Linguistic Landscapes in School

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There is an impressive variety of ways in which the relationship between
young children and the LL around them can be understood. Even though
this chapter is limited to investigations within or initiated by educational
institutions, multiple perspectives emerge. The diversity of theories and
methodologies echoes this variety. In order to bring together the findings of
research and pedagogy in relation to LL and young children, we will first
identify common features for the three lines of investigation in which this
chapter was divided, i.e., embracing multilingualism and sharing common
ground with general LL research. Second, we will suggest three perspectives
on the children’s interaction with LL.
A basic assumption characteristic to the three lines of investigation is that
the LL and particularly the schoolscape, i.e., the landscape inside schools,
represent rich literate environments that support children in developing
functional literacy and numeracy skills. For multilingual children, this
means that the LL and the schoolscape may represent their linguistic
resources or they may not. The LL can display a monolingual approach
and educators may use it in order to foster knowledge in one school
language. In this case the children’s other linguistic resources may be com-
pletely absent and silenced, and children may experience a significant gap
between institutional (school, kindergarten) experiences and out-of-(pre-)
school experiences. The present chapter showcases that research andpedagogy are directed towards multilingualism and opportunities for the
multilingual child. The great majority of the investigations and pedagogies
presented includes more than one language and explicitly engages in diver-
sity in the sense of including the children’s multilingual resources or the
language diversity of the world (around them). The question raised is not if,
but how the present multilingual resources are displayed in the school-
and landscape.
The second feature relevant to the three lines of investigation is that the
following three main assumptions are shared with general LL research:
First, signs are multimodal and not to be reduced to texts alone; Second,
understanding the LL calls for engaging with agents at place, i.e., those who
produce, transform, and perceive the LL; Third, the active engagement with
diversity in the LL has a potential for transformation. To sum up, research
and pedagogy strengthen the tendency towards multimodality, qualitative
(complementing quantitative), and situated approaches as well as critical
awareness and activism in landscape research.
As to the results brought about by the three lines of investigation, i.e.,
inside institutions (schoolscape), outside institutions and pedagogy, they
will be ordered alongside three perspectives that place the children at the
center, i.e., how children react to the LL, how they create the LL and how
they engage with the LL.
Children react to the LL, even if they do not always reflect on their
reaction. They benefit from (attractive) signs for early literacy or language
learning. They experience coherent socialization opportunities through the
cultural orientations and narratives displayed in the schoolscape. The high
density of signs indicates that the creators of schoolscapes are well aware of
the powerful ideological working of signage. Schoolscapes cannot be separ-
ated from wider discourses about language, power and ideology.
Schoolscapes position the language (education) policy of a particular insti-
tution in line with (e.g., bilingual schooling) or in contradiction to (e.g.,
minority schooling) these wider discourses and the societal relations of
power. However, they represent a kind of hidden curriculum or language
(education) policy mechanism that young children take up in their lan-
guage practice and learning as well as in their attitudes towards language
Young children are also creators of signs. This is particularly the case in
critical pedagogies that pursue transformative goals such as the empower-
ment of marginalized groups or the strengthening of positive multilingual
identities. These pedagogies draw on the children’s resources and involve
them in the creation of signs. In doing so, the children may cross the inside-
outside border and bring with them out-of-(pre-)school experiences that are
equally valued.
Young children also actively engage with the land- and schoolscape.
Research showcases many ways in which children can be actively involved
in reflection upon the LL outside (pre-)schools and upon the schoolscape.This is possibly the most powerful relation between the multimodal scapes
and young children. Critical engagement means that children discuss the
symbolic function of signage and discover ideologies of language and lan-
guage use. This engagement makes them aware of issues of power in society
and possibly empowers them in the struggle for educational equity.
There is neither a proper way of doing landscape research (Backhaus
2019: 165), nor of conceptualizing the influential role of LL on young
children. Children react, create and engage and this is what makes LL so
powerful to them.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Handbook of Childhood Multilingualism
EditorsAnat Stavans, Ulrike Jessner-Schmid
Place of PublicationCambridge
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages26
ISBN (Electronic)9781108669771
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022

Publication series

SeriesCambridge Handbooks in Language and Linguistics

Austrian Fields of Science 2012

  • 602007 Applied linguistics


  • Multilingualism
  • Schoolscape
  • Linguistic Landscape

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