The Increasing Importance of Learning English and Chinese for Young People

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

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

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

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

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

97072@mail.wzu.edu.tw

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

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

What Makes a Good EFL Teacher and How Can Teacher Educators Best Support Them?

This month we are publishing Early Professional Development in EFL Teaching by Chitose Asaoka. In this post the author explains how she came to study student teachers’ professional development in a Japanese EFL context.

Over the last twenty years, I have worked as a teacher educator of English as a Foreign Language in Japan. In order to become a secondary school teacher in Japan, you need to attend a teacher certification programme offered at a university and acquire a teaching qualification upon graduation. As a teacher educator in one such programme, I have always tried to mentor and accommodate student teachers (most of whom are native speakers of Japanese) through many situations and contexts.

In a teacher certification programme, student teachers learn about up-to-date approaches and methods of teaching English, such as communicative practice and student-centred approaches. They also learn how to use English effectively as a medium of instruction, which is one of the most-recently introduced education policies in Japan. During a three-week period of teaching practice at schools, however, many of the student teachers face the reality of the classroom and are asked to adjust to school contexts. Thus, they often cannot freely put what they have acquired into practice. For example, I frequently hear post-practicum stories from them, where they are asked to teach with the grammar-translation method, since passing the entrance exam is still a big priority for students. Moreover, they are not often allowed to teach in English, for various reasons, which is different from their pre-practicum expectations.

In many such cases, student teachers are often isolated and struggle to resolve the challenges by themselves. I am also remote from their actual school-based experiences and can only monitor their development through their teaching logs or stories when they come back to the university. Thus, questions were raised in my mind, and I started to feel the necessity to re-examine the process of student teachers’ professional development in a Japanese EFL context, as well as the kinds of experiences and challenges that they typically go through. For them to become good English teachers, what qualities are necessary, and what kinds of support can we provide as teacher educators? These questions inspired me to embark upon an empirical study in which I monitored how student teachers developed their teacher expertise, how their views on what makes a good English teacher shifted and developed, and what factors had an impact on their learning-to-teach processes.

Through detailed case studies created from interviews and reflective journals, this inquiry delves into the particular context of initial teacher education in Japan and draws out unique perspectives on student teachers’ professional development in initial teacher education. This book also shows the possible need to intervene at various stages of language teacher education, which is highly relevant for other settings of initial teacher education programmes beyond Japan. I hope that the findings presented in this book will be of interest and value to future teachers, in-service teachers, teacher educators and researchers interested in teacher education and the professional development of foreign language teachers.

Chitose Asaoka
casaoka@dokkyo.ac.jp

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Reflective Practice as Professional Development by Atsuko Watanabe. 

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.

Exploring Feminist Pedagogy in TESOL

This month we published The Socially Responsible Feminist EFL Classroom by Reiko Yoshihara. In this post the author explains what inspired her to write the book and what we can expect from reading it.

The main purpose of the book is to explore feminist pedagogy in TESOL (Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages). Although I focus on the teaching practices of self-identified feminist EFL educators in Japanese universities, I hope to make connections to TESOL more broadly. To obtain a deep understanding of their feminist teaching practices, I explored the feminist teachers’ identities and teaching beliefs. The idea for The Socially Responsible Feminist EFL Classroom grew out of the frustration I experienced when I saw and heard of hesitation, resistance and accusations against feminist teaching from other ESL/EFL (English as a second language/English as a foreign language) teachers. What are our responsibilities as university ESL/EFL teachers? What can we do as ESL/EFL teachers to prepare students for their future? Should we teach only English grammar, vocabulary and linguistic information, and have students improve their English proficiency? I believe that our responsibility is to teach social equality and justice along with the language practice and to educate our language students to become socially responsible world citizens. To promote social equality and justice, teaching about global issues, environmental problems, and human rights and gender issues in ESL/EFL classes should be paid attention to.

In order to understand what is going on in the feminist EFL classroom in Japanese universities, I worked with eight participants who were self-identified feminist teachers (three American women, one American man, one British woman, two Japanese women, one Japan-born Korean women) who taught EFL at university level in Japan. To accomplish this goal, I conducted feminist narrative research. Drawing on poststructural feminist theory of identity, I examined the construction of their feminist teacher identities in social and cultural contexts. I also examined stories addressing the questions of what teaching beliefs individual feminist teachers held, how their feminist identities connected with their teaching beliefs and practices, and how they reflected their teaching beliefs in their teaching practices. This examination provided many major and minor ways of feminist teaching in Japanese university EFL classrooms. On the other hand, I found some incompatibility among feminist teacher identities, teaching beliefs and classroom practices. Poststructural feminist views helped examine incompatible relationships between identities, beliefs and practices.

My hope is that this book will succeed in establishing a new direction in language education research by drawing attention to a powerful, yet under-researched group of teachers. Readers with a passion for learning more about feminist pedagogy in TESOL will find inspiration and ideas for moving forward in this pursuit. In addition, I hope ESL/EFL researchers who are interested in feminist teaching will see this book as an invitation to continue the scholarly conversation and to build a research space for investigating feminist pedagogy within the TESOL field.

For more information about this book, please see our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like Identity, Gender and Teaching English in Japan by Diane Hawley Nagatomo and Being and Becoming a Speaker of Japanese by Andrea Simon-Maeda.

Author interview with Deirdre Martin

A few months ago, we published Deirdre Martin’s latest volume Researching Dyslexia in Multilingual Settings. We recently caught up with Deirdre and asked her a few questions about her research.

Researching Dyslexia in Multilingual SettingsHow did you first come to research dyslexia in multilingual contexts?

I have been both drawn and driven to researching dyslexia in multilingual contexts. I have been interested for many years in language and communication disabilities in multilingual contexts. Language and meaning making are the bedrock of literacy practices and literacy skills in reading and writing. So I was very curious to take the next step to research difficulties in literacy skills, also known as dyslexia. Dyslexia usually emerges most noticeably in the early years of formal schooling when children are taught literacy skills in reading, writing and spelling. I was driven – very willingly- to researching dyslexia in multilingual contexts by the global increase in multilingual learners being introduced to English literacy skills. For example, many countries now introduce English as a Foreign Language (EFL) and English literacy skills to young learners, and from another perspective ‘superdiverse’ global population movements to the UK, EU and elsewhere, have brought multilingual learners into largely monolingual schools, creating multilingual contexts. Research is needed in these multilingual contexts to understand dyslexia-type difficulties.

Why are there so many disciplines involved in this type of research?

Dyslexia is a complex weave of the natural and the cultural, and these two main areas of knowledge require different approaches to investigation. Understanding dyslexia as a dichotomised study is essential. During the hundred years and more of researching dyslexia different branches of study have emerged to examine the multifaceted nature of dyslexia, taking account of the changing contexts of languages, literacy practices and skills and most recently digital. For example, a biological approach explains dyslexia through medical, neurological and genetic study; psychological studies understand dyslexia through cognitive processing skills and personality. Critical, social and cultural studies have opened up the field to even more concepts of the ‘situatedness’ of dyslexia. Yet there is a great need to develop rigorous informed research study in areas of pedagogy and intervention.

Why is your book different from others in the field that have been published before?

It offers a bird’s eye view of different understandings of dyslexia. This edited volume focuses on methodology, that is, the approaches to creating different knowledges adopted by different disciplines in their studies of dyslexia. Books and journals on dyslexia usually publish studies that share one approach and a set of procedures to creating knowledge. This volume includes a range of approaches and methods to engage readers in the different ways of knowing and understanding dyslexia. Readers can be better equipped to select research methods and findings for their purposes, to inform their own research studies in dyslexia.

Who do you hope will find your book interesting/useful?

I hope that this volume will be interesting and useful to professionals, researchers and parents for different reasons. I hope that those in professional development such as trainee teachers, EAL and EFL specialists, speech/language therapists and psychologists are persuaded of the complexity of the phenomenon of dyslexia. Similarly, I would imagine that novice researchers, such as undergraduates, masters students and new doctoral students, would be impressed by the disciplinary scope and methodological breadth of the study of dyslexia.

I hope that more experienced researchers identify with an approach to understanding dyslexia that they want to develop and create new ways of understanding dyslexia in multilingual settings. Parents encountering dyslexia for the first time may find so many perspectives on dyslexia bewildering! Nevertheless, I hope that multilingual families find it helpful for their needs when they talk to teachers and other professionals about multilingual literacy difficulties. Perhaps there is a further group – multilingual speakers with dyslexia – who may find this book fascinating.

Which other researchers in your field do you particularly admire?

I admire colleagues who have engaged in researching literacy practices and skills in other languages and other places so that we can understand the complexity of literacy/ies – for example Brian Street and Gunter Kress. I take my hat off to those who have published prolifically in the field of dyslexia and, more recently, included multilingual contexts, such as Gavin Reid and his colleagues. The research in multilingual and multicultural literacy pedagogy by colleagues such as Viv Edwards, Naz Rassool, Eve Gregory and Charmian Keener, has been instrumental in changing our perceptions and practices. Most of all I just love reading the work of these colleagues – I continue to find new insights and new meaning in their work.

What is your next research project?

I have projects running with my doctoral students studying in the field of dyslexia in multilingual contexts and multilingual dyslexia. I am very interested in studying multimodality – such as digital literacy skills and practices – with multilingual young people with low literacy skills.

Language Disabilities in Cultural and Linguistic DiversityIf you found this interesting you can find more information about the book here. You might also be interested in Deirdre’s other book Language Disabilities in Cultural and Linguistic Diversity.