Performing Bilingualism in Wales with the Spotlight on Welsh : A Study of Language Policy and the Language Practices of Young People in Bilingual Education

Abstract: The recently established National Assembly for Wales (with the vision of a “truly bilingual Wales”) and bilingual schools are but two major sites in which bilingualism is reconstituting and repackaging Welsh.By close examination of the discourse(s) of language policy texts, the public discourse of one bilingual secondary school and the discussions of four focus groups composed of pupils from the same school, this study identifies three types of discourse which are particularly salient in contemporary Wales: a globalising discourse, a nationalist discourse and an ecology-of-language discourse.By collating the data from focus group discussions, language use questionnaires and language diaries, this study also identifies three categories of bilinguals based on their reported language use: Welsh-dominant bilinguals, English-dominant bilinguals and ‘floaters’ (balanced bilinguals). These three categories correlate with how individuals discursively construct Welsh and bilingualism. However, the medium of the focus group discussions (English or mixed-medium Welsh) correlates more closely with the category that is dominant in each focus group.With performativity theory as a framework, bilingualism is to be seen as a dynamic phenomenon, which is constantly being performatively (re)constituted through the situated practices of bilinguals.In short, this study examines how bilingualism in Wales is being performed, i.e. both how it is discursively constructed by various players in various sites, and how it is formed through everyday bilingual practices, not least those of young people in bilingual education.