Reconceptualizing ELT Around the Globe

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

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

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

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

For more information about this book please see our website

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

Why Do British Businesses Need a Language Strategy?

This month we published Language Management by Natalie Victoria Wilmot. In this post she explains why it’s important for British businesses to implement a language strategy.

Studies have shown that a lack of language skills in the UK costs the economy around 3.5% of total GDP due to missed business opportunities. Many businesses in the UK rely on the global dominance of English to be able to conduct business internationally, and therefore do not invest in developing language capabilities. This is particularly true for small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) who may not have the resources to develop a language strategy for their business.

However, there are still many options available to SMEs to be able to operate in a language-sensitive way, enabling them to take advantage of some of these missed business opportunities, and there are many benefits to doing so. In particular, being able to communicate in languages other than English can be especially important in the development of trusting relationships with overseas customers, as it demonstrates a commitment to the relationship.

One of the most frequent methods small companies use to work multilingually is Google Translate. However, care needs to be taken with this – while it is fine for making sense of an email as part of an existing relationship, it should not be used to translate marketing materials intended for a public audience, as there will be errors which may damage the professional reputation of the company.

Another option is for companies to use language skills that they may already have, but that they might not know about. 39% of people in the UK are able to converse in a language other than their mother tongue and so many organisations already have employees with linguistic capabilities. My research found that where these individuals are already in customer-facing roles, such as a sales team, it can be highly effective to target markets where this language is spoken, even if it was not originally part of a strategic plan to do so.

However, whilst such ad-hoc solutions are useful, particularly for SMEs, it’s important for organisations to give consideration to what happens if key individuals leave and these language skills are no longer available. As export markets become more important, companies need a language strategy in order to plan their communications with key customers. As part of this, they may move away from informal solutions such as Google Translate and using language skills they already have, to a more structured system which may involve approaches such as targeted recruitment, where individuals are specifically hired because of their language skills. At times however, this can be challenging to do depending on the availability of such skills in the local workforce.

Although English is currently the undisputed language of international business, having a language strategy enables companies to unlock potential overseas markets and customers to which they would otherwise not have access. In these turbulent economic times, having access to a variety of markets is more important than ever to mitigate risk, and so it’s important that British companies have a language strategy in order to facilitate this.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Exploring Politeness in Business Emails by Vera Freytag.

What Affects the Uptake of and Access to Foreign Languages?

This month we published Discourses, Identities and Investment in Foreign Language Learning by Jennifer Martyn. In this post the author explains what inspired her to write the book.

The story of this book goes back to my own history of language learning. Access to other languages at an early age outside of the classroom context stands out as being crucial in not only developing my own plurilingual repertoire, but also in piquing my interest in the way in which language learning is socially situated and a fundamentally political activity that can draw in some whilst excluding others. 

A range of contradictory discourses surround foreign language learning (foreign language learning usually describes classroom-based learning of a language that is not generally used by the speaker in their wider community). At secondary school, languages can be perceived as difficult and inessential, but also assets in the jobs market. Language learning is sometimes also perceived as something that girls and women are better at, an ideology that stubbornly endures.

Although each person has some degree of agency in terms of whether or not they choose to study a language or which language to study, we are all very much influenced, whether we are aware of it or not, by the discourses of language learning that circulate in our communities and across wider society. Languages are talked about and represented in a myriad of ways, all of which mediate our perception of them and our learning experiences. Whether or not one has access to a language, both in the literal and figurative senses, can also determine language learning experience. Some of us have access to other languages from an early age, while others do not. Nor are all languages valued equally in the marketplace and in wider society.

As a socially situated activity, language learning, then, is far from straightforward. Structural barriers, gendered language ideologies, and discourses of elite multilingualism, for instance, coalesce to make language learning seem difficult, unnecessary, uninspiring, or simply ‘not for us’. In the Irish context, there is limited research on sociolinguistic perspectives on foreign language education, particularly at the secondary school level. By employing an ethnographic perspective, this book investigates what young language learners think about language learning, while locating their experiences and beliefs within broader societal discourses and practices. It is hoped that this book contributes to a discussion of the social forces that mediate the learning experience in Ireland and elsewhere.  

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Portraits of Second Language Learners by Chie Muramatsu.

“Language Biography? What Sort of Research is That?”

This month we published Speaking Subjects in Multilingualism Research edited by Judith Purkarthofer and Mi-Cha Flubacher. In this post the editors introduce us to biographical research.

“Language biography? What sort of research is that?”

“Yeah okay, language portraits are cute and colourful, but what do you do with them?”

Linguistic repertoire sounds intriguing…can you tell me how to elicit them?”

These are some of the questions anyone working with biographical and speaker-centred approaches in multilingualism research has probably been asked. Moreover, questions regarding theoretical frameworks, research methods and analytical tools have circulated among scholars embedded in this approach. One instance of a discussion forum dedicated to these issues is heteroglossia, a group of researchers around Brigitta Busch, herself a pioneer in biographical language research but always in search of improving theoretical, methodological and analytical venues.

Primarily, narratives about the self are elicited with the help of biographical methods. They are facilitated by the uniqueness of a particular story in which languages and language use are integrated. Different research methods have been used to this aim: interviews and ethnographies or language portraits. While talking about languages (as an expression of the social) may introduce a layer for narrative or emotional distance, drawings and artifacts can help access spatial aspects. They allow a movement of the self, i.e. to get closer to some parts or keep a distance from others, and to take different positions vis-à-vis one’s life and multilingual self.

Both of us have worked closely with Brigitta for a decade now and it is Brigitta who has brought us together – alongside many other engaged and curious colleagues in Australia, South Africa and Europe. We thus set out to edit a volume that would integrate the many different approaches coming together in biographical and speaker-centred multilingualism research – most of it as multilingual research as well. We invited colleagues, collaborators and (former) PhD students of Brigitta to share their experiences and reflections with a broader audience. To this aim we asked some colleagues to contribute shorter chapters that give insight into particular research methods and processes. Others offered full-length articles with theoretical discussions and/or methodological elaborations. We hope that reading this collection of chapters will help people understand what kind of research language biography is, what the analytical advantage of language portraits are, and how linguistic repertoires might be elicited, among lots of other information, insights and instructions this volume might offer.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like The Politics of Researching Multilingually edited by Prue Holmes, Judith Reynolds and Sara Ganassin.

Another Invitation into the Global Pracademic Landscape of Transnational ELT Research

This month we are publishing Transnational Research in English Language Teaching edited by Rashi Jain, Bedrettin Yazan and Suresh Canagarajah. In this post the editors introduce their new book, a follow-up to its sister volume Transnational Identities and Practices in English Language Teaching.

Some explorations require a follow-up act – and this is where our next collaborative editorial venture with Multilingual Matters comes in. Transnational Research in English Language Teaching: Critical Practices and Identities continues the conversation we started in its sister volume, Transnational Identities and Practices in English Language Teaching: Critical Inquiries from Diverse Practitioners, by complementing the practitioner-led self-inquiries in the first volume with inquiries by researchers looking at others’ ELT-related practices in this volume.

In West-based and West-oriented academia, a significant amount of past and recent work on transnationalism in ELT has focused primarily on specific communities of practice located within a country, such as the US or has been (de)limited to teacher education programs, with some notable exceptions. More needed to be done, as we discovered, to create a more comprehensive and inclusive understanding of the complex global ELT landscape across countries and across English language teaching and learning settings. Our second edited volume with Multilingual Matters contributes to this evolving knowledge base as an attempt to deepen our readers’ understanding of the transnational ELT landscape.

We are proud to highlight that along with us, the researchers and the participants in this volume collectively represent fifteen countries of origin: Afghanistan, China, Costa Rica, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Russia, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Syria, Turkey, the UAE, the US and Vietnam – a truly diverse set of voices from global pracademia. Further, while many of us are currently embedded in the US, the studies in this volume showcase transnational identities and practices formed and informed by both countries – ‘home’ and ‘host’ – and include narratives that are not unidirectional (i.e. ‘home’ to ‘host’ only).

And yet, even with this diversity and our deliberate efforts to decenter our work as a site for transnational professional practice, our volume could not entirely escape inadvertently reifying some of the same inequities that it proposes to disrupt – as we explore in detail in our introduction chapter and endeavor to mitigate through the manner in which we have organized the rest of the volume, all twelve chapters, across three distinct parts: Part 1: Transnational Practices and Identities of ELLs in the US; Part 2: Transnational Practitioners and Participants in Global Contexts beyond the US; and, Part 3: Transnational Practices and Identities of TESOL Practitioners in the US.

Together, the chapters within the edited volume cover a range of qualitative research approaches and methodologies as well as span three common key themes – researchers’ reflexivity (including our own as editors, as we explore in detail in the introduction chapter), transnational participants’ sense of (un)belonging, and the overlaps between translingualism and transnationalism. We now invite you, our readers, to enter once again the transnational landscape of ELT research that we and our contributors have collectively populated with the empirical inquiries in this volume. We hope you enjoy traveling through the book and making your acquaintance with the diverse global voices and perspectives housed within the book covers!

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like the editors’ previous book, Transnational Identities and Practices in English Language Teaching.

Ode to the City – An Ethnographic Drama

This month we published Ode to the City – An Ethnographic Drama by Adrian Blackledge and Angela Creese. In this post the authors explain the context for the book and how they went about writing it.

One of the 16 ethnographic sites we observed during the research project, Translation and Translanguaging: Investigating linguistic and cultural transformations in superdiverse wards in four UK cities (TLANG), was a large, new, city-centre library. Our guiding concern was to investigate how people communicate in public settings when they bring into contact different biographies, backgrounds and languages. The state-of-the-art Library of Birmingham was the largest regional library in Europe. It attracts a diverse constituency of users, including local people from the city, and visitors from all over the world. One of the library staff, Millie, agreed to be a key participant in the research. She was originally from Hong Kong, having moved to the UK nearly 20 years earlier. Over four months we observed her working in the library. Our colleague Rachel Hu shadowed Millie as she went about her daily routine. We (Adrian, Angela and Rachel) wrote extensive field notes which described what we saw and heard as we observed. We gave Millie a digital voice recorder, to record her spoken interactions with members of the public and colleagues. She also recorded during her tea breaks and lunch breaks.

When we first negotiated access to do the research, the library was a beacon of civic pride for the city. Record-breaking numbers of people had visited in the 12 months since it opened. The spectacular building had exceeded every criterion for success. But by the time we started our field work, six months later, the government had made cuts to local authority grants. The city’s finances were hit hard. Opening hours were significantly reduced, and the library announced that it would cut more than 50% of its staff. As we observed and listened to the people who worked in, and accessed the services of, the library, politics was at the forefront of discussion. When we recontextualised and recreated these discussions as ethnographic drama, it was almost inevitable that the narrative would be dominated by concerns beyond the linguistic.

Ode to the City – An Ethnographic Drama represents discourses in circulation at a moment of political tension. The play focuses on four customer experience assistants in the library, three women and one man. The drama opens at the point when they have been told they have the option to put themselves forward for voluntary redundancy, or apply for their own jobs, with no guarantee of success. We meet the four characters in the staff room, where they take their lunch breaks and tea breaks. All the circulating tensions in the library are played out in their conversations. They are the only characters in the play, and they are all on stage throughout. In their interactions the voices of others are heard. They discuss the positions of the interim director of the library, the trade union, their colleagues, local and national politicians, and so on. In these discussions perspectives on histories, politics and economics are played out.

The ethnographic drama is made from field notes, audio-recordings, and any other material we were able to gather. This includes fictionalised voices. The ethnographic drama is a creative documentary account of an actual situation, and a specific environment, which integrates original and constructed dialogue. We enhance the rhythm of the dialogue where we can, to drive it forward. It has to move at a good pace, and at a varied pace, or the audience will be bored. We want to bring to the attention of the audience what we saw, and what we heard during our time in the library. Ode to the City – An Ethnographic Drama is about how political decisions affect people’s lives, often unfairly. It’s about a government pushing an austerity policy which harms the lives of the least privileged. The discourse of the four characters represents a particular moment in the workplace, offering an insight into the effects on working people of the government’s austerity measures. The drama treads a line between giving in to the force of powerful structures, and seeking the possibility of escape to new horizons. Ode to the City – An Ethnographic Drama takes ethnographic material and renders it for an audience in as truthful a way as possible. The rest is up to the audience.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like the authors’ previous books: Volleyball – An Ethnographic Drama, Interpretations – An Ethnographic Drama and Voices of a City Market.

Linguistic Landscape’s Turn Towards Educational Settings

We recently published Linguistic Landscapes and Educational Spaces edited by Edina Krompák, Víctor Fernández-Mallat and Stephan Meyer. In this post the editors outline the aims of the book.

The field of Linguistic Landscape (LL) has recently taken a marked turn toward educational settings, as seen in the growing interest for the exploration of schoolscapes (Brown, 2005, 2012; Laihonen & Szabó, 2018) and its relevance to language learning and teaching (Gorter, 2018; Malinowski et al, 2020; Niedt et al, 2020), where elements of the LL itself have increasingly been used as pedagogical tools (Badstübner-Kizik & Janiková, 2018; Marten & Saagpakk, 2017).

This turn has strongly suggested that there is important potential to be found at the intersection of LL and educational spaces in the advancement of theoretical debates, methodological innovations and empirical evidence. Our contribution aims to theorize this intertwined relationship and pave the way for new approaches in the exploration of LL in sociolinguistics and the educational sciences. In our book, we define the term linguistic and semiotic educationscapes as ‘the mutually constitutive material and social spaces in which linguistic and symbolic resources are mobilised for educational purposes’ (Krompák, Fernández-Mallat & Meyer, 2021, p. 2). In doing so, our contribution comprises empirical studies in the schoolscape tradition as well as studies that apply elements of the LL for teaching purposes and that expand beyond educational institutions in the narrow sense of the term. With the diverse languages (e.g. Chinese, Dutch, English, Flemish, German, Italian, Latvian, Māori, Sámi/Saami and Swedish) and territories (e.g. Hong Kong in Asia; the United States of America in North America; Austria, Belgium, Italy, Latvia, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland in Europe; and New Zealand in Zealandia) that are covered in this book, the volume gives an overview of current research in the Global North while also showing the need for thematic and geographic extension of research on educationscapes.

For more information about this book please see our website.

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

The Remaking of Language Education

This month we published Liberating Language Education edited by Vally Lytra, Cristina Ros i Solé, Jim Anderson and Vicky Macleroy. In this post the editors reveal what readers can expect from the book.

Liberating Language Education emerged from our desire to unite our passion about language, education, and lived multilingualism with our visions of what language education can mean, feel, and look like in times of unprecedented change and uncertainty. This passion is reflected in our personas of ‘the weaver’, ‘the fool’, ‘the traveller’ and ‘the activist’ in the introduction of the book: they illustrate the complexity and richness of language experience and language learning across the lifespan and highlight the entanglements of the personal and biographical with the historical and socio-cultural dimensions of language and language pedagogy.

This kaleidoscopic perspective is amplified by the plurality and heterogeneity of voices and orientations manifested in the chapter contributions. The book calls into question a single and unified approach to language, culture, and identity, dismantling monolingual and prescriptivist discourses of pedagogy that have long dominated language education. Instead, it proposes new ways of understanding language and language education that move beyond rationalist and instrumental perspectives and emphasise locally situated meaning-making practices, messiness, and unpredictability.

These new ways liberate our understanding of language to encompass the full range of semiotic repertoires, aesthetic resources, and multimodal practices. They reimagine language education from a translingual and transcultural orientation, showcasing multiple, alternative visions of how language education might be enacted. The translingual, transcultural and transformative approach to pedagogy that underpins the book rests on the following principles:

  • an integrated and inclusive view of language and language learning
  • challenging binaries and fixed positions between formal/informal learning, school/home literacies, schools/other sites of learning
  • attention to language hierarchies and linguistic and social inequalities
  • a synergetic relationship between language and culture
  • the transformative process of language learning as reconfiguring our existing communicative resources and nurturing new ways of being, seeing, feeling and expressing in the world
  • foregrounding embodied, material and aesthetic perspectives to pedagogy
  • emphasis on learner and teacher agency and making their voices heard
  • supporting multiple ways of knowing and a decolonising stance to knowledge building
  • creating trusting, respectful and collaborative relations in research and shared ownership of knowledge

This critical and creative translingual and transcultural orientation repositions teachers, learners and researchers as active language policy creators in the remaking of language education today.

Vally Lytra, Cristina Ros i Solé, Jim Anderson and Vicky Macleroy

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like The Dynamics of Language and Inequality in Education edited by Joel Austin Windle, Dánie de Jesus and Lesley Bartlett.

Relanguaging Language

This month we published Relanguaging Language from a South African Township School by Lara-Stephanie Krause. In this post the author explains the term ‘relanguaging’.

This book documents a thought experiment. It emerged from a long-term linguistic ethnography with a focus on English classrooms at a primary school in Khayelitsha, a township in Cape Town, South Africa. The thought experiment results in an attempt at a new conceptualisation of language classrooms – and, by extension, of language practices more generally. My methodological approach is unconventional and risky. Being at the school and engaging with the situated linguistic data in detail gave me the sense of overlooking something when applying existing theories of classroom language practices (like code-switching or translanguaging) to the data. This researcher’s intuition pushed me to reconsider existing analytical lenses. My hypothesis became that the phenomenon I observed could indeed not be described via the repertoire of existing theories. I pursue this hypothesis throughout the book and it drives me to develop a fresh analytical lens at the intersection of linguistics, applied linguistics and sociolinguistics. Relanguaging is what becomes visible once this lens is consistently applied.

While translanguaging focusses on flexible and fluid languaging practices, relanguaging is a relational phenomenon. It does not focus either on fluid languaging practices or on institutionally enforced, fixed named languages (nomolanguages). Rather, relanguaging focusses precisely on what is going on in the space that opens up between languaging and nomolanguages. In this particular study, this space is the Khayelitshan English classroom, which I see as constituted by the relationality between fluid, flexible classroom languaging practices and enactments of Standard English. Here, relanguaging is a linguistic sorting practice that is enacted by teachers (and sometimes learners) and that works in two directions:

  • Linguistic fluidity and heterogeneity (classroom languaging) gets sorted out to arrive at a homogenised classroom repertoire (Standard English)
  • Standard English gets reassembled with other linguistic resources into a heterogeneous classroom repertoire (classroom languaging)

Relanguaging therefore conceptualises language teaching not as a progression from a fixed L1 to a fixed L2 but as a circular sorting process constantly sorting out and bringing together again fluid, heterogeneous classroom languaging and Standard English.

Another notable difference between translanguaging and relanguaging is that the latter can make linguistic sorting practices visible. In translanguaging research, the idea of sorting also exists: People are said to sort through their individual repertoires made up of heterogeneous resources (rather than out of separate languages), choosing to actualize the resources most suitable for the interaction at hand. However, the sorting process itself is inaccessible to (socio)linguistic analysis. It remains ‘hidden’ in each individual’s head. By spatializing languaging – relying on the concept of spatial rather individual repertoires – relanguaging brings this sorting practice into the open and makes it accessible to (socio)linguistic analysis.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Assessing Academic Literacy in a Multilingual Society edited by Albert Weideman, John Read and Theo du Plessis.

How do Mobility and Immobility Manifest in Language Use?

We recently published Exploring (Im)mobilities edited by Anna De Fina and Gerardo Mazzaferro. In this post the editors reveal what readers can expect from the book.

Mobility has become a central concept for understanding the way late modern societies work. Sociologists such as Giddens and Bauman have recognized the role of the increased physical and virtual mobility that the world is experiencing in changing patterns of communication, social practices and perceptions about identities. In this book we argue, however, that mobility cannot and should not be conceived as separated from immobility. Such separation is not only artificial but carries the risk of ignoring the many ways in which the mobility of some depends on the immobility of others and the mobility of many is interrupted and punctuated by immobilities. It is also important to recognize that there are many different kinds of mobilities with different effects on people and their social and personal trajectories.

In this volume we aim to advance the investigation of issues of mobility/immobility in sociolinguistics by exploring how mobilities are affected by, and in turn affect, power dynamics and relations, the kinds of resources that people use and how they use them within communication processes that emerge in different types of (im)mobilities, and the role of agency in the management of (im)mobilities.

Our contributors focus on the tensions between institutional blocks to physical and social mobility and the desires and aspirations of mobile people, they discuss how linguistic and semiotic resources are deployed in order to resist these obstacles or to perpetrate them, to counter discourses of immobility or to impose them. Thus, they also investigate subjectivities and agentive meaning making practices through which (im)mobility is recontextualized and reconfigured by individuals and groups from their own perspective. Chapters in this volume center on migrants, refugees and other minorities whose mobility is regimented and explore a variety of situations and geographical areas including South Africa, Italy, Spain, Australia, Greece and the UK.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Multilingualism, (Im)mobilities and Spaces of Belonging edited by Kristine Horner and Jennifer Dailey-O’Cain.