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.

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.

Meet the rep: Andrew White, The White Partnership

We have a global network of reps in overseas territories who promote our books in areas that we are not often able to travel to ourselves. In this post we hear from Andrew White from The White Partnership who represents us in Malaysia, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore and Taiwan.

Andrew White at a sales meeting in Vietnam
Andrew White at a sales meeting in Vietnam

I have always liked travelling. My first 6 years after university were spent in tourism, as a “tour escort” on bus tours around Europe. But 1991 was a bad year for tourism, the first Gulf War broke out and there was very little work. So I got a job as a “freelance publishing agent’s representative”. I didn’t know what the job entailed when I applied, but it promised 20 weeks per year of European travel. In 1997 I became international sales manager for Edward Arnold, the medical/academic division of Hodder Headline. The majority of my time was spent visiting customers in India and in Asian countries. (I was excited to get the job and have the prospect of visiting new places!)

In 2003 I quit and went freelance myself, setting up The White Partnership, an agency for UK and US publishers, selling to the same customers in Indian and Asian markets I had got to know in the previous 6 years. Twelve years later, and I am still doing it, still enjoying it, and hopefully will continue to do so for many more years.

My earliest portfolio of clients contained only a few medical or STM (Scientific, Technical and Medical) publishers. But over the years I have taken on a wider range of publishers, trade lists, fiction, business books, schools and children’s books. As an agent I cannot limit myself to only one discipline. There are not enough independent publishers left to have the luxury of being a subject specialist. After all, if I am visiting a large bookstore chain like Kinokuniya or National Bookstore, then I may as well try to sell as many products as possible. If I don’t sell anything I don’t get paid.

Most freelance agents follow a set travel cycle, whether they are covering Europe, Africa, the Middle East or Indian/Asian markets. My own schedule normally requires at least 5 big trips a year: Jan or Feb: Delhi/Colombo, March: Hong Kong/Manila/Taipei, (April: London Book Fair), June or July: Delhi/Colombo again, August or September: Seoul/Tokyo, (October: Frankfurt Book Fair), November: Singapore/Kuala Lumpur/Bangkok. I now also add on Jakarta and Ho Chi Minh City. So in total I visit around 10 Asian cities a year, plus Delhi and Colombo. In the past I have visited other Indian cities, especially Mumbai, but Delhi is the publishing and importing hub. I also sell to accounts in Pakistan, but haven’t visited for a number of years now. I used to do so when it was safer. Now I see the booksellers in person at the bookfairs in Delhi, London and Frankfurt and maintain a constant relationship with them via email, text or phone, which is still their preferred medium.

In effect, I am the middle man between the publisher and the customer. It’s my job to present new titles that will be sellable in that particular country, and at a price low enough to be affordable for the customer, but high enough for the publisher to make the sale worthwhile. With the exception of Japan, all the countries I sell to require a big discount off the RRP, because the freight costs to import books thousands of miles are high, and the end customer’s purchasing power in India and Asia is much lower than that of a customer in the Western world. In many countries the end price of an academic text book has to be low enough to persuade a customer to actually buy it and not simply photocopy his friend’s book.

The publishers I work for are all SMEs, without their own office in territory. I have to present new titles, explain why they should be bought (important subject/famous author/great reviews/local interest etc), explain where the books will be distributed and invoiced from, (an importer will always want to do business with established suppliers, it is extra work to import books from a new distributor), agree the terms, and then wait for the official PO (purchase order) to be sent. Gone are the days when I can leave a meeting with orders in my hand. In the 21st century it is all done electronically.

For academic publishers their books are most likely to be bought by an institution, not an individual. The books don’t spend time on sale on a shelf in a bookstore. The librarians, lecturers and heads of department want newly published titles. Once the publication date of a book is more than 2 years old, then it is no longer attractive. Therefore up-to-date information flow into the market is essential, whether through hard copy catalogues or through excel listings.

The White Partnership has enjoyed success thanks to a number of factors. Most important is that I visit my accounts regularly, and therefore keep my publishers fresh in the minds of the importers. Secondly, I provide good new title information, ensuring that catalogues are received and looked at by both bookshops and institutional buyers. Thirdly, and also very importantly, I provide a good service to customers, processing orders, helping out with delivery and invoice issues and assisting with their title queries. If I were to ignore an enquiry from a customer, then he would no longer bother to order books from my publishers. And he would be right to do so…….the customer always is! Lastly, the terms of sale have to be acceptable. Even my best customers whom I’ve known for 20 years or so won’t buy unless they get enough discount to cover their overheads and still make a margin.

I enjoy my work, of course. It’s always a buzz seeing the sights and sniffing the smells of exotic cities! Books are a product, just like baked beans or washing machines, so I have to make sure I sell enough of them to make a living, but the publishing industry is by its nature an interesting “intellectual” business, so there is always something new to be involved with and to sell.

For more information about Andrew’s work please feel free to contact him at andrew@thewhitepartnership.org.uk.

Tourism and the Shifting Values of Cultural Heritage

Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall
Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall

Earlier this month I attended the Tourism and the Shifting Values of Cultural Heritage conference, organised by the Ironbridge Institute for Cultural Heritage, University of Birmingham and National Taiwan University. The conference was held at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, Taipei – easily the most impressive conference venue I’ve experienced!

Lee Jolliffe and Joyce Yeh in front of the CVP stand!

The conference was well-attended by Channel View authors, Mike Robinson was one of the conference convenors, and Lee Jolliffe, Philip Xie, Kevin Hannam and Rick Hallett all presented papers. There were a lot of delegates from different disciplines such as history and anthropology. A lot of the attendees remarked on the high quality of papers and I managed to get to a few of them – spices, anime and aboriginal tourism among the subjects.

Mike Robinson closing the conference
Mike Robinson closing the conference

Among the conference highlights were study visits round Taipei,  a 10-course banquet at the Grand Hotel which offered amazing views of the city, and an evening of karaoke – with some brilliant performances from delegates!

Taipei is a great city to visit – I’d highly recommend it 🙂

Sarah