Forging multilingualism: teleological tension in French and Corsican middle school curricula

Abstract

This article compares French and Corsican middle school language policy. Above the micro-level of the classroom, and below the macro-level of the EU (or beyond), I analyze two policies sandwiched at the meso-level, national (France) and regional (Corsica) middle school curricula. Based on a content analysis of two curricular policy texts, the Réforme du collège 2016 and the Projet académique 20122016, I contrast the distinct notions of multilingualism constructed therein and the disparate teleological orientations to language teaching/learning that emerge, namely economic versus cultural. The Corsican middle school, subsumed within the French State curriculum, is characterized by the tension between competing language ideologies that coexist. The analysis reflects that, in the wider discourses on language and globalization, the shift in language teaching/learning from cultural to economic foci (Duchêne and Heller, in: Duchêne and Heller (eds) Language in late capitalism: pride and profit, Routledge, London, 2012; Romaine in Lang Policy 12:115–137, 2013) is not linear, finite, or complete. Telelogical orientations compete, overlap, and are co-present.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Corsican was not included in the Loi Deixonne until it was revised in 1974.

  2. 2.

    Aristotle also referred to the idea of telos as a “final cause” (Woodfield 1976: 4).

  3. 3.

    Translations from the original French are my own.

  4. 4.

    By multilingualism, I am not suggesting that Latin and Greek are languages of everyday exchange. Rather, their inclusion in the curriculum contributes to a plural institutional linguistic imaginary.

  5. 5.

    French middle school students must study two foreign languages (langues vivantes), LV1 and LV2. The Réforme moves the start of LV2 to US seventh grade (French cinquième), a year earlier than previously.

  6. 6.

    Here, I assume she means professional/economic opportunities.

  7. 7.

    The Rector is the superintendent figure for the school district and is also named Chancellor of Universities for each region. The OECD (2014) explains that the role of the Rector is to adapt national policy to local reality (183), his role is therefore also at the meso-level as he acts as an intermediary between policy contexts.

  8. 8.

    “Une politique d’excellence linguistique par le bilinguisme français-corse ouvrant sur le plurilinguisme.” While I use the term multilingualism to refer to the plurality of language, here I translate the French plurilinguisme as “plurilingualism.”

  9. 9.

    I would further argue that this wording (“[the] French-Corsican bilingualism”) reflects a linguistic imaginary in which there exists an idealized bilingualism wherein speakers are perfectly balanced between their two neatly compartmentalized linguistic repertoires with no code-mixing.

  10. 10.

    Several sections in the Projet address the expectations for the linguistic development of French. Nowhere else in the document is any other language treated with such explicit linguistic standards, reflecting the continued primacy of French, even vis-à-vis Corsican, in Corsican schools. Hélot (2003) refers to the mastery of French in such situations as “the priority of priorities” (267; Schiffman 1996: 125).

  11. 11.

    As Evers (2018) puts it, there is a “reduction in the scope of those who qualify as Mediterranean citizens” (453).

  12. 12.

    Similarly, Evers (2018) argues that “the label ‘Mediterranean’ functions as a spatiotemporal shifter” (435).

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Mendes, A. Forging multilingualism: teleological tension in French and Corsican middle school curricula. Lang Policy 20, 173–192 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10993-019-09540-1

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Keywords

  • Multilingualism
  • Teleology
  • France
  • Corsica
  • Middle school/collège