Making an Impact: Language Teachers that Left an Impression

Next month we will be publishing Language Teacher Psychology edited by Sarah Mercer and Achilleas Kostoulas. The book begins with an invitation to the reader to reflect on their own memories of language learning: “If you think back to your language learning at school, you might remember specific tasks or projects you did, but, even more likely, you will remember your teachers.” This sparked a conversation in our office about language teachers we’ve encountered over the years, which we thought would make for an interesting blog post. Here are some of Laura, Flo and Tommi’s reflections on the language teachers that have stuck with them. 

Laura

My first ever French teacher was obsessed with songs. Every single unit of vocabulary was accompanied by a song and action routine that we all had to learn and perform to the class. I imagine that for the quieter students that must have been a terrifying experience but for the rest of us it was great fun. The songs were incredibly catchy and have stuck with me and my school friends…so much so that we can still recite them off by heart, even 20 years later!

When I was in 6th Form I had French first thing on a Monday morning – not the best time of the week for teenagers! Our teacher came up with the idea that we’d take it in turns to bake a cake over the weekend and bring it in to share with the class that lesson. It was a brilliant idea – not only were we more enthusiastic about coming to class but it also brought us closer together as a group as we were more relaxed while chatting over cake. Some even tried their hand at baking French specialities!

My school German teacher made sure that lessons went well beyond the syllabus. She took the time to get to know us as individuals and often recommended German films and books that she thought we’d like. She made me realise that there’s so much more to studying a language than the topics in the textbook and that languages stretch far beyond the classroom walls. It was also a very good way to get us to engage with German outside lesson time too!

When I was on my year abroad in France I lived with some Spanish students. Over the course of the year they made sure that I learnt basic Spanish, not through formal instruction, but by making sure that they used Spanish as we did things together, such as cooking. Over time I picked up all sorts of vocabulary which has stuck with me since, including the phrase “¿Dónde están mis llaves?” (“Where are my keys?”) which was used on a near daily basis by one forgetful housemate!

Flo

During my year abroad I studied Russian at a French university. The course was taught by two teachers – the first was terrifying: incredibly strict with zero tolerance for mistakes. She called me “the foreigner” for the first few weeks, until I got so fed up I wrote my name in huge letters at the top of my essay in the hope she would get the hint. This was juxtaposed completely by the other teacher, who was kind, patient and very understanding of my predicament as a British student in a French classroom learning Russian! He made many allowances for my odd-sounding Russian to French translations and always made sure I understood definitions, often asking me to provide the class with the English translation, which helped me feel less useless! I really appreciated his acknowledgement and thoughtfulness, which meant I never felt lost or excluded from his lessons.

I have French lessons once a week and it’s probably my best language learning experience so far. My teacher has a great sense of humour, is patient, reassuring, and full of praise but never lets mistakes go unchecked. He’s obviously passionate about French culture and during our conversations he often plays us clips from French films, shows us books and photographs or plays songs. The atmosphere in his classroom is very egalitarian – there’s no tangible student/teacher divide and he is quick to be self-deprecating about his own English, which levels the playing field and reminds us that actually we’re all learners.

Tommi

My A-Level German teacher at school recognised that I hated grammar tables and all of that formal language learning. He would quite often set the class an exercise to do with “der, die, das, die” or whatever. Noticing that I could never really get going at all, he would then come over and chat to me (in German) quite casually for 5-10 minutes, then he would finish with “right, you are now 10 minutes behind the rest of the class, you’d better get some work done”. I suspect I learned more German in those chats than I ever did from grammar tables…

My Italian teacher at Cultura Italiana in Bologna sat with me one day for a private lesson. During the lesson, she would talk, and I would sit leaning back with my arms folded across my chest. Eventually she grew exasperated and said “Tommi, do you care about any of this?” to which I replied “of course I do! I am listening very carefully!” “Argh, no, if you want to learn Italian you mustn’t listen, you need to lean forward, interrupt me and talk over me, that way I will know you want to be part of the conversation! We often go out, everyone talks at the same time, if you are not always saying something I will just assume you are bored and want to be somewhere else!”

For more information about the book that inspired this post, please see our website.

The Under-researched Area of Community Translation

This month we published Translating for the Community edited by Mustapha Taibi. In this post the editor discusses the origins of the book and the under-researched areas of the field it aims to address.

The idea of this book came out of the first International Conference on Community Translation, held at Western Sydney University in September 2014. The conference followed the creation, in 2013, of the International Community Research Group. These initiatives were responses to insufficient research activities and publications in the area of Community Translation (also known as Public Service Translation in some parts of the world).

Rather than publish conference proceedings, we decided to publish a volume of selected contributions, both by scholars who were able to make it to the conference and others who were not. Thus the book includes the contributions of two plenary speakers (Dorothy Kelly and Harold Lesch), conference papers that were developed further (by Ignacio García, Leong Ko, Jean Burke, and Carmen Valero and Raquel Lázaro), and contributions by scholars interested in Community Translation who did not attend the conference (Brooke Townsley and Alicia Rueda-Acedo). In my case, as conference organiser, although I did not participate with a paper, I felt I needed to contribute with a chapter on “Quality Assurance in Community Translation”, a central issue in translation and interpreting in general, and in Community Translation in particular.

The contributions were reviewed separately by two reviewers each (please see the list of reviewers in the acknowledgements section of the book), then the entire book was reviewed by anonymous reviewers invited by the publisher, as well as by the editors of the series Translation, Interpreting and Social Justice in a Globalised World, Philipp Angermeyer (York University, Canada) and Katrijn Maryns (Ghent University, Belgium). A big thank you to everybody involved!

The volume is a small contribution to an under-researched area of study. It covers a number of issues relating to Community Translation, which are at the same time local and global:

– What the situation of Community Translation is in different parts of the world, and what common issues emerge from local descriptions (e.g. Australia, Spain, South Africa, UK);

– How to frame and understand Community Translation and its social mission (empowerment of disempowered groups);

– How to ensure quality and empower communities through a type of translation work that is not sufficiently regulated and does not receive the policy and research attention it deserves;

– How to design and logistically organise training courses in Community Translation given the linguistic diversity of minority groups and the financial challenges surrounding the decisions of education providers;

– How to create links between universities and other education providers, on one hand, and relevant government and non-government organisations and community bodies, on the other, for more community engagement, civic awareness and societal impact of (translation) training and professional practice;

– How to integrate new technologies and the work of volunteers to expedite production and access without impacting the quality and effectiveness of community translations.

As noted in the editor’s concluding remarks, a number of research lines and topics within the area of Community Translation remain unmapped or insufficiently addressed. The nature of Community Translation also triggers a need for interdisciplinary research that combines efforts from fields such as language policy, public service, social marketing, sociolinguistics, healthcare, immigration, social services, education, human rights, etc. I would be delighted to see other scholars building on this humble contribution and moving forward.

For more information about this book please see our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like Ideology, Ethics and Policy Development in Public Service Interpreting and Translation edited by Carmen Valero-Garcés and Rebecca Tipton.

The Internationalization of Japanese Higher Education

This month we are publishing English-Medium Instruction in Japanese Higher Education edited by Annette Bradford and Howard Brown. In this post Annette gives us an overview of what we can expect from the book.

Japanese universities are internationalizing. They are enrolling more international students, sending more students on study abroad programs and infusing an international outlook into many of their degree programs. To help achieve this, spurred by recent government policies for internationalization, universities are rapidly increasing the number of courses and programs taught in English.

In English-Medium Instruction in Japanese Higher Education we provide a thorough picture of the growth in English-medium instruction (EMI) by bringing together researchers from across Japan to provide an on-the-ground perspective of recent developments.

The book is organized into six main sections. The first section, ‘English-Medium Instruction in Context,’ examines the social and policy environment that has allowed the rapid expansion of EMI in Japan. In Chapter 1, we describe the current state of EMI using the ROAD-MAPPING framework conceptualized in 2014 by European scholars Emma Dafouz and Ute Smit. In Chapters 2 and 3 of the book, Hiroko Hashimoto and Bern Mulvey address government education policy and its implications for EMI.

Section 2 of the book, ‘The Implementation of English-Medium Instruction in Japan,’ looks at how programs are planned and developed. In Chapter 4, Hiroyuki Takagi examines EMI courses in relation to the internationalization of the curriculum. In Chapter 5, Beverley Yamamoto and Yukiko Ishikura explore how an entire degree program taught in English can develop and find its place in the university community.

Section 3, ‘Challenges and Solutions for English-Medium Instruction in Japan,’ deals with some of the difficulties facing EMI stakeholders. Chapter 6 by Gregory Poole discusses institutional identity and administrative culture as impediments to EMI implementation. In Chapter 7, Hiroshi Ota and Kiyomi Horiuchi analyze the accessibility of Japanese universities’ English-taught programs for foreign students. In Chapter 8, Sarah Louisa Birchley takes a marketing perspective, examining if EMI programs have reached their full potential.

In Section 4, ‘The Faculty and Student Experience,’ authors consider the roles of faculty members and student participation in and opinions of EMI. Chapter 9 by Chris Haswell focuses on how Asian varieties of English are perceived by domestic and international EMI students in Japan. Juanita Heigham looks at the broader campus experience in Chapter 10, examining the experience of non-Japanese speaking international EMI students as an essential and yet invisible part of internationalization programs. In Chapter 11, Sae Shimauchi presents a study of gender differences in the international outlook of EMI students. In Chapter 12, Bernard Susser focuses on faculty members, and explores his own journey transitioning from language teaching to EMI. Miki Horie reports on the training needs of EMI faculty in Chapter 13.

Section 5 of the book, “Curriculum Contexts”, shifts gears away from policy and research questions and highlights specific EMI practices at three universities around Japan. In Chapter 14, Bethany Iyobe and Jia Li draw attention to the importance of integration and cooperation in a small EMI program. Chapter 15 by Jim McKinley looks at how an established EMI program is transforming in light of a new understanding of the role of English. In Chapter 16, Nilson Kunioshi and Harushige Nakakoji profile how EMI is being implemented for science and engineering students at a top tier university.

In the final section of the book, “Future Directions for English-Medium Instruction”, we wrap up with a look at where EMI might go from here. In Chapter 17, Akira Kuwamura looks at both ethical and practical objections to EMI that have been raised in the literature. And in the final chapter, we, the co-editors, take a look back at an earlier example of innovation and reform in Japanese higher education. We compare IT with the recent happenings in EMI to question whether EMI can become fully embedded within the fabric of Japanese higher education.

For more information about this book please see our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like Rethinking Language and Culture in Japanese Education edited by Shinji Sato and Neriko Musha Doerr. 

The Impact of Neoliberalism on Education and Language Learning

This month we are publishing Language, Education and Neoliberalism edited by Mi-Cha Flubacher and Alfonso Del Percio. In this post the editors explain how the book came about and touch on its main themes.

Nowadays cuts in spending, austerity plans and restructuring of the public sector have become commonplace for a large part of the world population. This development is far from new, but rather stands in the tradition of neoliberalism, as introduced on both sides of the Atlantic by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.

In the context of education, central elements to these reforms have been privatisation, competitiveness and marketisation. The colonization of education by market principles has introduced a paradigmatic change which has resulted in an abdication of a Humboldtian education model to one which favours ideas of employability and profitability. This change proves problematic for most humanities, social sciences and language studies which have to legitimise their worth. The neoliberal austerity measures thus also have a very direct impact on us as researchers and teachers alike.

Against this backdrop, we wanted to engage in an empirical discussion on the interplay and effects of the implementation of neoliberal policies, the increasing hegemony of neoliberal governmentalities on education and on language learning and teaching. In short, as we, the editors of this volume argue, the current political economic conditions bring about a resignification of education, language, and the self that fits the neoliberal agenda, which pushes, among other things, the turning of language into skills and items of branding, the responsibilisation of individuals and the turning of them into entrepreneurs of themselves.

We follow the trajectories of students, teachers and educators as well as of institutions that are subjected to these political economic transformations. Touching upon a variety of geographical, social, and linguistic contexts, the researchers contributing to this book will provide first-hand accounts and critical inquiries into issues that range from the detrimental ideologies of self-deprecation of South Koreans in the face of hastily implemented English as the general medium of instruction for higher education, to efforts of the Chinese government to commercialise the teaching of Mandarin and the contradictory effects this has on notions of linguistic authenticity and legitimacy.

Further insights are offered in terms of language teaching, i.e. the neoliberal conditions teachers of English for Academic Purposes have to face, due to which they turn to veritable “resource leeching” or the joint-initiative of teachers and parents to support their refugee children, left behind in official US school policies that is entirely output-oriented. University students also form the object of interest in this volume, as conscious agents trying to accumulate linguistic capital even if only for symbolic reasons, both Italian-speaking students in German-speaking Switzerland or Brazilian students in Anglo-Canada. A third stream brings contributors to discuss minority languages in educational settings in the US (Spanish-English dual bilingual and Mexico and their recalibration along neoliberal ideas of commodification and valorization). A final focus centres on language teaching for vocational purposes.

Come and join us on this journey – even if you might not like what you see.

For more information about this book please see our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like A Post-Liberal Approach to Language Policy in Education by John E. Petrovic.

The Three As: Defining Engagement in Higher Education

This month we published International Student Engagement in Higher Education by Margaret Kettle. In this post, the author introduces her “three As” model for defining the concept of engagement and explains what inspired her to write the book.

Engagement is everywhere. When I go to meetings and presentations, and read policy documents, the word is pervasive. We have student engagement, community engagement, the importance of engaging with industry partners, and so on.  It is clear to me that the word has become a catch-all and that the concept is in danger of being washed out, and then possibly thrown out. My book International Student Engagement in Higher Education is an attempt to identify the components of what is a complex and elusive concept. To this end, I foreground international students’ experiences and utilise social practice to explain the multiple, interrelated dimensions of engagement. My model comprises three ‘A’s: antecedents to engagement, actions of engaging, and achievements and accomplishments flowing from engagement.

Antecedents to engagement include dominant forms of academic English as well as facilitative teaching and assessment practices. Actions refer to students’ strategic acts in the moment of engaging. Finally, accomplishments draw attention to the benefits students derive from engagement such as academic achievement and personal change. The power of my model is that it disentangles the various dimensions of engagement while retaining their interrelationship.

By understanding the complexity of engagement, I believe that university leaders, managers and academics are better equipped to make decisions about policy and teaching approaches as well as academic support. Clearer conceptualisation of engagement will benefit international students and domestic/home students. Indeed, the model could also be used in other educational settings such as schools.

My interest in international student engagement began with my own experiences as an international student in Germany. It continued with work at an Australian university and being privy to international students’ strategic campaigns to assert themselves in their postgraduate courses. The opportunity to research engagement arose through my study with a university academic who had a reputation among colleagues and students for being an excellent teacher. The research involved a case study of the academic’s course over a semester – a rich and transformative experience for all, including myself as researcher.

At a time when the focus on engagement is increasing, the best way for institutions to learn about international student engagement is by listening to the students themselves. Teachers are integral to the student experience and have a vital role to play in providing the conditions for engagement. This book explicates these relationships and will hopefully be of benefit to people interested in promoting engagement for all students undertaking higher education.

For more information about this book, please see our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like Desiring TESOL and International Education by Raqib Chowdhury and Phan Le Ha.

What is “the best” way to assess emergent bilinguals?

Last month we published The Assessment of Emergent Bilinguals by Kate Mahoney. In this post, Kate explains how she came to dedicate her research to this topic and introduces us to her decision-making framework, PUMI (Purpose, Use, Method, Instrument), that can be used to better inform assessment decisions for bilingual children.

Since my first days as a teacher, I wanted to answer questions about how language and culture impact learning and schooling. I found myself teaching in Puerto Rican communities in New York, Navajo communities in New Mexico, Mexican communities in the Southwest, and in bilingual communities in Belize. Each experience drove an awakening clarity: assessment was an incredibly powerful influence on schooling and success, and language and culture strongly influenced assessment. In 1999, my then-advisor Dr. Jeff MacSwan at Arizona State University (ASU) suggested I adopt the study of tests and the testing process – within the context of bilingual learners – as a research topic. Admittedly, I was reluctant to begin a formal study involving psychometrics, language assessment and related methodologies, but I needed a multidisciplinary approach to answer questions. I was reluctant because the topic of testing seemed so frustrating and unfair, and seemed to privilege some students over others, based primarily on the relationship between culture and language. It was this reluctance that led me to begin my study of assessment, and from multiple disciplines. At the same time, I began teaching graduate courses in assessment for the multilingual programs at ASU. I’ve continued to teach this course throughout my career and today teach and conduct research at the State University of New York at Fredonia.

As I think back over the past 15-plus years of researching this topic, I’m continually struck by its complexity, and how difficult it can be for classroom teachers to learn about and stay abreast of the evolving methodologies. There is so much more to assessment than simply establishing a rubric and giving the test. Because of the complexity and multidisciplinary nature of assessment, it was difficult to deliver a course on assessment in a connected way to university students. That’s why I developed PUMI (Purpose, Use, Method, Instrument) for my first class on the subject back in 1999. I didn’t call it PUMI back then, but my students and I always discussed assessments within this framework, and it became an important way to make decisions and select appropriate assessments, while also understanding the complexities of emergent-bilingual assessment.

This book about the assessment of emergent bilingual learners is the culmination of teaching a university course for the past 18 years. I use the PUMI framework across the whole book; it’s a decision-making process teachers can use to make better assessment-related decisions. Also included are more in-depth topics in assessment that warrant full attention, such as validity as a theory, the history of the assessment of bilingual children, as well as testing accommodations and accountability topics.

Over the years, many people have approached me to ask about “the best” assessment or test for assessing Spanish or assessing math with emergent bilinguals. The answer is definitely not prepackaged, and not easy for that matter either. To begin to understand the answer to these types of questions, one must ask PUMI questions, and in that order. So, my response to questions about the best assessment is always first, what is the purpose “P” of the assessment and how will you use “U” the results. After considering the purpose and use, then we can begin to consider the best assessment method “M” and instrument “I”. Selecting an appropriate assessment for emergent bilinguals is not an easy task, but PUMI can guide us toward better assessment for this unique group of students.

For more information about this book, please see our website. If you liked this, you might also be interested in Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism (6th Edition) by Colin Baker and Wayne E. Wright.

Our Languages for Intercultural Communication and Education series celebrates its 30th book

Last month we published From Principles to Practice in Education for Intercultural Citizenship edited by Michael Byram, Irina Golubeva, Han Hui and Manuela Wagner, which became the 30th book in our Languages for Intercultural Communication and Education series. In this post, series editors Michael Byram and Anthony J. Liddicoat discuss how the series has grown from its inception in 2000.

The first book in the series
The first book in the series

The Language and Intercultural Communication in Education (LICE) series has reached a significant landmark with the publication of its 30th book. The series began as an initiative of Multilingual Matters, Michael Byram and Alison Phipps with the aim of encouraging the study of languages and cultures in ways which can ultimately enrich teaching and learning. The first book that appeared was Developing Intercultural Competence in Practice edited by Michael Byram, Adam Nichols and David Stevens.

Since that first book, LICE has published across a wide range of topics ranging from classroom practice, to study abroad, to intercultural citizenship. Some notable publications that show the breadth of the series are:

Although the focus of the series has been on education, we have also published books with a broader focus that advance thinking in the field more widely, such as Joseph Shaules’ Deep Culture: The Hidden Challenges of Global Living and Maria Manuela Guilherme, Evelyne Glaser and María del Carmen Méndez-García’s The Intercultural Dynamics of Multicultural Working.

We believe that the greatest achievement of the series has been to publish in the same series works that develop new theoretical insights into intercultural issues in language education and those that are very practical and offer ideas for the classroom.

The 30th book in the series
The 30th book in the series

Our 30th book, From Principles to Practice in Education for Intercultural Citizenship edited by Michael Byram, Irina Golubeva, Han Hui and Manuela Wagner, brings together a number of ideas that have been developed through previous books in the LICE series with its focus on intercultural citizenship and its presentation of teachers’ practice in language education in a range of different contexts around the world.

We are shortly about to release our 31st book Teaching Intercultural Competence across the Age Range edited by Michael Byram, Dorie Perugini and Manuela Wagner. This book aims to show teachers that developing intercultural competence is possible within their own power of decision-making and that there are various degrees of curricular change that are available to them. The book shows how a community of practice involving universities, schools and students working with teachers can develop teaching and learning, and includes self-analysis that shows the difficulties as well as the pleasures of changing curricula. This is a book that will speak directly to teachers as they seek to include intercultural competence in their teaching, showing how this is doable by providing a lot of detailed description of courses, and making it possible for others to use the book directly to reshape their own practice.

For more information about this series, please see our website

 

A Post-Liberal Approach to Language Policy in Education

John Petrovic is the author of A Post-Liberal Approach to Language Policy in Education which we published this month. In this blog post, he tells us how he came to write the book.

A Post-Liberal Approach to Language Policy in EducationI have always had an interest in languages and language policy issues. As an undergraduate, I majored in International Relations and had minors in Spanish and Russian. The so-called “Great Communicator,” Ronald Reagan, never communicated with me about becoming Ambassador to Spain (my plan), so I pursued a Masters in Bilingual Education. Some years later, my doctoral dissertation was a liberal defense of bilingual education. A major influence was my study at the University of Barcelona during my undergraduate years. There, language policy issues were, and still are, front and center in national politics around official languages to the language of instruction in the university classroom. Inevitably, people proclaim their language rights at these levels and all levels in between and, I suppose, rightly so.

It is here that my two scholarly interests — language policy and liberal political theory — meet. Liberal political theory certainly provides us rights. But how can everyone enjoy language rights (at least in the way that I think a “right” should be understood)? As sympathetic to the work of Tove Skutnabb-Kangas as I have always been, this was still a question I struggled with for a number of years.

As my struggle continued, it only got worse when I began thinking about the debate around Ebonics (African American Vernacular) that had emerged in Oakland, California. If there is such a thing as language rights and language is what we speak, can’t the speakers of bad English (which is how critics and folk linguists refer to Ebonics) demand the same rights? My initial conclusion was “yes.” Certainly, liberalism requires this. Re-enter the annoying “but how” question. I had to back away from my initially adamant “yes.”

What I needed was greater clarity on language itself. I went back to de Saussure. Some clarity. Where it really hit me, however, was when I completed an edited volume — International Perspectives on Bilingual Education. In a chapter in this volume, Christopher Stroud revealed to me the way that liberalism shapes received understandings of language as a construct. With Aaron Kuntz, I worked through  — and, I hope, added to in some interesting way — Chris’ thinking. The resulting article published in Language Policy formed a major piece to the puzzle. I combined this with a couple of other pieces that I had laying around and a picture emerged.

This book is that picture. It represents my thinking on language policy in education, on language rights, on language and identity, and the role of liberal theory in these matters…for now. Yet I am under no delusion that it is not missing pieces or that I did not force some pieces together. Puzzles are frustrating like that.

For more information on this book please see our website.

Capitalizing on Language Learners’ Individuality

As we are publishing Capitalizing on Language Learners’ Individuality by Tammy Gregersen and Peter MacIntyre next month we asked them to tell us a bit about how the book came about.

Capitalizing on Language Learners' IndividualityWe are both teachers at heart, so in many ways this is the book we’ve always wanted to write as it combines a meaningful review of theory and practical applications for teachers. As university professors, we feel fortunate to have jobs (and the inner passion) that inspire us to combine teaching and research, to play with ideas for a living; it really is a match made in heaven. We have found that most teachers, at every level of the education system, are at their creative best when they play with ideas, apply theory to specific cases, look for new approaches to age old questions, and have enough background information to get their creative juices flowing. This process fires their enthusiasm, which ultimately engages learners even more!

This book offers a chance for teachers and learners to play, apply, discover and let their imaginations flow. We don’t get into esoteric theoretical debates or outline the historical positions within this or that school of thought. Our book is made for teachers who are curious about what makes their students tick. Parker Palmer, in his book The Courage to Teach, says that: “Good teaching cannot be reduced to technique; good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher.” After all, it is teachers who know their students best, and good teachers bring with them training in a background of theory and methodology to really apply and test concepts. We firmly believe that teachers who seek to actualize the potential of their students benefit from suggestions for activities to try, the reasons why they should work, and then the courage to go for it in real life, to succeed or fail with integrity. Master teachers are born to teach and their passion for reaching their learners at their deepest, emotional and individual levels emanates from their souls. Given the experimentation that goes on in every good classroom, we believe that all teachers are active researchers, open to new ideas and constantly asking “what if?”

Peter’s Journey: The writing process was more fun than most readers of the blog can imagine. When Tammy first asked me to join her in writing this book, I had said that I did not have the time – too many other items pressing for attention. But I was intrigued and wanted to help. So, initially I was a consultant of sorts, a sounding board for ideas. As we went along, usually talking at length over Skype or in exchanging documents, I came to see the awesome potential of the project more and more. Tammy’s approach to teaching and learning is very similar to mine – we both see students as individuals, with hopes and fears, dreams of the future and a collection of unique past experiences. The idea of the perfect teaching method, a ‘one size fits all’ solution in the classroom, is quite foreign to both of us. So as we went along sharing research and theory for this and other projects, and tossing around ideas about how to teach, how to find what students are capable of doing, it became very clear to me that at some point, I had already joined the project. I was hooked! So before too long the informal became formal and my wife Anne and I found ourselves near a lake in Northern Iowa, with Tammy and her husband, Mario, ready to sign a contract with Multilingual Matters. Signing the contract was easy – the book was already written!

Tammy’s Journey: Carl Jung once wrote, “One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.” Through our book, we may have provided a bit of what Jung called the “necessary raw material” but it will be up to you, our fellow teachers, to touch your learners’ human feelings and provide the warmth to grow their souls.  Working (…well, more like “playing”) with Peter in the sandbox called Skype was a real hoot! Our collaboration never really felt like “work” to me. We often felt like we were in each other’s heads (a much more dangerous place for Peter than me!), tossing around ideas and laughing a lot. Not only do I think that the wedding of theory with practice was a match made in heaven, but so too was Peter’s psychological bent with my applied linguistics leanings.

Tammy and Peter with their signed contract
Tammy and Peter with their signed contract

Peter reminisced in his journey about the way that we – together with our spouses – got together in Iowa as a culminating event where we jointly signed our contract. I also have fond memories of the initiation of our first collaborative efforts when Mario and I traveled to Cape Breton. I will never forget lounging in the Governor’s Pub in Sydney, Nova Scotia with Peter and Anne, the evening we first discussed the idea of this book. “Busy Betty” was sitting at the next table intently (and yes, somewhat impolitely) listening, scrutinizing what Mario and Peter were talking about, bent over and scribbling equations on a piece of paper as they excitedly discussed the dynamic complexity and physics of emotion in language learning. To Betty’s L1 English ear, my husband’s accented English (he’s Chilean) sounded deeply suspect, so she strutted over wanting to know exactly what they were designing with all that math!  Did they have sinister intentions? Were we all in danger? After a good laugh, she ended up joining our little party and gave us some great advice on what to put into our book! So here’s a big shout out to Betty and her insight!

This book has been one of the most tangible outcomes of our collaboration. Readers of the blog might also want to check out our virtual seminar for TESOL on December 4, 2013 called “Talking in order to learn.” We will be discussing some of the theory and activities found in the book. We hope you can join us live from wherever you happen to be. If you miss it, the webinar will be archived on the TESOL International site shortly after it is complete.

Finally, we must mention that we are so pleased and honoured that colleagues we deeply respect, Zoltan Dornyei and Andrew Cohen, agreed to help us by writing for the cover. Rebecca Oxford and Elaine Horwitz wrote a preface that told us we had found a sweet spot with the book. All of these people have earned their reputations as teachers and researchers; we thank them for their kind words and for taking the time to write them.

You can find further information about the book on our website.

Being ‘foreign’: Italians and coffee, Danes and rye bread

TonVallenAward-kleinMartha Sif Karrebæk has recently been announced as the winner of the 2013 Ton Vallen award.  This is an annual award for papers written by new researchers  on sociolinguistic and educational issues in multicultural societies which we at Multilingual Matters are proud to support.  In this article Martha takes us on a tour from coffee in Rome to rye bread in Denmark to introduce us to the themes of her research.

I recently passed some days in Rome with my husband and two children. We had brought a guidebook (Lonely Planet, 2012) to enrich and facilitate our visit, and we spent much time studying the authors’ advice on all thinkable matters. As it is customary, the book included sections devoted to “Eating” and “Drinking & Nightlife” and in the latter the topic of coffee was explored. I quote from this:

“For Romans, coffee punctuates and marks the process of the day, from the morning and mid-morning cappuccino, to the afternoon espresso pick-me-up, or summertime granita with cream. To do as the Romans do, you have to be precise about your coffee needs… [here follows a longish paragraph on the different varieties of coffee and their names caffè, caffè macchiato, caffè all’american etc.]. Then, of course, there’s the cappuccino… Italians drink cappuccino only during the morning and never after meals; to order it after 11am would be, well, foreign.”

The quote presents Romans as having similar and very specific coffee practices, and that the variety of coffee one chooses is defined by the time of the day and of the year (at least). You can easily become recognizable as a tourist – or ‘foreign’ relative to the Romans – if you do not adhere to this specified order. It is clearly one of the goals of the guidebook to educate tourists, or ‘foreigners’, to be able to “do as the Romans do” (evidenced by the many repetitions of the phrase “do it the Roman way / do as the Romans do”, moreover the book had several sections on etiquette). Thus, we were supposed to take the advice into account. Also, the small “well” inserted between commas (to order cappuccino in the afternoon would be, “well, foreign”) indicates that the self-identification as ‘foreign’ is undesirable. In fact, when you do not observe the norm for coffee ordering, it becomes a transgression of a moral order. You show yourself not to be interested to blend in, to integrate – or should I say: to assimilate?

Food (including drinks and beverages) and food practices are culturally specific, and they can be used to define who is, and who is not, part of a social community. Phrased differently, they can be said to ‘index’ cultural and social belonging and identity. Such practices are created and re-created all the time, and they are taught to children and newcomers both explicitly, through manuals such as my guidebook, or through parental advice, and implicitly as demonstrations of normal behaviour in the everyday routines. A community is always defined relative to other communities, and therefore food and food practices can also be used to show who is not regarded as part of the community. Guests, or ‘visiting outsiders’, are often treated with distrust; they are potentially disruptive of the social community. In order to overcome the suspiciousness, guests should demonstrate how they respect and observe the cultural norms of the host community.

Now, of course, this is a very simplified description. Yet it is relevant both to my recent experiences on the trip to Rome and to my fieldwork in an urban school in Copenhagen. As I have reported in the academic paper “What’s in your lunch-box?”, in this school the lunch-boxes of children with an immigrant background were taken to index their and their families’ attitude to Danish society and their educational potential in general. Bread became a proxy for something more important, namely national belonging, national fidelity and solidarity. It was treated as obligatory that the children brought the traditional variety of bread rye bread for lunch. This obligatory status was disguised as part of a health discourse. “Rye bread is healthy, white bread isn’t.” As it is unthinkable these days to refuse to obey advice given in the name of health (the health discourse is pervasive, intrusive and of a moral character) children were forced to bring and eat rye bread, no matter whether they liked it or not, and regardless of the fact that there are many other ways to compose a healthy lunch. Moreover, the children were put in very difficult situations as they mediated between their home where rye bread was not necessarily consumed and where other food items may have been attributed with higher value than rye bread, and school, where teachers were very explicit about their parents’ lack of competence when they did not observe the rye bread order. The children were left to find their own way to navigate between the school and the home as different normative centres of authority.

My family and I are good-mannered people so we refrained from ordering cappuccino after 11 AM – as we were told to – in Rome. Yet, despite this highly conscious work on ‘integrating’ we still managed to transgress some of the food cultural norms. It turned out that it was highly unexpected that we order espresso (caffè) as well as caffè macchiato (instead of at least latte macchiato) and even granita (a sort of sherbet made on a very strong espresso) for our 12 year old son, who drinks coffee with more pleasure than his mother. We were asked, again and again, if this was really what we intended to order; the probably well-meaning waiters tried to convince us that it wasn’t, it couldn’t be. When the coffee eventually was served, the waiter would put it on the table in front of the child with a very inquisitive facial expression, gazing at him, then at his mother, who had insisted on this beverage. We certainly felt that we had failed to demonstrate good or appropriate parenthood. Of course, there may be other interpretations. It may be the case that we just didn’t demonstrate to be the habitual tourists – which would be somehow a success as we really made an effort not be touristic at all. However, in that case I would have expected some comments or reactions that were supportive of our choice, yet, we never received that. No smiles or other approving responses. In the urban school where I did fieldwork, the children were never explicitly told that rye bread was only obligatory for lunch. In the morning you could choose to eat other things, even white bread (although oats with milk was placed higher in the breakfast hierarchy). Neither were they told that possible breakfast items did not include, e.g., lasagne. This was learned gradually in the classroom, in public, while being on display.

To conclude, it is very hard to learn to observe cultural norms unfamiliar to you even when you try to. Many norms tend to be implicit rather than explicit. I haven’t touched upon the consequences of the social transgressions that you then end up doing. For us, in Rome, the social repercussions were minimal, but the children in the classroom suffered a daily marginalization. Their social transgressions had much more serious possibly long-term effects.

So, remember not to drink caffè when you are under 12 in Rome, and not to eat white bread for lunch, and lasagne for breakfast, when in Denmark. Because then you show yourself to be, well, foreign.

Martha Sif Karrebæk

Martha’s page at the University of Copenhagen can be found here.