On 13th July 2016, we posted a letter on our blog about ‘Linguistic xenophobia and why it should be resisted’, in which we voiced our concern at the rise in xenophobic and racist hate crime in the UK which appears to have followed the vote to leave the European Union. We also posted the letter on the emailing lists of the British Association for Applied Linguistics (BAAL) and the Linguistic Ethnography Forum (LEF).
We were overwhelmed by the degree of support that our letter attracted from scholars and academics working in applied linguistics, linguistic ethnography, and a range of other language-related fields, all of whom were willing to have their names openly added to the voice against linguistic xenophobia. This interest was mirrored by a marked increase in visitors to the TLANG blog. Many of the respondents had witnessed instances of linguistic xenophobia themselves, feared for their colleagues, or had received reports from international students that racism against them had increased. However, this strong display of resistance to linguistic xenophobia among our colleagues is motivated not only from personal experience, but chimes with a wider move within applied linguistics (and related fields) to counter normative monolingualism and to recognise multilingualism as a valued and positive resource in UK society (and elsewhere). Although it is difficult to be ‘heard’ by policymakers or the mass media, these are values which we can promote at a grassroots level through our work and through engagement with local communities.
In these somewhat turbulent and challenging times, it is heartening to be reminded of the important work that scholars in these disciplines are already doing to challenge discriminatory views about language use. We urge colleagues to continue in their efforts and to work together for a better, more tolerant future.
We welcome further discussion around the issue of linguistic xenophobia, as well as expressions of support, either through comments on this blog or on Twitter (@TLANGProject).