Edited by Eva Vetter and Nikolay Slavkov
[AILA Review 35:1] 2022
► pp. 128–151
The context of this exploratory study is a Language Café, a bottom-up initiative in which Jews and Palestinians, residing in the same multilingual neighborhood in Jerusalem, learn Hebrew and Arabic from each other. The study explores the features of the bilingual pedagogy which has evolved in the Language Café and the participants’ perceived teaching and learning experiences. A qualitative research design was applied utilizing several data sources: (a) observations and field notes (b) language learning materials; (c) semi-structured interviews with the project leaders; (d) interviews with the Jewish and Palestinian participants and (e) photos posted on social media. Inductively oriented content analyses revealed a number of themes suggesting that the bilingual pedagogy applied in the Language Café is based on principles of equality, equity, and bidirectional respect with regard to the participants’ plurilingual/pluricultural repertoires. The learning process is primarily learner-centered, with a continuous engagement of the participants in interactional activities. Yet, given the unique geopolitical situation, conflictual issues surface. The analyses further reveal that the language learning experience in this context is conducive to the participants’ language and cultural knowledge and to their engagement with the Other group. The participants’ accounts suggest that the Language Café sessions have reduced prejudices and feelings of fear and tension between the two groups. Indeed, the Language Café is perceived as part of the broader geopolitical endeavor to reconfigure the neighborhood within the local municipal binational context where language is used as a means to foster identity affirmation and sociocultural connectivity.