Are Spanish L1 Users More Direct than English L1 Users in the Workplace?

We recently published Exploring Politeness in Business Emails by Vera Freytag. In this post the author explains what inspired her to write the book.

For several decades, there has been the view in cross-cultural pragmatics that Spanish L1 users reveal a higher level of directness than English L1 users, irrespective of a particular language variety. This view was established and reconfirmed in a wide range of comparative studies by means of data elicitation methods such as the Discourse Completion Task.

Having lived in both language cultures for some time and worked with both English and Spanish L1 users, I was increasingly interested in the question of whether directness and politeness are language-dependent dimensions and to what extent contextual factors play a role in one’s use of linguistic strategies and their perception in terms of directness and politeness. Specifically in the workplace context, does it matter if the sender and recipient know each other well? Does it matter whether the sender is of higher, lower or equal hierarchical status compared to the recipient? Does the communication channel matter? Does it matter whether the sender and recipient are of the same or opposite sex?

When I was given the chance to collect 600 English and Spanish business emails of a Community of Practice that I had worked for for six months, I was excited to immerse myself in this email corpus and investigate the contextual complexities that underlie the event of writing email directives. During the time of data analysis and the challenging task of finding explanations for my – partially unexpected – findings, I soon learned that there are many more factors apart from language that appear to influence the choice and perception of a particular directive strategy. I also learned that the complexity of language use and perception can only be examined through a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods both with regard to the collection and interpretation of the data.

Finally, the book reflects my attempt to shed some light on the interdependencies of language and culture in computer-mediated workplace directives and aims to contribute to the field of cross-cultural pragmatics by providing new insights.

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Objects, Bodies and Work Practice edited by Dennis Day and Johannes Wagner. 

L2 Writing Teacher Education in EFL Contexts

We recently published Second Language Writing Instruction in Global Contexts edited by Lisya Seloni and Sarah Henderson Lee. In this post the editors reveal what to expect from the book.

This book explores the complexity of L2 writing teacher education in English as a foreign language (EFL) contexts where teachers face a number of challenges to enhance learners’ opportunities to write in their L2 based on the disconnect between mainstream English as a second language (ESL) pedagogies around writing instruction and the local needs of students, language policies, and language practices in EFL contexts. By highlighting L2 writing teacher literacy across 12 countries, we aim to expand the current, but limited, discussion on what it means to teach L2 writing in contexts where writing is often perceived as a tool to develop language (specifically grammar and vocabulary) by both teachers and students. Doing so allows us to move beyond the monopoly of related research conducted in English-dominant contexts and re-envision L2 writing teacher education as contextually and culturally appropriate.

The chapters of this book, written by L2 writing specialists and practitioners across the globe, share local voices from contexts where the teaching of writing is not always prioritized and draw readers’ attention to various theoretical and pedagogical issues related to the realities faced by language teachers in non-English dominant contexts when it comes to L2 writing instruction, including teacher expertise, teacher preparation and development, L2 writing feedback, and contextual variations. Through the detailed account of language policies, curricular guidelines, teacher knowledge and classroom practices around L2 writing, we demonstrate the significant differences that exist between English-dominant and non-dominant countries in terms of teaching L2 writing. We do this by showcasing challenges and opportunities experienced around L2 writing teacher preparation and development and making L2 writing teacher education in such contexts more visible in the broader literature.

It is our hope that readers will journey through the complete collection and discover the particularities that inform English teachers’ beliefs, attitudes, and practices related to L2 writing instruction in global contexts and move away from “the uncritical embracement of Western-based L1 or L2 writing pedagogies” (p. 2). Moreover, we hope this book promotes the reflective practice required for positive change by encouraging readers to consider the unique realities and needs of their own language teaching and learning contexts and possible research agendas that would make L2 writing teacher education in their context more visible.

 

For more information about this book please see our website

If you found this interesting, you might also like L2 Writing Beyond English edited by Nur Yiğitoğlu and Melinda Reichelt.

How Best to Conduct Multilingual Ethnographic Research

We recently published Learning and Using Languages in Ethnographic Research edited by Robert Gibb, Annabel Tremlett and Julien Danero Iglesias. In this post the editors explain how the book can help researchers with their multilingual ethnographic research.

Are you a researcher who needs to learn a new language or use another language you already know in order to carry out interviews or fieldwork for a PhD or other research project? If so, there are many important questions you are likely to be asking yourself: What’s the best way for me to try and learn the new language? How long will it take me to become fluent enough to conduct the research successfully? What issues am I likely to encounter when working in another language? How can I prepare myself to address these effectively? Just like the contributors to this volume, you’ve probably searched the existing literature on ethnographic research for answers to such questions and found that it has surprisingly little to say about the learning and use of different languages for research purposes.

Learning and Using Languages in Ethnographic Research aims to help researchers like you to make more informed choices when conducting multilingual ethnographic research. In the book, researchers at different stages of their career offer frank and often moving personal accounts of how they attempted – not always entirely successfully! – to learn and use different languages in their work. The contributors are all concerned in particular with reflecting on how their experiences were shaped by wider structures of power, hierarchy and inequality. Drawing on their combined experience, the volume ends by providing some ‘top tips’ for those intending to learn or use another language in order to carry out ethnographic research.

By breaking the silence that still tends to surround language-related issues in fieldwork, the book aims to help researchers to feel more confident about handling language-related matters in their own work, and also to encourage them to add their own voices to what is a long-overdue debate about the multilingual aspects of ethnographic research!

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Critical Reflections on Research Methods edited by Doris S. Warriner and Martha Bigelow.

Sport Heritage Stories from the CVP Team

This month we are publishing Heritage and Sport by Gregory Ramshaw. In this post, some of the CVP team tell tales of their own sport heritage.

Sarah

My parents met at a hockey match in which they squared off against each other (my mum was a kickass goalie) so I have always felt that sport is important in relation to my own heritage!

Aside from that, my sister and I were brought up constantly watching football and cricket; our mum is a fervent and dedicated Man Utd and England cricket fan. We were treated to replays of the 1981 and 1986/7 Ashes series at a young age (the latter of which Daddles the Duck was an exciting feature) and a subconscious impression that Australians-when-playing-cricket should not be liked – cue deep disapproval when we pretended to be the Waugh twins while playing in the garden.

My dad is still playing hockey at 75 – I hope I am as active at his age!

Tommi

I’ve always been fascinated by Finland’s heritage in long-distance running and other Nordic endurance sports. In particular the exploits of Paavo Nurmi, Ville Ritola, Hannes Kolehmainen and the other “flying Finns” has always been of interest, all the way up to Lasse Viren who famously fell during the 10,000m at the 1972 Munich Olympics, picked himself calmly up, chased down David Bedford to not just win the gold medal but also break the world record in the process. Although I haven’t visited many historic sites, the one place I did feel worth a visit was the Eläintarha athletics track in Helsinki, where on June 19th 1924 Paavo Nurmi tested whether it would be possible to run both 1500m and 5000m races in the same hour, since this was going to be the schedule at the Olympics that year. He set new world records for both distances…. Finnish long-distance running has had a glorious past, and as a child I dreamed of matching the exploits of these incredible athletes. Although I have lately conceded that I probably will never run at the Olympics, or break many world records, I do still feel a sense of pride whenever reminded of these events.

Laura

I’ve often found myself by chance or intention at the sites of previous Olympic Games. I find it fascinating to see how some sites have been put to good use and regenerated into something benefiting the local area, while others have become slightly eerie abandoned shells of their former glories. Here I am with some friends at the Olympic Rings in Portland, Dorset, which is where the sailing events were held during the London 2012 Olympics. It was a very cold and blustery day…perfect sailing conditions!

 

 

For more information about Heritage and Sport please see our website.

The Politics of Language and Identity

This month we published Choosing a Mother Tongue by Corinne A. Seals. In this post the author describes an encounter with language, identity and politics on a visit to Ukraine in the winter of 2017.

While I was writing Choosing a Mother Tongue: The Politics of Language and Identity in Ukraine, I was constantly reflecting on language choice and use, especially when I would find myself at a Ukrainian community event with a Ukrainian language conversation happening to my left and a Russian language conversation happening to my right. However, the power of the politics of language and identity struck me particularly during a visit to Ukraine in the winter of 2017.

I had been in L’viv (Western Ukraine), traveled to Kyiv (Central Ukraine), and had just arrived back again in L’viv to the same hotel and same restaurants in which I had spent time during the first part of the trip. However, while I had been very conscious of my language use when first in L’viv (sticking to Ukrainian to align with the preference of most people in this city), I had just been in Kyiv where language choice and use was more fluid and where my hosts were Russian dominant speakers. Additionally, my trip back to L’viv had been during a snowstorm, and in an exhausted state I was not as conscious of my language use.

L’viv during the snowstorm

When I went to grab a quick dinner at the restaurant next to where I was staying, I was bemused by the insistence of the maître d’ that she couldn’t understand me. “Surely,” I thought, “there must be something I’m doing wrong if this hasn’t happened to me before.” It was then that I realized I had been speaking to her in Russian (due to having just returned from Kyiv), but I was in a Crimean Tatar restaurant in L’viv.

This context is significant, as the Crimean Tatars have repeatedly been displaced by both the Soviet and Russian governments in history and had just been displaced again from Crimea not long before my trip to Ukraine. Recognizing my major faux pas, I switched to Ukrainian and apologized before repeating my request in Ukrainian. The maître d’ smiled slightly, nodded in acknowledgement, and proceeded with our conversation.

A Ukrainian poem in L’viv about language and identity by famous poet, Lesya Ukrainka

Now, Russian and Ukrainian are similar enough that most people can at least loosely understand one if you speak the other. So, this was highly unlikely to be a case of not having proficiency in a language. Rather (and as further informed by our interaction), this was a political statement reflecting linguistic history and identity. It was more important for the maître d’ to uphold her linguistic principles than to make the transaction. However, my awareness and acknowledgement of this, as well as my subsequent linguistic alignment with her, meant that all was again equal.

This is one of many examples that speaks to the strength of connection between language and identity, as well as the importance of being aware of current and historical events related to language and politics wherever you are.

Corinne Seals (Mykytka), Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

corinne.seals@vuw.ac.nz

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Language, Identity and Education on the Arabian Peninsula edited by Louisa Buckingham.

Travelling to Frankfurt Book Fair

The Frankfurt Book Fair is one of our most important events each year to promote our publications, meet with our bookselling and distribution contacts, learn about the future trends in publishing, and generally take the pulse of the industry for the next year. It is always an exhausting week, with back-to-back meetings set every 30 minutes for three days, and socialising and networking opportunities in the evenings.

With such a punishing schedule at the fair, we have always felt that we should make the travel as pleasant and as relaxing as possible, and so in recent years we have taken a scenic drive with an overnight ferry trip and lunch stops in the beautiful Rhine valley to enjoy. Following a car accident that left my car unusable just weeks before the fair this year, we were left with a decision to make. Should we fly to the fair? In the 22 years that I’ve been visiting the fair, I have only flown twice, and the memory of Frankfurt airport full of tens of thousands of book trade contacts trying to leave the city after the fair is firmly etched on my memory, so we decided to return to travelling by train. In the five years since I last travelled by train, connections and frequency of trains along the route have improved, and as such we were easily able to leave Bristol in the early morning, and with just one cross-London underground trip and a change of trains in Brussels, we arrived in Frankfurt by the mid-afternoon to set up our stand. During this time we were able to sit back and relax, eat at our seats in the train, and spread our work out and prepare for our meetings in a very civilised manner. We were even lucky enough to have our own compartment on the Brussels-Frankfurt leg of the journey, which felt very like a step back to the age of Agatha Christie. Thankfully though there were no mysteries to be solved!

Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof

After three days of successful meetings at the fair, we again boarded the train at Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof, and were able to write up all of our post-book fair reports during the first leg of the journey, before a quick lunch at Brussels Midi. The train connections worked seamlessly, and we were back in Bristol in time for dinner on the Saturday evening.

We may have saved a few hours had we travelled by air, but by taking the train we saved ourselves the trouble of first travelling to the airport, then the hassle of check-in, security, and then waiting in departures, before a cramped flight and another wait for bags. Coupled with the environmental benefit of travelling by train, it really wasn’t a difficult choice and it’s one that we will most likely choose to make again in the future!

Tommi

Ever wondered what the Frankfurt Book Fair is like? In 2017 Laura and Tommi filmed every aisle of every hall! You can watch the video here.

Introducing International Teaching Assistants

We recently published A Transdisciplinary Approach to International Teaching Assistants edited by Stephen Daniel Looney and Shereen Bhalla. In this post the editors explain how their book reframes the notion of ‘the ITA problem’.

For several decades in North America, international graduate students have accounted for a significant portion of the teaching labor force at large universities. Thus, novice multilingual teachers with little to no pedagogical training are leading courses populated by undergraduates from the US who have limited experience with intercultural interaction in high-stakes contexts. By the 1980s, this situation had been dubbed “the International Teaching Assistant (ITA) Problem,” and the problem was perceived to be a sociolinguistic one, i.e. lacking symmetry between the speech and pragmatic expectations of ITAs and undergraduates. States began passing legislation requiring that ITAs’ English proficiency be certified before they could undertake teaching responsibilities. This led to the emergence of ITA Programs at universities across the US and Canada as well as the establishment of the ITA Interest Section in the International TESOL organization. ITA Programs vary vastly both in where they are housed in universities, e.g. an academic department, teaching and learning center, or Intensive English Program, and in the services that they provide, e.g. semester-long courses or shorter workshops and seminars. The ITA Interest Section is composed almost exclusively of teachers and administrators with few researchers being active participants. This imbalance has arguably caused ITA as a sub-field of applied linguistics and TESOL to be marginalized and misunderstood as deficit oriented.

Framing ITAs as a problem surely offends the 21st century applied linguist’s sensibilities, but researchers and practitioners realized early on that the issue is more complex than just pronunciation and grammar which can be addressed with remedial ESL courses. ITAs need to be able to exploit and interpret prosodic and multimodal cues, and classroom communication is a two-way street, involving undergraduates as well as ITAs. At the same time, perceptions of speech and expectations for classroom behavior are influenced by experiences and biases that may be conscious or not. While ITA research has dealt with language, interaction, and the perceptions, attitudes, and experiences of ITAs and undergraduates, other stakeholders such as faculty members, ITA practitioners, and university administrators have only entered the periphery of the discussion at best and an in-depth look at policy is non-existent to the best of my knowledge.

Drawing on recent developments in applied linguistics, our volume is a collection of state-of-the-art ITA studies from a variety of perspectives. While there are chapters addressing language and social interaction, there are also studies of communities of practice, the contact hypothesis, assessment, policy, and program evaluation. As a whole, the contributions to this volume reframe ITAs as skilled multilingual professionals who are developing sophisticated interactional repertoires for teaching and academic interaction. Additionally, these multilingual professionals are being socialized into communities of practice including university classrooms, departments, research labs, and student organizations. The collection recognizes the roles multiple stakeholders play in ITA and the institutional and ideological realities that these stakeholders face. While ITA has been framed as a North American issue, English is increasingly the medium of instruction in universities around the world, making our volume relevant to researchers, teachers, and administrators worldwide. The use of English for Teaching (and Academic) Purposes is a global issue that deserves further attention. Our volume only begins to crack the surface of what could be fertile ground for applied linguists, but we hope it can serve as a springboard for further investigation.

 

For more information about this book please see our website

If you found this interesting, you might also like International Student Engagement in Higher Education by Margaret Kettle.

Tommi and Laura’s visit to Beijing

Following on from the conference in Shanghai (which you can read about in my blog post here), I flew up to Beijing, where I met Tommi. There, we spent a busy few days attending meetings arranged by our local Chinese sales reps, Ben, Annie and Monica of CPS. China is one of our biggest markets so it was a really valuable opportunity to meet with customers and learn more about the Chinese book market.

Laura, Annie and Tommi and CEPIEC's offices
Laura, Annie and Tommi and CEPIEC’s offices

Our two biggest customers in China are China National Publications Import & Export Group (CNPIEC) and China Educational Publishers Import & Export Corporation Ltd. (CEPIEC). Given how similar the two names are, I have always struggled to keep them separate in my head! But now, having visited their offices and spent time getting to know each company and some of its staff individually, I have a much clearer idea of these two major customers, how their businesses work and how ours interacts with them. At the meetings we discussed matters such as the book market in China in general, import of our books to China, their customers’ preferences (paperback, hardback or ebooks) and their ebook platforms, as well as our new books and catalogues, of course!

Lunch with Ben and Monica
Lunch with Ben and Monica

As well as visiting booksellers, we also visited the public library in Tianjin and Beijing International Studies University Library. There, we met with acquisitions staff and were introduced to the libraries, discussed the collections that they hold and how best to serve them with information about our forthcoming books. We also learned about library budgets and buying periods and how they make their book choices. These meetings provided us with useful insights into the needs and interests of our customers, as well as enjoyable visits to Chinese libraries…I was delighted to discover that libraries smell the same the world over, that wonderful smell of exciting books waiting to be read!

Laura

Laura’s trip to Shanghai for the SCRELE Language Teaching for Young Learners Conference

At the end of September, I attended the Shanghai Center for Research in English Language Education (SCRELE) Conference on Language Teaching for Young Learners.

Annamaria Pinter's pre-conference workshop
Annamaria Pinter’s pre-conference workshop

The conference started with a day of workshops for local teachers and students. The morning session I attended was ran by Annamaria Pinter from the University of Warwick, UK. Her session was called ‘Listening to Children’s Voices’ and she spoke about the importance of engaging children in their learning, motivating them and giving them ownership of their studies, and the different ways in which teachers might do this. We participated in several classroom activities, such as questioning Annamaria about the items in her handbag and seeing how many English words we could make out of the letters in the word ‘chocolate’. I was beaten in this task by the Swedish attendee next to me!

During the afternoon session, I attended Jonathan Newton’s workshop on creativity in classroom language teaching. This was also an interactive session during which we discussed the different ways in which teachers can engage learners. This included thinking up unusual ways in which teachers might start a class or do the unexpected. I left the session enthused and inspired with all sorts of ideas…only to remember that I am not a teacher and won’t be putting these ideas into practice!

Rod Ellis' opening keynote
Rod Ellis’ opening keynote

Then, as the pouring rain began, so did the main conference. But we were not concerned, as we were told that in China rain at the start of an event is a good omen as it means that the event will run as smoothly as the rain! And that was true…the conference did run smoothly and was an interesting few days, filled full of talks on the topic of teaching languages to young learners. The conference organisers had invited an impressive array of keynote speakers: Rod Ellis, Maria Pilar Garcia Mayo, Anna-Maria Pinter, Xiaotang Cheng, Yafu Gong and Jonathan Newton, as well as two colloquia organised by Janet Enever and Yuko Goto Butler, and several sessions of papers.

Lunch with Huachu and Angel from SFLEP
Lunch with Huachu and Angel from SFLEP

During my time in Shanghai I was also able to squeeze in lunch with my long-standing contact, Huachu Liu and his colleague Angel, of the Shanghai Foreign Language Education Press. We have worked together with SFLEP over many years to enable some of our books to be available in local editions (at local prices) for Chinese readers. It was great to finally see where they are based and to enjoy chatting over a delicious lunch of local specialties.

All in all, it was a great trip to Shanghai, despite the pouring rain!

 

The Increasing Importance of Learning English and Chinese for Young People

This month we published Learning English and Chinese as Foreign Languages by Wen-Chuan Lin. In this post the author talks about the themes explored in the book.

This book compares English as a Foreign Language (EFL) teaching and learning in Taiwan with Chinese as a Foreign Language (CFL) education in England and highlights how classroom activities are embedded within ethnic or social group cultures, family resources and school visions or goals. From Vygotsky-inspired sociocultural theory and a cross-cultural comparative angle, I hope to highlight the following themes and critical issues in foreign language education:

  • The impact of globalisation on EFL/CFL: There is a growing impact of globalisation on foreign language education and I would argue for a future need to view foreign language learning from traditional ‘knowledge value’ as school subjects or ‘use value’ to ‘exchange value’ and ‘intercultural value’.
  • Elite social status of EFL/CFL: There are similar emerging social issues such as elitism and inequality in language learning identities that affect both EFL and CFL practice in Taiwan and England. This social inequality has the potential to persist if certain attitudes remain; such as the English educational myth that ‘only intelligent students can learn languages well’.
  • Pedagogical ‘cultural bridging’ and ‘sociolinguistic bridging’: Those Taiwanese teachers who employed students’ ethnic culture or mother-tongue in dialogical interactions were able to create a psychological co-membership and enhanced students’ EFL learning, while in England similar interactional use of students’ everyday culture or teacher’s own background culture were also detected in Chinese classrooms. In teaching CFL, an emerging form of culturally responsive pedagogy using learners’ existing sociolinguistic knowledge of English to learn Chinese was found to be useful in helping young people who are native speakers of English.
  • ‘Knowledge-based’ EFL vs. ‘activity-based’ CFL pedagogy: Among the differences of interactional styles evident in schools in both studies, the most pervasive general pedagogical pattern was of ‘knowledge-based’ grammar teaching in Taiwan in contrast to ‘activity-based’ pedagogy in England despite the fact that the class sizes are different – on average 30-40 in Taiwan and 10-15 in England. It could be argued that an ‘activity-based’ pedagogy would help students to move from a traditional view of foreign language learning as ‘knowledge value’ to one of ‘exchange value’ and ‘intercultural value’ in an era of rapid globalisation.
  • Emerging social issues in EFL and CFL: Both EFL and CFL practices are not isolated from the influence of socialisation and enculturation. Emerging social issues such as resource-divide and social gender identities were discovered in learning these two foreign languages that must draw our attention at personal, interpersonal and policy level if we wish to encourage students to access them without excluding those who are not provided with appropriate cultural resources.

It is my hope that this book will provide pedagogical insights for foreign language teachers to take into account classroom pedagogy that incorporates both cultural and sociolinguistic bridging in order to motivate learning; and provide theoretical and methodological insights for researchers to look at young people’s foreign language learning processes that take place within social, cultural and historical contexts.

Wen-Chuan Lin, Department of English, Wenzao Ursuline University of Languages, Taiwan

97072@mail.wzu.edu.tw

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Soft Power and the Worldwide Promotion of Chinese Language Learning by Jeffrey Gil.