Second Language Learners in a Study Abroad Context

This month we published Study Abroad, Second Language Acquisition and Interculturality edited by Martin Howard. In this post the editor tells us what we can expect from the book.

As its title indicates, this volume focuses on second language learners in a study abroad context, an ever-growing student cohort in our education institutions. Students who embark on study abroad, be it over a couple of weeks or a much longer period, do so with the folk-belief that study abroad is highly beneficial in various respects, such as for language learning, educational and academic development, social and personal development, and intercultural development. However, research has shown that the experience on the ground during the students’ stay abroad is often complex and challenging. In the context of international education, there is growing awareness of the necessity to address the needs of study abroad learners, as well as to better inform all involved in the study abroad enterprise of the challenges of a study abroad experience, and in so doing, contribute to enhancing the student’s experience abroad.

Against this background, this book adds to the existing literature in the field which has grown from an initial primary focus on language development during study abroad, to subsequent research efforts to capture the wide-ranging factors underlying the student’s experience abroad. Such more recent work highlights the individual nature of the student’s experience abroad, with multiple individual personal and social factors shaping the experience. This book presents a mix of both empirical studies and discussion chapters which showcase recent work in the field with a focus on innovative issues and themes across students from a range of language backgrounds. The focus includes, for example, social network development and integration during study abroad, study abroad in a lingua franca context, identity development, and language engagement in relation to input and interaction issues in a study abroad context. Other innovative areas of focus include students on an international work placement and cultural migrants, while intercultural issues are also considered.

Taken together, the chapters highlight the interface between study abroad research and the fields of second language acquisition and interculturality, where there are mutual insights to be gained. These include not only better informing study abroad practitioners and participants, but also offering insights into theoretical and applied questions across the fields, such as in relation to the more global impact of learning context on language acquisition and intercultural development, as well as factors at play like language input and interaction issues and the role of individual and social factors.

In a world where foreign language and intercultural skills assume increasing importance in our globalised world, the book reflects work by members of and participants in the SAREP Project (Study Abroad Research in European Perspective), funded in 2016-20 by the European COST agency (Cooperation in Science and Technology). This pan-European project is a think-tank for study abroad research in a European context where the flagship Erasmus+ programme celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2017, and has seen well over three million participants. Along with the large number of study abroad participants around the world, they highlight the need for ongoing research in the area. In this regard, the book includes a chapter which identifies a number of areas for future research. The enterprise continues…

Martin Howard, University College Cork

m.howard@ucc.ie

 

For more information about this book please see our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like International Students’ Challenges, Strategies and Future Vision by Anas Hajar. 

What is the Action-oriented Approach to Language Education?

We recently published The Action-oriented Approach by Enrica Piccardo and Brian North. In this post the authors explain what is meant by the action-oriented approach.

Many people seem to be convinced that language methodologies have not progressed beyond the communicative turn, and that all more recent developments are just a refinement or extension of the communicative approach. In particular many who are familiar with the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) think that it simply promotes the communicative approach and provides a set of levels to define competence in the four skills. In fact, by seeing the user/learner as a social agent engaging in different types of language activities, the CEFR introduced rich concepts like the action-oriented approach, mediation and plurilingualism, which called for further development.

Our book The Action-oriented Approach explains the distinct characteristics of the approach and shows the way in which, over the past thirty years, different complementary theories and bottom-up experimentation have enabled the development of an innovative, holistic form of language education.

The action-oriented approach is growing significantly on the ground as a means to provide motivating, realistic, project-based language teaching linked to the promotion of interculturality and Competences for Democratic Culture (CDC).

 Whilst it is difficult to summarise the action-oriented approach in a few lines, and not all aspects listed below are present in all examples, the main tenets of the overall approach are:

  • Backwards design of teaching modules (3-10 lessons) working towards ‘can-do’ aims (learning outcomes)
  • Acceptance rather than avoidance of complexity, with scaffolding as necessary
  • Authenticity/credibility of the scenario for the task/project in the module, with a focus also on the authenticity of materials, and autonomy to research different source materials
  • A unifying task at the end of the module, which probably contains several phases including: reception, interaction, mediation, and the (co-)production of an artefact, plus a reflection phase at the end
  • A pluri-/ inter-cultural focus at some point in the module
  • Agency to decide how to go about accomplishing the task/project; collaboration: and co-construction of meaning through the mediation of concepts and/or communication
  • Increasing language awareness
  • Integration of additional languages, in terms of openness to learners’ linguistic (and cultural) resources and support to plurilanguaging within and beyond the language classroom
  • Feedforward and feedback in a iterative approach adopted to build self-efficacy
  • (Self-)assessment of the outcomes, informally, both at the level of the individual user/learner and as regards the scenario/module itself

The recently published CEFR Companion Volume with new descriptors has further supported the definition of the Action-oriented approach with its focus on mediation, strategic learning and plurilingualism.

Further information can be found on the following Council of Europe websites:

Language Policy

CEFR

Enrica Piccardo: enrica.piccardo@utoronto.ca

Brian North: bjnorth@eurocentres.com

 

For more information about this book please see our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like From Principles to Practice in Education for Intercultural Citizenship edited by Michael Byram, Irina Golubeva, Han Hui, Manuela Wagner.

Exploring the living experiences of Confucius Institute Chinese teachers in the UK

This month we published Taking Chinese to the World by Wei Ye. In this post the author gives us an insight into her own experience of living in the UK as a Confucius Institute Chinese teacher.

At chilly spring dusk, like any of the after-work Friday afternoons in the past few months, I was sitting in a small tavern named “El Guapo” among my chuffed American social circles, sipping a margarita while half-listening to their chattering. I had no interest in Super Bowl or Sarah Palin. Or let’s be frank, I couldn’t fully catch their words. Savouring Chinese food and watching Chinese drama were the treats I yearned for after peanut butter jellied buzzing weekdays. Some of my associates, who had been abroad and had experience dealing with foreigners, would kindly slow down and ask which team I support, or have a few words with me from time to time. For the rest, I was an excellent companion. What else could I do? If I wish not to become “unsociable, eccentric and maladjusted” like my predecessors, as I had been reminded upon arrival, I should be cheerful, sweet, devoted, always say Yes, why not? Great, let’s do it! And smile.

I didn’t realize what Super Bowl and margaritas had done to me until a year later I was entrenched in the research of study abroad. The daily life in Britain immersed me into the intangible power relationship between language, culture, capital, and identity. I was also amazed at the changes that had taken place for my expatriates and me.

My book explores the work and living experiences of Confucius Institute Chinese teachers in the UK through their accounts and reflection, and how this context and the wider globalised social environment have impacted on their understandings and their personal growth.

To sum up, this book germinated from Super Bowl and margaritas but fermented in English ale, might be of interest to those focused on identity and interculturality in the context of globalization.

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. 

Bringing together ELF and intercultural communication research

Earlier this month we published The Cultural and Intercultural Dimensions of English as a Lingua Franca edited by Prue Holmes and Fred Dervin. In this blog post, the editors explain how, until now, the fields of English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) and intercultural communication have remained quite separate but their book brings them together. 

The Cultural and Intercultural Dimensions of English as a Lingua FrancaThis book is the first of its kind. It brings together two very popular, yet separate, fields of research: ELF and intercultural communication. Although these two fields have been very productive and at the centre of scholarly and societal discussions in recent decades, their potential intersection has seldom been discussed in scholarly work. We started the project because we believed that ELF without interculturality—as much as interculturality without input from studies on lingua francas—is a little-investigated area and thus represents an opportunity to question orthodoxies and enrich research in both fields.

Our understanding of interculturality acknowledges the socially-constructed nature of intercultural communication, and the limitations of discourses of “cultural difference”, “respect for other cultures” and “tolerance” perpetuated by powerful institutions, the media, and even early scholarship in the field. Interculturalists are moving beyond these conceptualisations towards more politically-informed perspectives of intercultural encounters. What consequence does this move have for lingua franca research and pedagogy, and for ELF in particular?

In his foreword to the volume, Michael Byram notes that our book “may also turn out to be controversial … and all the better so.” Yet our main objective is not to create a polemic, or to nurture or perpetuate spurious disciplinary boundaries, but to open up fertile and interdisciplinary discussions of the cultural and intercultural in lingua franca communication. The introduction and nine chapters that compose the volume, as well as the stimulating commentary chapter by John O’Regan, all discuss how “culture” and “interculturality” can be understood, theorised, and operationalised in ELF, and the implications for pedagogy. The book will therefore appeal to researchers and teachers working in the fields of intercultural communication and language, in particular ELF, and on lingua francas other than English.

For more information about this book please see our website