The Importance of Prioritising Writing in the L2 Chinese Classroom

We recently published Developing Writing Competence in L2 Chinese Classrooms edited by Li Yang and Laura Valentín-Rivera. In this post the editors introduce the book and explain why they chose to focus their research on writing Chinese as a second language.

Introduction to the book

Our edited volume is focused exclusively on writing Chinese as a second language (L2). It provides readers with cutting-edge empirical research and insightful teaching methods and strategies for effectively developing L2 writing competence in L2 Chinese classroom contexts. In particular, each chapter in the volume offers practical, detailed and insightful pedagogical recommendations to (1) assist language teachers, educators,  graduate students and research scholars in making well-informed decisions on how to efficiently provide writing instruction in L2 Chinese and (2) facilitate the implementation of writing-focused activities to promote the construction of meaning, as opposed to reducing writing to the mere practice of specific vocabulary and grammar points.

Focusing on “writing” as the theme

The reasoning of focusing our edited collection on writing was our surprise caused by the fact that writing as a skill is not prioritized when being taught in the L2 classroom, especially considering that writing is a productive skill that should be as prioritized as orality. We consider that this is a pedagogical deficiency that compromises the holistic linguistic growth of L2 learners. Therefore, we aspire that our work provides pedagogical guidance that allows language instructors and academics to further their learners’ abilities as writers, that is, who can independently and collaboratively construct messages that convey complex meanings.

Targeting “Chinese” as the language: 

Originally, we had anticipated focusing on Chinese and Spanish, not only because these two represent our respective languages of research specialty, but also since both languages represent codes that are widely spoken and learned as second languages globally. However, we realized that we could make a greater contribution to the field by dedicating a single collection to one language at a time. Given the limited work available on Chinese settings, we decided to dedicate our time to said language, aspiring to make a greater contribution to the SLA field.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Cross-Linguistic Transfer of Writing Strategies by Karen Forbes.

From Pre-service to Retirement: The Wellbeing of Language Teachers across the Career Span

This month we published Language Teacher Wellbeing across the Career Span by Giulia Sulis, Sarah Mercer, Sonja Babic and Astrid Mairitsch. In this post the authors introduce the book’s themes and explain what inspired them to write it.

What is wellbeing? What characterises the wellbeing of language teachers across the different phases of their career? How can language teacher wellbeing be supported at these different stages of their career? These and many other questions are explored in our new book based on a large-scale funded research project, Language Teacher Wellbeing across the Career Span.

Teaching is one of the most stressful professions. For language teachers, there are potentially unique additional challenges, such as language anxiety, energy-intense methodologies, and the status of languages and language teaching. With the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic crisis, these challenges have been exacerbated. Language educators across the globe are facing increasing levels of stress, ultimately resulting in high rates of attrition and burnout. Our book was inspired by our wish to further understand not only the factors influencing teachers’ wellbeing, but also what can be done in practice to support language educators to thrive and teach to the best of their abilities.

One key premise of our book is that each phase of a language teacher’s career is characterised by distinctive challenges and resources which shape their wellbeing. Across their professional lives, teachers experience different issues that may threaten their wellbeing. For example, the challenges experienced by a novice teacher will differ from those of an experienced teacher who is approaching retirement. However, research tends to typically focus only on understanding the lives of pre-service and early career teachers. In this book, we attempt to paint a picture of the challenges and resources of language teachers at all phases of their career, from pre-service education to late-career.

If you are a language teacher, a teacher educator, or a researcher interested in language teachers’ multifaceted lives, we believe that this book may be for you!

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Teachers of Multiple Languages by Eric K. Ku.

Native Speaker Bias in Japan

We recently published Language Ideologies and L2 Speaker Legitimacy by Jae DiBello Takeuchi. In this post the author explains the concepts of language ideologies, native speaker bias and speaker legitimacy explored in the book.

The number of foreign residents in Japan has been steadily increasing, but this increase has not been accompanied by an increase in social inclusion. On the contrary, both anecdotal accounts and official government surveys document increasing discrimination, including housing and workplace discrimination as well as hate speech directed at foreigners. These issues mirror the experiences of immigrants and migrant workers around the world. While the details differ from place to place and country to country, a common thread is the difficulty faced by foreigners, often treated as cultural others, as they try to make connections in a new location, using a new language.

Although Japanese language learners are studied extensively, studies tend to focus on classroom contexts, so I wrote this book to examine the linguistic experiences of second language speakers of Japanese who live and work in Japan. I conducted an ethnographic interview study with 50 participants, including first and second language (L1 and L2) speakers of Japanese. Through extensive interviews and participant observations, I learned about challenges faced by L2-Japanese speakers living in Japan and speaking Japanese in their workplace and social relationships.

I take language ideologies as my starting point. Language ideologies refer to beliefs and opinions people have about language, language use and speakers. These beliefs are often unexamined, or even unconscious, but they can have significant impacts on the linguistic choices people make. With regard to Japanese, there is a lot to choose from! All languages have speech styles or registers, but Japanese is well-known for having some speech styles that present particular challenges to learners. For example, keigo, the system of polite and honorific language, requires speakers to decide whether or how much they will use polite verb forms or honorific expressions. But choices about how to speak are never neutral and are always entwined with beliefs about correct or appropriate ways to use the language.

When the speaker is an L2 speaker, linguistic choices are complicated by language ideologies about L2 ability – with regard to Japanese, beliefs about the uniqueness of Japanese and the unique difficulty of it, lead to expectations that non-Japanese will be unable to master the language. This is an example of native speaker bias, which refers to a collection of ideas about speakers and languages. A key part of native speaker bias is that native speakers are depicted as perfect speakers, and language is depicted as a homogenous, bounded unit. Both of these ideas overlook the significant linguistic diversity found across speakers and across and within languages.

For L2-Japanese speakers in Japan, native speaker bias means that their attempts to use Japanese are likely to be met with surprise, resistance, or worse. The upshot is that L2 speakers may find that what they are saying gets ignored at the expense of how they are saying it. An example of this is when an L2 speaker says something, and an L1 speaker responds by commenting on the L2 speaker’s Japanese usage, accent, or other aspects focused on the form of speech rather than the content. When this happens regularly, the result is a denial of the L2 speaker’s legitimacy as a speaker. Speaker legitimacy refers to the right to speak and be heard and is an essential ingredient for L2 speakers to make connections in their L2 communities.

My book introduces the linguistic experiences of L2-Japanese speakers and centers the discussion of native speaker bias around beliefs about Japanese speech styles. I argue that the absence of speaker legitimacy – for example, being on the receiving end of unwanted attention for how one speaks – results in negative messages that to be an L2 speaker in Japan is to be a linguistic other, an outsider. At its core, this is what the absence of speaker legitimacy entails, and without it, the ability of L2 speakers to integrate into local communities is diminished. It is for this reason, I would argue, that a crucial component of linguistic human rights is that all speakers have full access to the linguistic repertoire of whatever language they are speaking. This is what allows us to go beyond being L2 speakers to being, simply, speakers.

Jae DiBello Takeuchi, Clemson University, South Carolina, USA

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like International TESOL Teachers in a Multi-Englishes Community by Phan Le Ha and Osman Z. Barnawi.

How is Third Language Acquisition Different from Second Language Acquisition?

This month we published Teaching and Learning Third Languages by Francesca D’Angelo. In this post the author explains what inspired her to write the book and what readers can expect from it.

Driven by a true passion for modern foreign languages, as a learner, teacher and researcher, I gained experience in teaching from secondary school to PhD level. What prompted me to write this book was the desire to convey the advantages of multilingual education to teachers, educators and language learners from different points of view: cognitive, linguistic and pedagogical. The work highlights the potential benefits of different types and levels of bilingualism, considering the effects of contexts of instruction, amount of exposure and method of acquisition of each language involved, challenging the idealised monolingual approach of language teaching. Language teachers, educators, learners and researchers dealing with multilingual education will particularly appreciate:

1) The broader, interdisciplinary approach of investigation of the phenomenon of bilingualism with a specific focus on the peculiar profile of additional language learners, making Third Language Acquisition a different area of research from Second Language Acquisition. Starting with a theoretical, introductive insight into bilingualism research conducted in different contexts across time, it questions the most widespread prejudices towards bilingual education and bilingualism, including confusion, language impairment and cognitive deficit, discussing the most prominent studies which demonstrate the benefits of bilingualism from a teaching and learning perspective.

2) The different implicit and explicit routes of acquisition available to language learners with practical examples of multilingual practice selected from the latest and most influential projects implemented worldwide. A critical discussion of the way each method of acquisition affects the development of different types and degrees of Metalinguistic Awareness (MLA) is presented. More specifically, the academic debate regarding the non-unitary nature of this fundamental factor (i.e. cognitive or linguistic? Implicit or explicit?) and how it may facilitate and foster performance in additional languages.

3) The focus on the multilingual learner approach, rather than on the target language(s) with a native-like competence to achieve that has traditionally characterised multilingual education. Teachers and educators are presented as “connecting growers” with practical examples of innovative educational practices, in particular translanguaging, to fully exploit and give voice to all the multilingual and multicultural resources available in the classroom. The multilingual practices propounded and discussed aim at creating connections between languages, inviting teachers to resort to the whole multilingual background of the language learners. This could foster the process of teaching and learning third (or additional) languages, not only in terms of broader linguistic repertoire and linguistic skills already developed but also in terms of learning strategies, multicultural, and multisemiotic awareness.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Preparing Teachers to Work with Multilingual Learners edited by Meike Wernicke, Svenja Hammer, Antje Hansen and Tobias Schroedler.

Why is English Pronunciation Instruction often Sidelined?

This month we published English Pronunciation Teaching edited by Veronica G. Sardegna and Anna Jarosz. In this post the editors discuss why English pronunciation instruction often presents a struggle and how the book can help.

Our sessions at professional development workshops for TESOL teachers and at conferences where we present our classroom-based research are always packed with highly motivated teachers interested in developing their expertise in pronunciation teaching. Clearly, these teachers see the value of targeting English pronunciation skills in the classroom. As many of them would agree, a crucial teaching goal for an increasingly globalized world is to develop English language learners’ ability to maintain intelligible and successful interactions in English with speakers of different English varieties and language backgrounds.

Yet, why is it that English pronunciation instruction is often relegated, focused on just correcting sounds, or even avoided altogether in language classrooms around the world? According to the feedback we received from teachers, the main reason is their lack of specialized pronunciation teaching training. Unfortunately, most teacher education programs do not provide the content knowledge and/or pedagogical knowledge that teachers need to teach pronunciation successfully. Consequently, many teachers lack the confidence to teach English pronunciation because they feel unprepared or unqualified to make informed pedagogical decisions in response to questions such as the following:

  • How do I select what pronunciation features to teach and how do I teach them?
  • When do I correct pronunciation errors? Which errors do I correct? What feedback and assessment practices should I follow?
  • How do I incorporate pronunciation instruction and practice into the curriculum?
  • What resources or tools can facilitate pronunciation learning?
  • What pronunciation strategies and rules should I teach? Where can I find this information?
  • What kind of materials are effective for in-class and out-of-class practice?
  • What students’ and teachers’ beliefs, individual learner differences, and teaching approaches may hinder or facilitate students’ learning?
  • What evidence-based practices should I follow?
  • (And for teacher educators): How do I best prepare teachers to teach English pronunciation?

If you are a teacher, teacher-in-training or teacher educator and have these and other pronunciation teaching questions, this is the book for you! This book guides teachers in their pedagogical decisions and in finding resources with specialized content knowledge (e.g. pronunciation features, rules, and strategies to teach and how). The 18 chapters in this ground-breaking collection disseminate knowledge about theoretical frameworks, explore teachers’ and learners’ beliefs and practices regarding pronunciation instruction, and share empirical findings regarding teaching interventions in many different contexts and with English learners of different ages and language backgrounds. In addition, there are four chapters specially dedicated to teacher educators with valuable recommendations for preparing teachers to teach English pronunciation.

If you are interested in classroom-based research focused on English pronunciation teaching and learning, you will be delighted to know that this book is for you, too! The chapters share findings from rigorous pronunciation classroom-based research in order to establish evidence-based recommendations for the classroom. Graduate students and scholars interested in research will find the chapters insightful for their own work. Also, the final chapter provides directions and research questions to guide future pedagogical models and investigations of English pronunciation teaching based on the information presented in the preceding chapters.

We encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity to equip yourself with the expert pedagogical knowledge you need to make evidence-based and informed decisions for pronunciation teaching and research. Empower yourself!

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Fluency in L2 Learning and Use edited by Pekka Lintunen, Maarit Mutta and Pauliina Peltonen.

The Council of Europe Vision of Education

This month we published Quality and Equity in Education edited by Michael Byram, Mike Fleming and Joseph Sheils. In this post the editors explain why the book is important.

We editors have, in our different ways, been much involved in the work of the Council of Europe over several decades. We worked on language matters of different kinds, from the teaching of foreign languages, through the role of language in all aspects of teaching and learning, to the language issues for migrants and their children. This work took place within the wider context of an educational vision pursued by the Council of Europe over many years. It is a vision of education based on core values, which will help young people to become plurilingual, intercultural and democratic citizens in their own states and in Europe as a whole.

Much of that work had as its main audience education policymakers in the 46 member states of the Council of Europe, because the Council of Europe is an organisation of states, rather than of individuals. This means that teachers and other educationists know only indirectly of the Council of Europe’s work and its vision for education, usually through their ministries of education.

There have been visible and demonstrable effects in education systems in Europe in terms of policies which then impact on what teachers do. It is also worth mentioning that much of this work is also noticed and influential in many countries beyond Europe.

Nonetheless, we decided that it is important that teachers should know more directly about the Council of Europe’s educational vision, and how they can draw on it in practical ways in their teaching and assessing routines. Hence this book.

In order to turn our hopes into reality, we asked the contributors to the book to write chapters on different aspects and perspectives of the Council of Europe’s work. We asked them to write for teachers and other education practitioners, to illustrate their texts with practical examples, and to make the complex work accessible and immediate.

They responded with chapters which answer the questions teachers ask: What do I need to know about X in order to make good use of the Council of Europe’s work. For example, there are chapters on what one needs to know about plurilingual, intercultural and democratic competences, or about the role of language in teaching these competences, or what can be done for adult migrants or their children. Such practice-oriented chapters are preceded by a chapter on the concepts of quality and equity on which the others build, and they are completed by a chapter for school leaders or principals who might ask how they can act in their school as a whole to ensure good language teaching and the equity and quality that follow from it.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might alo like Reflecting on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages and its Companion Volume edited by David Little and Neus Figueras.

Rethinking Language Learning for Accountants

We recently published Communication that Counts by Pia Patricia P. Tenedero. In this post the author dispels the myth about accountants and poor communication.

More than a decade of teaching English language courses to accounting professionals and students in the Philippines has shown me that these people are serious about improving their English skills. They are among the most eager and diligent adult learners I have had the joy to teach. While they are not all A+ students, it is NOT true that they are poor in communication any more than professionals and students in other disciplines. But somehow, their number-smartness seems to be constantly leveraged against their identity as corporate communicators.

 “Accountants are not good communicators.”

Echoes of this complaint have motivated me to interrogate it. Is it true? Certainly, it is easy to believe especially with the introverted quant persona repeatedly portrayed in movies, and the skills gap discourse reported in mostly Anglophone-based communication research. But as in all stereotypes, its truth has limits.

To uncover the limitations of this claim, Communication that Counts unpacks the issues by clarifying what counts as ‘good communication’ in globalized accounting schools and workplaces? Who sets these norms? For what ends? In the process, the book challenges other deeply held beliefs about language, higher education, and the workplace.

“The language curriculum should be aligned with workplace practices to ensure the communicative competence of future accountants.”

I partially agree with this and propose some practical innovations in the communication training provided to future accountants. (In January 2023, I begin teaching Communicating for Globalized Accounting, an elective course based on the findings of this study.) At the same time, I caution against viewing perfect alignment in school-workplace communication practices as a panacea to the supposed gap in the communicative ability of university students. It is an impossible target, to begin with! Higher education and the workplace are interrelated domains, yes, but they also have distinct goals. School is only partly a preparation for the workplace, so we can only target partial alignment at best. This dynamic, however, does not make schools any less of a ‘real world’ than corporate and home offices. Naturally, what happens in accounting schools is not an exact replica of what happens in accounting workplaces, including how teachers, students, and practitioners communicate, what languages they use, and who they view as effective communicators.

“English is the language of global accounting.”

I also examine this, and other ideas about language held by accounting students, teachers, employers and professionals. The way people think about languages is shaped by and, in turn, shapes language education and experiences. Yet we do not reflect on it enough. I believe it is especially important for language teachers like me to be more aware of our language attitudes as this affects the practices we (dis)allow in the classroom and which our students may expect to see in the workplace (a.k.a. ‘the real world’). But, as I’ve discovered in my ethnographic work with onshore and offshore accountants, English is, in fact, NOT the only language spoken or written in the highly multilingual and multicultural space of globalized accounting.

Globalized accountants engage in complex language and communication work. In this field, effective communication has multiple, shifting meanings. While English is treated as a superstar, it is not the only skill that counts in this multilingual field. These and more are part of the Global South story I share in Communication that Counts.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Language Management by Natalie Victoria Wilmot.

Why is Language Teaching so Challenging in Mixed Language Classrooms?

We recently published Second Language and Heritage Learners in Mixed Classrooms edited by Patricia Bayona and Elena García-Martín. In this post the editors explain who will benefit from the book.

We would like to start this conversation with this question that we often get from the general public, when they are unaware of the size of the iceberg under the small tip protruding in the surface: “What are Mixed Language Classrooms?” Well, Mixed Language Classrooms (MLC) are a rich universe of language and cultural dynamics where heritage speakers and L2 learners share the same physical setting. Although Heritage Language learning is currently a productive field of study, the goal of Second Language and Heritage Learners in Mixed Classrooms is to collect current developments, challenges, trends and solutions in the much less studied field of mixed learning pedagogy, which seems to be the norm in language programs of small or medium size. How has your language program approached Mixed Language Classrooms?

We should keep close consideration that both groups of students in Mixed Language Classrooms exhibit almost opposite language learning backgrounds and needs, thus challenging language pedagogies to their core. Our book is the first one to come to the rescue of MLC instructors by offering them multiple takes to address this challenge. This volume was also conceived as a solution for language teacher trainers, because it contains exercises to reflect in the Teaching Methods Classroom or practical applications of them in the actual classroom. The momentum of Second Language and Heritage Learners in Mixed Classrooms incites a lively conversation about the nature, challenges and issues of the Mixed Language Classroom; but how does the volume speak to your particular experience in these settings?

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Hablar español en Estados Unidos by Jennifer Leeman and Janet M. Fuller.

What Motivates People to Learn Multiple Languages?

This month we published Motivation to Learn Multiple Languages in Japan by Chika Takahashi. In this post the author introduces the book and explains what inspired her to write it. 

I originally thought of writing this book when I was about to finish the last set of interviews with my two interviewees after nine years of data collection. I had started this motivation study in 2012, had published three papers on the earlier phases, and had unpublished data for the previous three years. What I felt was necessary at that stage was to put everything together to examine my interviewees’ long-term motivational developments to study multiple languages from a broad perspective. For that purpose, I felt that a book-length report was necessary.

We all know that it usually takes years to reach a certain level in any second/foreign language. We also know that it’s challenging to do so in more than one language, particularly when there is a strong social, political, or economic emphasis on one of the languages, in this case English. In a non-multilingual context like Japan, it may be even more challenging than in other contexts such as Europe. Yet I had these rich interview data to demonstrate that it is possible to be motivated to learn multiple languages even in a non-multilingual, exam-oriented context and to go beyond an instrumentalist view of language learning to see multiple language learning as a lifelong endeavor.

In the book, you will see that my interviewees experienced motivational ups and downs along the way, as they went from high school, to university, to graduate school, and into the working world. They had different approaches to language learning and went through distinct experiences even at the same schools, but they both showed compelling cases of persisting in learning multiple languages in their own ways. Readers may be particularly surprised that one of them ended up learning nine languages throughout the years. In an era when English functions as a global language and many learners question the necessity of learning another language when they can communicate in English, this is frankly quite amazing. I am sure that their motivational trajectories and perspectives on language offer valuable insights for our future language learning/teaching, no matter the context. I feel truly lucky to have met such wonderful learners, not only as a researcher but also as a language learner and simply as a human.

What I hope I have demonstrated through this book is that language learning is not just about gaining capital or a competitive edge in the job market. It is not something that happens only in formal education settings, either. My interviewees considered it a lifelong endeavor—an essentially human act that better connects us to other people—and showed that it can be so enjoyable and fulfilling if we have the right elements of motivation. I hope that readers both inside and outside Japan find these two cases illuminating and insightful for their learning/teaching of multiple languages in their given contexts.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Lessons from Exceptional Language Learners Who Have Achieved Nativelike Proficiency by Zoltán Dörnyei and Katarina Mentzelopoulos.

What is Authenticity in Language Teaching and Learning?

This month we are publishing Authenticity across Languages and Cultures edited by Leo Will, Wolfgang Stadler and Irma Eloff. In this post Wolfgang explains how the idea for the book came about.

The idea for the book came to my mind…no, this was much later. But it might have been there at the back of my head when I didn’t know (as a teacher of Russian as a foreign language = RFL) how to manage the balancing act between situations in the real world and situations in the classroom. I started teaching Russian in the eighties (last century!), no internet, no Russian native speakers on the Tyrolean ski slopes, communism, Cold War…Where to get authentic material? Soviet films? Colloquial audio material? No corpora, no social media…How to create authentic communication situations? Would learners/students have the chance to go to the Soviet Union? Where would they practice the target language?

Of course, at that time I was (not too) happy with the textbooks I had, and I used authentic material from my journeys to Russia (theatre tickets, metro jetons, coins, menus, photos of inscriptions on houses etc). Only when I started teaching at Innsbruck University, and very much later, did I think about the concepts of authenticity as presented in the literature. What did authenticity mean? Were there authenticities? Authentic teachers? Authentic materials? Authentic language? The Russian we read in newspapers and the Russian I heard in the kitchen of my Moscow friends were different. Russian in the hostel. In the streets. On stage. On TV. Confusing.

When the idea of the book was ripe as I wanted to get a grip on authenticity – WHAT IS AUTHENTICITY? – I thought that I would need editors, authors from other countries, other cultures. Was there something like intercultural/transcultural authenticity?

When I introduced the topic (also years ago) to my colleague at Humboldt University in Berlin, asking her whether to organise a joint seminar on authenticity and Russian language pedagogy, Leo came in. A colleague in Innsbruck told me that there was a guy in Munich who was doing his PhD on authenticity (albeit in English as a SL/FL). So, we invited Leo. And he came to Innsbruck for a talk in this joint seminar, telling us about the various forms of authenticity.

And when I was dean of the faculty, and involved in co-operations with South Africa and Canada, as well as with Israel, I thought of asking around who would be interested in joining my investigation into this mystifying concept. By then, I had learned that authenticity denoted more than certain text types (i.e. texts not purposely designed for language instructional purposes). Authenticity being deeply enmeshed with questions of self and identity, I wanted to explore how the dynamics of the concept play out in vastly different contexts of life and language learning.

My colleague Irma, from South Africa, had been invited to Innsbruck a number of times and we discussed the interplays of language and education on multiple occasions. South Africa has eleven official languages! This high level of language diversity provided interesting perspectives on language learning and the manifestations of authenticity which I had been pondering. When I mentioned the idea of a book on authenticity, she immediately responded with enthusiasm. When I introduced her and Leo to one another, there was a natural synergy between the three of us and the activation of our various networks commenced in order to issue invitations to potential chapter authors.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Complexity Perspectives on Researching Language Learner and Teacher Psychology edited by Richard J. Sampson and Richard S. Pinner.