How to Give Your Child the Best Chance of Learning a Second Language

This month we published Early Instructed Second Language Acquisition edited by Joanna Rokita-Jaśkow and Melanie Ellis. In this post the editors suggest the best ways to teach your child a foreign language.

Knowing I am an expert in teaching English to young learners, many parents approach me asking, WHEN is it best to start teaching their child a foreign language?

And of course they would like to get a clear-cut answer, which would help them to make the best decision. They are usually very ambitious, conscious parents, often middle-class, who are focused on bringing up children and willing to do their utmost to make the best of their young child’s ‘window of opportunity’ for language learning.

However, the answer to when a child should start is not that simple. First of all, you need to know that if you don’t start teaching your child a foreign language early, it does not mean that your child will miss the learning opportunity. You can compensate for a later start by having more classes more often at a later age, living abroad or by using out-of-class learning opportunities such as the internet. Foreign language (FL) instruction is a part of school curricula in many settings, and if the teaching is high quality, your child will benefit from instruction at school too.

Rather than asking when learning a foreign language should start, if you decide to enrol your child in early FL instruction (which you usually have to pay for), you should rather ask HOW the language should be taught to get the best learning outcomes. Popular demand from parents has seen the rise of numerous private schools which are flourishing, but which do not always offer high quality teaching.

  • First of all, you should aim to give your child as many opportunities to learn the language as possible, remembering that they forget quickly and learn slowly, and need frequent revision and contact with the language. For this reason, choosing a bilingual or immersion type of nursery or school may be the best option, as instruction there takes place most of the time in the foreign language.
  • If this type of schooling is not available in your area or is too costly, do not forget about your own knowledge of the FL and use it as an asset to support your child in foreign language learning. You can revise the FL class material with your child, play simple games in an FL, join them in playing online games or watch cartoons in an FL with them. A parent must be present to keep the child focused on the task and explain words and expressions that they don’t understand.
  • Reading in the FL is the key to speaking in the FL. Reading a picture book together with the child in an FL helps visual and critical literacy to grow along with competence in the FL. Likewise digital books on apps or on websites are freely available and can be used for parent-child reading.
  • It could be a good idea to design an FL corner with self-access material (books, toys, board games, tablet etc.) both in the school/kindergarten and at home. Children could freely reach for FL materials for play, and in this way may act out the FL lesson.
  • Finally, parents need to take an interest in what happens in the language class, not only to keep track of what the children learn, but to be aware how the lessons are taught, particularly in the private sector. The teaching should emphasise play and using the language for communication, but it will only be successful if the teacher is able to control the group of children and at the same time communicate with ease in the FL. So the teacher needs really good managerial, teaching and language skills. Unfortunately, such teachers are difficult to find, which calls into question whether a very early start is the best idea.

Our book looks at these aspects from a research perspective. It outlines critical issues that influence the learning outcomes in young and very young learner classrooms that should be looked into. It will be of interest to teachers, teacher educators, researchers and also parents, who are keen to get more information before making any decision about provision for an early start.

Additionally, it should be remembered that the learning trajectories of early starters vary considerably throughout their lives due to the impact of various social, affective and cognitive factors and go beyond the impact of the starting age. Thus there are many pathways from an early start and not all young learners will reach the same competence in the foreign language.

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Early Language Learning edited by Janet Enever and Eva Lindgren.

It Takes a Village to Write a Book: Mastering Idiomatic Expressions

This month we published Idiomatic Mastery in a First and Second Language by Monica Karlsson. In this post the author explains the inspiration behind the book and talks us through the thinking behind each chapter.

Some years ago I was teaching a proficiency class, when my student teachers and I came across some idiomatic expressions in a text that one of my students had brought with her. Her intention was to use the text in one of her own teaching sessions as it dealt with a topic relevant to a particular lesson, but she had problems understanding a few sections of it. Quite a long discussion ensued which, to begin with, was concerned with meaning only, but, when meaning had been resolved, came to be more about how exciting it would be to deal with such vocabulary on a more regular basis. This discussion with my students was the very first step in an extended process that has now resulted in the book Idiomatic Mastery in a First and Second Language.

Setting to work, the first thing I did was to explore differences between comprehension in a first and second language, so that I would get a better understanding of problems related to second language acquisition specifically. In this respect, the research literature clearly shows that there are four main facilitators: age, context, transparency and frequency, and so the second chapter came to deal with these basic concepts, as well as exploring L1 and L2 quantitative and qualitative differences.

Next I wanted to investigate how I could teach these kinds of items in a way that would promote both comprehension and retention, as well as give an understanding of how my students could approach these kinds of expressions in their own L2 classrooms in the future. Chapter 3 is therefore concerned with multimodal and visualization techniques that may help L2 learners of different ages and proficiency levels.

One of the idioms found while searching for suitable scenes from various TV shows to be incorporated in the multimodal tests implemented in the third chapter was paint the town beige. During testing, I realized that this type of manipulated idiom warranted its own chapter, as it caused students to experience quite a few additional problems. The fifth chapter hence deals only with L2 learners’ comprehension of these twisted relatives.

While testing groups of informants, I also noticed that even if many of the expressions were understood and remembered with the help of multimodal and visualization techniques, many more idioms regrettably remained very difficult to grasp, and so, to enhance learning further, it also felt important to deal with persisting ignorance and various types of misinterpretations in a structured way. Chapter 4 is thus dedicated entirely to these tokens.

Presenting my results on L1 and L2 idiom comprehension to a group of other researchers, the last part of a discussion with them came to be about idiom production, at which point I felt I had more to learn. Reading up on the research literature, I found that while sentence completion tasks have been comparatively frequently researched, very little has been done in connection with free composition writing. The sixth chapter therefore focuses entirely on an analysis of L2 learners’ use of idiomatic expressions when writing essays, often considered one of the last frontiers of L2 mastery.

Lastly, it is usually said that it takes a village to raise a child. Based on the above, I now realize that the same can be said about writing a book, during the process of which comments, ideas and input from students, colleagues and friends certainly help decide what would be important parts of a book on a specific topic. I sincerely hope that you will find this book as interesting to read as I found it interesting to write.

Monica Karlsson
monica.karlsson@hh.se

For more information about this book please see our website

A Case for Multilingual Open-Access Academic Publishing

An open access Farsi translation of our 2016 book Who’s Afraid of Multilingual Education? by Amir Kalan was recently made available. In this post the author explains why the publication of this translation is so important. 

The English and Farsi editions side by side

Although English academic writing has facilitated communication between scholars from different parts of the world, it has at the same time contributed to complex forms of academic imperialism, which harmfully interferes with knowledge creation and dissemination in languages other than English. In 2016, I published a book with Multilingual Matters about dominant discourses regarding mother tongue-based multilingual education in the Iranian context. The book, entitled Who’s Afraid of Multilingual Education?, was written based on interviews with influential scholars of multilingual education and language rights in order to contribute ideas to the mother tongue education debate in Iran. The open access publication of the Farsi translation of the book recently became possible thanks to Multilingual Matters – who provided the copyright – and University of Dayton – who published the ebook. In this blog post, I briefly write about the significance of the publication of the translation of the book.

Academic publishing in English has created a global community of scholars who share thoughts and experiences about a wide range of topics including global issues that occur outside the English speaking world. Academics working in the Anglo-American world write about other people’s cultural practices, languages, literature, art, and education. Western scholars even write the histories of non-western populations in English, the de facto academic lingua franca. On the other hand, non-English speaking international researchers are also pressured to publish in English for promotion, a trend encouraged by university ranking dynamics. This trend, on the bright side, has been a blessing in that we become aware of issues and conversations in many parts of the world. There is, however, a darker side to this status.

The journal industry and academic publishing apparatus are practically at the service of promoting a commercialized higher education, which uses researchers’ work for marketing purposes as well as knowledge dissemination. Academics’ publications in this sense become the window of the higher education marketplace in the West for potential shoppers. This approach has serious consequences for knowledge creation and consumption. Most accessible knowledge today is packaged in English, which has practically made non-English academic texts be perceived as less reliable. Also, university libraries have become the main customers of publishers because the books are sold at high prices, alienating public audiences – including non-English speaking populations. For researchers, this means investing their lives into books and papers that would only be read by a small number of readers, or even not read at all. At the same time, academics are pressured to publish more and more, resulting in a focus on quantity and repetition rather than quality and originality.

When it comes to international scholars the situation is even worse. International scholars whose research focuses on local contexts beyond the English speaking world are typically required by their institutions to publish in English. International scholars have to write in a language other than their mother tongue and compete with English speaking scholars who are often already connected with the English academic publishing and journal industry. Just as problematically, international researchers’ work often involves local issues, but because their findings are published in English, local populations have almost no access to the results of the research that was conducted for studying their cultures. This phenomenon raises serious epistemological questions about knowledge dissemination and the positionality of researchers as well as significant conversations about ethics of academic publishing.

The Farsi translation of Who’s Afraid of Multilingual Education? bent this model in favour of the population that the book was written about and, to a large degree, written for: Iranian educators. With the situation of mother tongue-based multilingual education in Iran in the background, the book brought together prominent scholars of language policy and linguistic rights in different parts of the world to respond to the doubts and questions of Iranian educators and ethnic mother tongue activists. Although the outcome of this conversation was an analysis of sociopolitical discourses that are meant to undermine the role of minoritized languages all over the world, the catalyst of our conversations was the challenges minoritized students are facing in today’s Iran. Thus, one ideal audience among others for this book would naturally be Iranian teachers eager to learn about effective policies and practices in other parts of the world. Nevertheless, the academic publishing industry has not been designed for interaction with native populations.

Iranian language teachers – especially those in disadvantaged provinces where minority languages are suppressed – would never be able to afford the English book. In some cases the price of one copy of the book would equal an Iranian teacher’s monthly income. Even if an enthusiastic teacher decided to make such an investment, he or she still would have no access to the book. A combination of western sanctions and the Iranian government’s strict censorship policies has practically made the distribution of the book in Iran impossible. Most foreign publishers have no active presence in Iran; online retailers such as Amazon do not provide service in Iran; and western credit card companies have no reach within the country and its banking system, which makes online shopping impossible. In these circumstances, the educators who practically own the conversation which the English book presents have no access to the text written about their lives.

The English version of Who’s Afraid of Multilingual Education? was not funded in any form. The book was not connected to the participating scholars’ sponsored research. The publication was the fruit of personal commitment and interest of researchers who deeply cared about minoritized students. The translator of the book similarly decided to pen the Farsi version out of personal passion without our knowledge. He had finished the translation months before he contacted me to share news about his work. When I approached Multilingual Matters and the University of Dayton about the possibility of open access publication of the book and highlighted the fact that such a move could break the current mode of elite academic publishing, they did not hesitate to support the free online publication of the Farsi version and worked hard to guarantee the high quality of the publication. Multilingual Matters generously provided the translator with the rights to the Farsi version and offered moral support. The manager of University of Dayton’s E-scholarship also worked hard to release the book in the best possible format as soon as possible.

I am grateful to Multilingual Matters and University of Dayton for supporting the open access publication of the translation of my work. Apart from my personal interest in the project, their decision, I believe, has had important ideological, sociocultural, and economic implications. The translation resists the English-only stance of mainstream academic publishing industry. It provides access to local educators who are the real owners of the book content and invites them to share their thoughts about the debate. In other words, the conversation is no longer about them but with them. Additionally, the free online distribution of the book creates access for native teachers who are often financially disadvantaged. It is fair to see this experience as an example of how we can democratize the academic publishing industry and perhaps remedy some of the effects of the current academic colonialism.

Amir Kalan

 

For more information about Who’s Afraid of Multilingual Education? please see our website. You can access the Farsi translation of the book here.

New Year, New Books!

Happy New Year! We’re starting 2019 as we mean to go on with a whole host of exciting new books coming out in January and February! Here are the new titles you can look forward to…

January

Early Instructed Second Language Acquisition

This book examines which factors lead to success in foreign language learning at an early age in instructional settings. The studies investigate learners aged between three and ten, their parents and teachers, and focus on the development of speaking and reading skills and how attitudes and motivation impact on the teaching and learning process.

Idiomatic Mastery in a First and Second Language

The comprehension, retention and production of idiomatic expressions is one of the most difficult areas of the lexicon for second language learners to master. This book investigates this under-researched and interesting aspect of language acquisition, shedding light on conventional uses of idiomatic expressions as well as creative variant forms.

Investigating Content and Language Integrated Learning

This book provides a unique longitudinal account of content and language integrated learning (CLIL). Giving voice to both learners and teachers, it offers insights into language learning outcomes, learner motivation among CLIL and non-CLIL students, effects of extramural exposure to English, issues in relation to assessment in CLIL and much more.

English-Medium Instruction and Pronunciation

This book offers new insights into the language gains of adult learners enrolled in an English-medium instruction degree programme. It provides longitudinal evidence of the phonological gains of the learners and investigates whether increased exposure to the target language leads to incidental learning of second language pronunciation.

Critical Reflections on Research Methods

This book explores the challenges involved in conducting research with members of minoritized communities. Through reflective accounts, contributors explore community-based collaborative work, and suggest important implications for applied linguistics, educational research and anthropological investigations of language, literacy and culture.

 

February

Early Language Learning and Teacher Education

This book investigates both the theoretical and practical aspects of teacher education for early language teachers. It focuses on the complexity of teacher learning, innovations in mentoring and teacher supervision, strategies in programme development and perceptions, and knowledge and assessment in early language learning teacher education.

Aspiring to be Global

This book makes a novel contribution to the sociolinguistics of globalization by examining language and social change in the tourism destination of West Street, Yangshuo, China. It explores the contingencies and tensions in the creation of a ‘global village’ and reveals ambivalent struggles inherent in this ongoing process of social change.

Critical Inquiries in the Sociolinguistics of Globalization

This book seeks to examine the notions of ‘linguistic diversity’ and ‘hybridity’ using new critical theoretical frameworks embedded within the broader discussion of the sociolinguistics of globalization. The research took place in contexts that include linguistic landscapes, schools, classrooms, neighborhoods and virtual spaces around the world.

Conversation Analytic Perspectives on English Language Learning, Teaching and Testing in Global Contexts

This book contains 10 empirical studies of English language learning, teaching and testing where English is an additional language. Focusing on English-as-a-Foreign-Language contexts, they involve varied learner populations, from children to young adults to adults, in different learning environments around the world.

Perspectives on Language as Action

This edited volume has been compiled in honour of Professor Merrill Swain who, for over four decades, has been one of the most prominent scholars in the field of second language acquisition and second language education. The range of topics covered in the book reflects the breadth and depth of Swain’s contributions, expertise and interests.

 

For more information about any of these titles or to place an order, please visit our website.

What Does Language Learning Outside the Classroom Look Like?

This month we published Second Language Literacy Practices and Language Learning Outside the Classroom by Miho Inaba. In this post the author explains what inspired this study and how she carried out her research.

I first became interested in out-of-class language learning more than 10 years ago when I had just started my career as a teacher of Japanese at a university in Sweden. I vividly remember how in my very first week at the university, some of my students told me about their favourite Japanese pop culture, such as anime (Japanese cartoons), manga (Japanese comic books) and movies. It was shocking to me at that time – I wondered how they could know Japanese pop culture better than me even though they were on the opposite side of the planet. I was also surprised by the fact that they could speak Japanese even before completing beginner level. It all started from there.

I then started asking my students what they had done in Japanese outside the classroom and realised that almost all do something extra in Japanese alongside their classroom-based study. At the same time, I started wondering what I could do to support their study as a teacher of Japanese. This question motivated (and still motivates) me to dig into out-of-class language learning for my research.

One big challenge when conducting this research was to decide which data collection methods to use. Out-of-class literacy practices are usually ‘hidden’ from teachers, and students undertake such activities irregularly. The very nature of out-of-class language learning might make the research on this topic complicated. However, when considering the different data collection methods available, I came across the ‘diary study with photos’ method in several papers in the field of literacy studies. Visual information is crucial to be included because one feature of literacy in this digital age is its multimodality.

In the end, I decided to employ this diary study with photo method alongside interviews, and asked the participants to include visual information as much as possible, for example, screenshots of websites and photos of books that they had read. I also asked them to bring paper-based materials to class (e.g. their books and essays for the Japanese classes) if possible. In the interviews, I used such visual materials to trigger the students’ memory when they engaged in particular literacy activities in their diaries. They sometimes even used my computer to demonstrate how they utilised online tools and websites. I think this method enabled me to collect rich data in a less intrusive way than either observations or video recordings and also helped me to understand the contexts of their literacy practices.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Language Learner Autonomy by David Little, Leni Dam and Lienhard Legenhausen.

Finding Success in Online Teaching

This month we published Teaching Children Online by Carla Meskill and Natasha Anthony. In this post the authors introduce their new book.

Online education continues to see a rise in popularity among school-age students who otherwise cannot or do not wish to attend brick and mortar schools. Our new book, Teaching Children Online, is a guide for new and practicing online teachers whose goal is to make optimal use of the medium to teach such students. To do so, we provide numerous illustrations of effective, conversation-based online instructional practices along with commentary on the rationale and mechanics of these interactions. Our goal is to support online teachers in mastering the affordances of the online medium.

Current debate regarding “regular and substantive” contact in online learning centers on the amount and quality of teacher interaction with students in online courses. Publishers and for-profit schools would like to automate as much online instruction as they can for obvious reasons: quality educators cost money where programmed instruction – digital texts with automated assessments that simulate instruction – are a one-time expense. In an effort to preserve the critical role of instructional conversation – asynchronous and synchronous communication with teachers, peers and area experts – educators continue to agitate for “regular and substantive contact” with online instructors as a fundamental right and responsibility. Our hope is that Teaching Children Online will support educators in designing effective instructional conversations and thereby engage learners in the best instruction possible.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like the authors’ previous book Teaching Languages Online.

Living with Languages in a Multilingual World

This month we published The Multilingual Reality by Ajit K. Mohanty. In this post the author talks about the inspiration behind the book. 

Pinky’s dreams had evaporated. She dreamt of touching the sky in her school; as her parents put her there, the glitter in their eyes was reassuring for Pinky. The Saora girl was an unstoppable chatterbox; her home language, Saora, was polka dotted by some Odia, Hindi, English and other languages as she grew up and moved out into her neighbourhood, the weekly market place and the tribal festivals. But a few days in school and she gradually lost her chatter. Her parents were sad that Pinky did not want to go to school. “I don’t understand the teacher, I don’t understand the books”, she told her mother.

I met Pinky’s father during a visit to set up our MLE Plus project in the local primary school selected by the Government of Odisha as a new multilingual education (MLE) school in Saora. He ventilated his agony over Pinky’s unwillingness to go to school, but, he said, he understood. As a child, he also ran way from his school because then he did not know Odia, the school language. I told him that the school will teach in Saora in Grade 1 from the next year. Pinky had lost a year but was happy to be back. During one of my visits to her class, when Pinky was in Grade 2, I was amazed to observe her telling a Saora story for nearly 11 minutes while her friends listened with attention. She was definitely enjoying her school in her own language, something that millions of children from indigenous, tribal, minor and minoritized (ITM) languages in the world are deprived of.

Despite large-scale international movement of people, languages are no longer considered a medley for an interesting colourful world – one full of cultural hues, diversity, linguistic rights and pride. Schools and states (and sometimes communities and parents) ensure that many native languages are not passed on to the next generation. In 1907, Roosevelt cautioned the immigrants into the US and said “We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language”. Now the world seems to have limited room for languages except the few dominant ones.

The world seems to be losing its colour to the devouring supermarket culture with limited brands dominating – limited languages, limited cultures, limited varieties. The multitude of languages used by our ancestors are lost or are on the verge of extinction. It is a tough battle between “language hegemony and discrimination” and the promises of “the cultural and educational richness of living with languages”.

I grew up in a beautiful multilingual world where I had the freedom to move naturally and spontaneously between people and languages, unconcerned by any boundaries and infringements. I did not have to bother about my own inadequacies in the languages I encountered, nor did I have to count the languages I knew or did not know. I was taught in my mother tongue and was gradually introduced to other languages that I embraced. Levels of my competence in languages around me did not have to be judged.

I grew up with an understanding that, like our fingerprints and DNA, we are supposed to be unique and diverse – that one size fits all is an aberration and is limiting to our linguistic and cultural diversity. If that be the case, why should millions like Pinky be deprived of being educated through their Mother Tongue?

This book is an account of my journey as a researcher and a coparticipant in the multilingual world from the perspectives of the people and communities at the margins – people being forced into a less diverse and more insipid world. Through my book, I have sought to share the complexity, the agony and the beauty of living with languages in a multilingual world. My book handles concerns and issues that have confronted me and the questions prompted by my encounters with the ITM communities and their education. The issues necessarily go beyond the question of languages and transcend the borders of India, because they are tied to questions of power, the processes of domination and subordination in all societies. The specific themes in the book echo concerns from the ITM perspectives – both local and global. The themes reflect some interrelated aspects of what it means to live with languages in a multilingual society.

Multilingualism is not about languages; it is about life and living, about lifestyles, about world views. This is what I realised growing up with many languages around me. These languages made my lifestyle possible. They were not just part of my expressive and receptive experience as I moved across my social world, they combined to make this world for me. I certainly did and still do have a mother tongue but my total experience was never fragmented by my mother tongue and other tongues.

You can contact Ajit Mohanty with any questions and comments at the following email address: ajitmohanty@gmail.com.

For  more information about this book please see our website.

The Impact of English as a Lingua Franca on EFL Teaching

This month we published English as a Lingua Franca for EFL Contexts edited by Nicos C. Sifakis and Natasha Tsantila. In this post the editors discuss the rise of English as a Lingua Franca and its impact on EFL teaching.

Thinking about the function and impact of English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) is not new. The fascination for the global character of English has been around for at least four decades. Scholars have been discussing and analysing the (mostly idiosyncratic) uses of English by so-called “non-native speakers”, predominantly people working in the field of banking and economics, since the late 1970s. Those were simpler times. As the 20th century gave its turn to the 21st, and as the internet took the world by storm, people, and not just businessmen, needed a quick and easy way to communicate, to exchange ideas, to become understood and to express themselves on a global level. English was the ideal vehicle for this. Everything happened so fast. Suddenly, there were millions and millions of instances where people (yes, mostly “non-native”) were using English without the least concern for established norms. When you want to communicate and be understood, you have to consider what the other person is able to understand and therefore you are bound to tailor your entire linguistic behaviour (i.e., choice of words, intonation, speed of delivery, etc.) to the communicational needs of the circumstance; you find that your interlocutors feel and act very much the same way.

This is fine, except that now it is suddenly happening everywhere and by everyone. Online and offline, in virtually all geographical latitudes, people use English when no other language is shared, and even when this is the case, English seems to be the “go-to” primary linguistic vehicle. All this makes the task of describing and making sense of what is happening fascinating but extremely taxing. There are simply countless contexts and situations where English may be used by the “non-native speaker”, and these contexts are now many many more than those demanding compliance to the native-speaker norms will ever be. Even native speakers have to buy into this ELF mindset if they want to successfully communicate with non-native speakers.

On top of everything, the critical perspective in applied linguistics, developed in the 1990s, shook scholars’ confidence in many of the perceptions and terms that had shaped the field for decades. Certain things that were considered fundamental in applied linguistics and foreign language teaching were fundamental no more, the very notion of the “native speaker” being one of the first in the fray. The cornerstone of modern linguistics, the native speaker, was deemed not useful and more a politically incorrect term that fails to describe reality and, to make matters worse, carries with it a string of convictions that are old-fashioned and, well, plainly wrong. Also consider the notion of “mistake” and that of “feedback provision” in the EFL classroom: what constitutes a mistake is arguably no longer a simple matter of looking up the grammar of English, and how the teacher will focus learners’ attention to different aspects of their use of the language is no longer straightforward.

Of course, we are not arguing that EFL, as we all understand it and have experienced (or are experiencing) it, is not still valid. Far from it. It’s just that it is now becoming clearer that so-called EFL-focused practices tend to be predominantly (some would say, exclusively) native-speaker-oriented, and this is the remit of a huge and highly profitable field in applied linguistics and teaching, called high-stakes testing. But the world is not the same as it was 30 or 20, or even 10 years ago and the point that we and the other authors make in the book is that this needs to be reflected in the way that English is taught.

In a nutshell, this book aims to present the case of ELF for EFL contexts. The colleagues that wrote the various chapters are top scholars in their respective fields and the cases they are presenting in each chapter are grounded in extensive research they have undertaken. What we are concerned with is making sense of the impact that ELF can have for teaching, and specifically EFL teaching. We have done our best to incorporate all aspects of EFL teaching, including pedagogy, materials evaluation, teacher education, policy, assessment and testing. Our ultimate aim is to kickstart a dialogue on the principles and processes of what we call ELF awareness in EFL teaching. ELF awareness is a lot more than awareness of ELF: it first and foremost incorporates an awareness of context and an appreciation of pedagogical style, learner needs and usage of English inside and outside the EFL classroom and, fundamentally, an awareness of our attitudes and convictions regarding English.

Nicos Sifakis, sifakisnicos@gmail.com

Natasha Tsantila, ntsantila@acg.edu

For more information about this book please see our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like Preparing Teachers to Teach English as an International Language edited by Aya Matsuda. 

(Re)imagining Japan’s Internationalization via Akogare [Desire]

We recently published Transcending Self and Other Through Akogare [Desire] by Chisato Nonaka. In this post Chisato talks about the need to get the discussion moving on Japan’s internationalization.

A whirlwind of events have taken place since my recent move (back) to Japan. Settling into a new job, finding a new apartment, meeting new colleagues and students (and remembering their names!), etc. but above all, I’m experiencing a serious case of reverse culture shock on a daily basis. So much so that I’ve started to wonder if I’ll ever “recover.”

For instance, I stand out like a sore thumb at high-level meetings, full of male directors and professors—mostly middle-aged and well into their careers. These meetings follow the agenda to a T and few express support for or opposition to the speaker.

Why do we hold a meeting if nobody really discusses anything? I asked a senior professor point-blank (capitalizing on my “naïve” and “relatively young” “female” positionality). The answer I received from him was shocking – “because there is no reason why we shouldn’t hold a meeting.” This response in fact provides a clue to understanding the complex nature of Japan’s internationalization.

The author on her wedding day

In my upcoming book (Transcending Self and Other Through Akogare [Desire]: The English Language and Internationalization of Higher Education in Japan), I focus on Japanese higher education and its ongoing internationalization efforts. While I don’t necessarily take up the above case in my book, I show that the apathetic and strait-laced attitude towards something different, new, and/or the so-called “non-Japanese” is quite telling of Japan. In other words, for the meeting attendees above, not holding periodic meetings is perhaps more troubling than sitting through them. This may sound all too familiar to those who have done research and/or worked in the field of higher education within and outside of Japan.

The akogare framework

What is unique about my book, however, is that I showcase multiple versions of “Japan” that we need to acknowledge and honor, in order to finally get the discussion moving. Specifically, through the construct of akogare [desire], I demonstrate that Japan’s internationalization is more than what the statistics and bar graphs can show. It is more than just the range of internationalization policies and programs that the government is advancing. It is in fact “us”—educators, students, and others who may not even be living in Japan—that are responsible and accountable for (re)imagining what Japan is and where Japan is headed in the coming years. It is my sincerest hope that educators and students in similar circumstances will find a meaningful and constructive connection to my work, and in turn, I look forward to engaging in a further dialogue with fellow educators and students.

Chisato Nonaka

For more information about this book please see our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like Language Learning, Gender and Desire by Kimie Takahashi.

What is the Role of Teachers in the US Struggle over Mexican and Central American Immigration?

This month we published Teacher Leadership for Social Change in Bilingual and Bicultural Education by Deborah K. Palmer. In this post she explains how teachers give her hope during the political struggle over immigration along the US southern border. 

I believe that in the United States we will look back upon these years as a dark time in our history. The political struggle over immigration along our southern border has led to more and more direct and blatant attacks on human rights, not only from angry reactionary citizens but from the government and its institutions. Since 2016 there has been an uptick in scapegoating of immigrants, Muslims, Latinas/os, and people of color. At this point, documented neo-Nazis and White Supremacists occupy official roles in the Trump White House and are running for public office in the upcoming election, and President Trump’s appointed attorney general Jeff Sessions – the official charged with protecting civil rights – has a long history of racist stances.

At the same time, for many years US foreign policy in Mexico and Central America has contributed to increases in gang- and drug-related violence, which in turn continues to drive more and more people – often unaccompanied youth and families with young children – to seek safety in the United States. Mr. Sessions and the Trump administration have moved toward a “zero tolerance” policy toward these immigrants and refugees.

I find this concept, “zero tolerance”, to be emblematic of Trump’s era in our country. Why would so many Americans, most of whose ancestors came into the country as religious or economic refugees, embrace an ideology of intolerance?

As a teacher educator and former bilingual teacher, I constantly ask myself what is the role of teachers – particularly bilingual teachers – in the face of “zero tolerance”? In truth, elementary bilingual education and ESL teachers offer me hope. These are professionals on the front lines of our immigration crisis, working every day with the children and families who are the target of the worst attacks. Critically conscious teachers engaging in culturally sustaining pedagogies, give their students a safe and welcoming space every day where they can learn and grow, where they are not merely “tolerated” but fully embraced and welcomed in the United States.

Teachers have long inspired me. Whenever I am concerned about the state of the world, I turn to critically-engaged teachers, and draw inspiration from their work. The work of teachers is complex and multi-faceted; teaching well, and teaching diverse multilingual communities of children, requires a wide range of skills and dispositions. In my work with experienced teachers seeking their master’s degrees, I’ve begun to notice some patterns: teachers who are successful at creating and enacting curriculum that will support diverse students’ identities and build their academic skills all seem to share at least the following characteristics: they are willing to take risks and take stands; they are deeply reflective and aware of larger systems of oppression and the tools to counter oppression; and they network and connect with other teachers, families and communities to find the resources they need.

For example, a pair of fourth grade teachers in Austin, Texas developed a curricular unit on the topic of immigration that integrates high quality multilingual/multicultural children’s literature with their students’ own families’ stories to engage students and their families in a month-long exploration of history/language arts/geography. One of these teachers, working with her school librarian, has developed a webpage offering resources for locating and using culturally-relevant literature for the elementary classroom. Another former pre-kindergarten teacher from Austin has moved into full-time activism as a union organizer and has organized resources to put on periodic citizenship drives for the immigrant community. A team of dual language bilingual teacher coaches from Round Rock, Texas (outside Austin) worked together within the leadership structures of their traditionally English-dominant school district to offer all their growing population of Spanish-speaking students – and many of their English-speaking students too – a strong, enriching dual language bilingual education program.

Teachers are so often the ones who build systems both within and beyond their classrooms to ensure their students can adapt and grow in their new homes. Bilingual teachers in particular are bridges; they are advocates for their immigrant students, and they are among our best ambassadors.

For more information about this book please see our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like Restrictive Language Policy in Practice by Amy J. Heineke.