Language and Education

Book Review

Language and Education
M. A. K. Halliday. Edited by Jonathan J. Webster. London: Continuum, 2009. Pp. xi + 404.

Reviewed by Servet Celik
Karadeniz Technical University,

Language and education, the 9th volume in the Collected Works of M.A.K. Halliday, is compiled from nineteen previously published papers and intended for language professionals. The book is organized into five parts and preceded by a previously unpublished speech by Halliday that serves as a preface to the text.
Following the editor s brief summary, Part I delves into mother tongue education. The first chapter, Linguistics and the Teaching of English, underlines the role of linguistics in teaching English. Moving into the second chapter, A Linguistic Approach to the Teaching of the Mother Tongue, Halliday discusses the links between language, individual, and society. In the third chapter, Some Thoughts on Language in the Middle School Years, Halliday argues that language is a resource that a child constructs […] in interaction with those around him, rather than a set of structures or rules that he has to acquire (p. 61). The next chapter, Differences between Spoken and Written Language, discusses literacy education at the secondary level, highlighting the differences between speech and writing. In the fifth chapter, Language and Socialization: Home and School, Halliday stresses the significance of language in the transmission of culture. Chapter 6, Literacy and Linguistics: A Functional Perspective, scrutinizes literacy from a linguistic standpoint that considers literacy as something which utilizes the conceptual framework of linguistics […] as a way of understanding it (p. 97).

Part II explores second language learning. Beginning with the seventh chapter, General Linguistics and Its Application to Language Teaching, Halliday discusses the definition of language and formal and contextual comparisons of languages. In the next chapter, Is Learning a Second Language like Learning a First Language All Over Again? Halliday argues that, despite the dissimilarities between natural and institutional learning, L1 and L2 learners demonstrate a comparable determination to thrive. However, the ninth chapter, Learning Asian Languages, illustrates that in spite of the drive to succeed noted in Chapter Eight, a child s lack of multilingual experience might interfere with learning a new language.

Part III begins with the tenth chapter, National Language and Language Planning in a Multilingual Society, exploring the issue of language planning relative to the circumstances in a given culture. Halliday cites examples from around the world, indicating that it is critical to observe what is happening on a global level, rather than focusing exclusively on one s own nation. Moving to the eleventh chapter, Some Reflections on Language Education in Multilingual Societies, he illuminates that language education in multilingual societies requires understanding language education as more than just a teaching of languages. He affirms that all aspects of learning must be recognized, and theory and practice should be closely linked. In the twelfth chapter, Where Languages Meet: The Significance of the Hong Kong Experience, Halliday explores the collision of languages in a community where everyone is expected to know two languages. He acknowledges concerns about over-exposure to English, but speculates that familiarity with the language might effectively preclude linguistic imperialism.

Part IV launches with The Notion of Context in Language Education, which tackles context in relation to language education. Halliday s analysis considers the interplay between language as system and language as text, and situational and cultural contexts. Then, in the fourteenth chapter, Language across the Culture, Halliday suggests that culture and curriculum are diffused through language, and the notion of language across the curriculum serves as a diversifying and unifying concept that helps maintain the flow of meaning across the culture (p. 305). Chapter XV, Contexts of English, highlights the post-colonial transformation of English. Halliday argues that English has become resemanticized (p. 323) in diverse cultures, ultimately leading to a mixture of Englishes.

Part V is devoted to educational linguistics. The sixteenth chapter, A Response to Some Questions on the Language Issue, marks Halliday s answers to several questions which underscore how linguists can help achieve a just society. With the seventeenth chapter, Some Basic Concepts of Educational Linguistics, he outlines the multifaceted construct of language in education. Together with the eighteenth chapter, On the Concept of Educational Linguistics, this section accentuates the idea that educational linguistics targets a language-based model of teaching and learning. In the last chapter, A Language Development Approach to Education, Halliday investigates the discontinuity between home and school in terms of language development and encourages linking children s early learning to formal schooling.

Thanks to wisely selected papers from four decades that emphasize research into topics such as first and second language learning, this book provides brilliant insight into contemporary issues in language education. Although the text is not always easy to read, Halliday s personable style, drawing on his own experience and his inclusive examples, make this work another Halliday classic for language teachers and linguists.