What Makes a Good EFL Teacher and How Can Teacher Educators Best Support Them?

This month we are publishing Early Professional Development in EFL Teaching by Chitose Asaoka. In this post the author explains how she came to study student teachers’ professional development in a Japanese EFL context.

Over the last twenty years, I have worked as a teacher educator of English as a Foreign Language in Japan. In order to become a secondary school teacher in Japan, you need to attend a teacher certification programme offered at a university and acquire a teaching qualification upon graduation. As a teacher educator in one such programme, I have always tried to mentor and accommodate student teachers (most of whom are native speakers of Japanese) through many situations and contexts.

In a teacher certification programme, student teachers learn about up-to-date approaches and methods of teaching English, such as communicative practice and student-centred approaches. They also learn how to use English effectively as a medium of instruction, which is one of the most-recently introduced education policies in Japan. During a three-week period of teaching practice at schools, however, many of the student teachers face the reality of the classroom and are asked to adjust to school contexts. Thus, they often cannot freely put what they have acquired into practice. For example, I frequently hear post-practicum stories from them, where they are asked to teach with the grammar-translation method, since passing the entrance exam is still a big priority for students. Moreover, they are not often allowed to teach in English, for various reasons, which is different from their pre-practicum expectations.

In many such cases, student teachers are often isolated and struggle to resolve the challenges by themselves. I am also remote from their actual school-based experiences and can only monitor their development through their teaching logs or stories when they come back to the university. Thus, questions were raised in my mind, and I started to feel the necessity to re-examine the process of student teachers’ professional development in a Japanese EFL context, as well as the kinds of experiences and challenges that they typically go through. For them to become good English teachers, what qualities are necessary, and what kinds of support can we provide as teacher educators? These questions inspired me to embark upon an empirical study in which I monitored how student teachers developed their teacher expertise, how their views on what makes a good English teacher shifted and developed, and what factors had an impact on their learning-to-teach processes.

Through detailed case studies created from interviews and reflective journals, this inquiry delves into the particular context of initial teacher education in Japan and draws out unique perspectives on student teachers’ professional development in initial teacher education. This book also shows the possible need to intervene at various stages of language teacher education, which is highly relevant for other settings of initial teacher education programmes beyond Japan. I hope that the findings presented in this book will be of interest and value to future teachers, in-service teachers, teacher educators and researchers interested in teacher education and the professional development of foreign language teachers.

Chitose Asaoka
casaoka@dokkyo.ac.jp

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Reflective Practice as Professional Development by Atsuko Watanabe. 

IATEFL in Liverpool 2019

Janet Enever's opening talk
Janet Enever’s opening talk

The conference started for me with the pre-conference meeting of the Young Learners SIG at which Janet Enever, series editor for our Early Language Learning in School Contexts (ELLSC) series, gave the opening keynote. Her talk was entitled ‘21st Century ELT for 3 to 10-year olds’ and she tackled many current issues in working and researching with young language learners, such as the age factor, assessment and native/non-native speaker teachers. She stressed the importance of making sure that the conditions are right to ensure the development of language proficiency in children. Among the other speakers of the day was Shelagh Rixon, one of the editors of our forthcoming book Integrating Assessment into Early Language Learning and Teaching Practice, who presented her work with her colleague Amanda Davies: ‘Primary learning: borrowing the best from ELT and the mainstream’.

The Royal Albert Dock near the conference centre
The Royal Albert Dock near the conference centre

Another of our series editors, Sarah Mercer, who, together with Stephen Ryan, oversees our Psychology of Language Learning and Teaching (PLLT) series, was also present at the conference. Her latest book Language Teacher Psychology (edited with Achilleas Kostoulas) was very popular with the delegates, as was her older title Positive Psychology in SLA (edited with Peter D. MacIntyre and Tammy Gregersen). The second book in this new PLLT series Visualising Multilingual Lives (edited by Paula Kalaja and Silvia Melo-Pfeifer) was published just last month and was also a real hit. Many delegates found not only the content very appealing but also appreciated the full colour printing throughout the book.

Down in the exhibition hall, I had a very busy few days, with many of our books attracting attention from the IATEFL crowd and plenty of authors and familiar faces stopping by to say hello and browse our new titles. Aside from the books in our PLLT and ELLSC series, highlights for the delegates included Creativity and Innovations in ELT Materials Development edited by Dat Bao, Language Learner Autonomy by David Little, Leni Dam and Lienhard Legenhausen, Spirituality and English Language Teaching edited by Mary Shepard Wong and Ahmar Mahboob and Language Learning and Teaching in a Multilingual World by Marie-Françoise Narcy-Combes et al.

The Royal Liver Building
The Royal Liver Building

The conference was held in the Liverpool Arena, which was totally transformed and unrecognisable from when I last came to it, to watch England play an international netball match. It was funny to be in the same venue with our books! The arena is situated on the waterfront and I enjoyed walking every morning along the docks, despite the blistering cold and wind. The docks are also home to Liverpool’s Three Graces and many museums, the Tate gallery and plenty of restaurants and cafes. Luckily I had some free time before I left the city and my favourite visit was to the Open Eye Gallery, where there is a striking exhibition of portraits of female UK MPs. Liverpool is certainly somewhere I’d like to return to for a holiday.

Laura

The National Institute of Education, Sri Lanka

We were recently approached by the Director of Bilingual Education for Sri Lanka’s National Institute of Education, G. H. Asoka, with a request to donate some textbooks to them for use in teacher development courses on bilingual education. In this post the Director tells us a bit about the National Institute of Education and how the books we’ve donated will be used.

Sri Lanka’s National Institute of Education (NIE) is the apex body of developing curriculum of Sri Lankan general education. Its role consists of four tasks: advising the Minister of Education in any succeeded government, teacher development, curriculum development and educational research. The department offers services on bilingual education and foreign languages addressing these four areas.

The books donated by Multilingual Matters will be used in the teacher development courses on bilingual education initiated islandwide and several will be kept in the library of the Institute and for the use of the Department of Foreign Languages and Bilingual Education.

The NIE is a national service with links at international level too. As the Director of Bilingual Education, I am responsible for these four tasks in line with bilingual education in addition to National Curriculum Development in general education.

There are different types of projects run under different educational disciplines. In 2019 the projects being run with regard to bilingual education are as follows:

  1. Action research programme with 40 researchers in 2019 islandwide
  2. Trainer-trainer programme on CLIL
  3. Awareness programmes for different stakeholders such as parents, principals, ISAs, teachers, directors and other stakeholders of education
  4. Five research reports on learning in bilingual education
  5. One research report on pre-service teacher development in bilingual education
  6. School and cluster based bilingual education programme islandwide
  7. Handbook on Sri Lankan CLIL
  8. Teacher Moderator Manual on CLIL
  9. Research conference in the Eastern province on Bilingual Education
  10. National Curriculum Framework on bilingual education
  11. Publishing the research journal
  12. Reviewing articles in international journals

We’re pleased to be contributing to the important work the National Institute of Education does and hope the books we’ve donated will prove useful.

Using a Narrative Approach to Explore Teaching Practice

This month we are publishing Narratives of Adult English Learners and Teachers by Clarena Larrotta. In this post the author discusses her choice to use narratives to present a picture of adult language learning.

Working as a university professor of adult education and TESOL (teaching English to speakers of other languages), I came to realize there was not a book that could help the graduate students in my classes to grasp the reality of teaching English and literacy related subjects to adult learners. Similarly, interacting with volunteer adult educators who did not have language/pedagogy training and who volunteer as ESL instructors because they know the language and have time to do so, I realized there was not a book I could recommend for them to read and that captured the voices of both adult language learners and teachers. Therefore, this book was born as a response to these two groups of people when they asked, ‘what can I read to get a good picture of what is going on with regards to teaching adult language learners and non-traditional adult learners?’

Considering this audience, narratives and storytelling seemed to be the perfect medium to transmit a powerful and memorable message to them. I wanted them to understand that we need to go beyond theory and outside the classroom walls to include community and envision adult learners as whole human beings. Older learners are among the least studied groups in the literature and many of them take on new challenges as they migrate to a new country, and as they face the need to learn a new language-culture.

Providing an account of both narratives (adult learners’ and teachers’) aimed to inspire trainee teachers and practitioners in the field of adult education to become better and more reflective teachers. The book supports the idea of preparing trainee teachers for actual scenarios they are likely to encounter with adult language learners and colleagues in adult education programs. Likewise, the volume invites actual adult educators to reflect on their practices and contemplate the realities of the learners they serve. In summary, the book aims to honor the work of language learners and TESOL practitioners and to share highlights from their learning/teaching journeys.

The narratives in this book make accessible the stories shared by learners and teachers as they lived them in real-life settings. The book chapters and their respective stories contain a beginning, middle and end. The beginning provides the context and supporting theory, the middle presents the main issues to be considered and the end gives clo­sure to the reader. As a result, each chapter introduces (1) the participants in the story – teachers’ and learners’ experiences and their interactions; (2) the context, socio-political, and socio-cultural dimensions; and (3) the physical settings where the story is located -the program, the course, the language-culture and country of origin. The learners’ stories allow teachers to gain empathy and cultural knowledge. A narrative approach to exploring one’s teaching practice leads to a better understanding of that context and hopefully sharing this learning will promote change and encourage other teachers to make sense of and reflect on their personal teaching stories as well.

Clarena Larrotta, PhD
Texas State University
CL24@txstate.edu

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Educating Refugee-background Students edited by Shawna Shapiro, Raichle Farrelly and Mary Jane Curry.

Building Bridges as We Go: Connecting Schools with Multilingual Families

This month we are publishing Connecting School and the Multilingual Home by Maria R. Coady. In this post the author explains how her own experiences provided the inspiration for the book.

I grew up navigating various ethnic and linguistic enclaves north of Boston, Massachusetts, where I was born. My grandparents’ families had emigrated from parts of Italy, and I fondly recall my great uncles and aunts speaking their local language and mixing English and Italian. I imagined what they thought while sitting under the cool shade of the apple trees while younger generations of American kids ran through the yard and played bocci. Family was central to our identity, and our identity was our culture, our history, and our language.

My sense of both family and language permeated every aspect of my own educational experience up through college: what I thought I could do, how I could do it, what I would study, and who I could become. One thing for sure was the message that I received from my family: being successful in school was paramount. I was the first generation to navigate access to college, so I learned the hard way (alone) to unravel the complexities surrounding educational programs, relationships, and even financial aid.

As my career matured from an early start in business into bilingual education, the same lens of access to education illuminated the barriers that other families—children, parents, and caregivers—faced. I could envision the bridges between the school and immigrant, multilingual families but remained dismayed by how infrequently I actually saw them built. What remained obvious to me was how many multilinguals have a similar experience—valuing education without having the knowledge of how to access it fully.

Rural multilingual family working in the horse farming industry, southeast United States

The inspiration for this book stems from my own experiences and 25 years of working with multilingual families in the northeast US, Colorado, and rural north central Florida. I have also had the experiences of working with international rural communities. I find that rural, multilingual families’ strengths go largely unnoticed, and are definitely not tapped into as a resource. Their many languages and literacy practices differ from those assumed by educators, leaving families positioned as disinterested in their child’s education.

The Gómez family is one telling example. A family of five children, I recall the second youngest daughter wanting to participate in a 4 day, overnight field trip to Washington, DC—a very long distance from Florida. This annual 5th grade trip, organized by the school, required students to have cameras (back then, disposable cameras), a suitcase, spending money, and good walking shoes. Although the parents understood the importance of the trip to their daughter, they did not understand the process of completing the extensive field trip paperwork, which was provided in only English, nor the details and items needed for the trip. The father and mother worked overtime and sold personal items in order to pay for some of the trip itself. My students and I fundraised to ensure that the daughter had the shoes, camera, and suitcase needed, and while advocating for one family at a time is important, we need the tools to make more systemic changes in schools on behalf of multilingual families.

Our job is to build relational trust (Bryk & Schneider, 2002) with families, and as Michal Domínguez (2017) notes, hacer puentes al andar – building bridges as we go.  That is the spirit of this book, which is filled with concrete ways to support reflection, action, and to humanize our work as educators by connecting schools with multilingual families.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Narratives of Adult English Learners and Teachers by Clarena Larrotta.

10 Tips for Teaching Multilingual Learners

This month we published Language Learning and Teaching in a Multilingual World by Marie-Françoise Narcy-Combes, Jean-Paul Narcy-Combes, Julie McAllister, Malory Leclère and Grégory Miras. In this post the authors give us some advice for teaching multilingual learners.Teaching a language or content in a multilingual classroom (or any type of learning environment, such as telecollaboration or distance learning) is becoming the norm as well as a challenge faced by more and more teachers. But it is also an asset, as learners have opportunities to communicate with peers of different origins, cultures and backgrounds and thus develop tolerance and respect for others. To maximise the benefits of these opportunities while minimising the potential threats, here are a few tips to consider:

  1. Take each learner as he/she is, as a unique, complex and multifaceted individual who brings their knowledge, skills and cultural understandings to the learning situation. A one-size-fits-all approach is likely to prove ineffective in a multilingual environment (and in other environments too).
  2. As a teacher, always be kind and supportive and learn why you should be.
  3. Value (and use) all the languages of each learner in the classroom equally. No language should be ruled out.
  4. Propose clear and realistic learning goals and ensure that learners understand them. To that effect, use the language resources available (virtual or physical).
  5. Adapt the work to the needs which emerge as the project moves forward instead of following a predefined sequence. However, never lose sight of the initial goal: it can be reached in many different ways.
  6. Propose meaningful tasks that are connected to the world outside school. By doing so, the learners will get involved in the activities, which in turn will foster learning.
  7. Arrange for the learners to communicate and interact in the target language with people from other countries, as a meaningful way to use and practise the language they need for their schooling.
  8. Identify all the tools that can be made available to students to help them become independent language learners and users. A teacher does not have all the solutions, but learners can be resourceful and incredibly helpful when trusted. Resources can be available in the learners’ original language and connected to their culture.
  9. Encourage peer collaboration and interaction: see number 7. Interaction helps students make meaning and learners’ explanations are often more understandable to their peers than the teacher’s. In a multilingual class, learners who have the same original language could work together.
  10. Work to foster learner creativity and engagement by providing stimulating learning environments.

Marie-Françoise Narcy-Combes, University of Nantes
Jean-Paul Narcy-Combes, University of Paris 3 Sorbonne-Nouvelle
Julie McAllister, University of Nantes
Gregory Miras, University of Rouen
Malory Leclère, University of Paris 3 Sorbonne-Nouvelle

Contacts

mf.narcycombes@wanadoo.fr

julie.mcallister1@univ-nantes.fr

 

For more information about the book please see our website

If you found this interesting, you might also like The Multilingual Reality by Ajit K. Mohanty.

Taiwan’s Gendered Language Learning Ideologies

This month we published Gender, Neoliberalism and Distinction through Linguistic Capital by Mark Fifer Seilhamer. In this post the author talks about the research that informed the book.

The title of my new book just out this month is Gender, Neoliberalism and Distinction through Linguistic Capital: Taiwanese Narratives of Struggle and Strategy, with ‘Gender’ prominently foregrounded as the first element of this title. But while ‘Neoliberalism’ and ‘Distinction through Linguistic Capital’ had been dominant themes since the very beginning of the manuscript’s preparation, the extent to which my focal participants’ (female) gender impacted their experiences is an issue that was addressed only fleetingly in the manuscript I originally submitted to Multilingual Matters back in 2016. This early version featured a fairly straightforward class-focused Bourdieusian analysis of my participants’ narrated experiences, seemingly (in retrospect) oblivious to the fact that gender does indeed play an outsized role in my participants’ stories, as well as in the dynamics of multilingualism in Taiwan more generally.

The centrality of gender to my participants’ experiences as language learners was pointed out by a reviewer, who asked what I made “of the fact that some students are quite successful at making friends with foreigners, getting free language practice, lining up Skype partners, having boyfriends to talk English with and to pay for trips abroad”. This reviewer went on to pose other questions that served to guide my radical overhaul of the manuscript: “Are young women considered ideal candidates for the sorts of international marketing/public relations/sales jobs many of the women get? How are ideologies of language acquisition gendered in Taiwan, and are these women seen as compromised in terms of their relationships and friendships with foreigners?”

Ideologies of language acquisition are indeed highly gendered in Taiwan, with the idea that males are simply no good at learning languages regarded by many as a commonsensical notion. This common belief results, of course, in language study beyond minimum requirements being almost exclusively the preserve of females. At the start of this research, I did not set out to include only female participants. In the junior college program specializing in languages that I was recruiting participants from, male students were, however, very much in the minority and my pool of possible participants consisted almost entirely of female students. Because it is commonly believed that female brains are specifically wired for learning languages, young women are encouraged to study foreign languages and pursue careers in international marketing, public relations, and interpreting – the sorts of occupations that my participants did, in fact, wind up in. My participants, in their interviews, had indeed addressed Taiwan’s gendered language learning ideologies and the notion of gendered language work, as well as positioning by others due to their relationships with foreigners. In my revisions, the focus on gender and the intersectional questioning that this focus necessitated really did change the fundamental character of the book.

In what now seems to be a glaring omission, I neglected to include an ‘Acknowledgements’ page for this book. This can be attributed to the extreme sense of relief I felt when the editors allowed me to go over the stipulated word limit with my final revised manuscript. Looking back now, I’m pretty sure they would have had no problem with my adding an ‘Acknowledgements’ page, but at the time, I was reluctant to request any more words for anything. I will take this opportunity now then to acknowledge the assistance and contributions of numerous individuals: my study’s participants, without whom the research and book would not have been at all possible; my doctoral thesis supervisors, Lionel Wee, Joseph Sung-Yul Park, and Mie Hiramoto; and everyone at Multilingual Matters, who were all incredibly patient with me, granting me extension after extension as I struggled to address reviewer concerns. And I am also immensely grateful to the anonymous reviewer who alerted me to the inadequacies of the earlier version of my manuscript – before gender was prominently brought to the fore.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Language, Education and Neoliberalism edited by Mi-Cha Flubacher and Alfonso Del Percio.

Multilingualism As Lived Through Visual Means

This month we published Visualising Multilingual Lives edited by Paula Kalaja and Sílvia Melo-Pfeifer. In this post the editors explain how they used visual methodologies to examine multilinguals’ emotions and their expression of those emotions.

It is only gradually being acknowledged that multilinguals, or people who use more than one language, form the majority of people in the world, not monolinguals. However, multilinguals find themselves in different contexts and for different reasons, and their knowledge of the languages varies. In addition, becoming and being multilingual are quite heterogeneous and individual achievements are experienced very differently by subjects, depending on their contexts and life trajectories.

There are two approaches to multilinguals. The objective approach attempts to figure out the mechanisms inside a multilingual’s mind and trace developments in his or her knowledge of any language (and possible stages in the process) in terms of mastery of a linguistic system or in terms of an ability to communicate or interact with others in the language. In contrast, the subjective approach attempts to find out how a multilingual feels about becoming or being multilingual, or what the different languages and their use mean to him or her personally. In other words, the second approach focuses on multilinguals and their lives as subjectively experienced or as lived, including positive and negative emotions, attitudes, beliefs, visions and identities.

Traditional methodologies (such as questionnaires, interviews and observation) may not be the most suitable options when tackling issues like this, as they may suffer from a “linguistic bias” in their attempts to describe or explain emotions, which are not always easy to put into words. So, to address these sensitive issues, we decided to make use of visual methodologies of various kinds, including drawings and photographs, as mediators between emotions and their expression by multilinguals. However, as a rule, visual data were complemented with other types of data, and the starting points and ways of analysing the pools of data for form and/or content vary from one study to another. But even if visual materials are not always used as the only pool of data, they bring to the foreground aspects that individuals choose to visually represent and comment on. So, using visual methodologies may also be about what is not visible, not represented or not valued by the multilingual subject.

As editors of Visualising Multilingual Lives, we invite the readers to learn about visual narratives accounted by multilinguals in different parts of the world, printed in full color. The different chapters of the book offer coherent, original and individualized insights into multilingualism as experienced in three domains: the multilingual self, the multilingual learner and multilingual teacher education. With a preface by Claire Kramsch, the volume acknowledges the potential of arts-based methodologies in grasping the singularities of multilinguals and their linguistic biographies.

Paula Kalaja paula.kalaja@jyu.fi
Sílvia Melo-Pfeifer silvia.melo-pfeifer@uni-hamburg.de

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also enjoy Language Teacher Psychology edited by Sarah Mercer and Achilleas Kostoulas.

A Tour of English Learning and Teaching Around the World

We recently published Conversation Analytic Perspectives on English Language Learning, Teaching and Testing in Global Contexts edited by Hanh thi Nguyen and Taiane Malabarba. In this post the editors take us on a world tour of English learning and teaching…

This book offers a tour around the world, but unlike the casual tourist, you will get right into the scenes that take place daily at each stop. So, put yourself in the shoes of the people there to appreciate for a moment the constraints they are under, and the possibilities they find.

In Denmark, you are a child in an integrated-grade class of first- and second-graders. Your government has just mandated that students must learn English from first grade. First grade! You’re barely finding your way around in class, and now you’re learning a foreign language. But your teacher is creative – she has a game for the children. You and a classmate walk outside while the other kids stay inside and each chooses a clothing item drawn on the board (later you hear that some kids try to choose a diaper and a jockstrap, but the teacher doesn’t allow those!). When you and your partner come back in, you have to name two clothing items on the board, in English, and the two kids who chose those items are supposed to swap seats. It turns out that you mostly learn “swap seats,” and how you acquire this phrase reveals quite a lot about how language is learned.

In Vietnam, you are a hotel staff member in charge of escorting guests to their rooms. You need to tell them about the WiFi in the hotel, but the problem is, every time you pronounce “password,” people seem really confused! How you ‘crack the code’ here shows the creativity that users of English as a lingua franca exhibit on a daily basis as they learn language ‘in the wild.’

In China, you’re teaching a large high-school class of 70 students. Keeping them focused and engaged requires clear routines. Yet, you need to encourage their participation as well. How you approach this dilemma exemplifies the tricky balance between structure and expansion.

In Turkey, you are a teacher in training. You have your lesson plan all laid out and you have prepared your instructions in advance. But what to do when your students say, “Sorry, what are we doing?” or “We don’t understand!”? You soon realize that the lesson’s success depends more on how you respond in these moments than on the lesson plan in your mind.

Image derives from original world map in acrylic by Lara Mukahirn, photograph by Nicolas Raymond, http://www.freestock.ca

In Japan, you teach engineering students, and you need to assess their speaking abilities. So you ask your students to tell you how to draw geometric shapes in English, step by step. What you then wonder is, whose competence is being assessed? Yours or theirs? In another class, also to assess speaking abilities, you ask your students to talk in pairs. To be fair and to manage your class time, you put a timer in front of them. It turns out that they pay a lot of attention to the timer, and you are surprised to notice how the timer has become an integrated part of their interaction.

In South Korea, you are an American co-teacher assigned to assist a Korean host co-teacher. This co-teaching business is tricky since there are no clear rules about who’s supposed to do what. One moment you are giving out heart sticker awards to student groups and the host teacher says something. Another time you tap a student on the head with a folder and the host teacher says something (well, maybe he has a point there, but you are a teacher, too!). You soon learn that co-teaching, in practice, often involves a lot of tension and negotiation.

In Iran, you teach a college-level class, and you want students to participate in open discussions about controversial issues, such as capital punishment, body piercing and charity donation. The problem is, sometimes what the students say resonates with your beliefs and fits with your lesson plan, but sometimes it doesn’t. Now, you must face a fundamental problem: how much control do you want and how much freedom do you give?

In Brazil, you’re teaching a beginner-level class, and your students can’t speak a lot of English yet. However, the school promotes an unspoken ‘English-only’ policy in the classroom. How do you stick to English when explaining new words or when students talk to each other in Portuguese? It turns out that even the constraints of the rule can sometimes open up opportunities.

In Mexico, you teach English at a boarding school to indigenous children of Mixe (ayüük) ethnicity. What this means is that your students are learning English as a third language, besides Spanish. Furthermore, what is the relevance of English in this remote, rural village? The adolescent students are a lively bunch (they don’t call you ‘Teacher Bikwahet’ for no reason!) and you are devoted to bettering their lives through education.

Reading this book, you will leave your tourist binoculars behind and join the authors to look at these scenes through the lens of Conversation Analysis. Your close-up observations will connect to concepts such as interactional competence, centrifugal and centripetal forces, embodied actions, power relationship and social relevance, which are at work in many other global contexts.

So welcome on board!

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also enjoy English as a Lingua Franca for EFL Contexts edited by Nicos C. Sifakis and Natasha Tsantila.

Language, Identity and Education in Multilingual Contexts conference in York

I recently attended the Language, Identity and Education in Multilingual Contexts conference in York. The papers at the conference considered all aspects of the linguistic and sociolinguistic competences and practices of bi-/multilingual speakers and the keynote addresses were given by Simone E. Pfenninger, Andrea Young and David Singleton.

Laura at the stand with the conference organisers

Simone Pfenninger highlighted to the audience that older learners are among the least studied groups, yet they are also one of the fastest growing as societies are changing and ageing. She discussed how the profile of older learners is also changing as there are increasing numbers of older, new migrants; increasing numbers of migrants ageing in their ‘new’ country and increasing numbers of healthy older adults who are taking on new (language learning) challenges. She talked about the extent to which research on older language learners has been successful thus far and where it might go in the future.

Next, Andrea Young presented her work with emergent bilinguals and spoke about how deficit discourse is still common in French schools, where terminology such as ‘non francophone’ is widely used rather than the more positive term ‘emergent bilingual’. She discussed translanguaging and how it can be used as an inclusive pedagogical tool; we watched a number of insightful videos which showed that when a teacher makes an effort with the child’s mother tongue, the child is inspired to make an effort to learn French.

David Singleton giving his keynote

David Singleton, who stepped in at the last minute due to another speaker pulling out because of illness, also touched on the topic of translanguaging and shared his opinion that it can be a positive pedagogical tool but that the term is too widely used in other contexts. His talk was followed by several interesting questions and some discussion on the topic. After the morning sessions it was no surprise that our books on translanguaging were keenly sought out!

I spent the rest of the conference selling books and attending a range of interesting sessions. Local Bristol author and series editor, Jane Andrews, presented the research that she is undertaking together with Maryam Almohammad on using visual arts and crafts to support creative welcoming. They explored issues of language, identity and belonging within communities and explained to us how they are taking a new materialistic approach to their applied linguistics research.

Another memorable session was that of Anita Bright who presented an interesting and interactive talk about ‘trigger words’. These are words that we may use in our everyday speech without perhaps thinking about the background to these words, their connotations and the reaction that they may provoke in the listener. She situated her talk in research on language power and prestige and encouraged us to think about the language we use in educational settings. One example we discussed was that of the word ‘master’ often used in educational settings in terms such as the ‘master timetable’ or the ‘master copy’ but how this term has connotations of gender and slavery.

Aside from the interesting conference, the city of York was a fantastic destination for a conference and I enjoyed wandering the medieval snickelways of the city and eating local fare, especially Yorkshire rhubarb and parkin.

Laura