How do International Service-Learning programs attend to linguistic difference?

A review of literature


  • Roger Anderson Central State University


Reciprocity is a tenet of International Service-learning (ISL), yet ISL reviews show it underestimates communication’s (ergo language’s) critical and practical importance to reciprocity.  To understand how ISL addresses linguistic difference between participants and host communities, a qualitative content analysis of recent peer-reviewed articles in which programs were described as having addressed linguistic difference.  Nearly half of the literature did not explicate how language was addressed.  Across 25 programs, seven methods were identified.  Programs most commonly involved participant language lessons and utilizing participants’ extant second language skills.    ISL programs were found to value participants’ second language skills more than found in previous reviews, contradicting a pattern of general indifference.  This review advocates providing participants language lessons and critical linguistic awareness, moving towards a plurilingual reciprocity.  Constituting an initial step, this review urges further exploration of cross-linguistic communication and greater critical reflexivity on the topic of linguistic difference in ISL programs.