Developing Literacy, and Identities, in Multiple Languages

Living reference work entry
Part of the Encyclopedia of Language and Education book series (ELE)


Major socio-cultural and socio-political developments in the last century have spread languages, literacies, and identities throughout the world and accelerated the advent of complex multilingual societies in the twenty-first century. On the one hand, adults are confronted with alternative literacy practices in various social contexts, where different languages and ways of meaning are learnt and new identities are forged. On the other hand, children are born into multiple language contact situations, in binational families and multilingual communities. As they develop literacies in their languages, children enact identities in both culturally specific and culturally hybrid spaces and learn to live between their multiple and concurrent worlds.

Implied in these macro- and microinteractional processes are ideological standpoints that fuel linguistic power struggles: individuals’ rights for self-expression in their languages versus the coercive power of the majority language; access, or not, to different literacies; the need to negotiate identities in these contested spaces. There has also been a causal rapprochement between literacy development and identity affirmation in the literature, which is due to a shift in the conceptual framework of both identity and literacy from unitary, fixed entities to socially constructed processes.

This chapter traces the growing importance of identity in the development of literacy in multiple languages, over the last 60 years. This journey, not linear but overlapping and recursive, spotlights the shift from a monoglossic to a heteroglossic approach in research and practice, foregrounding the everyday practice of local, situated, as well as transnational literacies, and recognizing and valorizing the ensuing hybrid language identities.


Multilingualism Biliteracy Identity Multimodal Transnational 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of ReadingColombesFrance

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