The Complexities of Arizona’s Restrictive Language Policies

Later this month we are publishing Amy Heineke’s book Restrictive Language Policy in Practice which explores the complexities and intricacies of Arizona’s language policy in practice. In this post, Amy discusses the impact of these policies on English Language Learners.

Restrictive Language Policy in PracticeThink back to your experiences as a young person in school. What did you enjoy? With whom did you spend time? What challenges did you face? What pushed and prompted you to develop as an individual? How did those experiences influence who you are today?

Now consider this reality. After starting school, you are given a language proficiency test. Based on your score, you are placed in a separate classroom apart from your friends. While they read novels and conduct science experiments, you learn the discrete skills of the English language: one hour of grammar, one hour of vocabulary, one hour of reading, 30 minutes of writing, and 30 minutes of conversation. You listen, speak, read, and write in another language, but the message is clear: English is the priority – learn it, and learn it fast.

This is the educational experience for tens of thousands of English learners (ELs) in the state of Arizona. After Proposition 203 nearly eradicated bilingual education in favor of English-medium instruction for ELs in 2000, state policymakers and administrators further restricted language policy with the shift to the English Language Development (ELD) model. Implemented in schools in 2008, the policy required that students labeled as ELs (based on standardized tests of language proficiency) be separated from English-proficient peers and placed in ELD classrooms for four hours of skill-based English instruction.

The statewide implementation of ELD policy in practice has yielded various challenges for local educators working in classrooms, schools, districts, and communities. Lacking rigorous preparation or pedagogical support, teachers must maneuver complex classrooms with learners from a multitude of cultural and linguistic backgrounds with various abilities, strengths, and needs. Due to this complexity, leaders struggle to staff ELD classrooms, often resulting in a revolving door of underprepared teachers. Students see themselves as being in the “stupid class,” as they fall behind their peers in math, science, and social studies in the push for English proficiency.

Whether a first-year teacher or an administrator with decades of experience, local educators struggle with how to ameliorate this complex situation. Policymakers and state administrators believe in the ELD model, and as such provide staunch compliance measures to ensure rigid implementation of instructional mandates. As local educators and other stakeholders encounter the on-the-ground repercussions in their daily work, they make decisions to maneuver policy in practice to effectively reach and teach ELs.

This book analyzes the complexities of restrictive language policy in practice. Conducted five years after the shift to ELD instruction, this qualitative study investigates how Arizona teachers, school and district leaders, university teacher educators, state administrators and legislators, and community leaders engage in daily practice to navigate the most restrictive language policy mandates in the United States. Overall, the book demonstrates that even in the most restrictive policy settings, educators and other stakeholders have the agency and ability to impact how policy plays out in practice and influence the education of ELs, so that all learners may one day fondly recall their schooling experiences.

Dr. Amy J. Heineke, Associate Professor of Education, Loyola University Chicago, School of Education
Email: aheineke@luc.edu
Twitter: @DrAJHeineke
Linkedin: amyheineke

arizona-booksIf you would like more information about this title, please contact Amy using the contact details above or see our website.

You might also be interested in a couple of our other titles: Language Policy Processes and Consequences edited by Sarah Catherine K. Moore and Implementing Educational Language Policy in Arizona edited by M. Beatriz Arias and Christian Faltis.

Why English? Confronting the Hydra

This month, we published Why English? Confronting the Hydra edited by Pauline Bunce, Robert Phillipson, Vaughan Rapatahana and Ruanni Tupas. This book brings together the voices of English language teachers, linguists and award-winning community voices in detailing a range of confronting and confrontational accounts of the powerful, yet possibly unforeseen impacts that the global English language teaching industry can have on unsuspecting, non-English-speaking communities worldwide. In this post, Pauline introduces the book.

9781783095841This is the second Hydra-themed publication in Multilingual Matters’ Linguistic Diversity and Language Rights series. It is a brand new collection of short-form, eminently readable exposés of the rarely-examined downsides of the massive, global English-language teaching (ELT) industry. It will provide considerable food-for-thought for teaching professionals, language planners and critical observers of globalisation.

In this new collection, our contributors liken the burgeoning ELT industry to the all-powerful, multi-headed monster of Greek mythology known as the Hydra. This volume further documents the threats that can be posed by this beast’s (often beguiling) “heads”, as the multiple branches of the ELT industry (e.g. textbooks, examinations, overseas teaching schemes, policy advice to governments) manage to infiltrate an ever-widening range of national and international settings.

The book’s 24 chapters span locations on every continent, including contributions from Iceland, Eastern Europe, the Pacific and the USA. The language settings range from call centres to volunteer teaching, from elementary classrooms to teacher training to language policy-making. In style, our collection includes the analytical and the deeply personal, as well as presenting several poems and a challenging response to the novel, “Mr Pip”. Many of our chapters detail a welcome pushing-back against the often deleterious effects of prioritising English language teaching in non-English-dominant societies.

The collection examines and explodes a great many widely-held myths about the efficacy of teaching English in a too-much, too-soon manner, to the detriment of children’s conceptual development and in the false belief that it will catapult its learners into positions of influence.

As editors, it must be said that we are certainly not against the English language per se, but we do fundamentally oppose its imposition over and above local and regional languages. In line with UNESCO’s principles, we believe in multilingual approaches to language education, with the English language having an additive role, rather than sitting centre-stage.

Dr Pauline Bunce, W. Australia, paulinebunce@hotmail.com

9781847697493If you found this interesting, you might also enjoy English Language as Hydra: Its Impacts on Non-English Language Cultures, also edited by Vaughan Rapatahana and Pauline Bunce (Multilingual Matters, 2012).

The Quest for Authenticity in Japan

This week we are publishing Richard S. Pinner’s new book Reconceptualising Authenticity for English as a Global Language which examines the idea of authenticity in English language learning. In this blog post, Richard  explains how his quest for authenticity developed.

Reconceptualising Authenticity for English as a Global LanguageWhen I came to Japan, I had no idea that I was beginning a quest for authenticity. Before moving to Japan, I worked in London. If I wanted to give my students an authentic experience of the English language in use, I just had to ask them to look out of the window. Their lives were inherently entwined with meaningful interactions in English, because they were living in an English-speaking environment. Authenticity seemed to be part of the package.

However, when I moved to Japan I realised that things are not so straightforward for the majority of English learners around the world. Creating meaningful and relevant experiences of using English became my number one challenge. I also became much more aware of the ‘soft power’ effect my cultural upbringing was now having on my students, as I selected materials which presented certain worldviews and ideologies. Things I had not previously considered became problematic issues. In London I represented the local; the one with insider knowledge, links and cultural connections. Working in Japan I was now an outsider, and I had to adapt myself just as much as the materials I was planning to use for my lessons.

My research into authenticity grew out of my research into motivation, and hence I approach the subject from a complexity theory perspective. What this means is that I now try to avoid over-simplifying or compartmentalising things, and I try to make my teaching about contextualised experiences rather than about materials. In order to do this, I have to focus on the individuals in my class and help them to find their own authentic voice in English. I also have to find a way of helping these individuals to bridge their way into a social community of English users.

Japanese learners are often written about in terms of motivation (or lack thereof) and there are many workshops held at conferences in Japan which address issues such as ‘silence’ in the classroom. The stereotype is that it can be hard to encourage Japanese learners to speak as themselves. In my own experience, I think this is an issue related to authenticity, and overcoming such obstacles is as much about the teacher changing their perspective as the students learning new skills. In the book, I try to explain the global situation of English language education as it relates to the construct of authenticity, while providing relevant examples from my own experience as a language teacher. I hope that anyone who reads it will find it interesting and empowering, because authenticity is a central component to successful second language acquisition.

Authenticity, Language and Interaction in Second Language ContextsFor further information about this book, please see our website. You might also enjoy another recent title Authenticity, Language and Interaction in Second Language Contexts edited by Rémi A. van Compernolle and Janice McGregor.

Can English be used for good?

This week we published Patricia Friedrich’s new book English for Diplomatic Purposes which is the first of its kind to examine the use of English in diplomacy, combining theory and practice to offer a ground-breaking volume for all those working in this field.

English for Diplomatic PurposesCan English be used for good? This question is at the center of my academic practice and was also the driving force behind the invitations I made to colleagues around the world, asking them if they would like to contribute to this book we created, English for Diplomatic Purposes. The fact that these nine researchers/practitioners and I embarked on this creative journey means that we believe it can.

English is often linked to a dramatic colonial past, and to both imperialism and the demise of minority languages at present. While these dynamics cannot be ignored, there is another side to English: that of an important lingua franca, one that brings people together, but that also changes wherever it goes, given local cultures and needs.

This is the backdrop to the book we wrote. How do we reconcile these paradoxical aspects of English and emphasize the uplifting, empowering and life-affirming purposes of the language? First of all, we teach it from an inclusive, summative perspective, and not from a deficit one. This means adding to the students’ repertoire of languages, reaffirming that the languages and varieties that they already speak are valid, functional and representative of their identities and cultures. It also means communicating to native speakers that English is manifested in many different forms. That speaking a variety other than the standard, in contexts where those varieties are called for, is actually a sign of understanding of audience, and that given such fertile variation, linguistic meaning needs to be negotiated in context.

That brings us to the very topic of the book – negotiation and English in diplomatic contexts. While we were familiar with many great pedagogical works that focused on business communication, we believe that the specifics of diplomatic communication called for special pedagogical tools as well. Noticing that those were hard to come by, we decided to start the conversation by writing chapters ourselves. Diplomatic negotiation, dialogue and agreement are special because they go much beyond deal-making, trade exchanges and business alliances. While diplomatic communication is not always synonymous with peace-seeking, we would like to see that facet of diplomacy as the ultimate goal of these exchanges. This applies to the big picture – countries, regions, economic blocks – but also, to a surprising degree, to our own individual lives.

The contributors and I invite you take this journey into the English language’s potential to bring people together in diplomatic conversation and to add your own ideas to the conversation.

For further information about the book, please see our website.

Emerging Self-Identities and Emotion in Foreign Language Learning

This month we published Emerging Self-Identities and Emotion in Foreign Language Learning by Masuko Miyahara. In this post, Masuko introduces the key themes of the book.

Emerging Self-Identities and Emotion in Foreign Language LearningThe main purpose of this book is to shed new light on the understanding of the processes of L2-related identity construction and development among learners studying English in a foreign language context. Although the notion of identity in this study is grounded in poststructuralist theory, it attempts to integrate the sociologically and the psychologically oriented take of identity formation, and calls for a more balanced approach to the subject.

The book focuses on English learners at higher education institutions in Japan, and highlights the instrumental agency of individuals in responding and acting upon the social environment, and in developing, maintaining and/or constructing their desired identities as L2 users. The study is particularly unique in the insights it offers into the role of experience, emotions, social and environmental affordances, and individuals’ responses to these, in shaping their personal orientations to English and self-perceptions as English learners and users. The work includes an intricate analysis of how spatial-temporal dimensions are intertwined through the process of narrative construction as participants relate their thoughts and the researcher represents and interprets their stories.

A further characteristic of this book is its discussion of the use of narrative data in the methodological approach. The study frames narratives as a means to understand experience, where human beings create meanings from their experiences both individually and socially, and it maintains that narrative studies are basically interpretative in nature. Although most researchers tend to focus on the ‘success’ of their studies, the ‘messiness’ involved is brought to the fore in this study. In particular, this paper argues the importance for researchers to develop a critical and reflective framework with their narrative data, and to show how their theoretical assumptions are fed into all stages of the research process. The book concludes by calling for more recognition of the diversity of approaches to narrative studies in applied linguistics that includes multiple forms and styles especially in terms of representation.

For more information about this book please see our website.

Early Learning and Teaching of English

Earlier this month we published Early Learning and Teaching of English edited by Jelena Mihaljević Djigunović and Marta Medved Krajnović. Here, Jelena gives us some background to the book.

Early Learning and Teaching of EnglishThe five year project, which the book Early Learning and Teaching of English: New Dynamics of Primary English is based on, was very stimulating and highly revealing for our team about all aspects of the phenomenon we were investigating. The key findings are reported in the book, but there were many behind-the-scene events which are not included but the members of our research team will remember fondly for a long time. For example, through our annual oral interviews with the young participants we witnessed the changes not only in their attitudes to learning EFL but also in the ways they expressed them. Thus, I still remember vividly how one young participant’s answers to my question about why English was his favourite school subject changed each year: in Grade 1 the learner simply said ‘I don’t know, I just like it‘; in Grade 2 he claimed it was because learning English was fun; in Grade 3 he explained he liked it ‘because we play, and learn how to read in English‘; while in Grade 4 he looked at me in surprise and retorted: ‘Why not?’

Our regular classroom observations, which took place several times a year, provided valuable information about the EFL classroom processes and also showed that we were welcome guests each time we came; the children actually looked forward to our visits and, according to their teachers, often asked when we would come again. The project teachers repeatedly urged us to assess their teaching although we had explained that we were not supposed to ‘influence’ their teaching while the project was going on: they were really eager to use every opportunity to improve their teaching skills!

What motivated us to undertake yet another project in the early EFL field? Well, we thought that comprehensive and longitudinal research of early EFL learning and teaching was needed for at least four reasons. First, the status of English has changed in the last few decades and we believed that some of the basic issues had to be reconsidered. Second, the increased exposure of many young learners nowadays to English in everyday life has changed the role of classroom teaching, causing out-of-class language exposure to feature as an important factor which researchers as well as practising teachers need to take account of. Third, teachers to young learners have changed too; we believed that their increasing knowledge about the impact they have on early learning processes need to be incorporated into our understanding of what goes on in early EFL learning and teaching. Fourth, the number of stakeholders who make key decisions about early learning of English has risen too, with parents taking on a particularly strong role. All these recent developments have created what we came to consider a new dynamic of primary English which warranted close investigation.

The book Early Learning and Teaching of English reports on the findings of our longitudinal, multi-methods research which contextualises early EFL learning at various levels to create ‘the big picture’.

Our ultimate aim was to design a research-informed framework which could serve as the basis for early EFL learning and teaching appropriate for the new, digitised generations of primary learners. This meant that we looked into:

  • evidence of EFL development in primary learners (age 6-14) in regular institutional contexts
  • affective, cognitive, social and linguistic characteristics of young learners
  • classroom-based factors
  • relevant characteristics of the broader context

I hope readers of our book will find it interesting, informative and stimulating reading.

Jelena Mihaljević Djigunović, coeditor
jdjigunovic@gmail.com

For further information about the book please see our website or contact Jelena at the email address above.