The Story of “Person to Person Peacebuilding, Intercultural Communication and English Language Teaching”

This month we are publishing Person to Person Peacebuilding, Intercultural Communication and English Language Teaching by Amy Jo Minett, Sarah E. Dietrich and Didem Ekici. In this post the authors explain how the book came about.

This book began as a friendship between the authors. In 2014, Sarah shared with Didem that she wanted to provide her pre-practicum students authentic teaching practice. Didem was volunteering for an organization working with Afghan citizens who wanted to improve their English. Thus began a collaboration pairing graduate TESOL students with Afghans seeking English tutors. Tutors and students met through videoconferencing, in a space we call the virtual intercultural borderlands. After each meeting, tutors wrote reflections. The voices within those reflective journals – and their references to war, peace and intercultural communication – inspired this book.

In 2018, Amy, Sarah and Didem met for lunch. Didem was finishing her dissertation on how ESOL students developed intercultural competence by working online with Afghans. Sarah was investigating teacher development through the tutoring project. Amy, who had worked in Afghanistan, asked if she could read their data. Everyone pulled out their laptops and so the book began.

That conversation led to interviews with Afghans and tutors, analysis of reflective journals, and long virtual meetings between the authors (by now we lived far apart). By the time the pandemic had shut down most of the face-to-face world, we were confident in our discovery: that language tutoring and intercultural communication – in the virtual intercultural borderlands where Afghans and tutors met and worked – led interactants to build peace, person to person.

The participants whose voices we share in this book do not negotiate treaties or lay down weapons. They are peacebuilders, nonetheless, whose voices bring to life a constellation of elements pivotal to peacebuilding:

  • A Ukrainian-born tutor overcomes her self-acknowledged stereotypes of ‘Afghanis’ when she and her Afghan counterpart share stories of conflict in their homelands, forming a powerful new in-group;
  • A US-born tutor displays dramatic empathy when discovering her student – who was meeting her from a hot and unairconditioned office – was fasting during Ramadan and could not drink water (the tutor quickly put her water away and offered to reschedule the session);
  • An Afghan woman who was a ‘child protection officer’ describes how her tutor helped her understand guidelines in English as she implemented ‘Father Daughter Hours,’ an international initiative intended to push back against generations of gender violence present in so many Afghan families;
  • A US-born tutor learns her student’s educator parents – threatened with beheading under the Taliban – instructed their son ‘that peace will come through the ink in a pen rather than bullets from a gun.’ The tutor goes on to share this line ‘with everyone’.

On August 15th, 2021, Afghanistan fell to the Taliban. A few Afghan participants made it out during the evacuations. Others are in hiding or have fallen completely silent. Now we work for their evacuation and for the resettlement of those who made it to the US. We also remain endlessly grateful to the voices in this book, as they provide ways educators can more deliberately leverage person to person peacebuilding in the virtual intercultural borderlands of online exchange.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Peacebuilding in Language Education edited by Rebecca L. Oxford, María Matilde Olivero, Melinda Harrison and Tammy Gregersen.

An Intercultural Approach to English Language Teaching: From Margins to Mainstream

This month we are publishing the second edition of An Intercultural Approach to English Language Teaching by John Corbett. In this post the author explains what’s new in this edition.

I first started drafting what would become the first edition of An Intercultural Approach to English Language Teaching in Brazil in the autumn of 1998; it finally appeared five years later. In March 2020, at the beginning of a period of semi-isolation from the Covid pandemic, in the state of Sao Paulo, I finally got around to revisiting and revising that volume for its long-delayed second edition.

Re-reading the first edition, I realised how much things (and I) have changed. At the turn of the century, despite the work of people like Mike Byram and Claire Kramsch through the 1980s and 1990s, there was a feeling that interculturality was still a peripheral concern, at least to many English language teachers, particularly those working in commercial schools. But last year, when I told a colleague from a commercial school in Brasilia that I was revising a book on an ‘intercultural’ approach to ELT, he responded, ‘Well, is there any other way of doing it?’ Why has an intercultural approach gone, apparently, from the margins to the mainstream?

We can point at different reasons: the publication of the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) document, in 2001, put interculturality at least nominally at the heart of the language learning agenda; other influential documents, like the NCSSFL-ACTFL ‘can do’ statements followed its lead. But the world also changed, with digital communications and social media giving many learners, for the first time, a direct opportunity to interact with speakers of different languages, speakers who come from quite different backgrounds and hold diverse views of the world. And digital communications also gave teachers abundant access to culturally rich materials to adapt for use in their classrooms. The days of teachers laminating pages cut from magazines are largely over. English rapidly assumed the status of an international language, not a foreign language any more so much as an auxiliary language that pervaded all societies and has been appropriated by their members for a range of functions.

So…the second edition of the book addresses many of these developments. Its treatment of the CEFR and subsequent guidelines is much deeper than that of the first edition, and it acknowledges the critical backlash against ‘universalising’ accounts of interculturality that the CEFR has been said to embody. Its discussion of ethnography extends to an entirely new chapter on online exchanges and the possibilities for cultural exploration they promise, and the challenges they often set for learners and teachers alike. While trying to remain true to the framework of the first edition, the second updates the references and reframes the contents so that they are relevant to the third decade of the 21st century.

And yet, some things remain the same. The first edition was predicated on the optimistic assumption that human beings are generally inclined to be active explorers and interpreters of the worlds they inhabit and encounter. Without necessarily atomising ‘intercultural communicative competence’ as a set of abstract abilities, the second edition likewise draws upon ethnography and semiotics as key disciplines that, if developed in the classroom, will enable learners to explore those worlds more effectively and interpret them in richer ways. The contents of the book might have been thoroughly overhauled, but I hope that its optimism remains intact.

John Corbett
BNU-HKBU United International College
johnbcorbett@uic.edu.cn

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might like Person to Person Peacebuilding, Intercultural Communication and English Language Teaching by Amy Jo Minett, Sarah E. Dietrich and Didem Ekici.

An Invitation into the Global ELT Landscape of Transnational Pracademics

This month we published Transnational Identities and Practices in English Language Teaching edited by Rashi Jain, Bedrettin Yazan and Suresh Canagarajah. In this post the editors introduce the book.

Globalization is truly changing the world as we know it as cross-border migrations of people become increasingly common. International migrations are also no longer unidirectional, nor entail the giving up of ‘old’ affiliations in order to acquire ‘new’ ones. Many transnational migrants maintain deep connections with their ‘home countries’ while simultaneously constructing new ones with their ‘host countries’ (Levitt, 2004), while others transcend these static nation-state boundaries entirely to navigate the “liminal spaces between communities, languages, and nations” (Canagarajah, 2018, p. 41).

The field of second and foreign language pedagogy, especially, includes transnational practitioners with complex personal-professional histories that, in turn, impact how these practitioners construct their identities and engage in practices across diverse contexts. TESOL practitioners also work frequently with students who are migrants themselves. These participants – language learners, teachers, teacher educators, administrators – may already be engaged in reimagining ‘home’ as an idea that is beyond a geographical location (Jain, 2021), as well as problematizing traditional notions around ‘center’ and ‘periphery’, ‘native’ and ‘nonnative’, ‘researcher’ and ‘practitioner’, and ‘practitioner’ and ‘academic’.

As proud co-editors of Transnational Identities and Practices in English Language Teaching, we envision the term ‘practitioner’ as encompassing all those who engage in the practices of TESOL, including but not limited to those who teach English language learners of all ages and across diverse contexts, those who educate teachers and administrators planning to pursue careers in TESOL, those who research TESOL contexts, and those who theorize about these contexts. Further, these practices are not mutually exclusive and by engaging in different practices within (and beyond) TESOL, many dynamic practitioners and academics create areas of overlap, span boundaries, and become brokers between different communities of practice (Wenger, 1998), thus also essentially becoming transnational pracademics – an equitable amalgamation of the practitioner and academic identities inhabiting transnational spaces.

As we move more deeply into the 21st century, transnational TESOL practitioners are thus creatively negotiating ‘liminal’ spaces, charting new trajectories, crafting new practices and pedagogies, constructing new identities, and reconceptualizing ELT contexts. In the process, the transnational landscape of TESOL (Jain, Yazan, & Canagarajah, 2021) is being agentively changed from within – as the contributions that comprise the volume illustrate. This edited volume is thus both a critical and an accessible compilation of transnational narratives. Too often, scholarly publications tend to be inaccessible, in terms of both content and scholarship, to a large part of the very populations theorized about. We have, instead, endeavored to create a space for voices that truly move the field forward in ways that are approachable for all participants.

Our volume serves as a community space where narratives of transnational TESOL practitioners and participants may find a permanent home, with narratives ranging from autoethnographies to self-study reports and from theoretical pieces to empirical accounts. We are thrilled to invite you to read the volume with its rich, diverse narratives and perspectives spanning the global ELT landscape.

Rashi Jain, Bedrettin Yazan and Suresh Canagarajah

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like The Complexity of Identity and Interaction in Language Education edited by Nathanael Rudolph, Ali Fuad Selvi and Bedrettin Yazan.

Why Choose Duoethnography as a Research Method?

This month we published Duoethnography in English Language Teaching edited by Robert J. Lowe and Luke Lawrence. In this post the editors explain what duoethnography is and why you might choose it as a method for research.

Duoethnography as a best-fit method for research

Duoethnography is an emerging qualitative research method that involves two researchers working together to harness the power of dialogue and the researchers’ own lived experiences to uncover new insights and challenge grand narratives. Here we talk about how we came to duoethnography, lay out the main characteristics of the method and offer it up as a method of best-fit, especially for new researchers.

Finding a research method

Finding an appropriate research method, especially for new and emerging scholars, can be one of the most challenging aspects of carrying out any research. You might have read up on all the literature, found an area in your field that you are passionate about, and come up with a great idea for a project – but then the problems start! One problem is simply finding the confidence that you have the skills to carry out the research, and another is that the research methods available don’t seem to fit what you want to do. For us, although there were a number of alternative qualitative research methods out there, the problem we found was that our own voices and experiences – the very people whose knowledge and experience had inspired the research projects in the first place – were shut out at every turn.

How we came to duoethnography

We both came to duoethnography when we found that our own personal experiences didn’t quite chime with what we were reading in the literature. However, there didn’t seem to be an academic frame within which to explore these experiences. As well as not seeing our own experiences reflected in what we were reading about and studying, we also realised that our individual experiences were just that: individual experiences. Although valuable and valid in their own right, they would benefit by being juxtaposed with the experiences of others, preferably someone coming from a different background or perspective.

Key points of duoethnography

Duoethnography is designed to be simple enough for beginner researchers to try out, but also sophisticated enough to handle the complexity of the modern ELT and applied linguistics field. Although it is flexible to individual needs and style, some key points of carrying out a duoethnography are:

  • The self as research site – in duoethnography the researchers and their personal histories are the site of the research, but not the topic
  • Dialogic – conversation and dialogue are used to explore topics. These dialogues are then reconstructed into readable and accessible scripts
  • Requires trust – due to the often intimate and personal nature of duoethnography, trust between researchers is very important
  • Disrupts grand narratives – duoethnograhy uses personal stories to question taken-for-granted ideas

At first glance duoethnography may seem like an unorthodox method of research, but we believe that as researchers, rather than bending to outdated methods that are ill-fitting for what we want to do, it is best to find the research method that best fits our own needs. Duoethnography is a flexible, accessible method of research that any researcher, whether just starting out or a veteran in the field, can make use of to find their their own voice and forge their own path in ELT.

Robert J. Lowe and Luke Lawrence

For more information about this book please see our website.

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

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!

Global Englishes in Asia: 10 Things for Language Teachers to Take Away

This month we published Critical Perspectives on Global Englishes in Asia edited by Fan Fang and Handoyo Puji Widodo. In this post the editors list 10 important things for language teachers to take away from the book.

As language researchers and practitioners, we frequently encounter the unequal use of languages where different languages co-exist. This inequality happens because some languages are deemed as dominant or major languages, while others are considered minor or underrepresented languages from socio-historical and socio-political perspectives. In more multilingual contexts, socio-economic and cultural globalisation exerts influence upon the status of a particular language. For example, English has gained popularity as an international language, a transcultural language, and a global lingua franca in which people of different countries with different linguistic and cultural backgrounds interact with each other for different purposes, such as education, business and tourism.

Critical Perspectives on Global Englishes in Asia reframes our English language education by situating the theory of Global Englishes into English language policy, curriculum, pedagogy and assessment. Here are 10 important things for language teachers to take away from the book:

  1. Raising a critical awareness of the global spread of English to challenge the ownership of English – as English is used as a global language, no certain country can really own the language
  2. Going beyond the prescribed language curriculum to experience real-life communication with people of different lingua-cultural backgrounds – it is important to go beyond classroom instruction and encourage independent learning for learners to discover linguistic and cultural diversity
  3. Engaging with both native and non-native English accents themselves and providing such accent exposure to students – this is of pivotal importance because many textbooks today still focus (only) on Anglophone varieties of English and may serve as an agent of the native speakerism ideology
  4. Focusing on communication strategies instead of teaching dominant English accents through drilling from a de-contextualised approach. Language teachers may teach students how to re-appropriate their own English accents
  5. Understanding and introducing local varieties and other varieties of Englishes so that students can increase their awareness of different Englishes used in different countries
  6. Designing curricula that fit their students’ needs and goals of English learning – it is important to contextualise ELT practices
  7. Designing testing and assessment that contextualise the situation of learning and reflect students’ needs. Language assessment can be New Englishes-sensitive
  8. Understanding linguistic and cultural diversity and respecting students’ use of L1 and translanguaging practices – learners’ linguistic resources should be recognised instead of reinforcing an English only classroom
  9. Challenging the fixed native speakerism model and norm of English language teaching – such awareness should also be developed in job application and recruitment processes
  10. Challenging the native/whiteness privilege and non-native/race marginalisation to readdress both teachers’ and students’ identities

This edited volume both theoretically and practically addresses various issues and involves both established and emergent scholars to present a critical perspective of English language education in the Asian context. We understand that such ‘things to take away’ may not be generalised in every context. The issue, however, is how language educators, policymakers, and recruiters view the English language from an ecological perspective to respect multilingualism and multiculturalism.

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like English as a Lingua Franca for EFL Contexts edited by Nicos C. Sifakis and Natasha Tsantila.

Filling the Gap in Research into Teacher Education for YL Language Teachers

We recently published Early Language Learning and Teacher Education edited by Subhan Zein and Sue Garton. In this post Sue explains the inspiration behind the book.

Up until recently, I think it is fair to say that Teaching English to Young Learners (TEYL) was very much a neglected area of research in English Language Teaching (ELT) and Applied Linguistics. It was even more neglected if we look at languages other than English. Fortunately, as Fiona Copland and I noted in our introduction to the 2014 ELT Journal Special Issue, that has changed quite rapidly over the last few years, for English at least, to the extent that we can perhaps say that the field has experienced something of a coming of age. This can be seen, I think, in such milestones as that ELTJ Special Issue as well as a Language Teaching’s 2015 State-of-the-Art article by Yuko Butler reviewing research in East Asia from 2004-2014 and the recent Routledge Handbook of Teaching English to Young Learners published last year.

However, in all this very welcome activity, one area that still seems to attract less attention is that of teacher education for teachers of young learners (YLs), and it is this lack of attention that was the inspiration for this volume. There are, of course, some very notable exceptions, such as Helen Emery’s 2012 report for the British Council, and the work of my co-editor, Subhan Zein. However, the body of published research remains limited and yet the education, development and training of language teachers in primary schools is of paramount importance.

So that is why we decided the time was ripe for a volume of research into teacher education for YL language teachers. Note here that we say ‘language teachers’ not ‘English language teachers’. From the start, we were committed to preparing a volume that recognised that language teaching is not only English language teaching. Chapters about English teaching dominate because that is the reality we live in, but there are also chapters about teacher education for teachers of French, German and Spanish in the UK and for teachers in bi-lingual/multi-lingual education in Turkey (Turkish-Italian), Kazakhstan (Kazak -English–Russian) and the USA (Spanish–English). A global perspective was also important to us. Following my involvement in the 2011 British Council project on Investigating Global Practices in Teaching English to Young Leaners, I was ever more strongly convinced of the relevance of the local to the global and the importance of the idea of resonance – that the experiences of teachers and teacher educators in one context can resonate strongly with those in an apparently very different context, and that we can all learn a lot from each other. That is why we have chapters from Australia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Vietnam, Taiwan, Turkey, the UK, the USA.

The diversity and variety of the chapters in the book are, I feel, one of its biggest strengths and, although this might seem contradictory, its biggest unifying factor, and we sincerely hope that the research presented will resonate with readers both in similar contexts and in very different ones.

For more information about this book please see our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like Early Instructed Second Language Acquisition edited by Joanna Rokita-Jaśkow and Melanie Ellis. 

A Tour of English Learning and Teaching Around the World

We recently published Conversation Analytic Perspectives on English Language Learning, Teaching and Testing in Global Contexts edited by Hanh thi Nguyen and Taiane Malabarba. In this post the editors take us on a world tour of English learning and teaching…

This book offers a tour around the world, but unlike the casual tourist, you will get right into the scenes that take place daily at each stop. So, put yourself in the shoes of the people there to appreciate for a moment the constraints they are under, and the possibilities they find.

In Denmark, you are a child in an integrated-grade class of first- and second-graders. Your government has just mandated that students must learn English from first grade. First grade! You’re barely finding your way around in class, and now you’re learning a foreign language. But your teacher is creative – she has a game for the children. You and a classmate walk outside while the other kids stay inside and each chooses a clothing item drawn on the board (later you hear that some kids try to choose a diaper and a jockstrap, but the teacher doesn’t allow those!). When you and your partner come back in, you have to name two clothing items on the board, in English, and the two kids who chose those items are supposed to swap seats. It turns out that you mostly learn “swap seats,” and how you acquire this phrase reveals quite a lot about how language is learned.

In Vietnam, you are a hotel staff member in charge of escorting guests to their rooms. You need to tell them about the WiFi in the hotel, but the problem is, every time you pronounce “password,” people seem really confused! How you ‘crack the code’ here shows the creativity that users of English as a lingua franca exhibit on a daily basis as they learn language ‘in the wild.’

In China, you’re teaching a large high-school class of 70 students. Keeping them focused and engaged requires clear routines. Yet, you need to encourage their participation as well. How you approach this dilemma exemplifies the tricky balance between structure and expansion.

In Turkey, you are a teacher in training. You have your lesson plan all laid out and you have prepared your instructions in advance. But what to do when your students say, “Sorry, what are we doing?” or “We don’t understand!”? You soon realize that the lesson’s success depends more on how you respond in these moments than on the lesson plan in your mind.

Image derives from original world map in acrylic by Lara Mukahirn, photograph by Nicolas Raymond, http://www.freestock.ca

In Japan, you teach engineering students, and you need to assess their speaking abilities. So you ask your students to tell you how to draw geometric shapes in English, step by step. What you then wonder is, whose competence is being assessed? Yours or theirs? In another class, also to assess speaking abilities, you ask your students to talk in pairs. To be fair and to manage your class time, you put a timer in front of them. It turns out that they pay a lot of attention to the timer, and you are surprised to notice how the timer has become an integrated part of their interaction.

In South Korea, you are an American co-teacher assigned to assist a Korean host co-teacher. This co-teaching business is tricky since there are no clear rules about who’s supposed to do what. One moment you are giving out heart sticker awards to student groups and the host teacher says something. Another time you tap a student on the head with a folder and the host teacher says something (well, maybe he has a point there, but you are a teacher, too!). You soon learn that co-teaching, in practice, often involves a lot of tension and negotiation.

In Iran, you teach a college-level class, and you want students to participate in open discussions about controversial issues, such as capital punishment, body piercing and charity donation. The problem is, sometimes what the students say resonates with your beliefs and fits with your lesson plan, but sometimes it doesn’t. Now, you must face a fundamental problem: how much control do you want and how much freedom do you give?

In Brazil, you’re teaching a beginner-level class, and your students can’t speak a lot of English yet. However, the school promotes an unspoken ‘English-only’ policy in the classroom. How do you stick to English when explaining new words or when students talk to each other in Portuguese? It turns out that even the constraints of the rule can sometimes open up opportunities.

In Mexico, you teach English at a boarding school to indigenous children of Mixe (ayüük) ethnicity. What this means is that your students are learning English as a third language, besides Spanish. Furthermore, what is the relevance of English in this remote, rural village? The adolescent students are a lively bunch (they don’t call you ‘Teacher Bikwahet’ for no reason!) and you are devoted to bettering their lives through education.

Reading this book, you will leave your tourist binoculars behind and join the authors to look at these scenes through the lens of Conversation Analysis. Your close-up observations will connect to concepts such as interactional competence, centrifugal and centripetal forces, embodied actions, power relationship and social relevance, which are at work in many other global contexts.

So welcome on board!

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also enjoy English as a Lingua Franca for EFL Contexts edited by Nicos C. Sifakis and Natasha Tsantila.

How to Give Your Child the Best Chance of Learning a Second Language

This month we published Early Instructed Second Language Acquisition edited by Joanna Rokita-Jaśkow and Melanie Ellis. In this post the editors suggest the best ways to teach your child a foreign language.

Knowing I am an expert in teaching English to young learners, many parents approach me asking, WHEN is it best to start teaching their child a foreign language?

And of course they would like to get a clear-cut answer, which would help them to make the best decision. They are usually very ambitious, conscious parents, often middle-class, who are focused on bringing up children and willing to do their utmost to make the best of their young child’s ‘window of opportunity’ for language learning.

However, the answer to when a child should start is not that simple. First of all, you need to know that if you don’t start teaching your child a foreign language early, it does not mean that your child will miss the learning opportunity. You can compensate for a later start by having more classes more often at a later age, living abroad or by using out-of-class learning opportunities such as the internet. Foreign language (FL) instruction is a part of school curricula in many settings, and if the teaching is high quality, your child will benefit from instruction at school too.

Rather than asking when learning a foreign language should start, if you decide to enrol your child in early FL instruction (which you usually have to pay for), you should rather ask HOW the language should be taught to get the best learning outcomes. Popular demand from parents has seen the rise of numerous private schools which are flourishing, but which do not always offer high quality teaching.

  • First of all, you should aim to give your child as many opportunities to learn the language as possible, remembering that they forget quickly and learn slowly, and need frequent revision and contact with the language. For this reason, choosing a bilingual or immersion type of nursery or school may be the best option, as instruction there takes place most of the time in the foreign language.
  • If this type of schooling is not available in your area or is too costly, do not forget about your own knowledge of the FL and use it as an asset to support your child in foreign language learning. You can revise the FL class material with your child, play simple games in an FL, join them in playing online games or watch cartoons in an FL with them. A parent must be present to keep the child focused on the task and explain words and expressions that they don’t understand.
  • Reading in the FL is the key to speaking in the FL. Reading a picture book together with the child in an FL helps visual and critical literacy to grow along with competence in the FL. Likewise digital books on apps or on websites are freely available and can be used for parent-child reading.
  • It could be a good idea to design an FL corner with self-access material (books, toys, board games, tablet etc.) both in the school/kindergarten and at home. Children could freely reach for FL materials for play, and in this way may act out the FL lesson.
  • Finally, parents need to take an interest in what happens in the language class, not only to keep track of what the children learn, but to be aware how the lessons are taught, particularly in the private sector. The teaching should emphasise play and using the language for communication, but it will only be successful if the teacher is able to control the group of children and at the same time communicate with ease in the FL. So the teacher needs really good managerial, teaching and language skills. Unfortunately, such teachers are difficult to find, which calls into question whether a very early start is the best idea.

Our book looks at these aspects from a research perspective. It outlines critical issues that influence the learning outcomes in young and very young learner classrooms that should be looked into. It will be of interest to teachers, teacher educators, researchers and also parents, who are keen to get more information before making any decision about provision for an early start.

Additionally, it should be remembered that the learning trajectories of early starters vary considerably throughout their lives due to the impact of various social, affective and cognitive factors and go beyond the impact of the starting age. Thus there are many pathways from an early start and not all young learners will reach the same competence in the foreign language.

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Early Language Learning edited by Janet Enever and Eva Lindgren.

Challenging Current Practices in ELT Materials Design

This month we published Creativity and Innovations in ELT Materials Development edited by Dat Bao. In this post Dat introduces his book and explains what inspired him to put it together.

I am lucky to have been involved in many materials projects with scholars who have taught me a great deal about this field: Brian Tomlinson, Alan Maley, Hitomi Masuhara, Rani Rubdy, Martin Cortazzi, to name a few. From 2000, as a student at Leeds Metropolitan University in the UK, until the present day, as a lecturer at Monash University in Australia, I have worked together with these scholars in evaluating course materials, writing textbooks, conducting research and publishing the outcomes.

Knowledge, however, does not come only from the expert. Sometimes those with less experience but with a passion for materials development, such as teachers, students and colleagues, can also have a say. These practitioners sometimes make insightful comments about things that I have never thought of. By interacting together, they exchange views, question practices, reject routine, and support or challenge one another.

Having worked closely with both experts and practitioners, I can’t help thinking that these two groups could learn from one another, and help reduce the sense of hierarchy between them. For example, sometimes studying an updated theory can help teachers improve classroom tasks; at other times, observing teaching practice or listening to a teacher’s perspective can make theorists rethink their ideas.

It was this thinking that inspired my new book, Creativity and Innovations in ELT Materials Development, which began to take shape three years ago. In my own experience, this is a rare occasion on which I have managed to bring together well-known theorists and new researchers; experienced textbook writers and teachers who are users of those textbooks; and lecturers in materials development and their students.

The unusual combination of contributors has produced a range of fresh ideas about how to make English textbooks less boring and mundane. It must be said that a certain degree of negotiation among co-authors was needed to ensure that messages were clearly articulated. But in the end, the book is full of good ideas presented in a neat package with an array of helpful suggestions that are worth trying. Some examples include: what makes technology work best in a textbook, how to choose online resources with an effective learning impact, and in what ways can students be guided to become more creative.

Dat Bao (far left) teaching in the classroom at Monash University

I would encourage teachers, when going through chapters in the book, to visualise how ideas can be adapted to suit their tastes. I would also encourage readers to take notes and challenge what we say with your insights and questions. As they say, sometimes rules are made to be broken. Sometimes recommendations are made to be argued with. In this way, there should no end to what we can do to bring about optimal teaching and learning impact. I would very much like to see more debate around the topics that we raise, so that the field never settles, but remains active, in the same way that riding a bicycle requires the rider to be constantly moving forward to keep their balance.

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.