Post Literacies in the linguistic landscape

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What could be more iconic of the British Empire than the red pillar box emblazoned with the monogram of the monarch? Both South Africa and the Irish Republic kept their pillar boxes after independence but the Irish ones were promptly repainted in green, while the remaining South African ones are still red. Meanwhile in both countries they provide a space for displaying official language policy. The South African one (photographed in 2012, but probably unchanged for at least 20 years) reflects the Apartheid-era policy of treating English and Afrikaans as equal official languages in accordance with the 1910 constitution, but ignoring the rest (there are now 11 official languages under the 1996 constitution). The Irish pillar box (photographed in 2006) shows English (the second official language according to the constitution of the Republic) and Irish (the ‘national language and first official language’), in that order (i.e. the second official language first). In both the South African and cases, exactly the same content is given in both official languages and the fonts and letter sizes are identical for both, metaphorically establishing the languages as equally important.

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Despite the South African constitution declaring 11 languages now to be official, the most recent incarnation of the posting box is just in one language – English. the same, incidentally, is true of the stamps.

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PhD studentship: Online development and assessment of deaf learners’ English literacy

Our colleagues at the International Institute for Sign Languages and Deaf Studies (iSLanDS), University of Central Lancashire, are offering the following PhD studentship.

Reference Number: RS/14/02

Applications are invited for a full time PhD (via MPhil). The studentship is tenable for up to 3 years full-time for a PhD (via MPhil route) [subject to satisfactory progress] and is open to both Home, EU and International applicants. The bursary will cover the cost of tuition fees at the Home/EU rate plus a maintenance grant of £3000 per year. International Applicants may apply but will be required to fund the difference between Home/EU and International Fees. The successful applicant will commence on 1 October 2014.

Project Title – Online development and assessment of deaf learners’ English literacy

Project Description
The iSLanDS Institute is pleased to invite applicants for a full-time PhD studentship focusing on the assessment of deaf learners’ literacy and the development of a virtual learning environment for the acquisition of written English by deaf Indians.

English language literacy for deaf communities is a strategic growth area for the iSLanDS Institute. There is an emerging recognition of the valuable role of sign bilingualism, and pedagogy relying on the medium of signed languages, in the development of deaf people’s English literacy. The Institute has considerable experience in creating online resources for language teaching, including a pilot project in which we established an English Learning Platform for deaf students. The studentship holder will make a substantial contribution to both the applied work and to the theoretical base surrounding the development of deaf literacy, by empirically determining how to perform more accurate assessments of deaf learners’ English language levels.

In summary, the studentship holder will play a key role in our work on deaf literacy by concentrating on the following:

1) research on content design for a virtual learning environment aimed at teaching English to deaf sign language users in India and at least one other country;
2) analysis of the English language output from these learners against the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).

Applications are invited from candidates with a postgraduate degree at MA level. We will prioritise sign language users, but given the limited pool of people who are proficient in a sign language, we will also consider non-signers who are willing to learn sign language during their time at UCLan.

Informal enquiries may be directed to Professor Ulrike Zeshan email: uzeshan@uclan.ac.uk

Requests for an application pack (quoting the reference number RS1402) should be directed to the Research Student Registry. Tel: 01772 895082 or email: researchadmissions@uclan.ac.uk

Closing Date: 23rd May 2014
Provisional Interview Date: 20th June 2014

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One of our LRC PhD students, Michelle Lawson, has been writing about her PhD research in the blog post linked here:

http://weltchmedia.wordpress.com/2014/02/24/an-invasion-but-no-sense-of-adventure-the-media-and-the-brits-in-france/ 

Her work studies discourses of lifestyle migration around the British in France, combining analysis of media representations with analysis of online forum interaction and interviews with other British migrants.  This post focuses on her analysis of data from print media, showing a clear representation of the British as ‘an invasion, with no sense of adventure’.

‘We Are No More’: Objects From Previous Lives

I recently came across an interesting photo exhibition on the news, and though that some of you might find it interesting from a literacy aspect. Unfortunately, the exhibition is in Montreal so I won’t be able to attend it in person, but I have read a few articles about it (both in French and in English).

The French photographer Valerian Mazataud visited three Syrian refugee camps in Jordan in autumn 2012. Rather than focusing on disembodied information ― statistics, numbers of victims, bombings, etc. ― Mazataud wanted to bring the humans to the foreground in this photo exhibition called ‘We Are No More’. On his website he explains:

‘At the beginning of the project was a simple question. “What did you keep from your previous life?” Sometimes it was an object, sometimes a memory, other times a simple gesture. A flag, a wristband, a diary, two necklaces… What would you bring with you if your home was bombed or looted by soldiers? What would you gather if you had to flee through the night and walk for days to a refugee camp?’ (FocusZero)

Many literacy artefacts were amongst the objects the refugees showed to Mazataud: sketchbooks, a necklace with “love” written on it, a mobile phone, the Quran, a death certificate, etc. (see pictures here).

I find this photo exhibition very touching. I also found it very fascinating from an academic point of view because it underlines the importance of literacy artifacts in people’s lives (particularly in difficult and extreme situations). It reminded me of the work of Kate Pahl and Jennifer Rowsell on artifactual literacy (particularly Pahl, 2004). What do you think about it?

Virginie