Part 1: Foreign Language Anxiety is Like Fresh Snow

27 April 2017

This month we published New Insights into Language Anxiety edited by Christina Gkonou, Mark Daubney and Jean-Marc Dewaele. In the first of three posts, one from each of the editors, Jean-Marc introduces his theory on language anxiety being like fresh snow.

You may have noticed them: foreign language students hunched behind the broad backs of their comrades, avoiding eye contact with the teacher in order not to be picked to say something in front of everybody and reluctantly whispering their response to a teacher’s question when cornered. No questionnaire is needed to identify these students as suffering from Foreign Language Anxiety (FLA).

This complex phenomenon has been linked to a range of higher order personality traits (mainly Neuroticism-Emotional Stability, Introversion-Extraversion or Social Initiative, and – to a lesser extent – also Psychoticism, Conscientiousness, Openmindedness, Cultural Empathy) and a number of lower-order personality traits or psychological dimensions (Trait Emotional Intelligence, Perfectionism, Trait anxiety, Unwillingness to communicate, Risk-taking, Sociability and Self-efficacy) (Dewaele, 2017). These factors interact with a range of sociobiographical and situational variables and cause FLA in reading, writing, listening and – especially – speaking the foreign language (FL). It is important for teachers and students to realise that FLA is not a massive, granite-like, unmovable object blocking the path to communication in the FL. I’d rather compare it to a thick layer of fresh snow.

It is possible to dig through the snow, to ski over it and some comfort can be drawn from the knowledge that it will melt after a while. This turns the teacher into a (metaphorical) FL ski instructor for anxious students. Yes, the snow is slippery and there can be icy patches but there are techniques to avoid obstacles, to accelerate or to brake and to reach one’s destination unharmed. Everybody falls over at some point along the way, but the snow is soft and there is little risk of breaking a limb at low speed. The instructor and peers will help those whose skis got entangled and ended up looking at the cumuli in the blue sky. Back on their feet and feeling the rush of fresh pine-scented air, discovering the breath-taking mountain views, the memories of the fall will fade quickly. Finally, reaching the destination with the rest of the group will be exhilarating and the sense of achievement will boost self-confidence for future runs.

In other words, a FL teacher can create a classroom atmosphere where mutual trust exists between teachers and students and between the students themselves. Good teaching combined with respect, humour and kindness can create a strong sense of solidarity among students, which will be a potent antidote against FLA.

Dewaele et al. (2017) found that FL teachers’ behaviour had relatively little influence on British secondary school students’ average levels of FLA but that it was strongly linked to students’ FL enjoyment. FL students who enjoy themselves are thus more likely to overcome their fears, just like the beginner on ski slopes. Those still experiencing FLA can be cajoled into more active participation in FL tasks they can handle. The first slopes should not be too steep and too anxiety-provoking. These anxious students will learn that it is possible to control their FLA to the point that is ceases to have a debilitating influence on their performance.

Jean-Marc Dewaele

References

Dewaele, J.-M. (2017) Psychological dimensions and foreign language anxiety. In S. Loewen & M. Sato (Eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Instructed Second Language Acquisition. London: Routledge, pp. 433-450.

Dewaele, J.-M., Witney, J., Saito, K. & Dewaele, L. (2017) Foreign language enjoyment and anxiety in the FL classroom: The effect of teacher and learner variables. Language Teaching Research DOI: 10.1177/1362168817692161

Positive Psychology in SLAGkonou, C., Daubney, M. & Dewaele, J.-M. (eds.) (2017) New Insights into Language Anxiety: Theory, Research and Educational Implications. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

For more information about this book, please see our website and keep an eye out for parts two and three from Jean-Marc’s co-editors. If you found this interesting, you might also like Positive Psychology in SLA edited by Peter D. MacIntyre, Tammy Gregersen and Sarah Mercer. 


A Fresh Look at an Old Question: The Age Factor in a New Methodological Light

20 April 2017

This month we’re publishing Beyond Age Effects in Instructional L2 Learning by Simone E. Pfenninger and David Singleton. In this post Simone and David discuss the controversial topic of the age factor in second language learning, as explored in their book.

Both of us – from the beginning of our respective careers – have been fascinated by the question of the age factor in second language learning. As we all know, this is a controversial topic; for example, the debate surrounding the Critical Period Hypothesis (CPH) has not gone away and is not likely to any time soon. There is, however, more consensus than many people realize between CPH sceptics (like Carmen Muñoz) and CPH advocates (such as Robert DeKeyser). The area in which this happy consensus reigns is that of the effects of an early start to L2 instruction in school, which most SLA researchers of all affiliations have for many decades agreed does not yield the advantage one might expect.

There is a sharp difference between the CPH debate and the discussion concerning the optimal age in a formal, educational context. Whereas the CPH question is interesting theoretically, the issue of the best age for starting a foreign language in school (to which, for various reasons, most CPH supporters these days see the critical period notion as irrelevant) is not just intellectually teasing but is also heavy with practical, socio-economic, political and ideological implications. Clearly, for educators, teachers and policy-makers it is of compelling interest to know more about the end state of foreign language instruction, since such research has important implications for multilingual education when making decisions about (1) early teaching of different languages in elementary school and (2) later instruction in different languages in secondary school.

Our book reports on some further long-term findings to this effect, which we explore and expatiate on in relation to a range of variables which, in the instructional context, turn out to be markedly more influential than age. We talk about recent developments and improvements in the methodological aspects of investigating individual difference variables such as age, as well as our observation that in the formal educational setting the age variable is overshadowed to the point of invisibility by other factors. Such factors include contextual effects (e.g. school effects and the transition from primary to secondary school), the effects of instruction-type and intensity of instruction, effects of extracurricular exposure, the influence of literacy and biliteracy skills, and the impact of socio-affective variables such as motivation. A role for starting age is in fact extremely hard to establish. With regard to the school situation, in other words, we can blithely put aside the maturational question, and all agree that when instruction happens is incomparably less important than how it proceeds and under what circumstances.

Actually such findings regarding the effects of early instruction go back a long way. Thus the idea of introducing L2 instruction into primary/elementary schools in the 1950s and 1960s was dealt a severe blow by the findings of research in the 1970s which cast doubt on the capacity of early instruction to deliver higher proficiency levels as compared with later instruction (e.g. Burstall, Jamieson, Cohen, & Hargreaves, 1975; Carroll, 1975; Oller & Nagato, 1974). The disillusionment occasioned by such findings seems, however, to have been rather short-lived, and more recent and continuing negative results in this connection have also been largely ignored. Our own endeavour has been (1) to try to convince the members of the general public that the time is ripe for closer integration between SLA research and L2 pedagogy and (2) to educate them about recent trends in the age factor tradition in SLA research. Our strong view is that consistent and intensive collaboration between practitioners, politicians and researchers is needed in order to understand and address mutual interests and concerns through shared discussions, data collection, analysis and interpretation.

For more information about this book, please see our website. If you liked this, you might also be interested in Key Topics in Second Language Acquisition by Vivian Cook and David Singleton and Future Research Directions for Applied Linguistics edited by Simone E. Pfenninger and Judit Navracsics.


The Multilingual Nature of Higher Education

21 March 2017

This month we published Academic Biliteracies edited by David M. Palfreyman and Christa van der Walt. In this post, David and Christa discuss their experience of coediting the book. 

Christa: There were some initial signs that this book was not meant to be. Firstly, David’s e-mails to me disappeared in cyberspace and it was only when Nancy Hornberger contacted me to enquire very diplomatically whether I had received the e-mails, that we found out his institutional e-mails were not delivered, for some unfathomable reason. Secondly, this was an under-researched topic and we were not sure that we would get any contributions; and thirdly, both of us dealt with serious interruptions of a personal and professional nature. And yet, here we are, three years later, with chapters that showcase the multilingual nature of higher education in all its complexity.

Our first (academic) challenge was to agree on what we understand ‘literacy’ to mean, so that we can evaluate contributions on ‘biliteracy’. Going through our Skype notes, I’m struck by the terminology issues in every conversation. Is there a difference between ‘translanguaging’ and ‘translingual’; between ‘multiliteracies’ and ‘multilingual literacies’? Is ‘translanguaging’ the overarching concept in which ‘biliteracy’ needs to find its place, or should they be seen as separate phenomena in multilingual contexts? We still do not have a definite answer; or maybe it is better to say that we have many answers!

David: Yes, the email bug almost put a subtle end to the project before it started, and I’m very glad that Nancy intervened! I was keen to work with Christa on this book because her previous publications had focused on multilingual higher education in a way that I hadn’t come across before: questioning assumptions about English as the medium of instruction in so many universities worldwide.

Christa: We both wanted a variety of chapters from all corners of the world, but of course we had to be selective within the scope of one book.  We aimed to cover both majority and minority languages in contexts where language is a medium for developing knowledge rather than necessarily a focus of the course; in the end, the chapters highlight the use at university of literacy in Afrikaans, Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, isiXhosa and other African languages, Korean, Maori, Polish, Spanish and Welsh.

David: Some of the contributors had already published in the area of biliteracy; some had been working with biliterate students and issues of biliteracy in university courses for some years, but came to engage with the issues in new ways through their involvement in the book. As the book developed, we encouraged contributors to read and comment on each other’s chapters, which brought some mutual adjustments and helped bring out common themes. All of us became aware of new perspectives to understand the experience of students and scholars, and fresh options for working with and for biliteracy. Guillaume Gentil, whose previous work provided inspiration for the book, kindly sprang into action once the rest of the book was complete, contributing a concluding chapter which draws themes together and points out some ways forward for research in academic biliteracies.

I’m grateful to Zayed University (UAE) for their support in travelling to Australia, Jordan and the UK in the course of preparing the book. Among many learning experiences along the way, I remember especially meeting up by coincidence with Christa at the AILA Congress in Brisbane – it was good to have a face to face meeting near the beginning as most of our later work together was by email or Skype. Another unforgettable and educative experience was taking part in a research conference at Cardiff University where most communication was in Welsh or Basque: having to rely on simultaneous interpreters and finding my usual language of academic/social communication suddenly minoritized, I suddenly found myself a ‘lurker’ in academic discussions!

Christa: For me, as a lecturer who code switches and uses two languages when teaching at Stellenbosch University, the active development of biliteracy in academic contexts is an important acknowledgement of the multilingual nature of twenty-first century higher education. Many students arrive at higher education institutions with a fully developed academic language that is not English and it would be a waste to ignore the enormous potential of that resource when making meaning of academic material.

We’ll look forward to hearing from readers of the book about how the issues relate to their own experiences as learners or teachers.

 

David M. Palfreyman: david.palfreyman@zu.ac.ae

Christa van der Walt: cvdwalt@sun.ac.za

 

For more information about this book, please see our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like Multilingual Higher Education, which Christa published with us previously.

 


What is “the best” way to assess emergent bilinguals?

9 March 2017

Last month we published The Assessment of Emergent Bilinguals by Kate Mahoney. In this post, Kate explains how she came to dedicate her research to this topic and introduces us to her decision-making framework, PUMI (Purpose, Use, Method, Instrument), that can be used to better inform assessment decisions for bilingual children.

Since my first days as a teacher, I wanted to answer questions about how language and culture impact learning and schooling. I found myself teaching in Puerto Rican communities in New York, Navajo communities in New Mexico, Mexican communities in the Southwest, and in bilingual communities in Belize. Each experience drove an awakening clarity: assessment was an incredibly powerful influence on schooling and success, and language and culture strongly influenced assessment. In 1999, my then-advisor Dr. Jeff MacSwan at Arizona State University (ASU) suggested I adopt the study of tests and the testing process – within the context of bilingual learners – as a research topic. Admittedly, I was reluctant to begin a formal study involving psychometrics, language assessment and related methodologies, but I needed a multidisciplinary approach to answer questions. I was reluctant because the topic of testing seemed so frustrating and unfair, and seemed to privilege some students over others, based primarily on the relationship between culture and language. It was this reluctance that led me to begin my study of assessment, and from multiple disciplines. At the same time, I began teaching graduate courses in assessment for the multilingual programs at ASU. I’ve continued to teach this course throughout my career and today teach and conduct research at the State University of New York at Fredonia.

As I think back over the past 15-plus years of researching this topic, I’m continually struck by its complexity, and how difficult it can be for classroom teachers to learn about and stay abreast of the evolving methodologies. There is so much more to assessment than simply establishing a rubric and giving the test. Because of the complexity and multidisciplinary nature of assessment, it was difficult to deliver a course on assessment in a connected way to university students. That’s why I developed PUMI (Purpose, Use, Method, Instrument) for my first class on the subject back in 1999. I didn’t call it PUMI back then, but my students and I always discussed assessments within this framework, and it became an important way to make decisions and select appropriate assessments, while also understanding the complexities of emergent-bilingual assessment.

This book about the assessment of emergent bilingual learners is the culmination of teaching a university course for the past 18 years. I use the PUMI framework across the whole book; it’s a decision-making process teachers can use to make better assessment-related decisions. Also included are more in-depth topics in assessment that warrant full attention, such as validity as a theory, the history of the assessment of bilingual children, as well as testing accommodations and accountability topics.

Over the years, many people have approached me to ask about “the best” assessment or test for assessing Spanish or assessing math with emergent bilinguals. The answer is definitely not prepackaged, and not easy for that matter either. To begin to understand the answer to these types of questions, one must ask PUMI questions, and in that order. So, my response to questions about the best assessment is always first, what is the purpose “P” of the assessment and how will you use “U” the results. After considering the purpose and use, then we can begin to consider the best assessment method “M” and instrument “I”. Selecting an appropriate assessment for emergent bilinguals is not an easy task, but PUMI can guide us toward better assessment for this unique group of students.

For more information about this book, please see our website. If you liked this, you might also be interested in Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism (6th Edition) by Colin Baker and Wayne E. Wright.


The start of a busy conference season for Multilingual Matters

7 March 2017

Laura at NABE 2017Last month I kick-started our 2017 conference attendance with a trip to the National Association of Bilingual Education
conference. Last year’s conference was in Chicago and this year the gathering moved south to the warmer climate of Dallas, Texas. Fresh off the press (so much so that I had to take them in my suitcase!) and highlights of the Multilingual Matters’ stand were Mahoney’s new book The Assessment of Emergent Bilinguals and the 6th edition of our bestselling textbook Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, which is now co-authored by Colin Baker and Wayne E. Wright (you can read more about that collaboration on our blog here).

Click to enlarge

Next up on the Multilingual Matters conference schedule come the American Association for Applied Linguistics (AAAL) and TESOL conferences and our editorial team will be heading to those gatherings which are due to take place on the west coast in Portland and Seattle later in March. We very much enjoyed our last trip to Portland for AAAL in 2014 and are looking forward to a bustling few days at the conferences. A particular highlight of the AAAL calendar will be the celebration that we’re hosting during the Monday afternoon coffee break at AAAL, to which all delegates are invited.

On return to the UK, Anna will be attending the iMean conference which is hosted right on our doorstep at the University of West of England, in Bristol. Jo Angouri is one of the organisers of the conference and also one of the series editors of our new Language at Work series. We are looking forward to introducing the delegates to the first book in the series, Medical Discourse in Professional, Academic and Popular Settings edited by Pilar Ordóñez-López and Nuria Edo-Marzá, which was published last year.

Later in the spring we’ll be exhibiting at the American Educational Research Association (AERA) conference in San Antonio, Texas and then in the summer we’ll be crossing the waters to Ireland for the International Symposium on Bilingualism, which is to be hosted by the University of Limerick.

We very much hope to see you at a conference somewhere this spring – please drop by the stand and say hello if you see us!

Laura


Investigating the Place of Mission Work in English Language Teaching

2 March 2017

Recently we published English Teaching and Evangelical Mission by Bill Johnston. In this post, Bill talks us through what inspired him to investigate the place of mission work in English Language Teaching and the message his book aims to communicate.

 English Teaching and Evangelical MissionThis book is the culmination of my many years of interest in the intersection of language teaching and teachers’ religious beliefs, particularly those of evangelical Christians who use language teaching as a platform for mission work. In recent years many non-evangelical TESOL professionals, myself included, expressed concern over this practice. Such concerns seemed potentially valid, yet they were not informed by any in-depth empirical research. To cut a long story short, I decided to go “into the field” and take a close look at a language school in Poland that explicitly offered “Bible-based curriculum” in its classes. What I found very much surprised me – a school with a warm and open atmosphere in which evangelicals and Catholics learned English side by side. That’s not to say there were not more questionable aspects of the school’s work. These, though, were by and large subtler, and it took painstaking ethnographic work to tease them out.

I don’t regard this book as the last word on the topic – quite the contrary, I see it very much as an exploratory study that, I hope, will encourage other researchers, especially those who are not evangelicals, to gather extensive data in other settings. My biggest hope is that the book will encourage a respectful and open exchange between evangelicals and non-evangelicals working in TESOL. We live in times in which political, cultural, and religious divisions seem to be becoming more and more sharply delineated, often to the consternation of those who find themselves on one side or the other of a supposed demarcation line. My experience collecting data for this book taught me that there is a lot less dogmatism than one is led to imagine. During the data collection period the evangelical teachers and missionaries I spoke with expressed an often vivid curiosity about my beliefs and motivations, and presented their own with conviction but also with humility. Our positions remained profoundly different; yet connection and even friendship was possible.

If my book has one overall message, it is that listening carefully and respectfully to those whose views are radically different than your own is a much preferable alternative to the strident, doctrinaire shouting down of one’s “opponents” that is increasingly evident in the media – on all sides of the political landscape, I might add. This is certainly true today in Poland, in my adopted country of the United States, and in many places in Europe, the continent I come from. I would wish my book to offer a small, quiet voice arguing for calm and for dialogue.

For more information about this book, please see our website.  


Willingness to Communicate in Instructed Second Language Acquisition

28 February 2017

This month we published Willingness to Communicate in Instructed Second Language Acquisition by Anna Mystkowska-Wiertelak and Mirosław Pawlak. In this post the authors tell us what inspired them to write the book and explain the process involved in their research.

Willingness to Communicate in Instructed Second Language AcquisitionThe main inspiration for writing the book was the conviction that learners’ willingness to speak in the foreign language classroom has to be investigated from both a macro- and micro-perspective. The first task was relatively easy because a number of tools were available. While there were hurdles in obtaining the right amount of data, all it took was to put together the requisite scales, introduce the modifications we deemed necessary, and apply required statistical procedures. The second task was much more challenging because it is not easy to register changes in readiness to communicate in real time.

It was clear to us from the very outset that we wanted to focus on changes in students’ willingness to communicate as they occur in regularly scheduled classes and to identify factors responsible for such changes. Such an approach was intended to capture classroom reality and make the findings relevant to everyday concerns of practitioners. It meant that we could not rely on sophisticated software that allows tapping into changes in willingness to speak on a second-by-second basis in the performance of specific tasks because this would have entailed pulling individual students out of intact groups.

Thus we decided to use a grid on which participants indicated their willingness to speak on a scale from -10 (total unwillingness) to +10 (total willingness) at five-minute intervals. The data from these grids, augmented by information gleaned from detailed lesson plans and questionnaires the students filled out at the end of each class, helped us establish changes in readiness to speak at both the class and individual levels and to establish reasons for these fluctuations.

Although this procedure is not free from shortcomings, one of which is some degree of intrusiveness in the tasks performed, it is difficult to think of a better way to tap the dynamic nature of readiness to speak. There is also a possibility of getting a much finer-grained view of such changes if students indicate their willingness to speak at shorter time-intervals (e.g., every 10 seconds). Clearly, there is a need to further refine this procedure but it is difficult to offer alternatives for the investigation of the dynamic nature of willingness to communicate in the classroom.

Willingness to Communicate in the Chinese EFL University ClassroomFor more information about this book, please visit our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like Willingness to Communicate in the Chinese EFL University Classroom by Jian-E Peng.


Our Languages for Intercultural Communication and Education series celebrates its 30th book

13 February 2017

Last month we published From Principles to Practice in Education for Intercultural Citizenship edited by Michael Byram, Irina Golubeva, Han Hui and Manuela Wagner, which became the 30th book in our Languages for Intercultural Communication and Education series. In this post, series editors Michael Byram and Anthony J. Liddicoat discuss how the series has grown from its inception in 2000.

The first book in the series

The first book in the series

The Language and Intercultural Communication in Education (LICE) series has reached a significant landmark with the publication of its 30th book. The series began as an initiative of Multilingual Matters, Michael Byram and Alison Phipps with the aim of encouraging the study of languages and cultures in ways which can ultimately enrich teaching and learning. The first book that appeared was Developing Intercultural Competence in Practice edited by Michael Byram, Adam Nichols and David Stevens.

Since that first book, LICE has published across a wide range of topics ranging from classroom practice, to study abroad, to intercultural citizenship. Some notable publications that show the breadth of the series are:

Although the focus of the series has been on education, we have also published books with a broader focus that advance thinking in the field more widely, such as Joseph Shaules’ Deep Culture: The Hidden Challenges of Global Living and Maria Manuela Guilherme, Evelyne Glaser and María del Carmen Méndez-García’s The Intercultural Dynamics of Multicultural Working.

We believe that the greatest achievement of the series has been to publish in the same series works that develop new theoretical insights into intercultural issues in language education and those that are very practical and offer ideas for the classroom.

The 30th book in the series

The 30th book in the series

Our 30th book, From Principles to Practice in Education for Intercultural Citizenship edited by Michael Byram, Irina Golubeva, Han Hui and Manuela Wagner, brings together a number of ideas that have been developed through previous books in the LICE series with its focus on intercultural citizenship and its presentation of teachers’ practice in language education in a range of different contexts around the world.

We are shortly about to release our 31st book Teaching Intercultural Competence across the Age Range edited by Michael Byram, Dorie Perugini and Manuela Wagner. This book aims to show teachers that developing intercultural competence is possible within their own power of decision-making and that there are various degrees of curricular change that are available to them. The book shows how a community of practice involving universities, schools and students working with teachers can develop teaching and learning, and includes self-analysis that shows the difficulties as well as the pleasures of changing curricula. This is a book that will speak directly to teachers as they seek to include intercultural competence in their teaching, showing how this is doable by providing a lot of detailed description of courses, and making it possible for others to use the book directly to reshape their own practice.

For more information about this series, please see our website

 


Preparing Teachers to Teach English as an International Language

13 January 2017

Preparing Teachers to Teach English as an International Language

This month we are publishing Preparing Teachers to Teach English as an International Language edited by Aya Matsuda. In this post, Aya explains how the research she carried out for her first book with us, Principles and Practices of Teaching English as an International Language, provided the inspiration for this new edited volume.

The central question that this book explores, as the title suggests, is how to prepare teachers to teach English as an international language (EIL). Two theoretical chapters present complementary approaches for EIL teacher education while program models and pedagogical ideas from various institutions in over 15 different countries collectively present a wide variety of options available for teacher educators working in different contexts. The goal is not to propose a one-size-fits-all curriculum but rather to illustrate diverse approaches that would move the field toward a shared goal of preparing teachers who can meet the diverse needs of English learners today.

The idea of teaching EIL–an approach to English language pedagogy that acknowledges the linguistic, functional and user diversity of the language and aims at preparing English learners to use the language effectively in this complex ‘English-speaking world’ today—has been the central focus of my professional work for the past decade or so. In 2012 I edited a book, Principles and Practices of Teaching English as an International Language, which laid out the foundation of teaching EIL and also showcased various programs, courses, and lesson ideas that reflects the principles of teaching EIL. The new book, Preparing Teachers to Teach English as an International Language, in a sense, is a sequel to that book.

Principles and Practices of Teaching English as an International LanguageThe publication of Principles and Practices of Teaching English as an International Language gave me an opportunity to connect with many English language teachers world-wide. Those who said they have read and enjoyed the book or who attended my conference talks or workshops on this topic were also teacher educators, which I was very excited about because I believe in the vital role that teacher education plays in bringing in changes to educational practices. Many of these teacher educators were frustrated – they were interested in the idea of TEIL and wanted to implement it in their teacher preparation courses or curriculum but they were not sure exactly how to do so, especially when there are strict constraints of government-controlled teacher certification requirements or lack of support from their colleagues. I also learned that there are many teacher educators who were already incorporating the notion of teaching EIL into their teacher education programs and were willing to share their stories. I felt the need to bring these teacher educators together so that we can share our stories and learn from each other’s experience.

This is how this edited book was born – to create an intellectual space where teacher educators in different contexts with shared goals and interests can discover each other and start talking to each other, and where we can get inspirations and ideas that would allow us to make real changes in our own contexts. I am grateful for the hard work of all teacher educators, and specifically the ones who shared their experience in this volume, and look forward to the innovative changes that this book will bring to the practices of EIL teacher education.

For more information about this book, please see our website. You might also be interested in Aya’s previous book Principles and Practices of Teaching English as an International Language.


What Will You Do With the Rest of Your Life? Consider Working With English Learners!

22 December 2016

This month we published Sarah J. Shin’s book English Language Teaching as a Second Career which is the first book in our new series CAL Series on Language EducationIn this post, Sarah discusses the experiences of people who embark upon a new career as an English teacher later in life.

English Language Teaching as a Second CareerConsider the following statistics: A 45-year-old American woman who remains free of heart disease and cancer can expect to see her 92nd birthday; a 45-year-old man in similar condition, his 88th birthday. This means that today’s 45-year-olds who maintain reasonably good health can look forward to living another half of their lives. Throughout much of human history, 40 was regarded as a fairly ripe old age. But with extraordinary advances in biomedicine in the last century, longevity has become a global reality.

As a result of dramatically increased life expectancy, a new developmental stage has emerged in the life cycle. The period between the end of young adulthood and the onset of true old age can easily cover a span of four or five decades.

An important consequence of increased life expectancy is that people need to be able to support themselves financially for more years. A 62-year-old person today could easily require 30+ years of retirement income. This motivates people to work beyond the traditional retirement age of 65. Four out of five baby boomers expect to work well into what used to be known as the retirement years.

What distinguishes this new generation of adults in terms of work is that they are moving beyond midlife careers in search of a calling in the second half of life. They focus on what matters most and are no longer satisfied to work simply to bring home the paycheck. They look for deeper meaning in what they do and are more interested in having an impact on the world around them. Driven by a sense of ‘If not now, when?’, they are able to break away from their former limitations and break new ground on the kind of work they choose to do.

As an English as a second language (ESL) teacher educator at a university, I interact with a growing number of people in their forties, fifties and sixties, who find satisfaction in helping students learn English. Many are actively involved in tutoring and volunteer work with literacy organizations in their communities, where they interact with immigrants and refugees from around the world. These individuals are moving beyond midlife careers in search of a calling in the second half of life, and many consider teaching to be that calling.

In my book, English Language Teaching as a Second Career, I explore what is on the minds of these adults, what they are looking for in their work with English learners and what their experiences are like as they return to school to be trained for a career in education alongside folks in their twenties and thirties. I provide portraits of these individuals as they develop as teachers and describe the processes they go through to launch their teaching careers, and the evolving significance of their work in their overall life goals and achievements.

With longevity a new global reality, the trend we see today of adults returning to school to be trained for a different career will continue in the coming years. The question is how will we create a shared vision for lifelong learning that helps individuals to experiment with new ideas and different types of work, regardless of where they are in the life cycle?

Sarah J. Shin, University of Maryland Baltimore County

For more information about this book, please see our website. You might also be interested in the recent interview with the editors of the CAL Series on Language Education on our blog.


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