Nurturing the Vocabulary Studies Tree

We recently published Vocabulary Theory, Patterning and Teaching edited by Paweł Szudarski and Samuel Barclay. In this post the editors discuss their book’s contribution to the flourishing field of vocabulary studies.

Let’s step back in time. It is the 1940s and we are sitting in the back of an English language class. The teacher is standing at the front reading a dialogue aloud. After listening, we voice first one character and then the other before completing substitution, transformation, and chain drills. Forty-five minutes later we recite the dialogue perfectly and leave the classroom smiling.

Cut to thirty years later, the 1970s, and the teacher has embraced the communicative approach. We are interacting with our classmates, completing discussion and problem-solving activities. We are encouraged to focus on transacting meaning and communicating fluently, and after another, slightly noisier, forty-five minutes we stand up to leave.

These two scenarios represent markedly different views of language, learning, and learners and yet they are similar in one very important way: neither adopts a principled approach to the teaching and learning of vocabulary. In 2021, although many curricula may still lack a systematic process of vocabulary selection, instruction, and recycling, the picture looks, on the whole, lexically richer, at least when it comes to empirical findings and a growing interest in this area. Vocabulary plays an increasingly central role in language teaching, and research into lexical studies has flourished over the past few decades. The field then, is in a healthy state.

This situation has not come about by chance but rather is the result of the consistent endeavour of a handful of individuals. These researchers nurtured the foundations of the field, providing the roots upon which current research activity proudly stands, actively cultivating the field from an overlooked sapling into the position of prominence it holds today. One of these scholars is Professor Norbert Schmitt, in whose honour this edited volume is written. Anyone who knows Second Language Acquisition and Vocabulary Studies knows Norbert from his considerable research contributions over the last 30 years, and perhaps also the colourful Tigger t-shirts he wears to conferences. He has written about various aspects of the field – teaching and learning, formulaic language, assessment, theory – and, crucially, for a variety of audiences – from textbooks for students and introductory books for instructors, to research manuals and reports for those who are more research oriented. In doing so, he has helped to ignite and sustain research interest in vocabulary, while nurturing the next generation of scholars and ensuring that students of applied linguistics have a positive educational experience.

This volume is, however, much more than an extended thank-you letter to Norbert. It presents cutting-edge research from prominent scholars in the field. There are nine experimental chapters organised into three sections – theory and assessment, formulaic language, and teaching and learning. Each section also contains an opening chapter written by leading scholars in the field of Vocabulary Studies, where they offer their perspective on the reported findings, their place within the wider area of lexical and applied linguistic research, and also make suggestions for future studies. In this way, the volume acts as a microcosm of Norbert’s career; it contains thought-provoking and innovative designs and methodologies, but also seeks to foster future research activity. There is also a fascinating preface written by Michael McCarthy and a hilarious afterword penned by Zoltan Dornyei, both of whom were Norbert’s colleagues and collaborators during his career at the University of Nottingham. The volume represents, to continue the metaphor started above, that the vocabulary tree is strong and healthy. It has solid roots and is growing ever bigger, expanding in different directions, and becoming denser in certain key areas. Thankfully, the more it develops, the more ground it has the capacity to influence, the more nutrients its products feed into the educational ecosystem. The image on the front cover of this volume is this tree and we hope that the reported findings sufficiently contribute to the foliage. We may have stretched the metaphor a little too far now, so let us make one final point before wrapping up.

This volume would not have been possible without our gracious contributors. Specific thanks go to Ana Pellicer-Sanchez. Not only has she co-authored a chapter, but she also suggested we contact each other when first I (Paweł) and then I (Sam) called her to discuss an idea for an edited volume. What started as an innocent chat in a small café in London has now turned into an academic publication we are deeply proud of. It has been a great pleasure to have worked together on this volume for the past three years. It has not been all hops and barley, but our work as editors was made easier by the energy and positivity of all the collaborators. It is a sign of the esteem in which Norbert is held that each and every person we emailed about contributing to the volume replied enthusiastically. We hope that you are similarly enthusiastic about the volume and look forward to hearing your thoughts. Happy reading!

Paweł Szudarski and Sam Barclay

For more information about this book, please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Perspectives on the L2 Phrasicon by Sylviane Granger.

Why We Notice

We recently published Language Teacher Noticing in Tasks by Daniel O. Jackson. The author previously wrote a post explaining the concept of ‘teacher noticing’ – in this follow-up post, he discusses why we notice.

Following up on my previous blog contribution on Language Teacher Noticing in Tasks, I wanted to share that book’s practical implications. In my view, one role of a language teacher is to consciously perform the art of noticing. This differs from noticing by learners and is grounded in core assumptions about language learning and teaching. As the book explains, teacher noticing involves attending to, interpreting, and making decisions about events while engaging with learners. Noticing is essential to teaching practice because it supports five major goals.

The first three pertain directly to instruction. Namely, noticing helps us to:

  1. Build rapport – Harmonious relationships and a friendly atmosphere improve the learning environment. Teachers need to be able to swiftly orient to student identities to achieve rapport, which provides the foundation for communication and engagement. We can also ask students what they want us to notice.
  2. Support acquisition – Because second language development is highly individualized, scholars argue that it is effective to focus on form at the point of need during communicative lessons. This means attending to a learner’s use of language and acting on it appropriately. To provide such feedback, we can tell students what we noticed.
  3. Enhance participation – Learning-centered lessons depend on active participation. Teachers can notice various dimensions of engagement by asking themselves at key points during their lessons: Who are my students connecting to? What are they doing/thinking? How do they feel about it?

The final two goals link instruction to teacher development, where noticing is used to:

  1. Foster reflection – Noticing-based reflection is valuable because it relies upon evidence drawn directly from teaching experiences. By focusing on interactions with learners, we improve our classroom practice, refine our noticing skills, and develop professional identities as “noticers” of student learning.
  2. Guide observation – We can also co-notice with teaching colleagues during class visits. By sharing our insights, we can coach others toward professional development. To enhance post-observation feedback sessions, try to establish a focus prior to the observation, to which the teacher and all observers pay close attention.

These reasons to notice are discussed in more detail in the book, which opens the door to an integrated account of noticing by teachers and learners by providing a theoretical framework and methodological options for future studies. The book also reports a task-based study of noticing by pre-service English teachers in Japan. More research is needed on when, what, and how language teachers notice, as we live through and learn from these challenging times.

You can read the author’s previous post here.

For more information about Language Teacher Noticing in Tasks please see our website.

Native Speaker Privilege and Linguistic Racism in ELT

This month we published The Role of Context in Language Teachers’ Self Development and Motivation by Amy S. Thompson. In this post the author explains the inspiration behind the book.

This book is the culmination of years of experience as a researcher/scholar in SLA, before which I was a language teacher. As a researcher, I’m oftentimes hesitant to ask for participants; I feel as if I am encroaching on others’ personal space and time. For the data used to write this book, some of the language professionals represented are personal acquaintances, and some were part of an IREX fellowship program. An unforgettable moment when collecting data for this project was when a dyad of the IREX teachers thanked me for taking the time to listen to and record their stories. During the fellowship program, these teachers, some of whom had over 20 years of teaching experience, had been repeatedly instructed on how to teach more effectively – how to incorporate the American way of doing things. This particular teacher dyad told me “thank you for listening to our experiences, as we also have something to offer to the teaching profession.” In all of the conversations with the teachers, not one of them indicated a desire to be a native English speaker; in fact, their bi-/multilingual identities played a strong role in forming their ideal teacher selves.

I have taught languages both in my L1 (English) and in my L2s (Spanish and French); thus, I have been on both sides of the native/non-native spectrum. Nonetheless, as a white American L1 English speaker, I have enjoyed privileges that others have not. For these reasons, and others, this book is personal. The experience that I had with this data collection made me even more determined to accurately depict the teachers’ stories. I learned all that I could about their contexts when working on the individual chapters and sent the willing teachers, and others familiar with the contexts, drafts of the chapters for feedback. I purposefully did not censor comments from the teachers relating to the impact of American politics on learning English; as academics, our jobs are to push boundaries, which includes breaking down white fragility. English speakers, particularly white English speakers, need to be confronted with their privilege. Linguistic racism is still prevalent world-wide today, and in order to combat it, we need to first acknowledge its existence, as well as the effects it has on language curriculum and policies.

Early on in my university education, I saw the privilege for native speakers of English; I was hired (“hired” being not really the case, as the work was as a volunteer) as an “assistante anglaise” during my study abroad year in Paris where I taught English classes at a public elementary school and at the high school “Henri IV.”  I was 20 years old and had absolutely no training as a language educator; I was hired because of my L1 English-speaking status. After graduation, I was officially hired (with the whopping salary of 743 euros a month) as an “assistante anglaise” in the small Pyrenean town of Bagnere-de-Bigorre.  Again, I had absolutely no training in language pedagogy.

My situation isn’t unique.  Places all over the world are hiring L1 English speakers (or those who can physically pass for L1 English speakers), sometimes ignoring those who have spent years training and have passed rigorous content and pedagogy exams.  My friend’s brother who was hired to teach in Chile; my student who was hired in China so they could put her face on the recruiting brochures; my own situation being hired to teach English in France; the Turkish government’s campaign to bring in native speakers to teach English all over the country – situations such as this undermine and undervalue the years of education of bi-/multilingual English teachers all over the world.

Don’t get me wrong, I am extremely grateful for the opportunities overseas English teaching has afforded me; in fact, it was the start of my academic career in Applied Linguistics. Sitting in my small room in Bagneres-de-Bigorre, I remember thinking to myself that I had so much still to learn about language learning and teaching. Fast forward to today, I now have the experience of mentoring future language teachers and researchers. Like many Americans, talking about racism is difficult for me, but I push myself to read and have discussions about race and racism, including linguistic racism. Likewise, these issues are difficult to integrate into classroom discussions; however, these are not topics that we can continue to ignore, and we have the responsibility as language educators and researchers to ensure that our students, as future language researchers and educators, have the tools and resources needed to break down linguistic racism via curricular and/or policy change. What steps will you take today to help move us towards this goal?

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Theorizing and Analyzing Language Teacher Agency edited by Hayriye Kayi-Aydar, Xuesong (Andy) Gao, Elizabeth R. Miller, Manka Varghese and Gergana Vitanova.

Getting and Keeping Language Learners Engaged

This month we published Student Engagement in the Language Classroom edited by Phil Hiver, Ali H. Al-Hoorie and Sarah Mercer. In this post the editors explain how the book came about and why it’s important.

All three of us share an interest in the practicalities of getting learners engaged and keeping them engaged. As educators and researchers, we recognized for some years how this has become increasingly difficult in the face of the multitude of distractions competing for learners’ attention. In 2018, we met at the PLL3 conference in Japan. Sarah had already begun work with Zoltán Dörnyei exploring the notion of engagement in depth with a book aimed at educators concentrating on practical issues based on an underlying theoretical frame (Mercer & Dörnyei, 2020). However, all of us felt there was still a need for a greater research commitment to the construct of engagement in SLA. At PLL3, the inspiring relevant plenary by Richard Ryan sealed our resolve to bring such a collection of research papers together. Given its heritage, we are especially honored to have an introduction from Richard Ryan to preface the collection.

In our previous work, we had all seen that although learners may be motivated and want to learn, at the critical moment, their attention could be hijacked leaving them disengaged with the objectives of their learning despite their initial good intentions and motives. Clearly, motivation still has a role to play in understanding learning processes, but learner engagement seems to provide a critical link between learners’ intentions and their actions. What is the nature of engagement, how can it be fostered, and how does it connect with other key variables in language learning – these were some of the key questions driving our interest in compiling this exciting collection of papers.

To date, engagement in language learning has remained relatively unexplored apart from some notable pioneers who have conducted key studies in SLA. This book is intended to chart some of the territory of language learner engagement, pointing out the key areas that can be connected to and built upon but also new directions and avenues yet to be investigated. Engagement is a core foundation for successful learning. While motivation represents an intention to engage, engagement itself is the action state driving learning. Engagement is a complex, multifaceted construct comprised of affective, cognitive, social, and behavioural elements. It is closely interconnected with motivation but differs in its temporal and actional frame. It is a hugely important construct to comprehend, as without engagement, there will be no learning. We are excited to share this collection with you. We expect to continue to learn much more about engagement of different forms in the context of language learning and teaching in the years to come – our hope is that this collection can provide the impetus for that next wave of engagement research.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Contemporary Language Motivation Theory edited by Ali H. Al-Hoorie and Peter D. MacIntyre.

Behind the Books: Language Education in a Changing World

In the second video in our Behind the Books series Rod Bolitho and Richard Rossner talk about their new book, Language Education in a Changing World, with Maria Heron.

Language Education in a Changing World is available now on our website. Enter the code BTB30 at the checkout to get 30% off!

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.

Does a Language Teacher’s Identity Matter?

Next month we are publishing Language Teacher Recognition by Alison Stewart. In this post the author explains how the book came about and what readers will learn from it. 

Does a language teacher’s identity matter? What about the case of Filipino teachers of English working in Japan?

Filipinos used to be denied access to jobs as English teachers in Japan because they weren’t regarded as “native speakers”, and hence not the right kind of people to teach English. Nowadays, they are being hired in large numbers to work across the range of public and private schools, particularly in elementary and preschool education. What has changed? And how has this affected the lives of Filipinos living in Japan?

I first came across a group of Filipino English teachers a decade ago and have been following the group’s activities and progress since then. The successes of many of the group’s members inspired me to start collecting their stories. Through the narratives of eight women and one man, we can see how the changing social conditions of Japan – from migration patterns to educational reforms to shifts in ideologies about language and identity – are reflected in the career paths and aspirations, the disappointments and the triumphs, of Filipino teachers in Japan.

Seven of the teachers belong to an organization, Filipino English Teacher in Japan (FETJ), which supports and trains would-be English teachers. The different narratives allow us to trace the various, at times conflicting, interests and motivations that have propelled the rapid growth of this organization from informal study group to social activism on behalf of a marginalized minority in Japan to teacher training NPO and conduit to potential employers.

Identity is a hot topic in language education research these days, but this is the first time that it has been explored through the lens of Recognition Theory. In the book I’ve attempted to explain why recognition deserves our attention, how it differs from the poststructuralist approach that currently dominates the field, and how it can underpin a “moral turn” in the field. A focus on mutual recognition in different social domains – between those we care for, in large social groups, and in society at large – places social justice firmly at the center of our research endeavors.

The narratives of the nine Filipino teachers, and my own story as well, are presented in their entirety. This too is a break away from current research practices. Readers will find their own resonances in the stories, but I have used them as stepping-stones into discussions on privilege and marginalization, on language teacher associations, on language teaching as a career, and on the very language that we use to talk about identity in language education research.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Identity, Gender and Teaching English in Japan by Diane Hawley Nagatomo.

Exciting New Multilingual Matters Titles for 2020

We can’t believe the first month of 2020 is almost over! It seems like only yesterday we were decorating the office and singing along to our Christmas playlist. However, if January has seemed like a very long month to you, we have plenty of exciting new titles coming up to fend off the winter blues. Here’s a selection of what we’ve got in store for you this spring…

Global TESOL for the 21st Century by Heath Rose, Mona Syrbe, Anuchaya Montakantiwong and Natsuno Funada

This book explores the impact of the spread of English on language teaching and learning. It provides a framework for change in the way English is taught to better reflect global realities and to embrace current research. The book is essential reading for postgraduate researchers, teachers and teacher trainers in TESOL.

Speaking Spanish in the US by Janet M. Fuller and Jennifer Leeman

This book introduces readers to basic concepts of sociolinguistics with a focus on Spanish in the US. The coverage goes beyond linguistics to examine the history and politics of Spanish in the US, the relationship of language to Latinx identities, and how language ideologies and policies reflect and shape societal views of Spanish and its speakers.

Teaching Adult Immigrants with Limited Formal Education edited by Joy Kreeft Peyton and Martha Young-Scholten

This book aims to empower teachers working with adult migrants who have had little or no prior formal schooling, and give them the information and skills that they need to reach the highest possible levels of literacy in their new languages.

Essays on Conference Interpreting by James Nolan

This book, drawing on the author’s 30-year career, seeks to define what constitutes good interpreting and how to develop the skills and abilities that are conducive to it. It places interpretation in its historical context and examines the uses and limitations of modern technology for interpreting.

 

The Dynamics of Language and Inequality in Education edited by Joel Austin Windle, Dánie de Jesus and Lesley Bartlett

This book contributes new perspectives from the Global South on the ways in which linguistic and discursive boundaries shape inequalities in educational contexts, ranging from Amazonian missions to Mongolian universities, using critical ethnographic and sociolinguistic analyses.

The Emotional Rollercoaster of Language Teaching edited by Christina Gkonou, Jean-Marc Dewaele and Jim King

This book focuses on the emotional complexity of language teaching and how the diverse emotions that teachers experience are shaped and function. The book covers a range of emotion-related topics on both positive and negative emotions, including emotional labour, burnout, emotion regulation, resilience, emotional intelligence and wellbeing.

 

Seen something you like? All these titles are available to pre-order on our website and you can get 50% off this month when you enter the code JANSALE at the checkout!

Using Ethnomethodological Conversation Analysis in Research on Teaching

Next month we are publishing The Embodied Work of Teaching edited by Joan Kelly Hall and Stephen Daniel Looney. In this post the editors tell us more about the methodology used in the research for this book.

The Embodied Work of Teaching is based on the premise that language teaching is sophisticated, professional work. Such work has typically been represented in the literature as propositional knowledge about teaching. Numerous essays and books exist that tell teachers how they should teach, e.g. ‘connect to students’ experiences’, ‘maintain everyone’s attention’, ‘promote student participation, and ‘be prepared for contingencies.’ Missing from this abundant literature, however, are studies on how teaching is actually accomplished. This volume addresses this gap by showcasing studies that document in rich empirical detail the complex, embodied achievement of language teaching in a variety of instructional settings.

The studies draw on the theoretical foundations and methodological tools of ethnomethodological conversation analysis (EMCA). A dominant approach to the study of social action, EMCA considers the nature and source of human sociality to be fundamentally cooperative, locally accomplished, and grounded in real-world activity. The purpose of EMCA research on teaching is to describe the natural features of classroom life as they are actually produced by teachers and students without reducing them to collections of discrete, insignificant acts. Data-driven and analytically inductive, EMCA relies on a set of robust transcription conventions to identify and describe the fine-grained details of the specialized actions of teaching, the learner actions they engender and the larger pedagogical projects they accomplish.

As demonstrated in the studies in this volume, in addition to instructing or directing others, language teaching involves the ongoing management of alignment, affiliation and multiple participant frameworks through the simultaneous and sequential coordination of numerous embodied resources in addition to language, including body positions, facial expressions, gaze, gesture, and objects in the environment. The studies are not offered as exemplars of best practices; that is, they do not claim to showcase how teaching should be accomplished. Rather, they demonstrate how it is accomplished in particular settings, by particular teachers with particular pedagogical goals and with particular students. As instructive descriptions of the interactional, embodied achievement of teaching, the studies offer to scholars of teaching, teacher educators, teachers and other stakeholders the opportunity to see and understand the sophisticated practices of teaching in new and potentially transformative ways.

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting you might also like Objects, Bodies and Work Practice edited by Dennis Day and Johannes Wagner.

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.