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Language Teacher Education In A Multilingual Context: Experiences From Hong Kong

This volume is the first to offer a comprehensive and, at the same time, in-depth examination of the spread of English and English language education across Greater China. It consists of two parts. Part 1 presents rich sociolinguistic data for easy comparisons between mainland China, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macao, while Part 2 explores in depth the phenomena inside mainland China to provide contrastive analysis of English language use and education in economically booming areas such as Shanghai and Guangdong and underdeveloped regions like Xinjiang and Yunnan.

This impressive collection brings together 21 international scholars who provide a fascinating in-depth look at English language teaching and use across the linguistically and culturally complex area called Greater China. Not only do these authors provide valuable documentation of the history, implementation and impact of language policies and English teaching in different countries and diverse regions of Mainland China, but collectively they also challenge us to rethink many of the theories, models, and concepts which have long dominated the fields of English language teaching, applied linguistics, and bilingual education.

As such, this book makes a most significant and valuable contribution.

Code choice in the Chinese as a foreign language classroom

It is a valuable text for graduate students and researchers alike who are interested in knowing more about English language education and its stakeholders in this region of Asia. In summary, this book is practically inspiring, contextually complex, and theoretically rich.

Policy makers can compare and contrast various dimensions of English language planning to make informed decisions for particular contexts. Language teachers will gain insights into the rationale behind different models and teaching approaches. For language researchers, it revisits and synthesises theory around World Englishes, linguistic imperialism, cultural and linguistic capital, social divisiveness, and home or minority language maintenance.

This proposition is consistent with, but expands upon, Wallace's notion of "experiential knowledge. Language teacher educators, then, are beginning to recognise the complex, interwoven, multi-sourced and changing nature of what teachers "know.

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If experiential knowledge is accepted as a powerful contributor to teachers' beliefs, and if experiential knowledge includes not only that derived from classroom teaching and learning experience but also from life experience, then language learning experience, formal or informal, must be worthy of investigation in terms of how it influences teachers' store of knowledge and beliefs.

I propose that language learning experience is a powerful shaper of insights which interact in dialectical ways with knowledge and beliefs gained from formal and informal sources. The data reported here derives from a study of 31 practising teachers of ESL to adults in Australian language centres.

The aim was to explore the links between teachers' language learning background and their professional knowledge and beliefs. The study recruited teachers from three main groups:. The researcher acknowledged from the outset that these are broad and unrefined categories, which do not reflect the real diversity of language experience, but it was important to establish them initially in order to ensure recruitment of respondents of the widest possible range of language backgrounds.

Data in the form of interviews and oral language biographies was then gathered with the purpose of achieving a richer, more complex representation of language learning experience and its effect on the teachers' knowledge, beliefs and reported practices. The study focussed on how teachers constructed and described their professional knowledge and beliefs, rather than on overt evidence of such knowledge and beliefs observed in classroom teaching.

The rationale for this is as follows: Most studies of how teacher beliefs and experience relate to their practice are small-scale longitudinal studies in the ethnographic tradition see, for instance, Woods, ; Gutierrez-Almarza, ; Tsui, , for the very good reason that to examine teaching practice, a researcher needs to observe and document classroom teaching for some time and in a range of contexts, and this limits the number of participants in the study for practical reasons.

It appeared, therefore, that there was a useful place for a study of the language experiences of ESOL teachers that cast a wider net than previous studies, to capture and examine the substance and character of different bilingual and second language learner experiences. Twenty-nine of the teachers were female and two were male, and their ages ranged from early twenties to early sixties. They were recruited from seven immigrant ESL centres in four Australian cities, and their ESL experience ranged from less than one year to over twenty years.

Although no claims are made as to representivity, it was clear that recruitment of volunteers resulted in a diversity of demographic profiles. Their language profiles ranged from being totally monolingual to balanced bilingualism. A semi-structured interview was held with each teacher about his or her teaching approaches and beliefs. Wherever possible, permission was obtained to observe a class beforehand, and this assisted in linking planned questions to specific classroom incidents.

The interview protocol contained 22 open-ended questions about their approaches to teaching ESL. Questions included: approaches to teaching grammar, pronunciation and vocabulary; the challenges of learning ESL for students, and the challenges of teaching ESL through the medium of English. They were asked to articulate their beliefs about languages, and how best language learning and language teaching are conducted, and to speculate as to the formative influences on their beliefs. After the interview, a detailed language biography was elicited from each teacher about languages spoken, level of proficiency, and in what circumstances how, when, and why they were learned.

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This language biography was purposely conducted second, so that the teachers' professional knowledge and beliefs expressed in the interview were not influenced by the researcher suggesting any link with prior language learning experience. After eliciting the language biography, however, teachers were asked if the language learning they had just described had any influence on or relevance to their ESL teaching.

Since teachers reported a total shared repertoire of languages, ranging from Anmatyerr a Central Australian Aboriginal language to Uzbek, it was clearly impossible to implement any form of objective testing of proficiency to establish a mimimal level of bilingualism. Instead teachers were asked to describe their own proficiency in whatever way they chose, and these descriptions formed the basis for allocation to a high, medium, and low proficiency rating for each language.

Code choice in the Chinese as a foreign language classroom | Multilingual Education | Full Text

The information was mapped onto a series of charts which attempted to represent the teachers' experiences from a variety of perspectives, such as age, manner, reasons for learning, affect towards the language and so on. In creating a framework for reporting, Hamers and Blanc's broad definition of a bilingual , p.

This definition allowed the researcher to allocate teachers to proficiency groupings, while still permitting a view of bilingualism as a continuum: i. However while these terms are usually used to describe speakers , for the analysis of the data they are more useful as descriptors of experiences. Hence, an immigrant may have both circumstantial and elective bilingual experience, and each of these may result in differing insights.


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The qualitative data from the interviews and biographies were analysed by recursive readings from which tentative commonalities were documented. Eventually a "saturation of knowledge" Kouritzin, was achieved, meaning that common themes began to be encountered among teachers who shared various types of language learning experiences. The process was iterative and dialectic in that analysis of the interviews revealed patterns which led to adjustments in the language biography categories that had been established, a process known as progressive focussing Tsui, While it was anticipated that different language learning experiences would result in different knowledge, beliefs, and insights, the nature of these correspondences emerged from the data.

I shall now look at some examples of how L2 experience figures in teachers' beliefs and reported practices in teaching. Two main aspects have been selected to represent type c Experience of learning an L2, and type d Experience of using an L2. Learning and communication strategies are the techniques we use from minute-to-minute to solve problems in second language use.

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Learning strategies are those relating to processing, storage and retrieval of input Brown, ESL teachers are now expected to train students in both O'Malley et al. Experience in learning strategies in an L2 usually comes from formal learning classroom or self-directed , as learners grapple with specific tasks. Experience in communication strategies often comes more readily from naturalistic exposure to the L2, wherein the learner has a real need to speak, unlike in the sheltered environment of a language class.

I have provided examples here of both formal learning and learning in a naturalistic context to show how these teachers have reflected on their own experiences and used them to inform their teaching.

Anna, a NS late bilingual who had learned and taught French, gave an example of how she was able to use visualisation of the written word in French to understand what she was hearing, and to generalise from patterns. She was later able to apply this insight to her learning of West African Krio, and now encourages her learners to look for similar patterns between L1 and English.

Colin, too, a NS BL and a highly successful language learner, has a keen awareness of his own strategies for learning new words, which he makes very explicit to his students:. An example of learning strategies used in a naturalistic context comes from Pamela, a NS late bilingual who learned Spanish in Bolivia and practised speaking encounters in her head before going out to the shops:. Later she relates how she advises her students to use similar preparation techniques before a service encounter, mentally going through vocabulary related to the topic and rehearsing requests.

Beatrice, a NS elective bilingual, described herself as a "boots and all" user of French in contrast to her husband's more cautious approach, during the year they spent living in France:. Beatrice here is describing her tendency to be "a risk-taker" in communicating with French speakers, and her husband's preference for listening and absorbing before attempting to speak. Her use of paraphrase and mime enabled her to convey meaning even when her linguistic resources were lacking.

Experience of both of these approaches is very likely to be useful to Beatrice in recognising the differing approaches her students take to communicating in L2, and recommending that they "take risks" Brown, The vast majority of ESL classes in English-speaking countries are conducted in the target language, even for beginners. This practice places demands on teachers to devise ways of elucidating meaning and structure, and places heavy demands on students to listen and practise during long periods with no recourse to L1.

Teachers may underestimate the challenge that such ESL classes place on learners; one reason why the Structured Language Learning Experience Birch, ; Lowe, is seen as a valuable tool in teacher training courses. Teachers who have personal experience of learning where L1 is not the medium of instruction, have, therefore, a much better basis for understanding the real nature of the challenge for their learners. Two of the native-speaker elective bilinguals had experience of L2-medium instruction in university contexts in Australia. Anna found her first experience of direct-method Japanese quite easy, but a second course with a teacher who talked constantly left her angry and frustrated.

She concluded that the skills of the teacher are an important factor in teaching via the target language. Paula, also a native-speaker elective bilingual, who was studying second-year university Spanish during the year of interview, found she could cope well with Spanish as the medium of instruction, but opined that in her first year which was taught in English she would not have coped:. She had previously studied English as a foreign language, but at high school the teaching medium was English.

She found the sudden transition very hard to deal with initially, but eventually got used to it and found her English improved rapidly:. Rebecca has the same kind of learning experience--having to use English with no recourse to her Las her students, and she can draw on this experience to anticipate her students' difficulties. Here I have looked at just two aspects of experience type c , experience of learning an L2.

These were experience in learning and communication strategies and experience in learning where the medium of instruction was not L1.