What Actually Goes On in an English Conversation Lounge?

We recently published Dynamics of a Social Language Learning Community by Jo Mynard, Michael Burke, Daniel Hooper, Bethan Kushida, Phoebe Lyon, Ross Sampson and Phillip Taw. In this post, Jo explains how the English conversation lounge at Kanda University of International Studies, which provides the setting for the book, functions.

The setting for this book is an English conversation lounge within a larger self-access learning centre (SALC) in a university in Japan which specialises in foreign languages and cultures. Although the setting is quite specific, the themes in this book are likely to resonate with anyone who has tried to support language learners in using the target language beyond the classroom. 

We moved into a new learning space in April 2017 and our main priority in that first year was to make sure that the SALC as a whole was creating an environment where students could feel comfortable and empowered; a place where students could feel supported in taking ownership of their own language learning. The English Lounge is a place where students can drop in and practice speaking English either to teachers on duty, or to other students. In general, there are very few opportunities to actually use other languages in daily life in Japan, and as an institution specialising in languages, we have always tried to provide opportunities for students to actually use the languages they are learning. An English conversation lounge has been available to students in one form or another at the university for around twenty years, but apart from a couple of isolated studies, no systematic research had previously been conducted. 

In terms of goals or guidelines for the lounge, these are very loose. On the SALC website for students, we state “You can have a free conversation in English with teachers and other students here. You can also come with your friends and chat in English.” This sounds very simple, but after years of observing this in action, myself and other members of the research team could actually see some of the interesting dynamics happening within the space. Some questions began to emerge based on these observations:

  • Why do some students use the lounge everyday, whereas others avoid the place completely?
  • What draws some students to the space? Why do they keep coming back?
  • What role does the lounge play in students’ language learning experiences?

We could see that some students thrived in the space and used it as an opportunity to develop confidence in using English. We wondered how we could make the space more appealing to other students who might like to use it. We were fairly sure that participation in the lounge had something to do with language learner identity. We were also able to see a real community of practice in action. We suspected that other psychological processes were important as well, but we weren’t sure which ones without doing more research.

We had been heavily influenced by previous work in another university setting in Japan by Garold Murray, Naomi Fujishima and colleagues who suggested that many elements shape and transform spaces into places for learning. We were keen to investigate the psychological elements in our own context, so proceeded to study the micro-space within the larger learning ecology of the SALC.

After more reading, our initial observations were eventually formulated into research questions and a detailed research plan. After gaining ethics permission from the university, we began our project with a series of eye-opening observations of the space. This was followed by in-depth interviews with students conducted over two years. Our participants were students from all four years of the university; some were regular users, but some had never used the lounge at all. In this book, we tell their stories and attempt to make sense of them. By making sense of these stories, we offer some insights into the role of such spaces in language education programmes. We also offer some practical advice to others who wish to embark on similar research, or make their own spaces more accessible to all learners who want to use them.

Photos courtesy of Kanda University of International Studies

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Second Language Literacy Practices and Language Learning Outside the Classroom by Miho Inaba.

Exploring Usage-Based Approaches to Language Learning

We recently published Usage-Based Dynamics in Second Language Development edited by Wander Lowie, Marije Michel, Audrey Rousse-Malpat, Merel Keijzer and Rasmus Steinkrauss. In this post Wander explains the inspiration behind the book.

To the best of our knowledge, there is no single theory in applied linguistics that denies the role of input for language learning. Without input, as a source of frequent systematicity and a rich variety of language exemplars, children will not acquire their mother tongue (L1) and adults will not learn a second language (L2). It is on these premises of frequency, systematicity, richness and variety that usage-based approaches attempt to explain the exciting path of language learning. In this book, we take these constructs as a starting point to explore the many avenues of usage-based approaches to language acquisition, with a focus on L2 learning. Grounded in complex dynamic systems theory (CDST), the different chapters showcase how second language researchers investigate language learning from many different angles using a variety of methods for lab-based studies, for classroom interventions and to explore language learning in the wild. The volume thus clearly shows the many different research questions that benefit from usage-based approaches to language learning.

The home of the editors, Groningen University in the Netherlands, has been a centre for CDST-inspired L2 research for quite some time, generating cutting-edge publications from such a CDST perspective. This book forms a natural contribution to this line of research while at the same time being a celebration of the legacy of Marjolijn Verspoor, who has been a driving force behind the Dynamic Usage-Based approach in second language acquisition (SLA) research. Contributors to the edited volume have all been fortunate enough to be influenced by Marjolijn in some way: from her source of inspiration as a theorist, via long-standing colleagues and fellow pioneers within CDST – starting in times when generativists ruled the field of linguistics – and mid-career faculty presenting state-of-the-art methodologies, to young researchers that were formed by her as MA students or graduated under her supervision, as well as language teaching colleagues in the department who, inspired by her, implemented usage-based pedagogy in their classrooms.

We are particularly proud that the edited collection covers the wide variety of usage-based work, painting the dynamic picture of this field of SLA research in all its facets and, moreover, by colleagues at different career stages. Authors studied different source and target languages (e.g., Chinese, English, French, Spanish, Russian), explored language learning in instructed settings of adolescents in high-school as well as young adults at university, or even naturalistic contexts beyond the confines of instruction, for example in social media. Using quantitative, qualitative and mixed-methods approaches, the research collected in this volume investigates both oral and written language development, both cross-sectionally but also adopting a longitudinal perspective where learners are followed over several years.

The result is a colourful illustration and celebration of the dynamic trajectory of usage-based research into second language development, building on the legacy of eminent scholars, such as Marjolijn Verspoor, while at the same time paving the way for a bright future of CDST-inspired classroom implementations.

For information, please contact Wander Lowie: w.m.lowie@rug.nl

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Profiling Learner Language as a Dynamic System edited by ZhaoHong Han.

How Has Language Education Changed Over Time?

This month we published Language Education in a Changing World by Rod Bolitho and Richard Rossner. In this post the authors explain what inspired them to write the book and why they think it is needed.

We’re pleased: after a long period of gestation and writing we’ve just received copies of our new book Language Education in a Changing World.

So what inspired us to write the book, and why do we think it is needed? Combined, our experience in language education spans 100 years. We have become increasingly aware that the time-honoured segmentations of foreign language education, teaching and learning of the language of schooling, language sensitive subject teaching and so on are no longer meaningful, if they ever were.

We have tried to take stock of how language and communication permeate and impact on all education at all ages, and in the book we review some of the thought-provoking work done by the Council of Europe and specialists in the fields of educational applied linguistics, multilingualism and pluralistic approaches. How have these perspectives impacted on learning in the classroom over the last 40 years? What is being done around the world – or at least in the parts of the world where we have been able to glean information – to incorporate holistic views of language and students’ language repertoires in education, and in teacher education? What could be done to foster dynamic collaboration among teachers and teacher educators across the curriculum? These are some of the questions we have addressed. It was quite a learning experience for us!

In the book we take a fairly close look at four or five areas in particular. We start with an exploration of the role of language and languages in learning and teaching, before going on to look at the recent history and current state of foreign language education and the somewhat controversial impact of English in education. In the second part of the book, we examine teacher education, both pre-service education and continuing professional development for teachers of languages, as well as the extent to which language and communication issues are addressed in the education of teachers of other subjects. The third part of the book focuses on policy around language in education and the roles various stakeholders play in influencing and implementing – or resisting – change. Then we end with our own wish list of future developments in policy around language in education and teacher education.

As potential readers, we had in mind education professionals of all kinds who are interested in exploring the role of language in the teaching of all subjects across the curriculum, including teachers of language, other teachers as well as teacher educators. We hope policymakers, textbook writers, curriculum developers and researchers will also find the book useful. Whatever their role and specific interests, we would welcome readers’ reactions to the contents of our book, and the policy recommendations we have made.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like The Action-oriented Approach by Enrica Piccardo and Brian North.

Explaining Complexity and Dynamic Systems Theory (CDST)

This month we published Research Methods for Complexity Theory in Applied Linguistics by Phil Hiver and Ali H. Al-Hoorie. In this post the authors explain why their book is so important for complexity research.

What are the big questions that occupy researchers in the human and social sciences? Chances are that these questions share two key features. First, many social questions, from the minute level to the grand scale of things, are interconnected. Second, their optimal solutions are constantly changing over time. As the late theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking once said, the 21st century is likely to witness a general intellectual reorientation around a complex, interconnected, and dynamic view of the world, a view that is indeed sweeping through various human and social disciplines. And, if many of the major issues of our time are complex and systemic, they need to be approached with a corresponding shift in perception. One such approach is complexity and dynamic systems theory (CDST).

Of course, once we began to adopt a CDST understanding of language learning, development, and use in our work in applied linguistics, it seemed to us that everything straightforward was ruined. Like many others, we had happily operated on the assumption of a neatly ordered and simple world. We studied phenomena by breaking them up into smaller parts, drawing boundaries between those parts, and studying them separate from their environment and in isolation. It is no wonder that before long we ended up frustrated and puzzled as to why we were no closer to understanding and capturing reality than before. While embracing a CDST view promised to bring us closer to an approximation of this complex and dynamic reality, we quickly realized that there was very little guidance for the methods necessary to do this kind of research. Many sources of information were too abstract or conceptual, but also misleading (e.g. “qualitative data are inherently better for studying complex systems”); others were far too technical (e.g. “Lyapunov functions are scalar functions that can be used to measure asymptotic equilibrium in stochastic models”) and did not seem to lend themselves to the kinds of questions that concern us applied linguists.

Methods for doing CDST research did prove elusive at first. But with just a little more digging, we became convinced that certain existing research templates, techniques for data elicitation, and methods of analysis that have a firm complexity basis in other human and social domains did hold promise. This book is the result of that journey we took to learn about already well-established designs and methods for complexity research. Based on our search, and a healthy dose of trial and error, we set out to share a variety of methods for complexity research already in widespread use by social complexivists. In the end, this is the book that we wish we had when we set out nearly a decade ago to explore the issues and questions of interest to us in applied linguistics. We hope it will function like a road map in pointing the way forward to many others who are also interested in the interrelated and dynamic reality of the human and social world.

For more information about this book please see our website

If you found this interesting, you might also like Profiling Learner Language as a Dynamic System edited by ZhaoHong Han.

How Best to Conduct Multilingual Ethnographic Research

We recently published Learning and Using Languages in Ethnographic Research edited by Robert Gibb, Annabel Tremlett and Julien Danero Iglesias. In this post the editors explain how the book can help researchers with their multilingual ethnographic research.

Are you a researcher who needs to learn a new language or use another language you already know in order to carry out interviews or fieldwork for a PhD or other research project? If so, there are many important questions you are likely to be asking yourself: What’s the best way for me to try and learn the new language? How long will it take me to become fluent enough to conduct the research successfully? What issues am I likely to encounter when working in another language? How can I prepare myself to address these effectively? Just like the contributors to this volume, you’ve probably searched the existing literature on ethnographic research for answers to such questions and found that it has surprisingly little to say about the learning and use of different languages for research purposes.

Learning and Using Languages in Ethnographic Research aims to help researchers like you to make more informed choices when conducting multilingual ethnographic research. In the book, researchers at different stages of their career offer frank and often moving personal accounts of how they attempted – not always entirely successfully! – to learn and use different languages in their work. The contributors are all concerned in particular with reflecting on how their experiences were shaped by wider structures of power, hierarchy and inequality. Drawing on their combined experience, the volume ends by providing some ‘top tips’ for those intending to learn or use another language in order to carry out ethnographic research.

By breaking the silence that still tends to surround language-related issues in fieldwork, the book aims to help researchers to feel more confident about handling language-related matters in their own work, and also to encourage them to add their own voices to what is a long-overdue debate about the multilingual aspects of ethnographic research!

For more information about this book please see our website.

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

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.

“As Diversity Grows, So Must We”: Teaching and Learning in the Multilingual Classroom

This month we published Using Linguistically Appropriate Practice: A Guide for Teaching in Multilingual Classrooms by Roma Chumak-Horbatsch. In this post the author tells us what to expect from the book.

“You can banish the mother tongue from the classroom – but you cannot banish it from students’ heads.” [1] 

Schools, early learning centres and educational programs worldwide are becoming increasingly language-rich. This means that learners in these contexts come from a variety of language backgrounds. It also means that many have little (or no) proficiency in the language of program or curriculum delivery. In response to this linguistic diversity, teachers are reviewing and rethinking their tried-and-true teaching strategies and asking the following questions:

  • What is the best way to teach learners from different language backgrounds?
  • I am not a language teacher. What do I do?
  • How do I communicate with silent newcomers?
  • How can I integrate them into the life of the classroom?
  • How can I help them learn the school language and participate in the curriculum?

This book directly addresses these questions and provides teachers with direction and concrete guidance. It builds on and extends the original Linguistically Appropriate Practice, or LAP[2], a multilingual teaching approach that upsets and challenges the traditional separation of languages, restores home languages to their rightful place as important language learning “allies”[3] and uses learners’ prior knowledge as a starting point in learning.

Here are the highlights of Using Linguistically Appropriate Practice: A Guide for Teaching in Multilingual Classroom.

  • Explains multilingual pedagogy, provides LAP basics and characterizes the LAP teacher
  • Helps readers better understand the theory-practice connection: a tree image (LAP Tree) is used to explain the link between multilingual practice and the language and learning theories that support this inclusive and open teaching approach.
  • Includes voices from the field: the numerous testimonials, journeys and classroom experiences of over 50 professionals (teachers-in-training, classroom teachers, special program teachers, school principals and a language consultant), working in language-rich schools and specialized programs in seven countries (Canada, Finland, Germany, India, Luxembourg, Iceland and Sweden) showcase how multilingual teaching plays out in real learning contexts
  • Invites teachers working in language-rich classrooms to rethink and review their current practice, shift their teaching from the local to the global and adopt Linguistically Appropriate Practice
  • Facilitates the adoption of multilingual pedagogy: the LAP guide is intended to help teachers identify, position and plan their multilingual work. Each of the six blocks of the guide includes “how to” suggestions and tips. Beginning with practice review and reflection, the LAP map guides teachers to retool their teaching, move away from monolingual practice and take the multilingual turn
  • Provides invaluable discussion about the following issues and challenges identified and raised by multilingual teachers: the “silent period”, a largely misunderstood and never-before explained behaviour of newcomer learners; engaging all children in the multilingual agenda; children’s unwillingness to use their home language in the classroom; understanding speakers of “little known” languages and partnering with families
  • Contains a treasure trove of resources: the book’s lists, websites, suggestions and ideas found in the Resources chapter and also in the Appendix will enrich and extend teachers’ multilingual agendas

This is an exciting time to be a teacher! The language richness found in schools is changing the way teaching and learning happen. It is a call for action, inviting teachers to review their current practice, discover the language richness of their learners, change their teaching direction, open their hearts and their doors to languages and transform their classrooms into multilingual hubs where the languages of all learners are seen, heard and included in the curriculum. Using Linguistically Appropriate Practice: A Guide for Teaching in Multilingual Classrooms is a teaching tool that will help teachers in this multilingual teaching adventure.

Share your multilingual journey with the author:

Roma Chumak-Horbatsch – rchumak@ryerson.ca

[1] Butzkamm, W. (2003). We only learn language once. The role of the mother tongue in FL classrooms: death of a dogma. Language Learning Journal, 28, 29-39.

[2] Chumak-Horbatsch. R. (2012). Linguistically Appropriate Practice: Working with Young Immigrant Children.  Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

[3] Butzkamm, W. (2003). We only learn language once. The role of the mother tongue in FL classrooms: death of a dogma. Language Learning Journal, 28, 29-39.

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like A Parents’ and Teachers’ Guide to Bilingualism by Colin Baker.

Language Learning Strategy Instruction

This month we are publishing Learning Strategy Instruction in the Language Classroom edited by Anna Uhl Chamot and Vee Harris. In this post Vee explains the inspiration behind the book.

The inspiration for this book emerged from a chat with some colleagues at the end of a busy day. The discussion centred around research into language learner strategies: those internal tactics that people use to help them memorise vocabulary in another language or to make themselves understood, for example. Thinking perhaps there was something we both had missed, we tentatively suggested that there was a lack of research into how to actually teach these strategies. In the course of our classroom-based research, we had been struck by the way studies into Language Learning Strategy Instruction (LLSI) described in detail research methods and results but said little about the rationale underlying the teaching activities and approaches used. To our surprise, our colleagues shared our concern and we agreed that a book devoted uniquely to this area would be a valuable resource for both researchers and teachers alike. We decided to widen our enquiry to colleagues in a range of other countries and contexts, inviting them also to contribute a chapter on a topic of their choice. Committed to bridging the gap between research and practice, we stressed that their chapters could deal with the theoretical issues LLSI raised but could equally well describe concrete materials for teaching strategies to different age groups.

We were overwhelmed by the enthusiasm to participate whether from colleagues in the USA, New Zealand, Canada, or the UK. However two further areas emerged from their suggestions. The first was to have a section on those strategies that have been under-researched and therefore not frequently taught, such as strategies for learning grammar or developing Critical Cultural Awareness. The second would address the lack of guidance on integrating LLSI into pre- and in-service teacher education. Hence there are four parts to the book: parts 1 and 2 deal with issues such as the range of approaches to LLSI, and identifying and teaching the under-researched strategies. Parts 3 and 4 focus on the implementation of LLSI whether through the use of technology and the coursebook or through engaging with teachers.

Our book draws on scholars with a long-established, international reputation such as Andrew Cohen, Rebecca Oxford and Joan Rubin as well as new researchers and practising teachers. The contributors use their extensive knowledge and experience to present a ‘state of the art’ picture of Language Learning Strategy Instruction. However the book also looks to the future; so each chapter ends with key questions to be resolved within that topic area and the book concludes with a chapter that offers a map for future research directions.

The book will be an important resource for researchers both for its critical perspectives and for supporting them in designing interventions to implement LLSI. It should prove equally valuable to all informed languages teachers and students studying to become languages teachers, since it is one of a very small number of publications to include detailed teaching materials and activities. Although many of the illustrations are for ESL/EFL students, some are in French and German.

Finally it should also be relevant to all those with an interest in Second Language Acquisition since the mental and social processes of language learning, the reasons for differences in the rate and route learners take, and why some learners do so much better than others lie at the heart of our understanding of language learning strategies.

Vee Harris

This book is published in memory of Anna Uhl Chamot, who sadly passed away during the publication process.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting you might also like Language Learner Autonomy by David Little, Leni Dam and Lienhard Legenhausen.

10 Tips for Teaching Multilingual Learners

This month we published Language Learning and Teaching in a Multilingual World by Marie-Françoise Narcy-Combes, Jean-Paul Narcy-Combes, Julie McAllister, Malory Leclère and Grégory Miras. In this post the authors give us some advice for teaching multilingual learners.Teaching a language or content in a multilingual classroom (or any type of learning environment, such as telecollaboration or distance learning) is becoming the norm as well as a challenge faced by more and more teachers. But it is also an asset, as learners have opportunities to communicate with peers of different origins, cultures and backgrounds and thus develop tolerance and respect for others. To maximise the benefits of these opportunities while minimising the potential threats, here are a few tips to consider:

  1. Take each learner as he/she is, as a unique, complex and multifaceted individual who brings their knowledge, skills and cultural understandings to the learning situation. A one-size-fits-all approach is likely to prove ineffective in a multilingual environment (and in other environments too).
  2. As a teacher, always be kind and supportive and learn why you should be.
  3. Value (and use) all the languages of each learner in the classroom equally. No language should be ruled out.
  4. Propose clear and realistic learning goals and ensure that learners understand them. To that effect, use the language resources available (virtual or physical).
  5. Adapt the work to the needs which emerge as the project moves forward instead of following a predefined sequence. However, never lose sight of the initial goal: it can be reached in many different ways.
  6. Propose meaningful tasks that are connected to the world outside school. By doing so, the learners will get involved in the activities, which in turn will foster learning.
  7. Arrange for the learners to communicate and interact in the target language with people from other countries, as a meaningful way to use and practise the language they need for their schooling.
  8. Identify all the tools that can be made available to students to help them become independent language learners and users. A teacher does not have all the solutions, but learners can be resourceful and incredibly helpful when trusted. Resources can be available in the learners’ original language and connected to their culture.
  9. Encourage peer collaboration and interaction: see number 7. Interaction helps students make meaning and learners’ explanations are often more understandable to their peers than the teacher’s. In a multilingual class, learners who have the same original language could work together.
  10. Work to foster learner creativity and engagement by providing stimulating learning environments.

Marie-Françoise Narcy-Combes, University of Nantes
Jean-Paul Narcy-Combes, University of Paris 3 Sorbonne-Nouvelle
Julie McAllister, University of Nantes
Gregory Miras, University of Rouen
Malory Leclère, University of Paris 3 Sorbonne-Nouvelle

Contacts

mf.narcycombes@wanadoo.fr

julie.mcallister1@univ-nantes.fr

 

For more information about the book please see our website

If you found this interesting, you might also like The Multilingual Reality by Ajit K. Mohanty.

Taiwan’s Gendered Language Learning Ideologies

This month we published Gender, Neoliberalism and Distinction through Linguistic Capital by Mark Fifer Seilhamer. In this post the author talks about the research that informed the book.

The title of my new book just out this month is Gender, Neoliberalism and Distinction through Linguistic Capital: Taiwanese Narratives of Struggle and Strategy, with ‘Gender’ prominently foregrounded as the first element of this title. But while ‘Neoliberalism’ and ‘Distinction through Linguistic Capital’ had been dominant themes since the very beginning of the manuscript’s preparation, the extent to which my focal participants’ (female) gender impacted their experiences is an issue that was addressed only fleetingly in the manuscript I originally submitted to Multilingual Matters back in 2016. This early version featured a fairly straightforward class-focused Bourdieusian analysis of my participants’ narrated experiences, seemingly (in retrospect) oblivious to the fact that gender does indeed play an outsized role in my participants’ stories, as well as in the dynamics of multilingualism in Taiwan more generally.

The centrality of gender to my participants’ experiences as language learners was pointed out by a reviewer, who asked what I made “of the fact that some students are quite successful at making friends with foreigners, getting free language practice, lining up Skype partners, having boyfriends to talk English with and to pay for trips abroad”. This reviewer went on to pose other questions that served to guide my radical overhaul of the manuscript: “Are young women considered ideal candidates for the sorts of international marketing/public relations/sales jobs many of the women get? How are ideologies of language acquisition gendered in Taiwan, and are these women seen as compromised in terms of their relationships and friendships with foreigners?”

Ideologies of language acquisition are indeed highly gendered in Taiwan, with the idea that males are simply no good at learning languages regarded by many as a commonsensical notion. This common belief results, of course, in language study beyond minimum requirements being almost exclusively the preserve of females. At the start of this research, I did not set out to include only female participants. In the junior college program specializing in languages that I was recruiting participants from, male students were, however, very much in the minority and my pool of possible participants consisted almost entirely of female students. Because it is commonly believed that female brains are specifically wired for learning languages, young women are encouraged to study foreign languages and pursue careers in international marketing, public relations, and interpreting – the sorts of occupations that my participants did, in fact, wind up in. My participants, in their interviews, had indeed addressed Taiwan’s gendered language learning ideologies and the notion of gendered language work, as well as positioning by others due to their relationships with foreigners. In my revisions, the focus on gender and the intersectional questioning that this focus necessitated really did change the fundamental character of the book.

In what now seems to be a glaring omission, I neglected to include an ‘Acknowledgements’ page for this book. This can be attributed to the extreme sense of relief I felt when the editors allowed me to go over the stipulated word limit with my final revised manuscript. Looking back now, I’m pretty sure they would have had no problem with my adding an ‘Acknowledgements’ page, but at the time, I was reluctant to request any more words for anything. I will take this opportunity now then to acknowledge the assistance and contributions of numerous individuals: my study’s participants, without whom the research and book would not have been at all possible; my doctoral thesis supervisors, Lionel Wee, Joseph Sung-Yul Park, and Mie Hiramoto; and everyone at Multilingual Matters, who were all incredibly patient with me, granting me extension after extension as I struggled to address reviewer concerns. And I am also immensely grateful to the anonymous reviewer who alerted me to the inadequacies of the earlier version of my manuscript – before gender was prominently brought to the fore.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Language, Education and Neoliberalism edited by Mi-Cha Flubacher and Alfonso Del Percio.