A Glimpse Into The Complexity of Identity and Interaction in Language Education

This month we published The Complexity of Identity and Interaction in Language Education edited by Nathanael Rudolph, Ali Fuad Selvi and Bedrettin Yazan. In this post Nathanael introduces the main themes of his book.

This book is premised on the idea that the dynamic negotiation of identity and community membership is a negotiation of positionality: of who individuals, and others around them, “are/are not,” and “can” and/or “should” be or become. Language education is inseparable from these negotiations, shaping and shaped by contextualized, sociohistorical notions of “truth,” “correctness,” “normativity,” “value,” and “change.” In other words, language education can impose, perpetuate, problematize, challenge, and reify dominant, essentialized, and idealized ways of being and belonging, which create, limit, and eliminate space for diversity.

Critical dialogue in language education (purportedly) seeks to account for the complexity of negotiated identity and interaction characterizing communities and classrooms therein, as well as to address manifested privilege-marginalization that stakeholders encounter in their negotiations of being and belonging. There is no doubt, however, that “criticality” is far from uniform, as it is also a site of ideological struggle over how diversity, (in)equity and inclusivity are imagined and attended to. There are competing conceptualizations of privilege-marginalization, for example: what they are, who experiences them and how, where, and why, and how inequity might be addressed. This is important to understand, as these differences affect the meaning scholars pour into (and how they interpret) terms and concepts relating to interaction, such as “translanguaging”: what it “is,” why and how it might be valued, and who can, should and does engage in it.

We have noticed that critical scholarship pertaining to language education generally concerns itself with problematizing essentialized and idealized nativeness in a particular language (e.g. English), and that such work generally explicitly and implicitly presumes that identity, experience, knowledge, and skills can and should be apprehended categorically (e.g. “native”/“non-native”; “local non-native”/ “non-local [other]”). The majority of such work is detached from broader communal negotiations of identity and interaction, and the transdisciplinary scholarship and social movements which have documented such negotiations, however, leaving a) the contextualized, sociohistorical, local-global origin and nature of such idealized nativeness partially or wholly unaccounted for and unaddressed, and b) the voices of individuals whose identities and experiences transcend such categories, marginalized or silenced.

In our call for proposals and throughout the editing process, we encouraged contributors to envision a criticality that is, “academically transdisciplinary, decentralized, sociohistorically contextualized and connected to the community in which it is situated, and for one that prompts individuals toward self-reflexive attention to positionality; to what frames our seeing (Lather, 1993)” (Rudolph, 2019a: 105). We couldn’t have been happier with, or more inspired by, what resulted.

In Chapter 1, for example, Syed Abdul Manan, Maya Khemlani David, Liaquat Ali Channa, and Francisco Perlas Dumanig, examine English-only language policies and practices in Pakistan, which neglect the pluri- and translingual complexity of society and marginalize the identities of teachers and students. Meike Wernicke (Chapter 2) explores how ‘nonfrancophone’ teachers of French in Canada negotiate personal-professional identity when wrestling with essentialized and idealized notions of nativeness in their workplaces. In Chapter 7, Naashia Mohamed shares a Maldivian teacher’s lived experiences negotiating positionality in the Maldives, during her transition from English teacher to a university instructor of Dhivehi, the national language. Naashia discusses how her participant, Hawwa, initially feels relegated to a second-class occupation, experiences a shift in how she views the role and value of Dhivehi and herself as a professional. April Salerno and Elena Andrei (Chapter 8) present a dialoguing framework for teachers and language teacher educators to explore their language identities and how those identities shape their language-teaching practices, with a focus on their experiences as self-described bilingual (Romanian and English) teacher educators. In Chapter 13, Sarah Hopkyns explores Emirati university students’ lived experiences negotiating positionality as speakers of Arabic and English within their families, schools, and in Emirati society at large.

We hope readers are inspired by the volume! For those interested in exploring the themes more, please feel free to contact Nathanael Rudolph at nrudolph@kindai.ac.jp.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Research Methods for Complexity Theory in Applied Linguistics by Phil Hiver and Ali H. Al-Hoorie.

Exploring Usage-Based Approaches to Language Learning

We recently published Usage-Based Dynamics in Second Language Development edited by Wander Lowie, Marije Michel, Audrey Rousse-Malpat, Merel Keijzer and Rasmus Steinkrauss. In this post Wander explains the inspiration behind the book.

To the best of our knowledge, there is no single theory in applied linguistics that denies the role of input for language learning. Without input, as a source of frequent systematicity and a rich variety of language exemplars, children will not acquire their mother tongue (L1) and adults will not learn a second language (L2). It is on these premises of frequency, systematicity, richness and variety that usage-based approaches attempt to explain the exciting path of language learning. In this book, we take these constructs as a starting point to explore the many avenues of usage-based approaches to language acquisition, with a focus on L2 learning. Grounded in complex dynamic systems theory (CDST), the different chapters showcase how second language researchers investigate language learning from many different angles using a variety of methods for lab-based studies, for classroom interventions and to explore language learning in the wild. The volume thus clearly shows the many different research questions that benefit from usage-based approaches to language learning.

The home of the editors, Groningen University in the Netherlands, has been a centre for CDST-inspired L2 research for quite some time, generating cutting-edge publications from such a CDST perspective. This book forms a natural contribution to this line of research while at the same time being a celebration of the legacy of Marjolijn Verspoor, who has been a driving force behind the Dynamic Usage-Based approach in second language acquisition (SLA) research. Contributors to the edited volume have all been fortunate enough to be influenced by Marjolijn in some way: from her source of inspiration as a theorist, via long-standing colleagues and fellow pioneers within CDST – starting in times when generativists ruled the field of linguistics – and mid-career faculty presenting state-of-the-art methodologies, to young researchers that were formed by her as MA students or graduated under her supervision, as well as language teaching colleagues in the department who, inspired by her, implemented usage-based pedagogy in their classrooms.

We are particularly proud that the edited collection covers the wide variety of usage-based work, painting the dynamic picture of this field of SLA research in all its facets and, moreover, by colleagues at different career stages. Authors studied different source and target languages (e.g., Chinese, English, French, Spanish, Russian), explored language learning in instructed settings of adolescents in high-school as well as young adults at university, or even naturalistic contexts beyond the confines of instruction, for example in social media. Using quantitative, qualitative and mixed-methods approaches, the research collected in this volume investigates both oral and written language development, both cross-sectionally but also adopting a longitudinal perspective where learners are followed over several years.

The result is a colourful illustration and celebration of the dynamic trajectory of usage-based research into second language development, building on the legacy of eminent scholars, such as Marjolijn Verspoor, while at the same time paving the way for a bright future of CDST-inspired classroom implementations.

For information, please contact Wander Lowie: w.m.lowie@rug.nl

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Profiling Learner Language as a Dynamic System edited by ZhaoHong Han.

Behind the Books: Learning and Not Learning in the Heritage Language Classroom

Kimberly Adilia Helmer speaks about her new book Learning and Not Learning in the Heritage Language Classroom with Mark Amengual.

Learning and Not Learning in the Heritage Language Classroom is available now on our website. Enter the code BTB30 at the checkout to get 30% off!

Behind the Books: Dual Language Bilingual Education

Kathryn I. Henderson and Deborah K. Palmer have produced a series of videos for our Behind the Books series in which they discuss a variety of issues raised in their recently-published book Dual Language Bilingual Education, including critical consciousness in dual language bilingual education, tensions between bilingual education and monolingual accountability systems and multiple and contradictory ideologies in dual language. You can watch the first video below and the rest can be found in the Behind the Books playlist on our YouTube channel.

Dual Language Bilingual Education is available now on our website. Get 30% off with code BTB30.

How to Teach Adult Second Language Learners with Limited Literacy

This month we published Teaching Adult Immigrants with Limited Formal Education edited by Joy Kreeft Peyton and Martha Young-Scholten.

Adult education for learners of a new language has always been an extremely diverse sector, with classes taught in different contexts, from universities and community/further education colleges to community and faith-based organizations. Adults also have many different life situations along with varying goals, aspirations, and needs. Most diverse are adult immigrants with respect to their home language as well as educational background and literacy skills. Their diversity presents challenges for teacher training and professional development, challenges which are greatest for full-time teachers as well as part-time teachers and volunteer tutors who work with adults with limited formal education and literacy.

A practitioner survey was conducted by the 2010-2018 EU-Speak Project. Results revealed that limited opportunities exist in most countries for dedicated training or professional development to impart the knowledge and develop the skills needed for effective work with these learners, and it was on this basis that EU-Speak designed six online modules in five languages. These modules continue to be offered by a post-EU-Speak project team and are self-standing and independent of the volume emerging from the project, Teaching Adult Immigrants with Limited Formal Education, which provides readers with more in-depth coverage of module topics, particularly in terms of relevant research. Readers of the volume will discover that there is a dearth of research on these immigrant adults’ language acquisition and, to a somewhat lesser extent, their literacy development. An expectation of the editors and chapter authors is that the volume will inspire readers to contribute to this research base. Accordingly, the online modules facilitate contact with chapter authors, who are also module designers and lead modules when they are delivered.

When all six modules were offered twice from 2015 to 2018, feedback from practitioners was as the EU-Speak team had hoped. Module participants reported that they felt “compelled to explore and research each of the topics” and “happy with the possibility of sharing the resources I found and that some people liked”. They found the content that addresses “the phonological components of language and the books for pleasure reading” especially useful. And they noted they feel much better prepared for their work and have more confidence and more tools.

The project ended in August 2018 and, since then, the EU-Speak team has continued to deliver modules. Most recently (winter 2019), the team delivered ‘Acquisition and Assessment of Morphosyntax,’ adding a sixth language, Italian. Egle Mocciaro, who recently completed her PhD on the Italian morphosyntax of immigrants with limited literacy, helped lead the module with chapter authors and module designers Martha Young-Scholten and Rola Naeb. From May to July 2020, ‘Reading in a LESLLA Context’ is being delivered, led by chapter author and module designer Marcin Sosinski, assisted by Enas Filimban (whose recent PhD addresses immigrant adults’ early reading development in English) and Martha Young-Scholten. Fall 2020 will see ‘Bilingualism and Multilingualism,’ led by chapter author and module designer Belma Haznedar; and in winter 2021, ‘Vocabulary Acquisition’ will be offered, led by chapter author and designer Andreas Rohde with his team in Cologne.

Larry Condelli says about the book, “While there is voluminous research on how children learn to read in their native language, [research on] the learning process for adult second language learners with limited literacy is sparse. [… ] Those who work with adult migrants, to improve their literacy and language skills and integrate them in their new countries, need research-based knowledge to understand how to teach these learners and help them improve their lives. The chapters of this book provide current and insightful research on the reading development process for adult migrants with limited literacy. Each chapter brings to light new research and unique insights into the reading process and fills a void in previously unexamined areas for migrant adults with unique characteristics.”

Martha Young-Scholten, Newcastle University, martha.young-scholten@newcastle.ac.uk

Joy Kreeft Peyton, Center for Applied Linguistics, Washington, DC, joy@peytons.us

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.

Behind the Books: Language Education in a Changing World

In the second video in our Behind the Books series Rod Bolitho and Richard Rossner talk about their new book, Language Education in a Changing World, with Maria Heron.

Language Education in a Changing World is available now on our website. Enter the code BTB30 at the checkout to get 30% off!

How Should Educators Interpret and Respond to Silence in the English Language Classroom?

This month we published East Asian Perspectives on Silence in English Language Education edited by Jim King and Seiko Harumi. In this post the editors explain where the idea for the book came from and its aim to address the stereotypes of learner silence in East Asian English language classrooms.

Those of us who teach languages all encounter the phenomenon of silence in our classrooms. But how do we interpret and react to these moments of silence? On the one hand, silence can help learning because it allows space for concentration and thinking, whilst on the other, it can be seen as an enemy of the process of second language acquisition, which is so reliant on interaction and meaningful communication for progress. The idea for this book has its origins in our scholarly journeys in East Asia where we were both engaged as educators and researchers. These sometimes challenging experiences led us to develop a fascination with the role silence plays in second language education.

Emerging from an awareness of the need for an up-to-date book which does justice to the significant role silence plays in L2 learning, our publication draws on ideas from a variety of academic fields (e.g. applied linguistics, psychology, international education, pragmatics, anthropology, and so on) in order to build a comprehensive picture of classroom silence in East Asian contexts. This openness to a diversity of ideas is shared by each contributor to the collection, all of whom are experienced in working with students and teachers from such countries as China, Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea.

Compared with investigations focusing on classroom talk, research on silence is relatively rare. Studies done in the past tended to look at the socio-cultural background of East Asian language learners in order to understand their reticence, encouraging stereotyped images of these students as being merely shy, passive and quiet. Such an ethnocentric interpretation of learner behaviour can in fact obfuscate pictures of classroom practice and render them inaccurate.

As one colleague explained: ‘I illustrate the problem as a teacher and regard learner silence as a wall, but also sympathise with students’ frustration with teachers who, rather than understanding their responses, interpret them as a lack of initiative or a refusal to participate’. This teacher’s dilemma encapsulates attempts to express the role and function of specific silences in L2 learning.

East Asian Perspectives on Silence in English Language Education rejects simplistic stereotypes and generalisations which profess to explain why so many learners from East Asia seem either reluctant or unable to speak English by providing an account of current research into the complex and ambiguous issue of silence in language education. It also offers a fresh perspective on ways to facilitate classroom interaction while also embracing silence when it is appropriate to do so.

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you’re interested in this book, you may also like other books in our Psychology of Language Learning and Teaching series.

Hispanic or Latino? A Sociolinguistic Perspective

We recently published Speaking Spanish in the US by Janet M. Fuller and Jennifer Leeman. In this post Jennifer writes about the difference between the terms ‘Hispanic’ and ‘Latino’.

Recent growth in the share of the US population that identifies as Hispanic or Latino (as well as feminine Latina and the gender-neutral and non-binary Latinx) has been accompanied by increased attention to the labels themselves. There are ongoing debates about whether these pan-ethnic labels correspond to an ‘authentic’ identity, or people’s own sense of themselves as well as their lived experience or if, conversely, they are an ‘artificial’ creation of the US government. Nor is there consensus among scholars, advocates or anyone else whether that identity, assuming it actually exists, should be considered ‘ethnic’ or ‘racial.’ While we explore both of these issues in our new book, the focus of this post is on a third point of contention: the labels themselves. Specifically, is there a difference between Hispanic and Latino/a/x, and if so, what is it? The meaning of these labels is a perennial topic of lively discussion. It is especially timely this year, given that 2020 is a census year and the US census includes a question on Hispanic or Latino origin. Sociolinguistic perspectives on language, and on the relationship of language to identity, can offer insights into the meaning of the terms as well as into why such discussions are important and never seem to reach resolution.

On one hand, many dictionaries present Hispanic and Latinx/o/a as synonyms, as does the US Office of Management and Budget (the federal agency that mandates the race and ethnicity categories to be used on the census), and many speakers use the two terms interchangeably. One the other hand, numerous scholarly essays, news articles, and social media posts insist that they are not in fact the same. Although there is some variation in popular and scholarly explanations of the purported differences, etymology typically figures prominently. Specifically, most authors trace the origins of the word Hispanic to Hispania, the region of the Roman empire that comprised the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal today); some accounts also describe Hispanic as an Anglicized shortening of hispanoamericano, an inhabitant of Spain’s former American colonies. For its part, Latino is described as a deriving from latinoamericano, and many authors note that Latin America is a 19th century construction differentiating the areas in the Americas colonized by France, Portugal and Spain from those colonized by England. Thus, many claim that Hispanic refers to people with a connection to former Spanish colonies (but not Brazil) while Latina/x/o includes all Latin Americans and their descendants (but not people from Europe). Ethnoracial and linguistic diversity within Latin America and Spain is often glossed over in such discussions.

For the most part, etymologically-based accounts of the difference between Hispanic and Latinx/a/o assume a straightforward and enduring one-to-one correspondence between words and their meanings, as well as a similarly rigid understanding of identities and their relationship to labels. In this view, once we know the origin of a word, we know its meaning. However, one of the basics of human language is that it is always undergoing change; not only do pronunciations and sentence structures change over time, so do the semantic and social meanings of words. Thus, while etymology is interesting, and it can tell us something about how words have been used historically, it doesn’t reveal their complete meaning. For sociolinguists, the meaning of words is not contained within the words themselves but in the way they are used and understood in a given context. In the case of ethnoracial labels, this often goes hand-in-hand with varied social constructions of ethnoracial categories, which can vary from place to place as well as over time.

In addition to characterizing identities as socially constructed, sociolinguist approaches also stress that language plays a central role in the creation and performance of identities. Indexicality, or the way that particular linguistic forms or practices ‘point to’ particular attitudes, stances or identities, is key to this process. Specifically, when speakers speak in a particular way, or use one particular word, they rely on socially shared associations between linguistic forms and social meanings to signal something about themselves. Symbolic and indexical meanings play an especially important role in shaping people’s preferences for either Hispanic or Latino/x/a. For many people, the term Hispanic is seen as elevating European heritage and erasing Native and African cultures, peoples and languages. Despite the equally Eurocentric etymology of Latino/x/a, this term for many people indexes a more inclusive recognition of diversity.  In some contexts, using Latino/x/a (and especially when pronounced with Spanish, rather than English, phonology) is a way of enacting a particular kind of ethnoracial pride and/or sociopolitical awareness. In addition, the use of Latinx can signal one’s support for gender inclusivity. In sum, the choice between Hispanic and Latino/x/a (as well as other identity labels) depends not only on the specific ethnoracial identity of the person it refers to, but also on the sociopolitical stance and identity of the speaker. Importantly, indexical meanings are also variable and contextually dependent, rather than fixed within the words themselves. As such, it’s not surprising that the precise meanings of these labels, as well as which one is ‘better’, is highly contested, as are debates about just what it means to be either one.

Jennifer Leeman

For more information about this book please see our website

If you found this interesting, you might also like Learning and Not Learning in the Heritage Language Classroom by Kimberly Adilia Helmer.

The Emotional Rollercoaster of Language Teaching

We recently published The Emotional Rollercoaster of Language Teaching edited by Christina Gkonou, Jean-Marc Dewaele and Jim King. In this post Christina explains how she became interested in this area of research and what the book aims to do.

Emotions are at the heart of all human behaviour, and teaching and learning are no exception to this. Teachers plan their lessons carefully, select and design classroom materials that are relevant and suitable for their learners, and contemplate decisions related to classroom management and their actual practice before, during and even after class. But what about decision-making related to emotions – their own as well as those of their learners? How do emotions shape and are shaped by their day-to-day, mundane teaching practice? And how are they experienced and managed?

My own interest in language teacher emotions was generated a few years ago and through earlier research I did on learner anxiety. The interview conversations and follow-up discussions with teachers on the topic of learner anxiety showed that teachers were keen to talk about their own psychologies and anxieties too – and that they would, in fact, slightly deviate from the interview topic by reflecting on their own emotions. This is when I realised that I was only asking them questions about how their learners feel, how anxiety influences learning and what they do to help their learners minimise their language anxiety. Although the focus of my research was on learners, I felt that I could have approached emotions and anxiety within language education in a way that was more balanced and fairer to teachers by giving them the chance to discuss their own emotions too.

When I approached Jean-Marc and Jim to collaborate on this book project, I had not expected how topical language teacher psychology and emotions would be in subsequent years – and how rarely they are discussed in teacher education and development, and even amongst teachers themselves, due to lack of time, reluctance to confide and the inherently subjective nature of emotions. Emotions are there, they are present but they are often marginalised for the sake of other priorities, which are undoubtedly important too but shouldn’t be seen as more important than how individuals in classrooms actually feel. We hope that the book will offer insights into constructs and contexts, methods and tools, theories and practices – and, above all, minds and hearts.

For more information about this book please see our website.

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

Behind the Books: Duoethnography in English Language Teaching

We are excited to be launching a brand new video series, Behind the Books, in which our authors speak to you about their book and the research that went into it.

In the series’ very first video, Robert J. Lowe and Luke Lawrence talk about their new book Duoethnography in English Language Teaching.

Duoethnography in English Language Teaching is available now on our website. Enter the code BTB30 at the checkout to get 30% off!