Nancy H. Hornberger

Researching and teaching the continua of biliteracy

The continua of biliteracy (COB) model was formulated in the context of a multi-year, comparative ethnography of language policy beginning in 1987 in Philadelphia -- in two public schools and their respective communities. Through participant observation, interviewing, and document collection in and out of school in the Puerto Rican community of North Philadelphia and the Cambodian community of West Philadelphia, my students and I sought to understand how national, state, and local policies and programs were situated, interpreted and appropriated in language and literacy attitudes and practices in classroom and community. The COB framework proved useful in analyzing the data and drawing conclusions from our collaborative ethnographic research; and by the same token, the ongoing research informed the evolving framework. Biliteracy in the COB is understood in terms of interaction and interpretation around writing in two or more languages, with the continua representing interrelated dimensions of highly complex and fluid communicative repertoires; the COB posits that it is in the dynamic, rapidly changing and sometimes contested spaces along and across the continua that biliteracy use and learning occur. In the years since it was first proposed, the model has served as heuristic in research, teaching, and program development locally, nationally, and internationally in Indigenous, immigrant and diaspora language education contexts.  Along the way, it has evolved and adapted to accommodate both a changing world and a changing scholarly terrain, foregrounding ethnographic monitoring and mapping, ideological and implementational spaces, voice and translanguaging as instantiated in multilingual education policy and practice.  In this talk, I highlight recent experiences in immigrant contexts of Philadelphia and Indigenous contexts of Brasil, South Africa, Sweden and Peru where the continua of biliteracy model has informed bilingual program development and Indigenous and second language teaching.