Linguistic-life stories

Life histories are clearly methodological resources that encourage people to think about themselves. With a life history, the subject is no longer abstract, but someone with a life of their own, with feelings and a point of view that involves a gender, a culture, a language and social standing. These unique subjects face up to themselves through language, in an social context that has nothing exceptional about it, giving shape to their past and advancing towards their future. A life history creates a space where existence and reflection are articulated, and so, along with other disciplines like anthropology, sociology and psychology, we see them as a privileged resource which also deserves to be an object for reflection.

Life histories are an exceptional resource for entering into an individual's privacy, but not their intimacy. However, the data they offer must be triangulated with other texts, in order to investigate the complex structure of representations and experiences. There is no doubt that these representations and experiences should be treated as something unique. However, there is also no doubt that this uniqueness refers to a universe of possible configurations, which means that an analysis of life histories opens up two very stimulating perspectives: connecting specifics with possible configurations and finding what is distinctive about them, what makes them different, because that is the significant thing.

Once these preliminary considerations have been made, we must then determine the nature of our suggestion for producing linguistic life histories. Firstly, it must be stated that these histories, or narratives, are constructed at someone's request, for a specific purpose. Therefore, there is a clear dialogic relationship with the person who is carrying out the research. Secondly, we refer to "linguistic life", to make it clear that the subject of the study is the subjects' experiences with their linguistic repertoire.

A linguistic life history means revealing an “I” to a researcher with a specific purpose. This "I" is usually expressed through linguistic means, but it may also be presented in other ways, such as drawing, for example. Narration is the usually the best way to describe personal experiences, because a narration always begins from an initial indeterminate state that is transformed through a series of events, presenting a background and consequences. There is a close relationship between the background and the consequences, in that the narration gives the experience meaning.

The proposal we are making consists of encouraging awareness of plurilingual situations in the classroom, based on making linguistic life histories explicit. As we have stated, we define "linguistic life histories" as the story a person tells about how their linguistic repertoire came about, when someone else asks them to do so. The languages they know, the skills related to each of those languages, the way they have been learnt, remembered or forgotten, the everyday use of the languages, identification as a good or bad language learner, etc. are some of the questions dealt with in these narratives.

When we request a linguistic life history, we ask for a written statement that narrates the subject's linguistic life and their experience in plurilingual classes. What is interesting is people's reflections about their languages (which ones they speak, write, listen to, read or would like to learn), as well as the way their linguistic background has been created throughout their lives. We are also interested in discovering the contact they have had and still have with languages in the classroom, and their feelings and reflections as teachers, based on their experience of teaching in a plurilingual context. The requested text is without structural constraints and with a maximum length of approximately two pages. The subjects asked to produce a linguistic life history write in the language they find most comfortable.

Linguistic life histories require special attention, as do any other type of considered text used as a resource for obtaining data. We are interested in both what is said and how it is said. Form is also substance. Therefore, it is a good idea to pay attention to data analysis processes, both for reference, i.e. about the themes, and the information, i.e. the footprints that the individuals leave in the texts they create. These footprints can be traced, analysing intonation, pronouns, the distinction created between the present and the past, the metaphors - in short, all those elements that give shape to the narrative.

Language biographies

Language biographies of pupils at the bilingual elementary school (German / Portuguese) Rudolf-Ross...