Are Spanish L1 Users More Direct than English L1 Users in the Workplace?

We recently published Exploring Politeness in Business Emails by Vera Freytag. In this post the author explains what inspired her to write the book.

For several decades, there has been the view in cross-cultural pragmatics that Spanish L1 users reveal a higher level of directness than English L1 users, irrespective of a particular language variety. This view was established and reconfirmed in a wide range of comparative studies by means of data elicitation methods such as the Discourse Completion Task.

Having lived in both language cultures for some time and worked with both English and Spanish L1 users, I was increasingly interested in the question of whether directness and politeness are language-dependent dimensions and to what extent contextual factors play a role in one’s use of linguistic strategies and their perception in terms of directness and politeness. Specifically in the workplace context, does it matter if the sender and recipient know each other well? Does it matter whether the sender is of higher, lower or equal hierarchical status compared to the recipient? Does the communication channel matter? Does it matter whether the sender and recipient are of the same or opposite sex?

When I was given the chance to collect 600 English and Spanish business emails of a Community of Practice that I had worked for for six months, I was excited to immerse myself in this email corpus and investigate the contextual complexities that underlie the event of writing email directives. During the time of data analysis and the challenging task of finding explanations for my – partially unexpected – findings, I soon learned that there are many more factors apart from language that appear to influence the choice and perception of a particular directive strategy. I also learned that the complexity of language use and perception can only be examined through a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods both with regard to the collection and interpretation of the data.

Finally, the book reflects my attempt to shed some light on the interdependencies of language and culture in computer-mediated workplace directives and aims to contribute to the field of cross-cultural pragmatics by providing new insights.

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Objects, Bodies and Work Practice edited by Dennis Day and Johannes Wagner. 

L2 Writing Teacher Education in EFL Contexts

We recently published Second Language Writing Instruction in Global Contexts edited by Lisya Seloni and Sarah Henderson Lee. In this post the editors reveal what to expect from the book.

This book explores the complexity of L2 writing teacher education in English as a foreign language (EFL) contexts where teachers face a number of challenges to enhance learners’ opportunities to write in their L2 based on the disconnect between mainstream English as a second language (ESL) pedagogies around writing instruction and the local needs of students, language policies, and language practices in EFL contexts. By highlighting L2 writing teacher literacy across 12 countries, we aim to expand the current, but limited, discussion on what it means to teach L2 writing in contexts where writing is often perceived as a tool to develop language (specifically grammar and vocabulary) by both teachers and students. Doing so allows us to move beyond the monopoly of related research conducted in English-dominant contexts and re-envision L2 writing teacher education as contextually and culturally appropriate.

The chapters of this book, written by L2 writing specialists and practitioners across the globe, share local voices from contexts where the teaching of writing is not always prioritized and draw readers’ attention to various theoretical and pedagogical issues related to the realities faced by language teachers in non-English dominant contexts when it comes to L2 writing instruction, including teacher expertise, teacher preparation and development, L2 writing feedback, and contextual variations. Through the detailed account of language policies, curricular guidelines, teacher knowledge and classroom practices around L2 writing, we demonstrate the significant differences that exist between English-dominant and non-dominant countries in terms of teaching L2 writing. We do this by showcasing challenges and opportunities experienced around L2 writing teacher preparation and development and making L2 writing teacher education in such contexts more visible in the broader literature.

It is our hope that readers will journey through the complete collection and discover the particularities that inform English teachers’ beliefs, attitudes, and practices related to L2 writing instruction in global contexts and move away from “the uncritical embracement of Western-based L1 or L2 writing pedagogies” (p. 2). Moreover, we hope this book promotes the reflective practice required for positive change by encouraging readers to consider the unique realities and needs of their own language teaching and learning contexts and possible research agendas that would make L2 writing teacher education in their context more visible.

 

For more information about this book please see our website

If you found this interesting, you might also like L2 Writing Beyond English edited by Nur Yiğitoğlu and Melinda Reichelt.

How Best to Conduct Multilingual Ethnographic Research

We recently published Learning and Using Languages in Ethnographic Research edited by Robert Gibb, Annabel Tremlett and Julien Danero Iglesias. In this post the editors explain how the book can help researchers with their multilingual ethnographic research.

Are you a researcher who needs to learn a new language or use another language you already know in order to carry out interviews or fieldwork for a PhD or other research project? If so, there are many important questions you are likely to be asking yourself: What’s the best way for me to try and learn the new language? How long will it take me to become fluent enough to conduct the research successfully? What issues am I likely to encounter when working in another language? How can I prepare myself to address these effectively? Just like the contributors to this volume, you’ve probably searched the existing literature on ethnographic research for answers to such questions and found that it has surprisingly little to say about the learning and use of different languages for research purposes.

Learning and Using Languages in Ethnographic Research aims to help researchers like you to make more informed choices when conducting multilingual ethnographic research. In the book, researchers at different stages of their career offer frank and often moving personal accounts of how they attempted – not always entirely successfully! – to learn and use different languages in their work. The contributors are all concerned in particular with reflecting on how their experiences were shaped by wider structures of power, hierarchy and inequality. Drawing on their combined experience, the volume ends by providing some ‘top tips’ for those intending to learn or use another language in order to carry out ethnographic research.

By breaking the silence that still tends to surround language-related issues in fieldwork, the book aims to help researchers to feel more confident about handling language-related matters in their own work, and also to encourage them to add their own voices to what is a long-overdue debate about the multilingual aspects of ethnographic research!

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Critical Reflections on Research Methods edited by Doris S. Warriner and Martha Bigelow.

The Politics of Language and Identity

This month we published Choosing a Mother Tongue by Corinne A. Seals. In this post the author describes an encounter with language, identity and politics on a visit to Ukraine in the winter of 2017.

While I was writing Choosing a Mother Tongue: The Politics of Language and Identity in Ukraine, I was constantly reflecting on language choice and use, especially when I would find myself at a Ukrainian community event with a Ukrainian language conversation happening to my left and a Russian language conversation happening to my right. However, the power of the politics of language and identity struck me particularly during a visit to Ukraine in the winter of 2017.

I had been in L’viv (Western Ukraine), traveled to Kyiv (Central Ukraine), and had just arrived back again in L’viv to the same hotel and same restaurants in which I had spent time during the first part of the trip. However, while I had been very conscious of my language use when first in L’viv (sticking to Ukrainian to align with the preference of most people in this city), I had just been in Kyiv where language choice and use was more fluid and where my hosts were Russian dominant speakers. Additionally, my trip back to L’viv had been during a snowstorm, and in an exhausted state I was not as conscious of my language use.

L’viv during the snowstorm

When I went to grab a quick dinner at the restaurant next to where I was staying, I was bemused by the insistence of the maître d’ that she couldn’t understand me. “Surely,” I thought, “there must be something I’m doing wrong if this hasn’t happened to me before.” It was then that I realized I had been speaking to her in Russian (due to having just returned from Kyiv), but I was in a Crimean Tatar restaurant in L’viv.

This context is significant, as the Crimean Tatars have repeatedly been displaced by both the Soviet and Russian governments in history and had just been displaced again from Crimea not long before my trip to Ukraine. Recognizing my major faux pas, I switched to Ukrainian and apologized before repeating my request in Ukrainian. The maître d’ smiled slightly, nodded in acknowledgement, and proceeded with our conversation.

A Ukrainian poem in L’viv about language and identity by famous poet, Lesya Ukrainka

Now, Russian and Ukrainian are similar enough that most people can at least loosely understand one if you speak the other. So, this was highly unlikely to be a case of not having proficiency in a language. Rather (and as further informed by our interaction), this was a political statement reflecting linguistic history and identity. It was more important for the maître d’ to uphold her linguistic principles than to make the transaction. However, my awareness and acknowledgement of this, as well as my subsequent linguistic alignment with her, meant that all was again equal.

This is one of many examples that speaks to the strength of connection between language and identity, as well as the importance of being aware of current and historical events related to language and politics wherever you are.

Corinne Seals (Mykytka), Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

corinne.seals@vuw.ac.nz

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Language, Identity and Education on the Arabian Peninsula edited by Louisa Buckingham.

The Increasing Importance of Learning English and Chinese for Young People

This month we published Learning English and Chinese as Foreign Languages by Wen-Chuan Lin. In this post the author talks about the themes explored in the book.

This book compares English as a Foreign Language (EFL) teaching and learning in Taiwan with Chinese as a Foreign Language (CFL) education in England and highlights how classroom activities are embedded within ethnic or social group cultures, family resources and school visions or goals. From Vygotsky-inspired sociocultural theory and a cross-cultural comparative angle, I hope to highlight the following themes and critical issues in foreign language education:

  • The impact of globalisation on EFL/CFL: There is a growing impact of globalisation on foreign language education and I would argue for a future need to view foreign language learning from traditional ‘knowledge value’ as school subjects or ‘use value’ to ‘exchange value’ and ‘intercultural value’.
  • Elite social status of EFL/CFL: There are similar emerging social issues such as elitism and inequality in language learning identities that affect both EFL and CFL practice in Taiwan and England. This social inequality has the potential to persist if certain attitudes remain; such as the English educational myth that ‘only intelligent students can learn languages well’.
  • Pedagogical ‘cultural bridging’ and ‘sociolinguistic bridging’: Those Taiwanese teachers who employed students’ ethnic culture or mother-tongue in dialogical interactions were able to create a psychological co-membership and enhanced students’ EFL learning, while in England similar interactional use of students’ everyday culture or teacher’s own background culture were also detected in Chinese classrooms. In teaching CFL, an emerging form of culturally responsive pedagogy using learners’ existing sociolinguistic knowledge of English to learn Chinese was found to be useful in helping young people who are native speakers of English.
  • ‘Knowledge-based’ EFL vs. ‘activity-based’ CFL pedagogy: Among the differences of interactional styles evident in schools in both studies, the most pervasive general pedagogical pattern was of ‘knowledge-based’ grammar teaching in Taiwan in contrast to ‘activity-based’ pedagogy in England despite the fact that the class sizes are different – on average 30-40 in Taiwan and 10-15 in England. It could be argued that an ‘activity-based’ pedagogy would help students to move from a traditional view of foreign language learning as ‘knowledge value’ to one of ‘exchange value’ and ‘intercultural value’ in an era of rapid globalisation.
  • Emerging social issues in EFL and CFL: Both EFL and CFL practices are not isolated from the influence of socialisation and enculturation. Emerging social issues such as resource-divide and social gender identities were discovered in learning these two foreign languages that must draw our attention at personal, interpersonal and policy level if we wish to encourage students to access them without excluding those who are not provided with appropriate cultural resources.

It is my hope that this book will provide pedagogical insights for foreign language teachers to take into account classroom pedagogy that incorporates both cultural and sociolinguistic bridging in order to motivate learning; and provide theoretical and methodological insights for researchers to look at young people’s foreign language learning processes that take place within social, cultural and historical contexts.

Wen-Chuan Lin, Department of English, Wenzao Ursuline University of Languages, Taiwan

97072@mail.wzu.edu.tw

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Soft Power and the Worldwide Promotion of Chinese Language Learning by Jeffrey Gil.

Researchers and Instructors Need to Talk to One Another!

This month we are publishing L2 Grammatical Representation and Processing edited by Deborah Arteaga. In this post the editor explains what motivated her to put the book together.

Too often, there is a divide between second-language (L2) researchers and L2 instructors. With a few exceptions, L2 research is typically highly theoretical and has no clear practical application for the L2 classroom. Yet this is unfortunate, because ideally, cutting-edge L2 research should inform pedagogy, and L2 instructors’ experience in the classroom should be incorporated into research studies. In other words, the world of researchers and that of instructors should intersect instead of being separate from one another. Too often, researchers are not concerned with pedagogy, and instructors are often frustrated when there seems to be a disconnect between L2 studies written only for specialists and real-world issues in the classroom.

My motivation in writing this book was to bridge that gap, in that all of the chapters are grounded in theory, but are accessible to specialists and non-specialists alike. The highly theoretical chapters (Achimova & Déprez, Chapter 1; Dekydtspotter & Gilbert, Chapter 4)  have pedagogical implications, which I summarize in the Conclusion chapter. Some chapters frame the results of their studies in terms of pedagogy (Ayoun, Chapter 3; Sagarra, Chapter 5; Vainikka & Young-Scholten, Chapter 6). Other chapters directly link their studies to the classroom (Arteaga & Herschensohn, Chapter 2; Yaden, Chapter 7). All chapters will be of interest to researchers and instructors alike.

It is my hope that this book will serve as a model for future volumes, so that researchers take into account classroom experience, and that instructors will glean pedagogical tips from theoretical research, even if they are not spelled out explicitly. In other words, researchers and instructors need to talk to one another!

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Mind Matters in SLA edited by Clare Wright, Thorsten Piske and Martha Young-Scholten.

A Manifesto for Decolonising Multilingualism

Dear Colleagues, Readers and Accomplices in the work of Decolonising Multilingualism,

This blog post makes available the Manifesto for Decolonising Multilingualism, which is taken from my book of that title. It’s available as a download/e-pamphlet but like any decolonising task, and any academic work, this was neither the work of one individual nor is it complete. As Francis Nyamanjoh says in his recent article (2019), ‘Decolonising the University in Africa’[1] the work ahead, as with its decolonising antecedents, requires

a convivial scholarship that dwells less on zero-sum games of absolute winners and losers, encourages a disposition of incompleteness and humility through the reality of the ubiquity of debt and indebtedness, and finds strength in themes of interconnections, interdependences, compositeness, and incompleteness […].

In this spirit we would like you to add to the manifesto as an activity for the commons, engaging in dialogue, disputing and creating additional ideas, stories and reflections which may benefit the hard common task of decolonising multilingualism, not least in our teaching and learning in universities.

Alison Phipps

You can freely access and download A Short Manifesto for Decolonising Multilingualism here. Please do feel free to use the comments section of this blog post to continue the conversation.

 

For more information about Decolonising Multilingualism please see our website.

 

 

 

[1] Nyamanjoh, Francis ‘Decolonising the University in Africa’ in OXFORD RESEARCH ENCYCLOPEDIA, Oxford University Press, 2019.

Using Ethnomethodological Conversation Analysis in Research on Teaching

Next month we are publishing The Embodied Work of Teaching edited by Joan Kelly Hall and Stephen Daniel Looney. In this post the editors tell us more about the methodology used in the research for this book.

The Embodied Work of Teaching is based on the premise that language teaching is sophisticated, professional work. Such work has typically been represented in the literature as propositional knowledge about teaching. Numerous essays and books exist that tell teachers how they should teach, e.g. ‘connect to students’ experiences’, ‘maintain everyone’s attention’, ‘promote student participation, and ‘be prepared for contingencies.’ Missing from this abundant literature, however, are studies on how teaching is actually accomplished. This volume addresses this gap by showcasing studies that document in rich empirical detail the complex, embodied achievement of language teaching in a variety of instructional settings.

The studies draw on the theoretical foundations and methodological tools of ethnomethodological conversation analysis (EMCA). A dominant approach to the study of social action, EMCA considers the nature and source of human sociality to be fundamentally cooperative, locally accomplished, and grounded in real-world activity. The purpose of EMCA research on teaching is to describe the natural features of classroom life as they are actually produced by teachers and students without reducing them to collections of discrete, insignificant acts. Data-driven and analytically inductive, EMCA relies on a set of robust transcription conventions to identify and describe the fine-grained details of the specialized actions of teaching, the learner actions they engender and the larger pedagogical projects they accomplish.

As demonstrated in the studies in this volume, in addition to instructing or directing others, language teaching involves the ongoing management of alignment, affiliation and multiple participant frameworks through the simultaneous and sequential coordination of numerous embodied resources in addition to language, including body positions, facial expressions, gaze, gesture, and objects in the environment. The studies are not offered as exemplars of best practices; that is, they do not claim to showcase how teaching should be accomplished. Rather, they demonstrate how it is accomplished in particular settings, by particular teachers with particular pedagogical goals and with particular students. As instructive descriptions of the interactional, embodied achievement of teaching, the studies offer to scholars of teaching, teacher educators, teachers and other stakeholders the opportunity to see and understand the sophisticated practices of teaching in new and potentially transformative ways.

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting you might also like Objects, Bodies and Work Practice edited by Dennis Day and Johannes Wagner.

How Can We Represent Social Life in Ethnographic Writing?

This month we published Voices of a City Market: An Ethnography by Adrian Blackledge and Angela Creese. In this post the authors explain how they put the book together.

Which differences are salient to people when they interact in contexts of social and linguistic diversity? How are these differences made resourceful in communication as people draw on their biographies, histories, education, language backgrounds, and economic capital? We examined these questions by conducting ethnographic observations in the Bull Ring market in Birmingham, as part of a four-year AHRC-funded research project, ‘Translation and Translanguaging. Investigating linguistic and cultural transformations in superdiverse wards in four UK cities’.

In the market we observed interactions between butchers and their customers as they haggled, bartered, argued, and joked. We wrote field notes, audio-recorded service interactions, interviewed market traders, took photographs, video-recorded, and collected messages on WeChat and WhatsApp. Communication in the market was characterized by translanguaging, an orientation to difference in which people were willing to make use of whatever resources were available to make themselves understood. Not that everything in the market hall was convivial – everyday sexism and casual racism also raised their heads.

The material we collected was carefully analysed. Transcripts and translations were pored over and annotated, audio-recordings listened to, video-recordings repeatedly watched, online and digital messages scrutinized, photographs examined, discussions held. Reports were authored, academic articles published. However, content is only half of the story. We were concerned that conventional academic writing may not adequately represent the complexity and richness of the discourse of the superdiverse market. So we stripped away analysis, explanation, and exegesis, leaving the voices of traders, shoppers, and researchers to speak for themselves. Rather than structure the ethnography around big ideas and grand theories, we represented the world of the market as an assemblage of ethnographic material, a polyphonic collage of everyday voices and social practices.

In the book the life of the market is framed by a discussion in which a cast of nine characters debates the representation of social life. Two butchers, a photographer, a professor, a dramaturg, an entrepreneur, a researcher, a documentary novelist, and a poet rehearse many of the debates that surfaced in our research team over more than four years. Referring to the artistic production of the world of the market, their voices are thoughtful, opinionated, generous, biased, indignant, and collaborative. The same characters return at the end of the book to reflect on the text.

The assemblage of ethnographic material creates a polyphony of beliefs, commitments, and ideologies. The form of the text, at once poetic and scientific, represents the fragmented yet orderly cacophony of the market. Artistic form, argues Bakhtin (1984: 43), does not shape already prepared and found content, “but rather permits content to be found and seen for the first time”. In the terms of photographer Dorothea Lange (1965), calling attention to the mundane, the everyday, the familiar, enables people to see, as if for the first time, what they have passed by a thousand times. We hope to achieve something of this sort in Voices of a City Market: An Ethnography.

Bakhtin, M. M. (1984). Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics (Edited and translated by C. Emerson). Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Lange, D. (1965) Under the Trees. KQED for National Educational Television (NET).

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Decolonising Multilingualism by Alison Phipps.

“As Diversity Grows, So Must We”: Teaching and Learning in the Multilingual Classroom

This month we published Using Linguistically Appropriate Practice: A Guide for Teaching in Multilingual Classrooms by Roma Chumak-Horbatsch. In this post the author tells us what to expect from the book.

“You can banish the mother tongue from the classroom – but you cannot banish it from students’ heads.” [1] 

Schools, early learning centres and educational programs worldwide are becoming increasingly language-rich. This means that learners in these contexts come from a variety of language backgrounds. It also means that many have little (or no) proficiency in the language of program or curriculum delivery. In response to this linguistic diversity, teachers are reviewing and rethinking their tried-and-true teaching strategies and asking the following questions:

  • What is the best way to teach learners from different language backgrounds?
  • I am not a language teacher. What do I do?
  • How do I communicate with silent newcomers?
  • How can I integrate them into the life of the classroom?
  • How can I help them learn the school language and participate in the curriculum?

This book directly addresses these questions and provides teachers with direction and concrete guidance. It builds on and extends the original Linguistically Appropriate Practice, or LAP[2], a multilingual teaching approach that upsets and challenges the traditional separation of languages, restores home languages to their rightful place as important language learning “allies”[3] and uses learners’ prior knowledge as a starting point in learning.

Here are the highlights of Using Linguistically Appropriate Practice: A Guide for Teaching in Multilingual Classroom.

  • Explains multilingual pedagogy, provides LAP basics and characterizes the LAP teacher
  • Helps readers better understand the theory-practice connection: a tree image (LAP Tree) is used to explain the link between multilingual practice and the language and learning theories that support this inclusive and open teaching approach.
  • Includes voices from the field: the numerous testimonials, journeys and classroom experiences of over 50 professionals (teachers-in-training, classroom teachers, special program teachers, school principals and a language consultant), working in language-rich schools and specialized programs in seven countries (Canada, Finland, Germany, India, Luxembourg, Iceland and Sweden) showcase how multilingual teaching plays out in real learning contexts
  • Invites teachers working in language-rich classrooms to rethink and review their current practice, shift their teaching from the local to the global and adopt Linguistically Appropriate Practice
  • Facilitates the adoption of multilingual pedagogy: the LAP guide is intended to help teachers identify, position and plan their multilingual work. Each of the six blocks of the guide includes “how to” suggestions and tips. Beginning with practice review and reflection, the LAP map guides teachers to retool their teaching, move away from monolingual practice and take the multilingual turn
  • Provides invaluable discussion about the following issues and challenges identified and raised by multilingual teachers: the “silent period”, a largely misunderstood and never-before explained behaviour of newcomer learners; engaging all children in the multilingual agenda; children’s unwillingness to use their home language in the classroom; understanding speakers of “little known” languages and partnering with families
  • Contains a treasure trove of resources: the book’s lists, websites, suggestions and ideas found in the Resources chapter and also in the Appendix will enrich and extend teachers’ multilingual agendas

This is an exciting time to be a teacher! The language richness found in schools is changing the way teaching and learning happen. It is a call for action, inviting teachers to review their current practice, discover the language richness of their learners, change their teaching direction, open their hearts and their doors to languages and transform their classrooms into multilingual hubs where the languages of all learners are seen, heard and included in the curriculum. Using Linguistically Appropriate Practice: A Guide for Teaching in Multilingual Classrooms is a teaching tool that will help teachers in this multilingual teaching adventure.

Share your multilingual journey with the author:

Roma Chumak-Horbatsch – rchumak@ryerson.ca

[1] Butzkamm, W. (2003). We only learn language once. The role of the mother tongue in FL classrooms: death of a dogma. Language Learning Journal, 28, 29-39.

[2] Chumak-Horbatsch. R. (2012). Linguistically Appropriate Practice: Working with Young Immigrant Children.  Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

[3] Butzkamm, W. (2003). We only learn language once. The role of the mother tongue in FL classrooms: death of a dogma. Language Learning Journal, 28, 29-39.

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like A Parents’ and Teachers’ Guide to Bilingualism by Colin Baker.