'Decolonising Babel': Multilingual and Inclusive Language Pedagogies at Warwick and Beyond
Dr Leticia Villameda Gonzalez, Dr Valentina Abbatelli 2023, Kade Thomas and Sophie Hurst
Several initiatives have been taken by individual institutions in the UK in the past few years in the light of the decolonising the curriculum approach, focusing on curriculum and assessment review. Similarly, innovative projects such as ‘Decolonising Social Sciences’ and ‘Anti-Racism and Anti-Racist Pedagogies in the Faculty of Arts’ have been developed at Warwick. However, decolonising the curriculum ironically coincides with the reinforcement of English as a lingua franca, which undermines the principles of this approach. This is why it is necessary to shift our focus from English, being SMLC the perfect place to continue expanding the work that has been done.
Working in SMLC at Warwick, we have seen a rise of initiatives relative to single modules which are crucial to foster a more inclusive, diverse and equal environment. However, we think that both a more holistic overview on what decolonising the curriculum means and advice on how can be embedded in everyday teaching could foster a more comprehensive approach to this theme. This can only be achieved through staff and students working together as equals.
In addition to this, Warwick university also has a very international and multilingual campus where students speak and study different languages as part of their degree. SMLC is the home for many students studying one or more languages, but also for many students studying a language in our Language Centre as part of their degree. Therefore, this project seeks to expand the current work done at Warwick and to contribute to its Education Strategy by looking at decolonising the curriculum through the lens of other languages and by embedding a multilingual EDI across the university and beyond. In so doing, this project aims to:
a. create a practical toolkit that will help teachers and educators decolonise their modern languages and cultures curriculum;
b. design interactive guides on the use of inclusive language in different languages. How does inclusive language work in other languages, particularly in those which traditionally mark gender in binary terms? What pronouns are used?
We will read a selected multilingual bibliography on decolonising the curriculum with the students involved in the project. Working with them, we will create a practical toolkit to be used by colleagues to make them aware of how many areas the decolonising the curriculum encompasses and help them to rethink their teaching with practical advice. The toolkit will devote special attention to pedagogical practices.
For the second aim of the project, we will take as a starting point the WIHEA project on LGBTQUIA+ Inclusive language developed in the Trans and Queer Pedagogy Learning Circle which focuses on English. With the help of our students and using a decolonial approach, we aim to create a multilingual guide for inclusive language. Both the toolkit and the guides will be shared not only at Warwick, but also with MFL teachers in schools as part of outreach initiatives. This will be crucial for staff and students both at Warwick and beyond in building a multilingual inclusive community.
Dr Leticia Villamediana González is an Associate Professor in Hispanic Studies and SMLC Director of Teaching and Learning. Her teaching and research interests lie in the Spanish Enlightenment, AngloSpanish Cultural History since 1700, and innovative and inclusive language pedagogies.
Dr Valentina Abbatelli is an Assistant Professor in Italian Studies and SMLC Deputy Director of Teaching and Learning. Among her teaching and research interests there are History of Publishing, Translation Studies, and language and culture pedagogies centred on a transnational and inclusive approach.