Online Academic Collaborations in Situations of Forced Immobility: Lessons from Palestine

We recently published Multilingual Online Academic Collaborations as Resistance edited by Giovanna Fassetta, Nazmi Al-Masri and Alison Phipps. In this post the editors explain how the Covid-19 pandemic has given the world a taste of the forced immobility faced by academics in Palestine.

The moment we had been working towards for almost two years was announced to us via an email that said:

Dear Contributor

“Multilingual Online Academic Collaborations as Resistance” is now published. Your copy will be sent out shortly.

We gladly shared this happy news with our Palestinian colleagues at the Islamic University of Gaza (IUG), and elsewhere around the world, who contributed to the edited collection with their reflections, experience and expertise. The news, however, came at an unprecedented time for many of us: as we were celebrating our joint effort, huge numbers of people around the world were still experiencing severe restriction to their freedom of movement and to their ability to meet with others for work, family or pleasure, as the Covid-19 pandemic meant widespread and severe lockdown rules in most countries, including Palestine.

While a pandemic is an exceptional experience for everyone, some of the effects of lockdown are not new for our colleagues at IUG. The Gaza Strip, where IUG is located, is a tiny territory (only 365 m2) which is home to nearly 2 million people, the vast majority of whom are refugees from other parts of Palestine. It is one of the most densely populated places on earth. IUG’s academics, like all other people in the Gaza Strip, have been enduring a 14-year blockade that has crippled the economy and severely limited people’s freedom to move from/to the Strip for work or personal reasons. Being unable to travel and having to rely on online tools to remain in touch with the rest of the world is thus not a new experience for academics at IUG and the other educational institutions in the Gaza Strip.

Discussing the political and military situation in Gaza is beyond the scope of the newly published book, but the humanitarian, economic and academic repercussions of the blockade – further exacerbated by frequent bombings of the Strip by the Israel Defense Force – are not. Maintaining and expanding knowledge and scholarly work under circumstances of economic hardship, crumbling infrastructures and constant disruption, pressure and fear is beyond challenging. It requires a lot of determination, resilience and the steadfast refusal to give up hope for a better future which is the main component of ‘Sumud’. Sumud is “[…] a very distinct, Palestinian, idea […] the art of living to survive and thrive in the homeland in spite of hardship and under occupation practices” (Marie et al, 2018). This includes the strengthening of academic life through the online national and international exchanges of knowledge and expertise that are a core part of academic growth and advancement.

Driven by the need and the will to be equal partners in international academic collaborations despite the blockade and virtually impassable borders, IUG has, in the recent past, developed online, multilingual collaborations with a range of Higher Education Institutions worldwide, especially in Europe. These involve a large number of academics from a range of disciplines and backgrounds, and academic partners in several countries around the world who strive to connect with their Palestinian colleagues despite the challenges that come from having to work without being able to meet face to face.

Our book Multilingual Online Academic Collaborations as Resistance collects reflections and discussions by seventeen academics from Palestine, Europe and the US who worked hard (online) over many, many months, and through frequent challenges and disruptions, to put together a book that primarily aims to convey the importance of online and multilingual academic collaborations as a form of ‘Sumud’ and of ‘virtual academic hospitality’ (Phipps, A. and Barnett, R., 2007). The interdisciplinary, intercultural nature of the chapters are the book’s strength, although they have also meant many compromises, tricky online discussions, changes, and delays. Different research approaches and subject traditions; unequal availability of resources such as books and journal articles; distinctive academic conventions and expectations have all been negotiated over several months to produce a book that, we hope, is informative in its contents but – crucially – offers an insight into what can be achieved when the will to collaborate and work together is stronger and more powerful than the difficulties faced along the way, especially in contexts of protracted challenges, crises and emergencies.

Drawing, among others, from expertise in TESOL, educational technology, the arts and humanities, architecture and teacher training, the chapters discuss research and capacity building projects that have used (and/or use) multiple languages and online technologies to ensure collaborations across borders. The crucial importance of online communication tools to ensure academic and intercultural collaborations when borders are impassable are at the centre of each chapter, meaning that the authors (unintentionally) anticipated a shift that most academic institutions worldwide had to face in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns. As we were putting the final touches to the book’s manuscript, the online teaching and research which the book was discussing suddenly went from being an option needed by a few academics working in exceptional circumstances, to being the only available way to continue working for most educators and researchers worldwide.

However, most of our fellow academics can hope that, in the not so distant future, lives will go back to ‘normal’, and that well-known practices will be resumed. This is not currently an option for our colleagues and friends in the Gaza Strip (nor for other colleagues in similar contexts of protracted conflict and crises) for whom online collaborations will remain the norm even once the Covid-19 pandemic is a thing of the past.

What Multilingual Online Academic Collaborations as Resistance shows is that, even though it cannot and should not replace the freedom to move and live a life free from fear, online collaborations can be fruitful (as well as crucial) when they become a way to resist and defy constraints and a means to reach out to others, to share experiences, to foster mutual growth, and to offer – and receive – academic hospitality. What this book also shows is that the extremely difficult experiences our Palestinian colleagues have had to endure for well over a decade, and the individual and collective resilience and steadfastness (the ‘Sumud’) they have maintained throughout, can be a source of inspiration – and a lesson – on how to keep on going, and growing, through challenging times.

For more information about this book please see our website.

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

Internationalisation and EAP: Transforming the Academy through a Focus on Language

This month we published Making Language Visible in the University by Bee Bond. In this post the author explains the context in which her book was written.

English for Academic Purposes (EAP) and the (neoliberal) Higher Education policies of internationalisation have an ‘elective affinity’ (Zepke, 2015). In other words, the exponential growth in the demand for EAP is directly linked to an increasing focus on marketing Higher Education study to an international market. EAP as an emerging field of study and practice would not have been afforded as much space to grow and develop had it not been for global Higher Education policies that encouraged student mobility across borders and the increasing stronghold of English as the accepted norm for most academic communication. EAP and its practitioners directly benefit from this growth.

However, for most EAP practitioners, the neoliberal focus of such policies sits uncomfortably with their world view and their professional practices. The connection between the international student and financial gain for an institution works to the detriment of a focus on the intellectual, cultural and social benefits that come from studying in a global community and does not sit well within the epistemology of those involved in the study and teaching of languages.

Furthermore, there is a tension between EAP and the rest of the academy due to the frequent framing of international students as being in deficit. This perception positions those whose work is focused on supporting English language learning students to find ways of accessing academic content in English as being on the edges of academia – acting as a bridge to the real work rather than an integral part of academic life. This is also connected to the invisibility of language within the academy which, as Turner argues (2004) only becomes visible when it is viewed as a technical problem that then needs to be ‘fixed’ by an EAP practitioner.

It is these intersections and misconnections between internationalisation, the EAP practitioner and the view of language as either an invisible or a technical aside to the real academic work of disciplinary content knowledge development that provide the context for my book. In order to address these issues, and move EAP away from the ‘edges of academia’ (Ding & Bruce, 2017) it is clear that it is necessary to work within this context; to embrace the ‘elective affinity’ that EAP  has with internationalisation policies and to work through them to effect change rather than to ignore or resist from the margins. By engaging in scholarship; acting as ethnographers of the academy to better understand the role of language within specific disciplines and contexts, and then communicating and highlighting this understanding beyond the EAP community, I believe it is possible for EAP practitioners to work in partnership with international students as agents for change.

International students have the potential to positively transform higher education practices, forcing a reflexive, shifting awareness of pedagogy, academic practices and the disciplinary canon. EAP practitioners, fully embedded and accepted within their institution as valued scholars, should work as advocates and allies for these students, pushing for structural change through policy decisions. In this way, EAP practitioners can become agents for positive change rather than marginalised technicians who are exposed to the political and structural decisions made around them.

Bee Bond, The University of Leeds

b.bond@leeds.ac.uk

@BeeBond1

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like International Student Engagement in Higher Education by Margaret Kettle.

Language Continues to Divide Us, Despite Globalisation

This month we published The Dynamics of Language and Inequality in Education edited by Joel Austin Windle, Dánie de Jesus and Lesley Bartlett. In this post Joel explains the book’s focus and how it came about.

Some of the world’s most enduring and pervasive social divisions are maintained through language practices and ideologies embedded in education. If we scratch beneath the surface of globalization’s connectivity and mobility, we find an underbelly of linguistic inequality, but also, more encouragingly, resistance to oppressive language practices. This is they central premise of The Dynamics of Language and Inequality in Education.

Our focus is on the Global South, where the promises of European modernity are exposed as underpinned by a geopolitics of imperialism that structure linguistic inequalities in sometimes surprising ways. For example, for two centuries the Portuguese crown and Jesuit missionaries relied on an Indigenous language, Língua Geral, to conquer and exploit the peoples of the Amazon, rather than Portuguese. In contemporary African schooling, a complex linguistic market sees old colonial languages displaced by new ones as markers of distinction. English, replete with ideologies of race, class and coloniality, plays a central role in the contemporary scenario. It has gradually displaced Russian as the prestige language of Mongolian higher education, revealed in online practices and lines of exclusion that mirror ancient urban-rural divides. In the Pacific Islands and Latin America, the teaching and policing of English brings practices of shaming and feelings of inadequacy in which race plays a central role. Sensitive ethnographic work by authors from each of these settings, amongst many others, brings out the complexity of boundary formation as not only delimiting, but also structuring linguistic contacts and exchanges around education.

The chapters also highlight the emergence of critical consciousness of the ideological dimensions of language and resistance to linguistic inequalities, along with the wider social divisions they shape. This is evident in feminist pedagogies in language education in Saudi Arabia, queer pedagogies in Brazilian teacher education, and plurilingual literacy pedagogies in South Africa. The book emerged from a shared commitment amongst the editors and authors to these resistant pedagogies and from an emerging research network of critical scholars, most of whom are connected through Brazil.

The initial idea emerged from discussions I had with Dánie de Jesus during a post-graduate course on Bourdieu and literacy which I taught at the Federal University of Mato Grosso. Dánie and I both work as teacher educators in Brazil, while Lesley Bartlett, an anthropologist based in the US, has long-term Brazilian connections through her work on adult literacy in Rio de Janeiro and Pernambuco. In contrast to work from the global north that often sees globalization as a unifying, boundary-weakening process, our Brazilian experiences suggested the need to counter this view with perspectives from what Raewyn Connell, in Southern Theory, termed “the pointy end of globalization”.

Joel Windle

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.

Exciting New Multilingual Matters Titles for 2020

We can’t believe the first month of 2020 is almost over! It seems like only yesterday we were decorating the office and singing along to our Christmas playlist. However, if January has seemed like a very long month to you, we have plenty of exciting new titles coming up to fend off the winter blues. Here’s a selection of what we’ve got in store for you this spring…

Global TESOL for the 21st Century by Heath Rose, Mona Syrbe, Anuchaya Montakantiwong and Natsuno Funada

This book explores the impact of the spread of English on language teaching and learning. It provides a framework for change in the way English is taught to better reflect global realities and to embrace current research. The book is essential reading for postgraduate researchers, teachers and teacher trainers in TESOL.

Speaking Spanish in the US by Janet M. Fuller and Jennifer Leeman

This book introduces readers to basic concepts of sociolinguistics with a focus on Spanish in the US. The coverage goes beyond linguistics to examine the history and politics of Spanish in the US, the relationship of language to Latinx identities, and how language ideologies and policies reflect and shape societal views of Spanish and its speakers.

Teaching Adult Immigrants with Limited Formal Education edited by Joy Kreeft Peyton and Martha Young-Scholten

This book aims to empower teachers working with adult migrants who have had little or no prior formal schooling, and give them the information and skills that they need to reach the highest possible levels of literacy in their new languages.

Essays on Conference Interpreting by James Nolan

This book, drawing on the author’s 30-year career, seeks to define what constitutes good interpreting and how to develop the skills and abilities that are conducive to it. It places interpretation in its historical context and examines the uses and limitations of modern technology for interpreting.

 

The Dynamics of Language and Inequality in Education edited by Joel Austin Windle, Dánie de Jesus and Lesley Bartlett

This book contributes new perspectives from the Global South on the ways in which linguistic and discursive boundaries shape inequalities in educational contexts, ranging from Amazonian missions to Mongolian universities, using critical ethnographic and sociolinguistic analyses.

The Emotional Rollercoaster of Language Teaching edited by Christina Gkonou, Jean-Marc Dewaele and Jim King

This book focuses on the emotional complexity of language teaching and how the diverse emotions that teachers experience are shaped and function. The book covers a range of emotion-related topics on both positive and negative emotions, including emotional labour, burnout, emotion regulation, resilience, emotional intelligence and wellbeing.

 

Seen something you like? All these titles are available to pre-order on our website and you can get 50% off this month when you enter the code JANSALE at the checkout!

Introducing International Teaching Assistants

We recently published A Transdisciplinary Approach to International Teaching Assistants edited by Stephen Daniel Looney and Shereen Bhalla. In this post the editors explain how their book reframes the notion of ‘the ITA problem’.

For several decades in North America, international graduate students have accounted for a significant portion of the teaching labor force at large universities. Thus, novice multilingual teachers with little to no pedagogical training are leading courses populated by undergraduates from the US who have limited experience with intercultural interaction in high-stakes contexts. By the 1980s, this situation had been dubbed “the International Teaching Assistant (ITA) Problem,” and the problem was perceived to be a sociolinguistic one, i.e. lacking symmetry between the speech and pragmatic expectations of ITAs and undergraduates. States began passing legislation requiring that ITAs’ English proficiency be certified before they could undertake teaching responsibilities. This led to the emergence of ITA Programs at universities across the US and Canada as well as the establishment of the ITA Interest Section in the International TESOL organization. ITA Programs vary vastly both in where they are housed in universities, e.g. an academic department, teaching and learning center, or Intensive English Program, and in the services that they provide, e.g. semester-long courses or shorter workshops and seminars. The ITA Interest Section is composed almost exclusively of teachers and administrators with few researchers being active participants. This imbalance has arguably caused ITA as a sub-field of applied linguistics and TESOL to be marginalized and misunderstood as deficit oriented.

Framing ITAs as a problem surely offends the 21st century applied linguist’s sensibilities, but researchers and practitioners realized early on that the issue is more complex than just pronunciation and grammar which can be addressed with remedial ESL courses. ITAs need to be able to exploit and interpret prosodic and multimodal cues, and classroom communication is a two-way street, involving undergraduates as well as ITAs. At the same time, perceptions of speech and expectations for classroom behavior are influenced by experiences and biases that may be conscious or not. While ITA research has dealt with language, interaction, and the perceptions, attitudes, and experiences of ITAs and undergraduates, other stakeholders such as faculty members, ITA practitioners, and university administrators have only entered the periphery of the discussion at best and an in-depth look at policy is non-existent to the best of my knowledge.

Drawing on recent developments in applied linguistics, our volume is a collection of state-of-the-art ITA studies from a variety of perspectives. While there are chapters addressing language and social interaction, there are also studies of communities of practice, the contact hypothesis, assessment, policy, and program evaluation. As a whole, the contributions to this volume reframe ITAs as skilled multilingual professionals who are developing sophisticated interactional repertoires for teaching and academic interaction. Additionally, these multilingual professionals are being socialized into communities of practice including university classrooms, departments, research labs, and student organizations. The collection recognizes the roles multiple stakeholders play in ITA and the institutional and ideological realities that these stakeholders face. While ITA has been framed as a North American issue, English is increasingly the medium of instruction in universities around the world, making our volume relevant to researchers, teachers, and administrators worldwide. The use of English for Teaching (and Academic) Purposes is a global issue that deserves further attention. Our volume only begins to crack the surface of what could be fertile ground for applied linguists, but we hope it can serve as a springboard for further investigation.

 

For more information about this book please see our website

If you found this interesting, you might also like International Student Engagement in Higher Education by Margaret Kettle.

Language Management in European Education Systems

We recently published Multilingualism in European Language Education edited by Cecilio Lapresta-Rey and Ángel Huguet. In this post Cecilio reflects on the inspiration behind the book.

I remember very clearly the day I met professor Ángel Huguet in a small town near Lleida (Catalonia – Spain). After coffee and an intense conversation, I joined his research group, venturing in the study of bilingual education models and multilingual management in different Spanish territories.

That coffee talk was followed by many others, but also led to an ongoing process of branching out to other contexts, thanks to research stays abroad, and hosting researchers from many regions of Europe and the rest of the world.

This was the background that pushed us to conduct a symposium titled “Managing Multilingualism in European Schools”, which brought up some questions that may seem basic yet are so important and complex to answer, such as ‘What are the differences and similarities in language management in Andorra, Asturias, the Basque Country, Catalonia, England, Finland, France, Latvia, The Netherlands and Romania?’ and ‘What are the historical, political, sociolinguistic and legislative reasons behind them?

The success of this meeting gave us the encouragement to continue further, aware that this topic was relevant enough to extend the information to many more people.

Therefore, we have put together this volume Multilingualism in European Language Education. In its chapters, renowned experts tackle language management in the educational systems of several European regions. Furthermore, historical, political, sociolinguistic and legislative factors are included for a comprehensive understanding.

Consequently, this book combines an in-depth analysis of each territory with a broader general overview of the whole, resulting in an excellent resource for anyone interested in the topic, and highly useful for professionals in the scientific, educational and linguistic domains.

That, at least, is my wish.

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Bilingual and Multilingual Education in the 21st Century edited by Christian Abello-Contesse, Paul M. Chandler, María Dolores López-Jiménez and Rubén Chacón-Beltrán.

Building Bridges as We Go: Connecting Schools with Multilingual Families

This month we are publishing Connecting School and the Multilingual Home by Maria R. Coady. In this post the author explains how her own experiences provided the inspiration for the book.

I grew up navigating various ethnic and linguistic enclaves north of Boston, Massachusetts, where I was born. My grandparents’ families had emigrated from parts of Italy, and I fondly recall my great uncles and aunts speaking their local language and mixing English and Italian. I imagined what they thought while sitting under the cool shade of the apple trees while younger generations of American kids ran through the yard and played bocci. Family was central to our identity, and our identity was our culture, our history, and our language.

My sense of both family and language permeated every aspect of my own educational experience up through college: what I thought I could do, how I could do it, what I would study, and who I could become. One thing for sure was the message that I received from my family: being successful in school was paramount. I was the first generation to navigate access to college, so I learned the hard way (alone) to unravel the complexities surrounding educational programs, relationships, and even financial aid.

As my career matured from an early start in business into bilingual education, the same lens of access to education illuminated the barriers that other families—children, parents, and caregivers—faced. I could envision the bridges between the school and immigrant, multilingual families but remained dismayed by how infrequently I actually saw them built. What remained obvious to me was how many multilinguals have a similar experience—valuing education without having the knowledge of how to access it fully.

Rural multilingual family working in the horse farming industry, southeast United States

The inspiration for this book stems from my own experiences and 25 years of working with multilingual families in the northeast US, Colorado, and rural north central Florida. I have also had the experiences of working with international rural communities. I find that rural, multilingual families’ strengths go largely unnoticed, and are definitely not tapped into as a resource. Their many languages and literacy practices differ from those assumed by educators, leaving families positioned as disinterested in their child’s education.

The Gómez family is one telling example. A family of five children, I recall the second youngest daughter wanting to participate in a 4 day, overnight field trip to Washington, DC—a very long distance from Florida. This annual 5th grade trip, organized by the school, required students to have cameras (back then, disposable cameras), a suitcase, spending money, and good walking shoes. Although the parents understood the importance of the trip to their daughter, they did not understand the process of completing the extensive field trip paperwork, which was provided in only English, nor the details and items needed for the trip. The father and mother worked overtime and sold personal items in order to pay for some of the trip itself. My students and I fundraised to ensure that the daughter had the shoes, camera, and suitcase needed, and while advocating for one family at a time is important, we need the tools to make more systemic changes in schools on behalf of multilingual families.

Our job is to build relational trust (Bryk & Schneider, 2002) with families, and as Michal Domínguez (2017) notes, hacer puentes al andar – building bridges as we go.  That is the spirit of this book, which is filled with concrete ways to support reflection, action, and to humanize our work as educators by connecting schools with multilingual families.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Narratives of Adult English Learners and Teachers by Clarena Larrotta.

What Takes Place Behind the Scenes of Research?

This month we are publishing Critical Reflections on Research Methods edited by Doris S. Warriner and Martha Bigelow. In this post Doris explains how a stolen car and a shut-off notice, amongst other things, led her to reflect on her experiences as a researcher.

In 2001, a participant in my dissertation research study called. She told me that her car had been stolen. She said she had been pulled out of the car and injured before they drove away with it. I was listed as a contact person on the police report, so I was later contacted in the middle of the night to be told that the police had located the damaged car at a local truck stop. I eventually helped to retrieve the damaged car from the impound lot. That same year, another participant needed help talking to the local utility company after receiving a shut-off notice in the mail. I accompanied her to the appointment and helped everyone understand what was going on and what needed to be done in order to avoid having power disrupted.

These are just two of many situations which caused questions and doubts to swirl and bounce around in my head. I wondered whether this constituted research, how to engage, and what else might require quick unplanned responses. As I endeavoured to manage these unexpected circumstances, weigh decisions, and understand the potential consequences of my actions, I was filled with uncertainty.

Over the past 15 years, I have continued to work in research contexts with unexpected twists and turns. I have also tried to mentor graduate students through many situations, relationships, contexts, and challenges that they too could not have anticipated or prepared for. I have looked for answers to questions about ethics, relationships, trust-building and process in my experiences as a researcher, in books on qualitative research methods, and in the work of colleagues also working in complex research contexts.

However, while I found many generic discussions of research ethics (e.g., the need to obtain IRB approval and how important that is), I did not find the honest, first-hand accounts of unresolved questions, misgivings, doubt and uncertainty that seem to characterize my own experiences as a researcher. Hungry for more revealing accounts of what takes place behind the scenes of the situations and scenarios written up in peer-reviewed publications, I began to examine some of the questions, challenges and limits surrounding methods of inquiry, analysis and representation.

In 2014, I organized a session for the annual meetings of the American Anthropological Association entitled Critical Reflections on Theory and Method: The Possibilities and Limits of Anthropological Work on/with/for Refugee Communities. In 2015, I organized a session for the American Association for Applied Linguistics on Producing Knowledge about/with/for Vulnerable Populations: Collaborations, Constraints, and Possibilities. Combined, the two sessions brought together junior and senior scholars who had navigated relationships, roles, reciprocity and knowledge production processes in complex multilingual contexts and who had many important insights to share about their personal experiences, questions and accomplishments.

This edited collection showcases work that delves into, explores, and examines the possibilities and limits of our methods, our relationships, our roles and our research stories. I hope it will be of interest and value to researchers working on sensitive issues or in challenging contexts. And I look forward to continued conversations with all of you about the relationship between the methods of inquiry we use, the types of knowledge we help to produce, and our lived experiences as researchers.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Educating Refugee-background Students edited by Shawna Shapiro, Raichle Farrelly and Mary Jane Curry.

Can Adult Language Learners Acquire a Native-speaker Accent Just by Listening?

This month we published English-Medium Instruction and Pronunciation by Karin Richter. In this post the author talks about what led her to study L2 pronunciation in adults and what we can expect to learn from the book.

Do university students who listen to regular lectures with native speakers improve their pronunciation skills?

Can adult language learners pick up a native-speaker accent just by listening? Or is there little hope because they are probably too old for acquiring a native-like accent? This book presents a longitudinal research project exploring exactly these questions. My interest in the topic arose out of my involvement in two core areas of educational linguistics, namely the current spread of English-medium instruction (EMI) at European universities and the development of L2 pronunciation skills in adult learners. Let me tell you how and why I set out on this exciting journey.

Why study adult pronunciation?

In 2003, the University of Applied Sciences (UAS) in Vienna, where I was teaching ESP courses at the time, pioneered a new programme – part of a growing wave across Europe: EMI. The UAS jumped on the bandwagon and was one of the first in the country to offer a bilingual (English/German) Bachelor’s degree in Entrepreneurship with up to 50% of the classes taught in English mostly by native speakers. In those early days of the EMI movement, it was hoped that the use of English to teach content courses would simultaneously enhance students’ content and language competence, based on the assumption that the learners benefit from ‘two for the price of one’. However, there was – and still is today – little research yet conducted to confirm this hope.

Interestingly, at the time, I was not only teaching a wide range of Business English courses at the UAS but also Practical Phonetics at another educational institution, namely the University of Vienna. Questions began to rise in my mind and I wondered how the EMI students’ increased exposure to English through their native-speaker teachers impacted on their foreign (Austrian) accent in English. I was curious what was going on implicitly, without any specific effort or attention. Essentially want I wanted to find out was: Do the students simply pick up the teacher’s accent without studying pronunciation or is it irrelevant what accent (foreign or native) the teacher has because adult learners at this stage have already passed the critical period for acquiring a native-like accent? As an experienced pronunciation teacher, these questions spurred me to embark on an empirical study in which I monitored the EMI students’ pronunciation for three years, looking in detail to see if they were making any gains or if they were hitting a wall because of their age.

What’s in the book?

The book begins with a comprehensive account of the rise of English-medium instruction in European higher education, examining the role of English as a Lingua Franca and exploring further questions about native-speaker norms. Then it goes on to discuss how languages in general and pronunciation in particular are learned in the EMI classroom and which factors (such as age, gender, musicality, attitude or motivation) influence L2 pronunciation mastery. Each chapter provides a thorough review of the literature, which then serves as the basis for the presentation and interpretation of the findings of my own study of Austrian business students at the UAS, whose pronunciation development I tracked over the entire duration of their Bachelor studies.

What did I find?

  • Do university students who listen to regular lectures with native speakers improve their pronunciation skills?
  • At their age (most of them were in their early 20s) can they make any significant gains with pronunciation at all?
  • Do EMI programmes result in considerable language development despite little to no explicit language instruction?
  • Do additional activities within and outside the programme influence their pronunciation more than just sitting in on lectures with the content area professors?
  • What are the main features of the Austrian learners’ accent in English which they were struggling with the most?

You’ll have to read the book to find out….

What contribution does this book make?

This book goes beyond the context of the particular case here. It addresses the burning issue of linguistic gains in tertiary EMI classrooms and also provides longitudinal data on L2 phonological changes in adult learners. Hence my purpose in embarking on the study and writing this book was to offer a valuable contribution to both the field of bilingual education as well as second language acquisition. I hope that the findings presented in this volume will spark new ideas for future studies in a fascinating field and that researchers as well as programme designers, teachers and students interested in English-medium instruction and second language phonology will find it a worthwhile and inspirational read.

Karin Richter

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like English-Medium Instruction in Japanese Higher Education edited by Annette Bradford and Howard Brown.

 

From Syria to the UK: My First Year Insights as an International Student

This month we published International Students’ Challenges, Strategies and Future Vision by Anas Hajar. In this post the author talks about his own experiences as an international student in the UK.

My first study abroad experience dates back to 2009 when I joined a postgraduate programme in English language teaching at Warwick University in the UK. Like many international students who study abroad, I aspired to establish meaningful interactions with locals – interactions that go beyond commercial exchanges and small talk in student cafeterias. However, I ended up spending most of my free time with two Syrian fellows and some other international students from China, Greece and Italy.

The superficiality of my interactions with the British stemmed mainly from my little awareness of learning strategies that can help enhance sojourn outcomes. I had limited experience in technology to check the latest social and academic activities offered by Warwick University. In addition, academic study pressure was extremely high and my ultimate vision was to complete my academic requirements and expand my knowledge in my specialisation. I was afraid of failure and of letting family members down, since I was government-sponsored.

My perspective about the myth of the “native speaker” as the ideal teacher changed at the end of my Master’s degree programme. To my surprise, two tutors who inspired me in the programme were non-native speakers of English. They seemed to me quite aware of the needs of international students, probably because they themselves experienced first-hand the phenomenon of international students pursuing their academic studies abroad through the medium of English. The two tutors gave a clear vision about the taught modules and interesting materials. They also provided useful, detailed and timely feedback on my written work. My dissertation supervisor passed on effective strategies that helped me make my writing more critical and develop a new identity as a neophyte researcher.

In Middle Eastern countries, the youth rarely leave their family and live on their own before marriage. Studying abroad made me grow into a more independent person, since this was my first experience of living apart from my parents. I had to be responsible for my decisions. My personal independence was reinforced through endeavours to meet personal life needs, such as purchasing household goods, finding and cooking Middle Eastern food, opening a bank account and searching for prepaid SIM cards to make overseas calls.

I felt homesick especially during celebratory occasions in Syria. Nonetheless, I greatly appreciated and enjoyed the gatherings organised by the University of Warwick Chaplaincy during Ramadan and Eid Al-Fitr, in which Middle Eastern food was served and people from different nationalities met and exchanged experiences.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like The Strategy Factor in Successful Language Learning by Carol Griffiths.