Issues with the Current State of the ELT Industry: Why This is the Right Time for My Book

This month we published Antisocial Language Teaching by JPB Gerald. In this post, the author explains why the time is ripe for his book to be released.

Anyone who is affiliated with language education in some capacity is likely aware that there are issues in the field. Depending on your vantage point and level of progressiveness, those issues generally include hierarchical and exclusionary practices such as native-speakerism, so-called “accent reduction”, and the policies that descend from raciolinguistic ideologies, or the association of deficient language with marginalized racial groups. We language scholars and practitioners have, in articles and presentations and books, been trying to address these issues for decades now, and yet many of these barriers remain firmly in place. In my new book, Antisocial Language Teaching: English and the Pervasive Pathology of Whiteness, I make the argument for why we seem to be so ideologically stubborn.

Simply put, all of the issues above – to which you can add the ravages of capitalism and the way that colonialism continues to shape our field – are tied to the belief that certain people and groups are inherently disordered and in need of correction. My own research is based around the intersection of race, disability, and language, but, though it does not factor into my book, you can add religion and gender and other axes of oppression to this as well. Unfortunately, we have been forced to reform our field inch by inch, focusing on intertwined issues separately and thus leaving the overall harmful structure in place. As a rhetorical device, I use the diagnostic criteria of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (aka DSM-5) to make the point that the way our field was built and is currently maintained could be classified as deeply disordered and only isn’t because of who currently benefits from the system as is; more specifically, I map the seven criteria of antisocial personality disorder onto the connection between whiteness, colonialism, capitalism, and ableism and how these and other -isms harm the vast majority of the students – and educators – in the field of language teaching. Whether you end up agreeing with my argument or not, I do hope you give the book a chance to both inform and entertain you, for I believe that our discipline’s conversation has yet to feature the particular angle I am putting forth, and I also believe that we will never get out of our current cycles if we don’t try something radically different, a vision I put forth towards the end of the work.

The book has just been released, and if you are interested, you can order it here. If you’d like to have a good faith conversation with me about the issues, feel free to find me on twitter: @JPBGerald.

JPB Gerald, EdD, is a graduate of the Instructional Leadership program from CUNY – Hunter College in New York, USA. He works in professional development for a not-for-profit organization.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Bilingualism for All? edited by Nelson Flores, Amelia Tseng and Nicholas Subtirelu.

Reconceptualizing ELT Around the Globe

We recently published Reconceptualizing English for International Business Contexts by Elma Dedović-Atilla and Vildana Dubravac. In this post the authors explain why current English teaching is unhelpful for modern BELF users.

On the one hand, we face the omnipresence of English in international business contexts worldwide, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, and on the other hand, an inappropriate approach used in preparing the workforce for such settings. The role of English is constantly changing but its teaching seems not to follow those trends. Firstly, there is a strong focus on native varieties, particularly British, due to its immense presence in educational institutions, and American, thanks to its dominance in informal learning contexts. Consequently, not being familiar with the other varieties of English used worldwide, teachers do not deem them acceptable, and do not promote diversity. Instead of broadening their students’ horizons, they are often restricted to teaching materials they are using or being imposed to use.

Thus, we come to the second issue, namely the one of appropriate teaching materials and overall teaching methods applied. Current teaching materials are based on British, and to some extent American English, while other varieties are disregarded. Moreover, students are not taught skills such as suitable discourse skills, strategic skills, non-verbal communication strategies, which have proved to be crucially important for effective communication in international business contexts. Much time is spent on grammar and not enough on suitable vocabulary development. Students are also not encouraged to explore the current trends in the use of English worldwide, are not taught to respect diversity and to stream towards multicompetence rather than native-like competence in the target language.

However, the present-day labor market rather requires multicompetence, appropriate vocabulary knowledge, high level of tolerance and a mastery in additional extralinguistic skills. Thus, the reconceptualization of teaching approach comes out as a necessity. A careful analysis of the marketplace is required and then the introduction of adjusted teaching methods and materials is expected. That is exactly what this book offers, and what, thanks to Multilingual Matters, becomes available to a wide readership around the globe. We hope educators, students and business people will find it useful in shaping their way to a successful career and effective practice.

For more information about this book please see our website

If you found this interesting, you might also like Global TESOL for the 21st Century by Heath Rose, Mona Syrbe, Anuchaya Montakantiwong and Natsuno Funada.

Language Learning in Primary School: Positive in Theory, Negative in Practice?

This month we published Early Language Learning in Context by David Hayes. In this post the author explains the inspiration behind the book. 

This book has its origins in my experience as a teacher, teacher-trainer and researcher in a variety of countries in Asia during my career and is also influenced by my own childhood educational experiences. Research tells us that access to high quality education, particularly basic education, offers one of the most important routes out of poverty for children born into poor and/or marginalized communities. That education ideally includes the opportunity to learn another language which has many potential benefits for children. For example, it can have a positive impact on children’s general educational achievement, it can help to develop intercultural competence through learning how the new language views the world as well as helping learners to reflect on their own language and culture from a different perspective and, when children leave school, it can even provide a competitive advantage in gaining employment in certain sectors of the economy.

The language that most children are offered in schools across the globe is English, which is closely linked to national economic needs in an era of globalization. However, the English as a foreign language education that many children receive (and the largest proportion of these will be the urban and rural poor) is often very far from high quality and demotivates rather than motivates them to learn. So there is a conundrum, one which I’ve had to face in much of my work: learning another language in primary school is good for children in theory but often a negative experience in practice.

I have been involved in several projects in different countries over the years designed to improve the learning of English in state education systems which, without exception, focus on ‘improving’ teachers’ pedagogical skills and ‘upgrading’ their English language competence. Though these projects have been well-designed and have had admirable objectives, the factors involved in successful language teaching usually extend beyond ‘improving’ English teachers to those which impact education more generally. It is difficult to provide high quality English language teaching without high quality education as a whole. Hence, this book discusses foreign – primarily English – language teaching in its wider socioeducational contexts to try to understand the place of languages in those contexts and the factors that either promote successful foreign language learning or hinder it.

The book also questions the wisdom of focusing so much on a powerful international language, English, when other languages may be available locally or regionally which would carry more meaning for children in school and then perhaps be easier for them to learn. If children develop a liking for languages closer to their experience early in their schooling, this might help the learning of an international language such as English later on. My main professional concern is with the education of the children of the poor and disadvantaged and a goal of the book is to encourage reflection on more equitable provision of language learning opportunities across educational systems, as a prelude to change in those systems. Without change at the system level, (English) language learning will just be one more obstacle to achievement for the world’s poor rather than an opportunity for their advancement.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Assessment for Learning in Primary Language Learning and Teaching by Maria Britton.

L2 English Use Online and Its Effects on Language Learning

We will soon be publishing Second Language Use Online and its Integration in Formal Language Learning by Andrew D. Moffat. In this post the author explains what inspired the book.

Over a decade of teaching English as a second/foreign language, I was increasingly struck by the range of internet-facilitated, English-language encounters, that my students and the students of colleagues seemed to be having on a regular basis. Kids who were chronic homework-shirkers but avid Call of Duty players disrupting lessons with shouts of “FIRE IN THE HOLE!!”; adults who were shy in class – and not necessarily very ‘advanced’ from a formal perspective – but could be drawn into discussions about their participation in English-language Facebook groups – one chap was a keen amateur astronomer and moved in English-language astronomy spaces online; young adults working in global-facing companies that needed to use English in very ‘real’ situations. I was fascinated by these little windows into the L2 lives of my students, and in particular by the fact that they didn’t seem to do these things to ‘practice their English’ – these were not learning activities per se.

I also reflected on my own Spanish development while living in Spain.  I had some semi-formal one-on-one lessons and spent a fair amount of time doing grammar activities on the beach, but when I was actually interacting within the local community – renting an apartment, grocery shopping at the market, arguing with my bank about unfair account charges – I didn’t feel at all that I was a Spanish ‘learner’ in those moments.  I was just getting things done with my Spanish – pretty important things sometimes, like registering the births of my twin daughters at the Registro Civil. I wasn’t there to learn Spanish, and yet I distinctly remember the word ‘hembra’ – ‘female’ – lodging itself in my long-term memory after that particular experience.

It seemed to me that there was much more to language learning than the language classroom. I certainly felt that I grew the most as a Spanish speaker in those meaning-driven interactions, and I could see that same kind of development in the kinds of students mentioned above – even though I was fortunate enough to be living in an immersion environment and they were not. Could the internet be providing opportunities for the kinds of interactions and exposure more typically associated with ‘live-abroad’ learning? And what should I be doing about it as a language teacher?

These observations and interests came together in the research underlying Second Language Use Online and its Integration in Formal Learning.  The book explores L2 English use online, its effects on language learning, and how classroom practices can and must adapt to embrace learners’ online interactions. It reports on a survey undertaken in partnership with Cambridge University Press that garnered over 10,000 responses from L2 English users in 157 different countries, providing an empirical evidence base of unprecedented scope attesting to online interactions, concerns, and difficulties. This is partnered with a corpus analysis of the Cambridge and Nottingham E-Language Corpus, exploring the idiosyncratic ways in which English is used in different forms of computer-mediated communication. Together these form the basis for a needs analysis for the 21st century, hyper-connected English learner, and a proposal for addressing these needs in the classroom.

I’m hugely grateful to everyone at Multilingual Matters for facilitating the publication of this work, and genuinely proud to be able to contribute a volume to a book series that has provided so much inspiration for my own academic work and development.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Second Language Literacy Practices and Language Learning Outside the Classroom by Miho Inaba.

How Can Foreign Language Teachers Draw on Learners’ Existing Linguistic Resources to Promote Multilingualism?

This month we published Theoretical and Applied Perspectives on Teaching Foreign Languages in Multilingual Settings edited by Anna Krulatz, Georgios Neokleous and Anne Dahl. In this post the editors explain how the book came about.

We are absolutely thrilled to announce the publication of our edited volume titled, Theoretical and Applied Perspectives on Teaching Foreign Languages in Multilingual Settings. When we first embarked on this journey, it was late summer 2018 and the three of us (Anna, Georgios, and Anne) were sitting at a coffee shop in Lisbon where we were attending the International Conference on Multilingualism, enjoying pastel de nata and our morning coffee and reading through a large pile of chapter proposals that were sent to us from many corners of the world. We didn’t realize then that working on this book would be so rich in rewarding challenges and opportunities for growth, span four continents, and connect scholars and teacher educators working in diverse contexts, to finally reach the printing press after a worldwide pandemic and four years of commitment from so many people who have been involved in this work.

Our interest in editing this volume originated from the arduous challenges and new realities that students and teachers encounter in increasingly linguistically diverse settings around the world. With the intention of meeting the needs of these stakeholders and of providing them with the best possible resources and practical applications, the main objective of this volume is to advance a discussion of how to best connect the acquisition of subsequent foreign languages (FLs) with previous language knowledge to create culturally and linguistically inclusive FL classrooms, and to strengthen the connection between research on multilingualism and FL teaching practice. Contributors were invited to present new approaches to FL instruction in multilingual settings forged in collaboration between FL teachers and researchers of multilingualism.

Originally, we wanted to limit the chapters to contributions from Western contexts, but it soon became clear that the scope would be much wider. We received excellent proposals from scholars working in multilingual settings in places such as Indonesia, Japan, Australia, USA, along with various European countries, and Multilingual Matters and anonymous book proposal reviewers encouraged us to include chapters from parts of the world outside of Europe and North America. We are grateful for their support and advice, and we hope the readers will appreciate the transcontinental scope of the volume.

This book is a result of our (the editors’) and the contributing authors’ commitment to support what we believe to be a universal human right – namely, to be multilingual and freely choose which language(s) to use for communication in any given context, and to draw on whatever available linguistic resources one has to develop a competence in additional languages. As so many other researchers, teachers, and teacher educators working within language education, we recognize that despite an increasing body of research on multilingualism and multilingual learning, FL classroom practices often continue to be monolingual and characterized by strict separation of languages. Such learning environments do not foster language learners’ engagement with their existing linguistic repertoires as a potential resource for FL learning.

An additional challenge is that there seems to be a gap between the advances that have been made through research and FL classrooms where teaching practitioners continue to report a lack of preparedness to work with students who are multilingual. To address this issue, the chapters in this volume aim to promote linguistically responsive language teaching practices in multilingual contexts through forging a dialog between school-based and university-based actors. We hope to advance a discussion of how to best connect the acquisition of subsequent FLs with previous language knowledge to create culturally and linguistically inclusive FL classrooms, and to strengthen the connection between research on multilingualism and FL teaching practice.

We are grateful to all the chapter authors, who have contributed papers reporting on fascinating, novel, and important research that meets this objective. For instance, some of the contributions present proposals for how language education can be reconceptualized if linguistically responsive teaching and learning are applied across disciplines, language barriers, and educational models, while others outline analytical and instructional frameworks for working with multilingual learners. In addition, some of the authors discuss specific classroom examples of cross-linguistic influence, code-switching, and translanguaging to illustrate the role of learners’ linguistic repertoires in FL learning. Our contributors also present new approaches to FL instruction in multilingual settings where the perspectives of FL teachers are in focus, delving deeper into the skills and knowledge that should be addressed in preparing teachers for work in multilingual settings and providing some tentative recommendations for what to incorporate into a teacher training programs in multilingual contexts. We also hope the readers will enjoy the concise, yet extremely insightful and structured Afterword written by our colleague Kristen Lindahl of the University of Texas, San Antonio.

Overall, we believe that the volume contributes to the current debate on how FL teachers can draw on learners’ existing linguistic resources to promote multilingualism and to forge a dialog and bridge the divide between university- and school-based actors. We are truly grateful to the Multilingual Matters staff who supported us along all the stages of this amazing journey. We are absolutely thrilled and humbled that the volume bears their trademark.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Migration, Multilingualism and Education edited by Latisha Mary, Ann-Birte Krüger and Andrea S. Young.

An Asset-based Understanding of International Students in Higher Education

This month we are publishing International Students’ Multilingual Literacy Practices edited by Peter I. De Costa, Wendy Li and Jongbong Lee. In this post the editors introduce the book’s main themes.

In the second language (L2) community, international students are often viewed as “English language learners” whose limited linguistic and cultural repertories need to be remediated by the “experts” (i.e. instructors, supervisors, and native English-speaking students). Our edited volume promotes an asset-based understanding of international students in US higher education and calls for a similar stance to be adopted in comparable educational contexts. Funded by a university grant to promote inclusiveness and enhance academic quality, we invited graduate students in Second Language Studies, TESOL, and the Writing, Rhetoric and American Culture (WRAC) programs as well as instructors in the first-year writing program to jointly investigate how international undergraduate students acquire the English language and develop their academic discourse in first-year writing classrooms.

Data were collected during the 2017-2018 academic year, when the number of international students at the university exceeded 6,500. Over the course of that year, the contributors to this book – most of them international students or scholars themselves – traced the learning pathways of individual international students both within and outside first-year writing classrooms. Our team of researchers documented fascinating stories of how international students with diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds drew on their cultural and linguistic assets, social and academic networks, and university resources to navigate the turbulent academic waters and (re)construct identities as capable multilingual writers and speakers.

In Part 1 of this book, the chapter authors describe the participants’ multilingual literacy practices in diverse spaces, including the writing classroom and writing center, and show how these practices shaped and, in turn, were shaped by the students’ own identity development.

Part 2 reports how the international students marshaled their communicative resources to make sense of the auxiliary services offered by the university and other sources, such as the university’s writing center and the active Chinese student community network on a social media platform.

Part 3 introduces readers to theoretical and pedagogical orientations worth considering in the teaching and researching of international students. Central to our investigative enterprise is the students’ use of multiple languages and semiotics to construct meaning in their social and academic encounters.

A unique feature of this book is that it showcases the result of a collaborative, interdisciplinary research project while at the same time providing a glimpse into the collaborative process at all stages of the project. Readers are thus afforded the opportunity to see how a data set can be analyzed from multiple theoretical perspectives and through diverse analytical frameworks. Additionally, the book’s readers – in particular graduate students who are interested in collaborative work – will benefit from our behind-the-scenes accounts that highlight matters that deserve greater attention and care when researching collaboratively.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Languaging Myths and Realities by Qianqian Zhang-Wu.

Language Transfer: History, Translation and Metalinguistic Awareness

This month we are publishing Explorations of Language Transfer by Terence Odlin. In this post the author discusses the book’s main themes.

Readers of Explorations of Language Transfer will notice several recurring themes, themes that have long seemed to me important for the study of transfer. I’d like to offer some remarks on three of those topics here: history, translation, and metalinguistic awareness.

History

Chapter 2 of the book examines parts of the challenging trail left by nineteenth century thinkers including Wilhelm von Humboldt, Hugo Schuchardt and Aaron Marshall Elliott. Space did not allow a discussion of certain other thinkers from that time who also wrote about bilingualism, such as the Italian historical linguist G.I. Ascoli. If I ever have the chance, I would like to read more about his analysis of how transfer might be manifest in linguistic variation across space and time. Furthermore, I suspect that interesting discussions of transfer go back before the nineteenth century, but if so, the trail may prove a little harder to explore.

Translation

Chapter 7 focuses on translation and transfer. The ongoing refinements in machine translation, one of the topics in this chapter, should be taken seriously by teachers and researchers even while professionals will do well in advising their students to distrust uncritical reliance on translation software. Yet machine translation is not the only area of interest. In the same chapter, I also consider the efforts of a Victorian translator named Mary Howitt who, despite her keen interest in Scandinavian literature, did not always succeed in accurately interpreting the work she undertook. Her translation errors often suggest negative transfer in her reading comprehension. Howitt is probably far from alone in the history of less-than-satisfactory translation, but there does not seem to be much detailed research investigating such cases. This domain, then, may well deserve more exploring.

Metalinguistic awareness

Our awareness of language, often called metalinguistic awareness, proves important in learning a new language, and it interacts with transfer in diverse ways. Without such awareness we could not compare anything in one language with anything in another, nor could we ask for definitions, let alone translate individual words or entire sentences. Even so, individuals vary considerably in how they use such awareness and in how they develop it further. Chapter 8 considers, among other things, successful attempts to foster such awareness. For example, raising consciousness about crosslinguistic similarities and differences has proven effective for helping learners recognize words that are real yet not obvious cognates. The attempts discussed did not involve French, but I think back to my own experiences with high school French and imagine how helpful it could have been if we beginners had gotten a little guidance in recognizing consistent formal relations in pairs such as côte/coast, fête/feast, and pâté/paste. Pairs of this sort also make a good case for why language teachers should have some knowledge of historical linguistics including sound changes.

I naturally hope that readers of Explorations of Language Transfer will find the themes outlined here worth reading about in greater detail, and I also hope that the book will inspire readers to engage in their own explorations of the similarities and differences between languages that can intrigue as well as challenge any learner.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Crosslinguistic Influence and Distinctive Patterns of Language Learning edited by Anne Golden, Scott Jarvis and Kari Tenfjord.

A Tribute to Michael Byram’s Work on Intercultural Learning in Language Education

We recently published Intercultural Learning in Language Education and Beyond edited by Troy McConachy, Irina Golubeva and Manuela Wagner. In this post the editors explain the motivation behind the book.

There are scholars in every field who stand out not only because they have contributed to significant advances in thinking but also because they have devoted so much of themselves to the development of educational practices and the advancement of scholarly networks. This book is dedicated to one such scholar – Michael Byram – whose work on Intercultural Communicative Competence (ICC) and Intercultural Citizenship (ICit) has helped educators working within and beyond the field of language education to promote intercultural learning in their classrooms.

This is a book which aims to capture the far-reaching influence of Michael Byram’s work and the various ways it has helped shape the work of individual language educators, professional organisations, and other communities of practice. Simply put, what really motivated this book was a collective sense of wanting to create an opportunity for a range of international scholars to critically engage with Mike’s work based on a sense of gratitude and respect. We felt that this was important given the extent of Mike’s contribution to the field and his generous support for others.

In Part 1 of the book, contributors have looked at the theoretical and pedagogical significance of key concepts that have emanated from Mike’s work or have important connections with it, such as ICC, language awareness, intercultural mediation, ICit, intercultural dialogue and intercultural responsibility. Authors have aimed to consider how understandings of these concepts have evolved over time, given changing contexts and additional knowledge gained in related fields.

Meanwhile, in Part 2, chapters look at perspectives and practices associated with intercultural learning in a variety of contexts, including student mobility, service learning, teacher education and assessment, professional organisations, communities of practice, just to name a few. These chapters capture some of the many ways in which Mike’s work has inspired educators to enact intercultural learning, taking into account the need for locally appropriate pedagogical practices.

One unique feature of this book is that it includes a number of tribute chapters from those who have collaborated with Mike in different capacities. These chapters help further illustrate elements of Mike’s personhood and reveal his selfless support for scholars and colleagues worldwide.

As a whole, we feel that this book not only offers important research insights but also embodies the sense that being able to read, appreciate, and critique scholarship is an important privilege. We invite readers to engage with the research of scholars in the field and the memoirs shared by those who have had the privilege to work closely with Mike on a variety of projects. We hope that this book can serve as a model for a genre that brings together critical engagement and appreciation for the contributions of those who influence research and practice in such important ways.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Teaching and Assessing Intercultural Communicative Competence by Michael Byram.

Equity and Justice in Language Education

We recently published Transforming World Language Teaching and Teacher Education for Equity and Justice edited by Beth Wassell and Cassandra Glynn. In this post the editors explain the inspiration behind the book.

Although the work on this book began in 2019, the story behind it begins in the late 1990s. It starts with two White, middle-class, teachers – one in the Midwest and one in the Northeast – who loved languages, loved learning about different cultures, and had a passion, and enough money, to travel. The two young women, Beth and Cassandra, started teaching world languages in middle and high school. They cared about their students and wanted to be just like the teachers who inspired them. But they made a lot of missteps, mostly due to their lack of awareness of their own privilege, their own identities, and their students’ identities.

Fast forward to the early 2010s, when the two met in Denver while at a conference. At this point, each had continued their academic journey and pursued doctoral degrees in education. Each had begun working in university-based teacher education, hoping to inspire a new generation of language teachers. But graduate school, mixed with some powerful experiences in urban P-12 settings, transformed them.

They couldn’t look at those “foreign language” classrooms without noticing issues of access and equity: the students who were told they shouldn’t take a language, or schools where students had to wait until adolescence to be exposed to new languages and cultures. They became increasingly aware of the racial and socioeconomic divides in US schools – the privileged had greater access to robust programming, qualified teachers, and programs that spanned multiple years. Meanwhile, in communities ripe with multilingualism, opportunities and resources for high quality language learning were limited.

They also noticed that the curriculum hadn’t changed much since their days as students – those old lessons on Oktoberfest and mariachi, on how to shop in a department store or order in a restaurant, were still ubiquitous. Lessons that encouraged students to analyze and critique issues of resilience, equity, or justice, that real people experienced daily, were rare.

There were some scholars writing about or enacting critical and culturally sustaining pedagogies in world language spaces – those who saw potential for transformation. This group was growing, and the two women started connecting with colleagues at conferences who were advocating for rethinking the system. They met other scholars and teachers who were theorizing and beginning to disseminate their work on critical approaches. They learned from and started to collaborate with colleagues who propelled their thinking. Like their colleagues, they recognized that this growing body of literature needed to be nurtured before it would take a more significant hold in language teaching and teacher education.

This led those two women – Beth and Cassandra – to a collaborative effort of a text, one that boldly highlights the ways that scholars in the US, and beyond, are not just thinking about, but doing equity and justice work in language education contexts. The result was an edited book that demonstrates how scholars and educators are pushing boundaries to reconstruct a field that has been mired in colonialism and elitism since its inception. The chapters in this book demonstrate what dismantling curriculum, instruction, and teacher preparation looks like. It provides transformative insights on critical language teacher education, intercultural citizenship, disrupting master narratives, teacher identity, decolonizing heritage language pedagogy, and community-centered approaches to teaching and teacher education, written by foremost scholars in language education.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Peacebuilding in Language Education edited by Rebecca L. Oxford, María Matilde Olivero, Melinda Harrison and Tammy Gregersen.

What Counts as Literacy Learning for Emergent Bilinguals in the 21st Century?

This month we published Multimodal Literacies in Young Emergent Bilinguals edited by Sally Brown and Ling Hao. In this post the editors explain what a multimodal approach to literacy learning involves.

We are excited about our new publication, Multimodal Literacies in Young Emergent Bilinguals: Beyond Print-Centric Practices. This edited volume features research intended to expand multimodal literacy teaching practices in ways that support emergent bilinguals in a variety of early childhood contexts including preschool environments, kindergartens, elementary classrooms, and out-of-school community locations. The chapters include perspectives from areas of the United States where students are relegated to English-only policies and practices, as well as studies from China, London, Brazil and Norway. Each chapter provides background information about the study and concludes with specific implications for teaching and learning practices which is sure to push you into new ways of thinking and alternative ways to support emergent bilinguals. This book provides culturally sustaining pedagogical possibilities for using multimodal approaches to teach literacy with young children learning multiple languages. You can expect to see emergent bilinguals framed from an assets-based perspective that celebrates their rich cultural and linguistic heritages. A translanguaging approach (García, Johnson, & Seltzer, 2017) guides the authors’ thinking about the complex ways in which young emergent bilinguals use languages in addition to other semiotic resources in order to speak, act, know, and do in manners unique to each learner.

Multimodality is at the heart of all of the chapters. A multimodal approach to literacy learning is based on:

  • Social semiotics where meaning-making is the result of social interactions (Kress, 2010);
  • Communication encompassing more than language or print (speech and written words); language is partial;
  • Utilization of multiple modes with a mode being a set of organized resources of various forms such as images, gestures, oral language, etc;
  • Active sign makers (emergent bilinguals) selecting modes and choosing available resources to create meaning based on their way of understanding the world;
    • For example, a child may use Legos (form) to enact a visual retelling of a story.
  • Construction of a coherent and cohesive ensemble or product drawing from multiple modes.

Using multimodality as a lens for teaching emergent bilinguals allows us to offer additional opportunities to make and share meaning. In many learning spaces, these opportunities are limited to oral and written language even though emergent bilinguals may utilize other semiotic resources in environments where English is the predominant or only language. Small changes in teaching practices can provide more equitable and accessible learning spaces. For example, a teacher may offer students an option to draw in response to a read aloud as opposed to answering questions on a worksheet. The drawing could be analyzed for meaning in terms of salience of features like the main characters as well the use of color to determine how the characters were feeling. We invite you to read this new publication in order to broaden your notions of what counts as literacy learning for emergent bilinguals in the 21st century.

Sally Brown and Ling Hao

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Multilingual Literacy edited by Esther Odilia Breuer, Eva Lindgren, Anat Stavans and Elke Van Steendam.