Charlene J. Sato Distinguished Lecture: Dr. Fiona Willans

Hem i Broken English nomo:
Interrupting the same old story about pidgins and creoles in school

Fiona Willans
University of the South Pacific

Thursday, April 9
12-1:15 pm
St. John 11

Pidgins and creoles have a long tradition of stigmatisation within formal education. Very little has changed in this regard, despite several decades of sociolinguistic research demonstrating that there is no linguistic justification for keeping these languages out of the classroom. This presentation uses recent data about Bislama (an English-based expanded pidgin), collected at two schools in Vanuatu, to demonstrate that attitudes towards this language remain incredibly negative in the domain of formal education, despite its high status outside school, and despite its prominent place in teachers’ and students’ linguistic repertoires. It will be suggested that these negative arguments can be countered in a number of ways, but that it is difficult to open up sufficient space to disrupt the status quo without rethinking some of our fundamental assumptions about the nature of language and languages. The presentation will consider whether it is possible to shift our thinking from deficit to difference to repertoire, as a way of validating Bislama as part of a complex teaching and learning repertoire.

Dr. Fiona Willans is a lecturer in Linguistics at the University of the South Pacific (Laucala Campus, Fiji). Her research interests include colonial legacies within language ideologies and language-in-education policies; the potential for bottom-up and ‘sideways’ approaches to medium of instruction issues throughout the Pacific; the status, use and development of pidgins and creoles; and the use of ethnography to understand ‘policy’ from as many perspectives as possible.

This talk is made possible by grants from the Diversity and Equity Initiative and SAPFB. For more information, contact Christina Higgins at

Additional Event with Dr. Willans:

Wednesday, April 8, 5:00–6:30 PM
College of Education Collaboration Center (CCC), Wist Hall

The Multilingual Turn: What Use Is It To Educators?

This presentation explores what materials developers, teachers and teacher trainers are meant to do with notions such as ‘flexible multilingualism’ and ‘complex repertoires of resources.’