Language Teachers’ Beliefs in Their Own Ability

This month we are publishing Exploring Language Teacher Efficacy in Japan by Gene Thompson. In this post the author writes about his experience running language teacher workshops in Japan.

How confident are you about successfully completing different teaching activities? What are the factors that influence those beliefs? Are there any experiences that have influenced your confidence towards different teaching tasks?

I confronted these questions during my time contributing to language teacher training workshops in Japan. Working with a licence renewal program and teacher developmental initiatives in a regional prefecture, I observed a huge difference in the confidence of attendees towards implementing government mandated language teaching curricula reforms that encouraged a more communicative focus in English language classes.

For secondary school teachers, the new policy required them to use English as a teaching language. Certain individuals were very confident about doing so – even excited about it. Others were less certain of their capability to carry out lessons effectively if they had to use English with students. Some were completely devoid of any certainty that they could accomplish anything with their students if they were forced to use English when teaching.

What lay behind these beliefs? For many teachers – as users of English themselves – personal ideas about their own English language seemed to be an important factor. Equally, for many teachers, the demands of their teaching environment seemed to be an important part of the equation. For some participants, their school had a motivated and well-resourced teaching staff. For others, student motivation was low and many of their learners had not mastered the skills taught in previous years.

Many participants observed our seminars and simply rejected everything we presented. Quite quickly, my colleagues and I realized that our seminars were much more effective when we made them into workshops. Generally, we would provide a ‘recipe’ for using a teaching strategy (e.g. using the ‘sandwich’ technique) with a certain learner group, then push our attendees to think about how they could change or apply that technique in their classrooms – often challenging them to try them out on each other using microteaching or other practice activities.

We couldn’t cover as much ground in our sessions in workshop fashion. However, we found not only that our participants developed knowledge about different teaching strategies, but also that our sessions could influence – to a greater degree – the extent to which participants felt confident in their ability to actually employ the ideas from our workshops in their classrooms.

This experience stimulated the research presented in Exploring Language Teacher Efficacy in Japan, as I became interested in the relationship between teacher beliefs of capability, their personal abilities, and the influence of contextual demands upon their beliefs and practice.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Language Teacher Psychology edited by Sarah Mercer and Achilleas Kostoulas.

Global TESOL And Why Teaching Needs To Change

This month we are publishing Global TESOL for the 21st Century by Heath Rose, Mona Syrbe, Anuchaya Montakantiwong and Natsuno Funada. In this post Heath Rose talks about how teaching English is changing due to globalisation.

In the 21st century, teaching English has become very different to what it was even a few decades ago. Never before has the world seen a global language to the extent that English is now used. New varieties of English have developed in former British colonies in North America, Africa, different parts of Asia, and Australasia. English has also become a default lingua franca for a global community of speakers who communicate on an international platform across linguistic and geographic boundaries.

These global speakers make up the majority of English speakers today, yet find little to no representation in most TESOL curricula. English is now used to express a mixture of global, local, and glocal cultures and identities, and this has significantly shaped the language and the skills required to successfully use it in diverse business, political, social, and academic settings. Our book aims to explore how the TESOL profession needs to change to meet these changing needs.

The book aims to provide a detailed examination of the incorporation of an international perspective into multiple domains of TESOL, including testing, materials, teacher identity, and student attitudes. Beyond that, we hope to encourage teachers to participate in the still largely untapped research agenda surrounding classroom innovation, which is necessary to make a move to teaching English as a truly global language.

Each of us, as the four authors of the book, have come together to write this book as a collective team of TESOL researchers who are also teaching professionals. We each became interested in teaching English as an international language via our own personal journeys, which have brought with them our unique experiences as teachers and learners. My journey began as a language teacher first in Australia and then for 12 years in Japan, where I became increasingly aware that my students needed to prepare to use English with a diverse and global community of English users.

My co-authors each had their own experiences, first as English language learners themselves in Germany, Japan, and Thailand, and later as English language teachers in a variety of global contexts. These journeys have helped to construct our own perspectives, and underpin our personal motivations to write the book. Our dual identities as researchers and language teachers helps to bring a practical perspective to many issues surrounding the teaching of English as an international language to provide readers with practical answers, but also to prompt critical discussion and reflection on what it means to be an English teacher in the 21st century.

Twitter @drheathrose

For more information about this book please see our website

If you found this interesting, you might also like Preparing Teachers to Teach English as an International Language edited by Aya Matsuda.

Reframing Literacy on the Periphery

This month we published Grassroots Literacy and the Written Record by John Trimbur. In this post the author explains how the book came about.

Grassroots Literacy and the Written Record tells the story of the Asbestos Interest Group (AIG), a village-based network of asbestos activists in post-apartheid South Africa. The book is set in the Kuruman district, a former mining center on the Cape Asbestos Belt, a landscape of retrenched mines and mills and derelict tailing dumps, where the ubiquitous presence of asbestos causes deadly asbestos-related diseases. The storyline runs from the AIG’s founding in 2001 to 2015, tracing the AIG’s participation in grassroots research, in a mass drive to register claimants in a legal case against the Gencor mining company, and in its work helping ex-mineworkers and surviving family members negotiate the paperwork of the state compensation system and the trust fund that resulted from an out-of-court settlement with Gencor.

The book is a personal one in the sense that it grew out of my involvement with the AIG for over ten years as an academic activist. During that time, I drew on my academic background in rhetoric and writing studies but not from a scholarly angle. Rather I did things like working on a pamphlet about asbestos and asbestos-related diseases for villagers, led grassroots research workshops for AIG activists, and helped the AIG office create the paper trails of organizational record keeping.

The impetus for the book came, perhaps ironically, when I was engaged in this type of activist work, putting together a timeline of the AIG’s first decade as a basic document to include in grant applications and use for publicity purposes.  In retrospect, it now seems obvious that the central motive of the book – of not wanting the AIG’s work to be forgotten – was already present. A logical step from the timeline was to make sure the AIG’s grassroots activism entered the historical record, where its meanings and legacy could be examined.

This shift from activism to a scholarly research project converged with a conceptual shift in writing studies that gives Grassroots Literacy and the Written Record its interpretive framework. The rejection of monolithic theories of literacy and the pluralization of literate practices were already well-established ideas in writing studies. More recently, however, there has been a reframing of literacy based on the further recognition that literacies are not just different: they are also arranged hierarchically, in relations of inequality, by the uneven dissemination of semiotic resources, the stratified acknowledgement of the right to be heard, and the differential capacity across social locations to participate in public forums of deliberation and decision-making.

In the case of the AIG, this asymmetry expressed the fraught relations between periphery and center, the geohistorical fate of villagers living in what the anthropologist Charles Piot calls “remotely global” locations in the far south, where non-elite literacies are partially plugged into and partially by-passed by the modalities of mainstream literacies. Grassroots Literacy and the Written Record is an attempt to understand how this semiotic distance between the periphery and the center was produced in the Kuruman district and how the AIG was able (or not) to deploy the paperwork of the center to move the interests of villagers translocally, from the grassroots level to institutions of power and influence in the metropolis.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Scripts of Servitude by Beatriz P. Lorente.

What Does It Mean To “Be Chinese”?

This month we published Language, Culture and Identity in Two Chinese Community Schools by Sara Ganassin. In this post the author talks about the book’s discussion of identity in contexts of migration. 

The past decade has seen a growing international interest in China, Chinese language education, ‘Chinese culture’ and Chinese communities including Chinese migrants. At the same time, often media attention has contributed to an enforcement of stereotypical constructions of a collective Chinese identity by depicting Chinese people, including Chinese migrants, in particular ways: successful, hard-working, but also conservative, unwilling to integrate and often ‘invisible’ in their new countries.

This book offers a snapshot of Chinese migrant experiences in Britain. It is important to acknowledge that ‘Chineseness’ is not necessarily related to an affiliation with a particular political entity, but it is rather related to the complex nature of the ‘Chinese world’ including its multinational and multicultural dimensions.

Chinese homework from a child at one of the schools in the book

This book is located in the context of Chinese community schools in the UK. These are educational and social spaces where migrants nurture their language, cultures and identities and transmit them to the younger generations. The question ‘is there more than one way of being Chinese?’ is addressed from the perspectives of children, parents and teachers attending two Mandarin schools. These perspectives include both those from ‘new’ migrants from Mainland China and those from more ‘traditional’ Cantonese, Hakka, and Hokkien speaking communities.

The book explores how ‘being Chinese’ covers a complex range of political, ethnic, linguistic, and cultural positions and identities that play out in the context of language community education. With their focus on non-dominant languages and ‘cultures’ community schools represent a space for adults and children to explore who they are and what ‘being Chinese’ means to them.

Postcards at the Librairie Avant-Garde in Nanjing

The topic of ‘Chinese’ and, more broadly, ‘migrant’ identity is central in the book. However, the book is not just about ‘being Chinese’. Identity is a crucial and controversial topic in any context of migration and displacement. Social-constructionism enables us to see identity as a process constructed through the relationships that we establish with the world around us. Our sense of who we are, especially but not exclusively as migrants, is shaped by our sense of identification with particular communities, but also by our self-understanding of our own unique personal journeys and family histories.

Furthermore, identification and affiliation with certain groups — e.g. ‘being native speakers of a certain language’, ‘being citizens of a certain country’ — afford us privileges and opportunities others might not have and, at the same time, shape how we see ourselves and the world. A key message in this book concerns the importance of acknowledging how different life trajectories are a source of enrichment rather than obstacles as people move, settle in new contexts and negotiate who they are in relation to the ‘other’.

I hope that readers — those who study and have an interest in intercultural and migrant education, teachers and learners of Chinese or any other community language — may engage with the narratives reported in this book and enhance their understanding of their own personal and professional stories in intercultural spaces.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Learning Chinese as a Heritage Language by Guanglun Michael Mu.

Dual Language Bilingual Education Implementation in Unprecedented Times: Issues of Equity Amidst the Coronavirus Pandemic

This month we published Dual Language Bilingual Education by Kathryn I. Henderson and Deborah K. Palmer. In this post the authors discuss the effects that the COVID-19 pandemic is having on dual language bilingual education.

Weeks ago when we agreed to write this blog post, we knew we wanted to connect the core messages of our book about teachers implementing dual language bilingual education (DLBE), to current issues of equity and the role of the educator at their heart. In our book, we describe the shift of DLBE implementation in the United States from small-scale, often grass-roots efforts to large-scale, including state-led and district-led, initiatives as ‘unprecedented.’ We had no idea that the COVID-19 pandemic was going to take DLBE – and public education in general – into an entirely new and unprecedented time. Under the circumstances, it seems impossible for us to discuss anything but the new and very rapidly unrolling reality of shifting DLBE curriculum and instruction online on a massive scale, and the role of teachers in navigating this uncharted terrain. We will share three potential issues of equity in DLBE implementation that we believe are more important than ever in this new and shifting online terrain: a) ensuring access, b) centering marginalized students, and c) engaging a critically conscious curriculum.

Ensuring Access

Access to DLBE, including access to both programs themselves and to the curriculum in them, is always a central equity issue. The shift to distance learning magnifies this issue. How do we provide equitable education in an online medium under circumstances of extreme disparity of access to reliable internet and technology tools, potentially through languages not understood by adults in households? The educator is at the heart of this issue. Teachers and school leaders around the world are asking themselves as they struggle to reach families: Do all our students have access to reliable internet? What devices will they be working on? How much support will they have? How do we provide equitable access to technologies, resources, and support in all the languages our families require?

Centering Marginalized Students

The rapid increase in DLBE programs across the United States through new large scale initiatives has, in some cases, led to processes in which the linguistically and culturally diverse emerging bilingual students that these programs were designed to serve are no longer the focus. Scholars have dubbed this the ‘gentrification’ or ‘whitening’ of dual language. As educators grapple with transitioning to distance learning, this dynamic is more visible than ever: it is imperative that the choices we make online center our most vulnerable students, in terms of expectations upon students (and their families) for learning to use new tools and engage in new ways, requirements for internet access, and finding multiple ways to communicate with and support families. Educators are on the front lines: because teachers engage with children every day, they may be the first to learn which families have lost income, are not eligible for government assistance, and/or are isolated. They know which families are experiencing illness. Teachers are making sure to have resources at their fingertips so they can get them to families in need.

Arguably, as DLBE teachers in a time of crisis, our time and energy are our most valuable resource right now. Where is your time and energy being spent? Are you finding you are able to focus first on the basic needs and human rights of students who need it the most?

Engaging a Critically Conscious Curriculum

Who are we and who do we want to be? Do our community’s actions reflect generosity, compassion, and community well-being, or are some members of our community mired in selfishness, racism, or individualism? This historical moment brings this question – always present in DLBE schools – sharply into focus. Teachers in DLBE classrooms constantly balance the needs of families with vastly different backgrounds – racially, ethnically, linguistically, and socioeconomically. While all of our students may be experiencing stress, anxiety and a disruption to routines during this pandemic, some of our students’ families are likely struggling with much worse: food insecurity, homelessness, or a lack of healthcare. Addressing students’ and their families’ socioemotional and physical well-being must take precedence; it is unreasonable to expect any child to learn new math or reading skills in any language before these basic needs are met. Meanwhile, this moment has the potential to open up a space for deepening critical consciousness in our diverse classroom communities: the discomfort and vulnerability that even our most privileged families are feeling right now may actually support cross-linguistic, cross-cultural empathy, compassion, and critical listening. Perhaps in this moment of crisis, DLBE families can organize across difference to support one another.

In our book, we focus on teachers. We provide windows into different (actual) classrooms and the complex and multifaceted way teachers adopt, navigate, and implement DLBE in a top-down implementation context. During this crisis, we believe many of our central messages are the same – though they are certainly transformed into a new context and a heightened sense of urgency. Teachers are critical language-in-education policymakers who can engage in transformative pedagogy through centering the needs of culturally and linguistically diverse children and their families and adopting critical consciousness as a central goal. We believe more strongly than ever that this is a time to (re)invest and (re)commit to this transformative potential of DLBE. Hang in there, bi/multilingual maestr@s!

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Teacher Leadership for Social Change in Bilingual and Bicultural Education by Deborah K. Palmer.

Activities for a Lockdown

Now we’ve been in lockdown for a couple of weeks here in the UK, we’re starting to get used to a different way of life and a lot more time spent at home. Of course, for some of you the pandemic doesn’t mean you have more time on your hands, and it might mean quite the opposite – working, while simultaneously trying to home-school children and stay sane, for example…but if you do find yourself at a loose end, here is a list of ideas to keep you occupied!

  1. Anna’s sourdough loaf

    Making lengthy recipes that you’d never normally have the time to do. Anna made this amazing-looking sourdough bread that took a week to produce!

  2. Gardening and growing things – even if it’s just house plants or herbs. Not only can this be very therapeutic, but depending on what you grow, you get to see and enjoy the results for months or even years to come. Alice has started a series of vlogs documenting her progress which you can watch here!
  3. Catching up with friends and family with whom you haven’t spoken in a long time. People seem to be checking in on each other more at the moment, which is one of the nicer aspects of these strange times. As great as social media is at a time like this, it’s also a good chance to reinstate letter and postcard writing – everyone loves getting post!
  4. The team having a ‘Friday lunch’ chat

    Socialising online – the MM/CVP team has been busier than ever, participating in online drinks, pub quizzes and even weddings, all from the comfort of their own homes.

  5. Reading. Finally a chance to get through that to-read pile and not just squeeze a few pages in before you fall asleep…
  6. Doing arts and crafts. Whether that’s painting, writing, knitting, scrap-booking…being creative can be a really good way to relax and distract yourself.
  7. Learning or improving a language. Time to dust off the books or download an app – you might even be able to find an online tandem partner to learn with.
  8. Sunrise over Dawlish taken by Sarah on an early morning walk

    Making the most of your walks. At the moment, we’re allowed to go out for a walk (or run, or bike ride) for exercise once a day in the UK. Since it has to be done in your local area, it’s a chance to explore parts of your neighbourhood you wouldn’t usually, get some vitamin D and appreciate how much more clearly you can hear the birds with fewer cars on the road!

  9. Moving your body. There is probably every type of exercise video you could possibly imagine on YouTube, all of which you can do from home, often with no special equipment at all. Dancing, yoga, aerobics, martial arts…it’s a good way to get moving even when you’re not allowed to move anywhere!
  10. DIY projects. A drawer that always sticks, pictures that you keep meaning to put up, a room that needs painting. Now might be the time to tick them off your to-do list!

Whatever you’re spending your time doing, we hope you’re all keeping safe and well and in good spirits!

The Role of Interpreting in Difficult International Negotiations

This month we are publishing Essays on Conference Interpreting by James Nolan. In this post the author explains the role of interpreting in difficult international negotiations.

Commonalities and Groups

Negotiating difficulty stems from adversarial positions between two countries or from distances between them in the global geopolitical arena that make it hard to bridge the communication gap.

Although bilateral treaties still serve their purpose, diplomatic relations are increasingly multilateral, channeled in multiple languages through contacts in diverse forums, encompassing far-reaching global issues and broad areas of common ground. In conferences dealing with many areas of knowledge, trade, science, industry or culture, diverse nations often adopt similar public positions and countries align themselves in categories according to geographical and economic realities, regional affinities or shared negotiating postures.

Countries may form coalitions based on similar interests, shared cultural and linguistic origins, similar circumstances, shared perspectives on common problems, or strategic alliances. Even on vital national security interests and problems as daunting as global climate change or pandemics, consensus positions are often possible and compromise solutions often temper sovereignty. The contents of public statements made in debate at global conferences cut across cultural, political, geographic and linguistic lines, and deliberations focused on existential threats, such as climate change, have revealed a vast area of common ground which, by its urgency, eclipses many individual differences in national negotiating postures, as failure to address such threats could imply futility for all other issues and efforts.

The interpreter’s role differs significantly when interpreting in a bilingual setting, be it in a bilateral encounter or legal dispute, or when interpreting into two target languages. In a one-on-one conversation the parties may be sharing the same stage but pursuing divergent aims that shape the public postures they adopt and their expectations of how interpreters should perform. The interpreter is occupationally vulnerable to counter-pressures from his two clients. No matter what he does, one party is apt to be displeased. Accordingly, in many bilateral encounters each party provides its own interpreter, placing each interpreter in a less ambivalent position and reducing role strain.

Identifying with the Principal

When making a speech or argument to an international audience, speakers customarily address the chairperson or presiding officer of the conference, invoking general principles that set the scene and strengthen the argument, and the speech generally embodies a point of view that is in some measure regional or global. For the interpreter, giving a convincing rendition of this type of speech means adopting an impartial attitude while also knowing how to identify with the principal sufficiently to make the interpretation performance effective in terms of advocacy.

James Nolan

j.nolan@aiic.net

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like English for Diplomatic Purposes edited by Patricia Friedrich. 

How Has Language Education Changed Over Time?

This month we published Language Education in a Changing World by Rod Bolitho and Richard Rossner. In this post the authors explain what inspired them to write the book and why they think it is needed.

We’re pleased: after a long period of gestation and writing we’ve just received copies of our new book Language Education in a Changing World.

So what inspired us to write the book, and why do we think it is needed? Combined, our experience in language education spans 100 years. We have become increasingly aware that the time-honoured segmentations of foreign language education, teaching and learning of the language of schooling, language sensitive subject teaching and so on are no longer meaningful, if they ever were.

We have tried to take stock of how language and communication permeate and impact on all education at all ages, and in the book we review some of the thought-provoking work done by the Council of Europe and specialists in the fields of educational applied linguistics, multilingualism and pluralistic approaches. How have these perspectives impacted on learning in the classroom over the last 40 years? What is being done around the world – or at least in the parts of the world where we have been able to glean information – to incorporate holistic views of language and students’ language repertoires in education, and in teacher education? What could be done to foster dynamic collaboration among teachers and teacher educators across the curriculum? These are some of the questions we have addressed. It was quite a learning experience for us!

In the book we take a fairly close look at four or five areas in particular. We start with an exploration of the role of language and languages in learning and teaching, before going on to look at the recent history and current state of foreign language education and the somewhat controversial impact of English in education. In the second part of the book, we examine teacher education, both pre-service education and continuing professional development for teachers of languages, as well as the extent to which language and communication issues are addressed in the education of teachers of other subjects. The third part of the book focuses on policy around language in education and the roles various stakeholders play in influencing and implementing – or resisting – change. Then we end with our own wish list of future developments in policy around language in education and teacher education.

As potential readers, we had in mind education professionals of all kinds who are interested in exploring the role of language in the teaching of all subjects across the curriculum, including teachers of language, other teachers as well as teacher educators. We hope policymakers, textbook writers, curriculum developers and researchers will also find the book useful. Whatever their role and specific interests, we would welcome readers’ reactions to the contents of our book, and the policy recommendations we have made.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like The Action-oriented Approach by Enrica Piccardo and Brian North.

Tips for Working From Home

Following the worldwide outbreak of coronavirus, we are now all working from home. A few members of the team regularly work from home and are veterans of the practice, but for the rest of us it’s taking some getting used to! For anyone else who’s adjusting, we thought we’d put together some top tips for a successful day working at home.

  • Treat it like a normal working day as far as possible. Get up at the same time as usual and shower, get dressed etc. Don’t get your laptop out or scan through emails until your ‘start time’ in the morning, and when you finish for the day, put your laptop away.
  • If possible try to get some natural light and fresh air before you start work, even if it’s just leaning out of the window to drink your tea.
  • Have a designated working space, ideally a desk, but definitely not your sofa or bed!
  • Get up and move around once an hour.
  • Try to get outside for a stroll at lunchtime and, if possible, repeat after work too.
  • Make sure your lighting is good to work by, ideally natural light near a window.
  • Drink plenty of water and have snacks on hand.
  • Depending on how efficient your heating/insulation is, it might be chillier at home than in the office. Make sure to layer up and invest in some good slippers!
  • Try to keep up communication with your colleagues as much as possible. We use an instant messaging platform to keep in touch with each other throughout the day.
  • If you’re missing the hubbub of working in an office, the radio can be a good substitute. You could also do a collaborative playlist with your colleagues that you all listen to at the same time, as we’re planning!
    Laura in her new home office set-up

    Take care everyone!

Digital Conferences and a Virtual Book Fair

Having posted on the blog earlier in the year about our busy upcoming conference season, unfortunately the outbreak of coronavirus worldwide has forced many of these events to be postponed or cancelled. We always look forward to catching up with our authors and other contacts and it’s a real shame that these important gatherings won’t be going ahead, but given the circumstances, it’s a wise decision for the organisers to have made.

So that our authors and customers don’t miss out from a book-buying perspective, we are holding a ‘virtual book fair’ this conference season (originally the brainchild of publisher Trevor Ketner who started the hashtag #AWPVirtualBookfair on Twitter after many presses were forced to pull out of the Association of Writers & Writing Programs conference). If you were hoping to grab a bargain at a forthcoming conference and now won’t be able to, you can use our code SPECIAL40 at the checkout on our website to get 40% off your order.