Language, Identity and Education on the Arabian Peninsula

17 November 2016

This month we are publishing Language, Identity and Education on the Arabian Peninsula edited by Louisa Buckingham. In this blog post, Louisa explains more about the background to the book and the complex language situation on the Arabian Peninsula.

Qasr Al Sarab © Sarah Hopkyns

Qasr Al Sarab © Sarah Hopkyns

The nations on the Arabian Peninsula are home to increasingly urban, networked, ethnically and linguistically heterogeneous societies. Their youthful demography, and the relatively elevated levels of population growth provide impetus to an expanding education sector. The high proportion of foreign recruited employees in the secondary and particularly in the tertiary sectors, provides domestic students with exposure to diverse cultures and languages during their formal education. Complementing this, government scholarship schemes enable many Gulf Arab graduates opportunities for immersion in foreign cultures and languages while pursuing a higher degree. These factors contribute to a widespread appreciation of the role of foreign languages for academic and professional purposes. While English has for decades occupied a privileged position in education and administrative professional contexts, the extensive use of Asian languages, in addition to Arabic and English, in street commerce encounters, in professional activities related to technology, infrastructure and logistics, and the health sector, reflects the multilingual and multi-ethnic profile of the region’s demography.

Signage in Oman (Languages: Arabic, English, Bengali, Urdu, Hindi, Malayalam). ©Louisa Buckingham

Signage in Oman (Languages: Arabic, English, Bengali, Urdu, Hindi, Malayalam). © Louisa Buckingham

As contributors to this volume, we have observed the role and the reception of foreign languages in the lives of our students over many years. We continue a nascent tradition in book-length studies on the Arabian Peninsula which take a critical view of the status of English in educational contexts and professional lives, and we extend previous work by documenting the importance of Asian languages in public and private spheres.

Language, Identity and Education on the Arabian PeninsulaFour main themes run through the book. The opening theme explores the multilingual nature of many households and the different spheres of use assigned to particular languages experienced in the domestic domain. In many homes, the presence of domestic migrant workers (employed to perform the duties of drivers, gardeners, household help and nannies) contributes to an early awareness among young Gulf Arab nationals of their linguistically and culturally diverse communities and, in some cases, provides opportunities for second language acquisition in early childhood. Gender roles may influence the degree to which oral proficiency is developed in particular languages. For instance, as interaction with South Asian labourers and tradesmen is more typically undertaken by males in the household, these may develop a degree of oral competence in particular South Asian languages. Less well-known is the influence of South Korean cultural production. The popularity of Korean soap operas and pop music among some young Gulf Arab females has prompted the inclusion of Korean words or phrases into in-group talk among peers.

The subsequent two themes in the volume are devoted to issues regarding identity construction and academic achievement in sectors of Gulf Arab societies which have strongly promoted English-medium education. The early introduction of English immersion has sometimes come at the expense of Arabic. The perceived neglect or marginalization of Arabic has sparked much public debate in the media.

On the wall of a university in the UAE. © Sarah Hopkyns

On the wall of a university in the UAE. © Sarah Hopkyns

The assimilation of English as an additional language into the linguistic repertoire of many educated Gulf Arabs, and the widespread daily exposure to South Asian varieties of English, means that the wholesale adoption of English language assessment systems which were devised primarily for usage in inner-circle country educational or professional contexts, is problematic. Such proficiency examinations not only include cultural references which may not be readily comprehended by test takers in the Gulf Arab context, but they also often require a form of engagement with texts that is not necessarily commonly practised in the domestic educational context.

The final theme in this volume concerns the role of English as a transmitter of cultural practices in teaching and research careers. The promotion of international study opportunities facilitates the exposure to a wide range of pedagogical traditions; however, Gulf Arab students may experience the need to critically evaluate the degree to which assimilated practices may be applicable in their domestic teaching contexts. In the final study, we examine how international mainstream scholarly journal publishing practices have been adapted to an Omani context to support a culture of research and inquiry in the region, and facilitate the international visibility of local researchers.

Contributions come from five countries on the Arabian Peninsula: Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Yemen. All studies were specifically undertaken with a view to their inclusion in this volume. Both quantitative and qualitative research traditions are represented and the methodological approaches used to document language practices encompass interviews, focus groups and surveys, policy analysis and linguistic landscape methodology.

Louisa Buckingham, University of Auckland

Qasr Al Sarab. © Sarah Hopkyns

Qasr Al Sarab. © Sarah Hopkyns

The Status of English in Bosnia and HerzegovinaFor more information on the book, please see our website. You might also be interested in Louisa’s previous book The Status of English in Bosnia and Herzegovina.


An Interview with the Series Editors of CAL Series on Language Education

10 November 2016

Next month we are publishing the first book in our CAL Series on Language EducationEnglish Language Teaching as a Second Career by Sarah J. Shin. To introduce the new series and explain more about its aims, we asked the series editors, Terrence G. Wiley, M. Beatriz Arias and Joy Kreeft Peyton, a few questions.

English Language Teaching as a Second CareerFor those who don’t already know, what is CAL and what do you do?
The Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL) is a nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, DC. We were founded in 1959 by noted linguist Charles A. Ferguson. Our mission is to promote language learning and cultural understanding, and we serve as a trusted resource for research, services, and policy analysis. The CAL team includes a cadre of scholars, researchers, and practitioners that focus on solutions to issues involving language and culture as they relate to access and equity in education and society around the globe.

What are the aims of the CAL Series on Language Education?
CAL wants to make high-quality, research-based resources on language learning, instruction, and assessment widely available to inform teacher classroom practices, enhance teacher education, and build background knowledge for university students across a wide range of disciplines.

Who is the audience for the series?
Educators, in the classroom or in training, as well as students in applied linguistics and other language-related fields.

How does the series differ from other series on language education?
CAL believes it can offer a comprehensive look at language education based on our decades of experience in conducting research into how language is learned and applying this knowledge to make information and resources available for educators and practitioners.

How did the idea for the series come about?
In thinking about the wealth of research-based knowledge and practical information CAL has developed over the decades, we wanted to find a purposeful way to share this knowledge. Working with our colleagues at Multilingual Matters to develop this book series was the perfect solution for our desire to disseminate information more broadly.

What topics will be covered in the series?
CAL plans to cover a wide range of topics including approaches to language instruction and assessment, approaches to content instruction and assessment for language learners, professional development for educators working with language learners, principles of second language acquisition for educators, and connections between language policy and educational practice.

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What made you choose Multilingual Matters as a publisher to partner with and how will CAL and Multilingual Matters work together on this series?
This was an easy choice for CAL. We have a long-standing relationship with the team at Multilingual Matters and are pleased that many of our staff are published authors under the Multilingual Matters banner. Our two organizations also have similar core values, believing that languages and cultures are important individual and societal resources, that multilingualism is beneficial both for individuals and for societies, and that effective language education should be widely available.

What are your own personal research interests and how will these be incorporated into the series?
CAL’s research interests focus on a wide range of topics connected to language and culture and include policy, instruction, and assessment. We have a long-standing interest in research on language education and promoting equity and access for language learners, with a special interest in programs that promote additive bilingualism. This series provides a natural outlet for our interests and priorities.

For more information about the series please see our website. You can also visit CAL’s website for more information about their other work.


Exploring the essence of content and language integration

23 August 2016

This month we published Conceptualising Integration in CLIL and Multilingual Education edited by Tarja Nikula, Emma Dafouz, Pat Moore and Ute Smit. In this post, the editors explain how the book came together.

Conceptualising Integration in CLIL and Multilingual EducationThis book is concerned with the educational practice in which a language other than the students’ first language is used as the language of instruction. The main entry point is content and language integrated learning (CLIL), a form of education which has been popular in Europe since the 1990s and is now gaining ground globally. When looking at existing research on CLIL, it is clear that the interest has mainly been directed towards the effects of CLIL on learning, especially on target language learning. In this book, we argue that more attention needs to be paid to content and language integration, which is, after all, a core concern in CLIL. It needs to be better conceptualised and problematised to provide – among the heterogeneity of forms of implementation of CLIL and other types of bi- and multilingual education – guidelines for practitioners to support the simultaneous teaching and learning of content and language.

This book consists of 11 chapters. It is the outcome of a project called Language and content integration: towards a conceptual framework (ConCLIL) based at the University of Jyväskylä, funded by the Academy of Finland, in which researchers from Finland, Austria, Spain, the UK and Canada joined forces to come to a better understanding of integration. The ConCLIL project involved us continuously discussing, debating and exploring what we mean by integration and realising in the process that such discussions often lead to challenging and questioning the often taken-for-granted notions of language, content and their learning. The opportunity for dialogue and collaboration that the project provided through team members’ research visits to Jyväskylä has been highly valuable, and we hope that some of the sense of this dialogue is also reflected in the volume. Our first face-to-face meeting as the ConCLIL team took place in Jyväskylä in February 2012, in our woollen socks due to the -29°C winter coldness outside. Since then, we have read, discussed and commented on each other’s chapters in several meetings and have learned a lot in the process.

Staying warm in the first team meeting. Photo by Pat Moore.

Staying warm in the first team meeting. Photo by Pat Moore.

The main message conveyed by the volume is the need to recognise the complexity of integration both in research and practice and to escape the duality of content and language as separable entities. In other words, integration is not a matter of neat binaries and distinctions but a multi-layered web of influences, something akin to the interlacing woollen threads depicted on the cover of the book. Because of its complexity, integration has implications at various levels of educational practice. In this volume, we focus on three interconnected perspectives, those of a) curriculum and pedagogic planning, b) participant perspectives and c) classroom practices. The first refers to decisions that need to be made on what will be integrated (which subjects), and with what aims, and also to the teachers’ need to have conceptual tools to plan integrated teaching. The second orientation highlights how the realisation of any plan is highly dependent on stakeholders’ beliefs and perceptions. For example, a crucial consideration for both research and practice is how CLIL teachers’ views of their role as content and language teachers are informed by their conceptualisations of language and content. Thirdly, integration is eventually a matter of in-situ classroom practices that entail varied opportunities to address content and language interdependence either implicitly or explicitly. We need more knowledge of such processes to understand integration better and to realise it in pedagogical practice.

It is obvious that the relevance of content and language integration goes well beyond CLIL. It is central in all forms of bi- and multilingual education, whether called immersion, content-based instruction or CLIL. Such contexts where an additional language is used in instruction may highlight the importance of content and language integration, yet is equally relevant for all education because knowledge construction and display are always both content and language matters.

CLIL in Higher EducationFor further information on this book, please see our website. You might also be interested in our other volume on this topic, CLIL in Higher Education by Inmaculada Fortanet-Gómez.


New series: Early Language Learning in School Contexts

10 March 2016

We are pleased to announce our new book series Early Language Learning in School Contexts edited by Janet Enever. In this post, Janet introduces her new series and explains how she sees the series developing.

Series flyer - click to enlarge

Series flyer – click to enlarge

With the launch of this new series we focus on young children learning additional languages in school and preschool settings worldwide. The series provides an opportunity to bring together research on second, foreign and minority languages where these are introduced for children aged 3-12 years in schools.

In the 21st century the provision of additional languages at an increasingly early age has become the norm in most developed countries and is now reaching the policy agendas of low-economy countries as well. Inevitably, given such rapid expansion, research initiatives have tended to lag behind, sometimes resulting in a lack of understanding of the challenges of the implementation process both by policymakers and schools themselves. With the establishment of this international series we hope to provide a platform for research in early language learning to be positioned as a distinctive area for investigation, offering new insights for many transnational themes and contributing to building a more robust procedure for the establishment of research-evidenced policy implementation processes.

In this series we hope to include themes such as the nature of progress, motivation and outcomes in early language learning; examples of policy implementation across a variety of contexts; teacher development and approaches to classroom teaching and learning; curriculum themes and cultural awareness; varied models of provision and assessment and a consideration of research methodologies appropriate to the study of young children learning languages in school settings. This list offers just a hint of the areas that would benefit from substantial research in many parts of the world. As the series grows we hope to draw together a comprehensive body of research across a range of languages, clarifying the contribution that schools are able to make to the development of young children’s multilingual competencies and multiple cultural identities.

For more information about the new series please see our website. Proposals should be sent to Laura Longworth, Commissioning Editor. You can also download a flyer for the series here.


How are refugees’ experiences shaped by language and policy?

19 January 2016

In December we published Refugee Resettlement in the United States edited by Emily M. Feuerherm and Vaidehi Ramanathan. In this post, Emily introduces the main themes of the book and examines the discourse of refugee resettlement in the US.

The plight of refugees and asylum seekers has been making headlines for the past couple of years. In the summer of 2014, the unprecedented number of unaccompanied Central American minors crossing the Southern US border reignited the moral panic about ‘illegal’ immigration and the validity of asylum cases. In 2015, images and stories of Syrian refugees fleeing a violent war in their home country was juxtaposed against receiving countries’ attitudes towards this vulnerable, displaced population.

Refugee Resettlement in the United StatesThe US is geographically removed from many of the effects of the wars in the Middle East, and so has seen fewer refugees and asylum seekers from this region than Europe has over the past year. Nevertheless, the recent terrorist attacks in Paris pushed US politicians and policy makers to redouble their concern over borders and migrants, particularly focusing on refugees and asylum seekers from Syria, Yemen and other Middle Eastern countries. Now, politicians are calling for a ban (or at least more stringent background checks) on refugees being accepted from the Middle East, while at the same time there is a surge in raids identifying and deporting Central Americans seeking asylum in the US.

With all of these discourses around refugee resettlement, this volume uncovers and critically analyzes the language, policies and pedagogies that contextualize refugees’ experiences in the US. The volume brings together researchers from several fields within the social and educational sciences with original research on the state of refugees in the US. Although several of the chapters are situated in specific geographical locations, their insights elucidate the contested nature of the language, policies, and pedagogies that position refugees and asylum seekers within (and outside of) our society.

The language around refugeehood is explored in several contexts in this volume: the use of refugee, alien and immigrant in US media compared to the Immigration and Nationality Act (chapter 2); the various ways that the word refugee is appropriated or rejected by populations to which it is ascribed (chapter 3); and the discursive construction of refugees used by organizations responsible for their resettlement (chapter 9). Educational policies are also discussed at many scales: national and state educational policies directed specifically to refugees (chapter 4); higher education policies meant to support refugee background students (chapter 7); and local classroom policies in an elementary school English Language Development class (chapter 8). The chapters on pedagogies of teaching refugee adults highlights the need for building upon refugees’ strengths at the programmatic (chapter 5) and individual levels (chapter 10), as well as critically examining refugees’ “need” for English (chapter 6).

Ramanathan titlesYou can find more information about the book on our website. You might also be interested in Vaidehi’s other books on refugees: Language Policies and (Dis)Citizenship and Language, Immigration and Naturalization.


Early Learning and Teaching of English

24 March 2015

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.


The Future of K-12 Teaching is Content-Based Instruction

5 March 2015

This week we published Kate Mastruserio Reynolds’ book Approaches to Inclusive English Classrooms which attempts to bridge the gap between theory and practice to prepare teachers for the needs of English language learners (ELL). In this post, she gives us some background to the book.

“Greetings all, I am the ESL Department chair at NAME High School in CITY, TX, which is located in the largest refugee neighborhood in the city. Our current enrollment is 61% ELL, but we expect to be more than 70% ELL next year, so we are looking to expand our team. We have a diverse mix of students from all over South Asia, Africa, and Latin America, many with limited or interrupted schooling. We are looking specifically for TESOL or CELTA certified teachers with experience teaching teens or adults, and ideally with experience teaching English for Academic Purposes or for Specific Purposes, as most of our ESL classes are content support classes (English for Science, English for Math, etc.).”

This job announcement posted today on a jobs list might sound like gibberish for many pre-service educators or teachers just entering the job market. The knowledge of English as a second language (ESL) that inform this advert start with the acronyms, ESL, ELL, TESOL, CELTA and advance to ‘English for Academic Purposes and for Specific Purposes’ and ‘ESL classes are content support classes (English for Science, English for Math, etc.)’ Although this position is for an ESL specialist, increasingly content area educators (i.e. teachers of Math, Sciences, Social Studies/History, Literature and Language Arts) are called upon to work with learners whose first language is not English.

Approaches to Inclusive English ClassroomsBy 2050, US national statistics indicate that English language learners (ELLs) will be the majority of learners in the US K-12 public schools. Not only are many educators not adequately prepared for this change in the demographics of our school system, neither is our teacher preparation system. Pre-service teachers, those in the process of gaining teacher licensures at universities, rarely are provided any information or training on the ELLs they will encounter in their professional work. Many in-service teachers are confronted by this lack of preparation and need to gain more professional preparation in the field of ESL in order to sufficiently meet the unique linguistic needs of the second language learners.

It is not an easy fix. There is a lot to ‘sufficiently meet the unique linguistic needs’ of second language learners. Teachers cannot simply make one change to their instruction, like using cooperative learning, in order to scaffold instruction for ELLs. First, teachers need to be aware of how they communicate with students. They need to become culturally knowledgeable about the learners’ cultures and strive to make their own speech comprehensible to the language learners. Second, they need to be able to teach the skills of language—speaking, listening, reading and writing—as well as grammar and vocabulary. I’m not talking about the traditional grammar translation method here either. Teachers need to be savvy in their use of time to situate grammar into the content material they are teaching. For example, they need to teach how to write using regular past tense (–ed form) when describing the accomplishments of ancient China in Social Studies class.

Several models and methodologies to approaching the instruction of ELLs have emerged in the field of ESL/EFL, called content-based instruction (CBI). All these models (CALLA, SIOP, RtI, etc.) focus on various ways to engage ELLs and teach them content and language simultaneously. No one method is a cure all. All of them have their advantages and drawbacks. Some of them were developed for specific contexts and populations, such as the ExC-ELL model that emphasizes academic literacy for a non-native speaking population who have strong oral proficiency skills in English. Knowing which methods to employ and when with which population is one way that I would like to empower K-12 educators.

My book, Approaches to Inclusive English Classrooms: A Teacher’s Handbook for Content-Based Instruction, addresses these issues and more in a practical way that provides insight for pre-service and in-service teachers on teaching ELLs effectively.

If you would like more information about Kate’s book please see our website.


Multilingualism in education is on the agenda

19 September 2014

Jean Conteh and Gabriela Meier’s book The Multilingual Turn in Languages Education is out this month. They have written this post about how the book came together and the importance of multilingual education. 

The Multilingual Turn in Languages EducationThe origins of this book emerged about 3 years ago in discussions about the different ways in which multilingualism was being talked about, not just in research, but in the lived experiences of people around the world. As editors, we both noticed that there was increasing interest in multilingualism in education – we refer to this new trend as the multilingual turn in languages education. We use languages in the plural to show that we are thinking about individuals’ whole language repertoires as resources for teaching and learning, not just the ‘target language’ of teaching.

A new era has started – Multilingual Matters setting the agenda

Our new book offers an invitation, including some guidelines and ideas, for teachers, researchers and policymakers to consider multilingualism in a new light as a key item on their agenda. The ideas underpinning the book began to be discussed around 20-30 years ago, when some authors started to recognise that monolingual language practices in schools can disadvantage many learners. During that period, Multilingual Matters was founded in 1976 and has since played an important role in influencing and shaping what people in their different spheres, including ourselves, talk about and what they deem important, i.e. what goes on the agenda.

The multilingual turn: ideology, theory, pedagogy

While the multilingual turn offers many opportunities, there are, of course, still many challenges before ideas can be put into practice in classrooms. As we and the authors in this book suggest, there are many positive ways in which this can happen. The opportunities and challenges are explored in the three parts of our book by taking into account the multiple layers of society, policy and classroom practice – all embedded in and informed by research.

First, in part one, we consider prevailing ideologies and language hierarchies, for instance about which languages have status and are therefore seen as useful, which languages are ignored and why and what the implications may be for individuals and groups. Then, through the chapters in part two, we argue the need for a theoretical basis for multilingual approaches to education. Finally, in part three, we show, through presenting different examples of innovative classroom practice, how educators in every situation need to find their own ways of taking account of their local circumstances and their learners’ resources.

Thanks to everyone

Gabriela visiting the office

Gabriela visiting the office

We are very grateful to Multilingual Matters, and Viv Edwards (see her recent blog post here) for supporting our book project. It was a pleasure working with you all! Furthermore, we were very lucky to find authors working across the world (Australia, Greek-Cyprus, Mauritius, China, France, Germany, USA, Switzerland, UK and Europe more generally) who embraced the idea of the multilingual turn. Their contributions present research from very varied teaching contexts and cover TESOL, EAL, SLA, MFL and two-way bilingual immersion. Thanks to you all, we were even able keep to our initial timetable!

Many thanks again to all at Multilingual Matters, all our authors and everyone who contributed to this book. We hope that through this book some ideas may make it from the agenda into practice.

For further information about this book please see our website.


Celebrating 40 volumes in the New Perspectives on Language and Education series

28 August 2014

The Multilingual Turn in Languages EducationThe publication of The Multilingual Turn in Languages Education edited by Jean Conteh and Gabriela Meier this month marks the 40th volume of our New Perspectives on Language and Education series. Here, the series editor Viv Edwards writes about how the series has evolved over the years.

The titles that form part of the New Perspectives on Language and Education series tend to cluster around three main themes – English as an international language, modern language teaching and multilingual education, with a host of other issues hovering around the edges that refuse to be pigeonholed in this way.

Identifying and disseminating new perspectives on ‘big’ topics like these requires Janus-like qualities. On the one hand, you need to recognize proposals which, while resonating with issues that you know are trending, hold the promise of taking things a few steps forward, not simply being more of the same. On the other hand, you need to be prepared to take risks: is this something new and original with the potential to make people rethink long-held assumptions? As Multilingual Matters prepares to publish the 40th title in the series, this seems a good time to offer my own particular take as editor.

NPLE coversHot topics

Looking first at the new and original, NPLE has a proud record. In terms of ‘hot topics’, Testing the Untestable in Language Education, edited by Amos Paran and Lies Sercu, and Joel Bloch’s book on Plagiarism, Intellectual Property and the Teaching of L2 Writing have made important contributions to debates in two fiercely contested areas, while Andrey Rosowsky’s Heavenly Readings focuses on literacy practices associated with Islam, an issue which has received remarkably little attention to date. The quality of the contribution made by any individual title lies, in my opinion, in its power to challenge readers to revisit and even reconsider deeply held beliefs. An excellent example is Jean-Jacques Weber’s Flexible Multilingual Education, which controversially places the needs and interests of children above the more customary approach which focuses on individual languages.

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In the case of topics such as English as an international language, it is possible to argue that the impact of NPLE titles is cumulative. Let’s take some recent additions to the list that specifically set out to bridge the gap between theoretical discussion and practical concerns: Aya Matsuda’s edited collection Principles and Practices of Teaching English as an International Language and Julia Hüttner and colleagues’ Theory and Practice in EFL Teacher Education. In the case of Julia Menard Warwick’s English Language Teachers on the Discursive Faultlines the focus is on different constituencies and stakeholders as she compares controversies around English as a global language with similar tensions surrounding programmes for immigrants.

 

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Another interesting cluster of titles concerns innovations in pedagogy and the management of multilingual classrooms. Take, for instance, Managing Diversity in Education, edited by David Little and colleagues; Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Classrooms where Jennifer Miller and colleagues explore new dilemmas for teachers; and Kathy Mills’ The Multiliteracies Classroom. The 40th and most recent addition to the NPLE list, Jean Conteh and Gabriela Meier’s The Multilingual Turn in Languages Education is a welcome addition to a strand of scholarship helping to develop a clearer understanding of classroom challenges.

Politics

Books such as these are underpinned by important political questions. In other examples, however, the political theme is even more clearly foregrounded. Particular personal favourites include The Politics of Language Education, edited by Charles Alderson which, with the value of hindsight, looks at the institutional manoeuvres that shape projects charged with innovation and change; Maryam Borjian’s English in Post-Revolutionary Iran, which chronicles the changing attitudes to English teaching and qualifies as the only academic book I have ever read which could be described as a page turner; and Desiring TESOL and International Education by Raqib Chowdhury and Phan Le Ha, which raises uncomfortable issues of market abuse and exploitation.

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Innovative methods

Innovations covered by NPLE authors go beyond pedagogy and policy to include new approaches to data analysis. Roger Barnard and colleagues have been responsible for a trilogy of highly original edited collections: Creating Classroom Communities of Learning, Codeswitching in University English-Medium Classes and Researching Language Teacher Cognition and Practice. Each of these edited collections aims to promote dialogue around a particular theme by inviting a second researcher to interpret the same data, or to comment on the approach of the first author.

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Updating classics

Occasionally we have the opportunity of updating important works by major international authors. A case in point is the second edition of Gordon Wells’ ground breaking The Meaning Makers which sets the findings of the original study of language and literacy development at home and school in the context of recent research in the sociocultural tradition, also drawing on new examples of effective teaching from the author’s collaborative research with teachers. Another good example is Sociolinguistics and Language Education, edited by Nancy Hornberger and Sandra Lee McKay, a state-of-the-art overview of changes in the global situation and the continuing evolution of the field.NPLE covers 7

Think globally, act locally

While decisions about what to take forward have to be commercially sound, Multilingual Matters values coverage not only of global interest but also takes pride in showcasing more local issues. Obvious examples of this include Lynda Pritchard Newcombe’s case study of Social Context and Fluency in L2 Learners in Wales; Anne Pitkänen-Huhta and Lars Holm’s edited volume on Literacy Practices in Transition, which showcases perspectives from the Nordic counties; and Minority Populations in Canadian Second Language Education edited by Katy Arnett and Callie Mady.

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A personal coda

As someone who has worked for longer than I care to remember with both large international publishing houses and Multilingual Matters, one of the last of a vanishing breed of small independents, it seems fitting to end on a personal note. Many readers of this blog will be aware that it is now just over a year since the death of Mike Grover, who together with his wife Marjukka, founded Multilingual Matters over three decades ago. Their finest legacy, embodied in their son Tommi and his current team, is the company’s continued openness to the new, the innovative and even, very occasionally, the quirky. Those of us privileged to work as editors and authors with Multilingual Matters appreciate the opportunity to develop a personal relationship with knowledgeable and committed individuals rather than anonymous, corporate players. Long may this last!


Standardization in Japanese Language Education

17 April 2014

Editors of our recent book Rethinking Language and Culture in Japanese Education, Shinji Sato and Neriko Musha Doerr, describe how they came to put together this volume and why the topic is important.

Rethinking Language and Culture in Japanese EducationThe current educational climate is dictated by standards and tests. The standardized tests to measure individual aptitude and, collectively, the success of an education system and even the well-being of a nation as a whole. Knowledge is treated as static, commodified and homogenized. In this volume, we ask: What are the effects of this climate of standard tests? What kinds of schools, teachers and students does it reward, and what kind of learning does it encourage? What kind of knowledge does it promote, how does it do so and to what effect? What can educators and researchers do to challenge this climate? This volume seeks to answer these questions by investigating the dynamics of power relations in the processes of the standardization of language and culture and by exploring researchers’ and educators’ roles with a focus on the case of Japan. Japan’s language and culture have undergone such extensive standardization that various popular and academic discourses regard them as homogeneous. This makes Japan an important case for a study on the processes and effects of standardization.

This volume emerged from the editors’ personal and academic engagement with the process of standardization. As a Japanese language educator whose field is educational anthropology, Sato constantly faces the challenge of how to engage with the standard language and variations. He always wonders if he should include variations in the classroom or just focus on the standard language. If he decides to include variations, which variation to include?  When a student uses a variation, should he accept it or correct it as a ‘mistake’?  How to treat the language that some people are actually using as a mistake? Sato asks himself these questions when he teaches Japanese everyday.

As a cultural anthropologist interested in power relations manifested in uses of language as well as discourses around them, Doerr is concerned with how individuals come to desire the standard and various ideologies, concepts, and daily technologies that usher them to do so. Developed from a session on language standardization Doerr organized at the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association in 2005, this volume focuses in particular on the standardization of language and culture in Japanese education.

This collection investigates the ways in which ‘language’ and ‘culture’ come to be standardized through various ideologies, representations in textbooks, and in classroom practices. In doing so, the book provides insights into the standardization processes that connect theoretical and practical concerns that researchers and educators may have. The studies on language learning are mainly focused either on acquisition of language/culture (micro-level studies) or on the relationship between languages and cultures (macro-level studies). This book extends to both the micro and macro levels, and to Japanese language education designed for both ‘native’ and ‘non-native’ speakers. By analysing the process of language/culture standardization, this book offers new ideas and awareness to the field of language studies and education.

The cases that this book illustrates cover a wide range of Japanese language/culture standardization processes in numerous contexts: practices of translation during Meiji era Japan, ideologies of standardization of regional dialects throughout the recent history in Japan, practices in college Japanese-as-a-Foreign-Language classroom in the United States, discourses in journals of Japanese language education, and classroom practices in nursery and primary schools in Japan. Few such studies have been published in English, making our contribution all the more important. The viewpoint this volume suggests is useful not only for those involved in teaching Japanese language and culture in and outside Japan as well as in between such borders (i.e. heritage language education), but also for those who are interested in the processes of differentiation, hierarchization, politics of education, multicultural education, bilingual education and globalization as it relates to education.

If you are interested in this title please see our website for more information.

 


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