Language Learning As a Social Encounter with the “Other” – a Comparison between Families of Cameroonian Origin in France and Germany

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 17:30
Oral Presentation
Edmond EKOLLO, Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany
Janina GLAESER, Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany
Abdoulaye NGOM, University of Strasbourg, France
Elise PAPE, University of Strasbourg, France
This presentation will explore language practices departing from the case study of two different Cameroonian families who live in France and Germany among whom biographical interviews have been collected within the French-German research project “Migreval”. It will reflect on the impact of colonial experience and power on language practices as well as on migration and language learning. While the family who migrated to France already spoke the language of the country of arrival – French being one of the official languages of Cameroon, this was not the case of the family who migrated to Germany. This contribution will reflect on differences and similarities between these case studies concerning multilingual practices in their country of origin and of arrival. Departing from interviews with members from different family generations, we will analyze the way the interviewees learned different languages in different contexts of life through time: in school, through Erasmus programs, work, or their neighborhood. We will pay special attention to biographical turning points (Hareven and Masaoka 1988) that have led to a change of perception and practice of multilingualism in the life course of our interviewees and the way these practices have been accompanied by processes of exclusion or inclusion. Thereby, the impact of language policies will be taken into consideration.

We will also reflect on the meaning the interviewees attribute to the learning of different languages, and the way this process becomes a social practice of encounters with the “Other”. This presentation will address the way different languages become their “own” and how learning the mother tongue of the “Other” becomes a powerful means of creating rapprochements and blurring the frontier between the “Self” and the “Other”.