. Langages, 154, 6-19.

van Lier, Leo (1995). Introducing Language Awareness. London: Penguin English.

9.3.16

“Manifestación” by Antonio Berni. Corina Moscovich

The painting called “Manifestación” by Antonio Berni is an art piece that stimulated me to think about multilingualism and/or migration. As I chose an artist from my own city, I tried to relate his own reflections with my own ones. In an interview shortly before his death Berni said, "Art is a response to life. To be an artist is to undertake a risky way to live, to adopt one of the greatest forms of liberty, to make no compromise. Painting is a form of love, of transmitting the years in art." In a 1936 interview, Berni said that the decline of art was indicative of the division between the artist and the public, and that social realism stimulated a mirror of the surrounding spiritual, social, political, and economic realities.
"Manifestación” (Demonstration) is an imposing work on canvas of the Argentine artist Antonio Berni, beyond many other productions that have also acquired great recognition worldwide. I still remember when I saw the picture at an exhibition at the Malba Museum in Buenos Aires some years ago. I was impressed. At that time, although it was not the first time I saw some of his work, something inside of me was different. I could connect with his work, understand the artist. To think about an artist in connection to multilingualism and migration was a bit of a challenge, yes, but Berni himself is a product of that.

About “Manifestación” by Antonio Berni:
The painting is from 1934 and its topic is the crisis of the 30´s: unemployment, poverty, Nazism,
fascism and Spanish civil war. All of them were reflected around Antonio Berni´s “Manifestation”, an emblematic work of national art of Argentina. It shows harmony and equilibrium in a superlative way. Faces are superposed and facial expressions call the viewer´s attention within an accelerated perspective of an elevated vision. Each face has a distinctive expression. It is not about a uniform mass of people. The composition of the piece of art is characterized by individuals.
These men and women are painted over sackcloth with industrial painting, which is a very effective material as well. Most probably Berni draw them having in mind the pictures he took or the ones from police chronicles on the newspapers. We only see the faces in a frontal position which reveal their mood, differences and conflicts.
There is a board which reads: Pan y trabajo. In the back of the demonstrators there are painted houses which look like uninhabited. That is a characteristic of Berni´s painted houses at that period of his work. He has used pure colours, or he mixed them with black and white. Lines are straight and curved, geometrical or sensitive; and there is perspective: as houses get far away, they look smaller and details are simplified.
Besides, our look takes us to the middle of the work, there is a boy represented with a piece of bread in his hand. He is a symbol of hope, maybe because of the saying: every kid is born with a piece of bread under his arm. In front of the boy, a closed fist reinforces the idea of struggle and strength that is being claimed.
Berni´s popular Nuevo Realismo paintings include Desocupados (The Unemployed) and manifestación (Manifestation). Both were based on photographs Berni had gathered to document, as graphically as possible, the "abysmal conditions of his subjects. Moreover, Antonio Berni´s painting contains main features of European painting of end of 19th century and beginning of 20th century which Berni incorporates to his Argentinian vision. He therefore includes a nostalgic, dramatic and intense aspect; all this resulting in a painting of great maturity and plastic soberness related to the spirit of the time and place. The quality of his work resides in the precise balance that he attained between narrative painting with strong social content and aesthetic originality.

About the artist:
Delesio Antonio Berni (Rosario, 14 May 1905 - Buenos Aires, 13 October 1981) was an Argentinian figurative artist. He is associated with the movement known as "New Realism", a Latin American extension of social realism. His work, including a series of Juanito Laguna (a character he created for his paintings) collages depicting poverty and the effects of industrialization in Buenos Aires, has been exhibited around the world.
His mother, Margarita Picco, was the Argentine daughter of Italians who settled there. His father Napoleón, an immigrant tailor from Italy, died in the first World War. The Jockey Club of Rosario awarded Berni a scholarship to study in Europe in 1925.
He went back to Rosario for a few months but returned to Paris in 1927 with a grant from the Province of Santa Fe. Studying the work of Giorgio de Chirico and René Magritte, Berni became
interested in surrealism, and called it "a new vision of art and the world, the current that represents an entire youth, their mood, and their internal situation after the end of the World War. A dynamic and truly representative movement." But he would discover that Surrealism didn't convey the frustration or hopelessness of the Argentine people.
In 1931 Berni returned to Rosario, where he was then hired as a municipal employee. The Argentina of the 1930s was very different from the Paris of the 1920s. He witnessed labor demonstrations and the miserable effects of unemployment and was shocked by the news of a military coup d'état in Buenos Aires (Infamous Decade).
Human portrait was one of the most used genres by Berni with very diverse techniques, always linked to his social compromise. He was one of the Argentinian artists more characteristic about it. He began painting realistic images that depicted the struggles and tensions of Argentina.
In 1941 Berni travelled to Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru and Colombia to study pre-Columbian art. The 1940s saw various revolutions and coups d'état in Latin America, including the ousting of Argentine President Ramón Castillo in 1943. Berni responded with more political paintings.
From 1951 to 1953 Berni lived in Santiago del Estero, a province in north-western Argentina. The province was suffering massive ecological damage. While in S. del Estero he painted the series Motivos santiagueños and Chaco, the latter of which was exhibited in Paris, Berlin, Warsaw, Bucharest and Moscow. In the 1950s, he returned to expressionism. Berni's post-1950s work can be viewed as "a synthesis of Pop Art and Social realism." In 1958 he began collecting and collaging discarded material to create a series of works featuring Juanito Laguna.
The series became a social narrative on industrialization and poverty, and pointed out the extreme disparities existing between the wealthy Argentine aristocracy and  the "Juanitos” of the slums.
In 1965 a retrospective of  Berni's work was organized at the Instituto Di Tella, including the collage Monsters. Versions of the exhibit were shown in the United States, Argentina, and several Latin American countries. After a March 1976 coup Berni moved to New York City, where he continued painting, engraving, collaging, and exhibiting. He conveyed his observations about New York in subsequent work with a touch of social irony. Berni's work had gradually become more spiritual and reflective.

External links for Berni´s work:
http://www.tendreams.org/berni.htm
http://www.e-flux.com/announcements/antonio-berni/
http://www.malba.org.ar/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Berni.pdf
http://tintafresca.com.ar/marisa/vacaciones09/pdfs/aprend1ro_21a23.pdf
http://www.mfah.org/exhibitions/past/antonio-berni-juanito-and-ramona/
http://wander-argentina.com/malba/
http://www.newamericanpaintings.com/blog/monster-masterpieces-art-antonio-berni

Sound/video files:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NR1WfYZXU-4
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bs3Vg2idkVs