Our interrogation of several narratives from the public space of the DALN reveals important pedagogical and scholarly implications as answers to the questions we posed at the outset of this chapter. In what remains, we offer a summary of that which we gleaned from our investigation.
What do the students’ positions, topics, interests, and choices mean for multilingual literacy narrative production?
Multilingual students consistently produce, in text and multimodal formats, literacy narratives in English. We argue that this choice speaks directly to students’ positions in our classrooms as both bound by the dominant language of classroom and instruction and agentive in their attention to the language that they may sense offers them the maximum classroom capital. This sense of agency is further exemplified in the ubiquity of students’ narratives of transcendence, in which they, to varying degrees, reject schooled-literacy as the predominant means of acquiring English capital. We find further, that those students who produce multi-media literacy narratives demonstrate, if not a fluency in SWE, then compelling proof of fluency in those Englishes necessary for both academic and social negotiations.
What do these things offer to teach instructors who assign such narratives?
Our analysis demonstrates, most importantly, that there is more to assigning the literacy narratives than the assignment. The fact that our bilingual and multilingual students consistently offer us literacy narratives specifically about coming to English, although they are never asked explicitly to do so, is pedagogically very revealing. It speaks, we believe, to a disconnect between what we ask for and what our students believe we are asking for. This evidence of “all English/all the time” would indicate that we are looking for narratives that demonstrate English proficiency, or, at least, that our students are doing a good job of working towards that goal, when our goal is quite different. We suggest that instructors pay much more attention to the context of the asking. As Branch argues,
When these [literacy] narratives are written by (and we suggest requested by/assigned by) teachers, they have the power to reinscribe the “great divide” theory of literacy, in which teachers, the “literate,” are endowed with more cultural, psychological, and critical understanding than students, the “illiterate.” (208)
This also holds true for a great divide theory of the domination of English as the lingua franca of the world. Instructors need to be very careful, as we examine both the literacy landscape of the DALN as a whole and as we delve into the analysis of individual literacy narrative selections, that context, even messy and chaotic context, and issues of language and power, even messy and chaotic issues of language and power, are not lost in the quest for identifying features.
Further, we argue that our analysis reveals important considerations for instructors who ask students to analyze and compose literacy narratives. Most broadly, we feel it necessary that instructors and students understand that analysis of the DALN and of literacy narratives offers an opportunity for multiple and layered interpretations of a literacy narrative. Clearly, not all of the information we have shared here is available to those who explore DALN archives. But the dates of their production and the participants’ coding of their own narratives are also accessible, and, in many cases different forms of the narratives themselves as well as supplemental materials are included in the full DALN record. In all of these cases, students and instructors can discuss and analyze the historical, cultural, and political climate that potentially lead to the particular choices of DALN participants.
What can they tell us about what the DALN might offer investigations of multilingual and multimodal composing?
We have come to understand a particular phrase from linguistic landscapes scholars as an exciting and apt descriptor of the public space of the DALN. Rodriguez argues for a methodology of studying writing in public spaces that can determine a community’s “ethnolinguistic vitality” (1). It is, indeed, this vitality that we feel best describes the multilingual compositions found on the DALN. We see multiple parallels between the interrogation of multilingual and multimodal literacy narratives and the ways in which those narratives can contribute to both an in-depth investigation of individual signs and symbols as well as broad view of an overall literacy landscape. We position the DALN itself, then, as a literacy landscape, as a space in which “ethnolinguistic vitality” (Rodriguez 1) is accessible to researchers, teachers, and students. The variety and complexity of multilingual literacy narratives, each of which illustrates what Canagarajah describes as composers’ “negotiat[ion of] competing literacy conventions on their own terms” (600), offers a public space in which productive community members repeatedly, even unknowingly, challenge global understanding of what it means to communicate richly and complexly in “English.”
Finally, we feel that Canagarajah’s specific assertions regarding Lingua Franca English (LFE) are essential to developing schemata of the exigencies of requests to participants for their literacy narratives. Although we would make clear that “proficiency in English” has never been a requirement for DALN submissions nor (surely not) the primary goal of any literacy narrative assignment, without repeatedly making clear the reasons why literacy narratives are compelling and important assignments, we instructors risk perpetuating rich and complex but repeatedly monolingual narratives. If we assume that our bi and multilingual students are, as Canagarajah demonstrates, proficient in the transnationally relevant and fluid LFE, then we begin discussion of “literacy” from a paradigm that has the potential to open up students’ invention to endless possibilities for representations of a multiplicity of literacies. If we also encourage and provide the opportunity for students to consider multimodal affordances as an integral part of their LFE repertoire and composing strategies, we make room for the production of a literacy landscape with the most ethnolinguistic vitality possible.