By Sari Pietikäinen, Alexandra Jaffe, Helen Kelly-Holmes, Nik Coupland
Sociolinguistics from the Periphery "presents a fascinating book about change: shifting political, economic and cultural conditions; ephemeral, sometimes even seasonal, multilingualism; and altered imaginaries for minority and indigenous languages and their users"
Review of Language Teacher Education in a Multilingual Context
¬SUMMARY ‘Language Teacher Education in a Multilingual Context, Experiences in Hong Kong’ is a collection of studies exploring the situation of potential English language teachers in Hong Kong, and seeks to understand issues in this specific multilingual context. English is one of the country’s official languages, together with Cantonese and Putonghua (standardized varieties of Chinese) and it is widely used in the business and professional sectors. Knowledge of English, according to the authors, is considered an essential asset for career and social development; therefore English language learning is important to the country’s education system. The authors, who are also the editors of the book, present their findings as follows.
In the introduction, the authors present the language teaching situation in Hong Kong and discuss the role that teacher identity plays for those aiming to enter the profession of English language teaching. They have conducted in-depth research, from various perspectives, in order to display the increasingly complex and challenging conditions and policies regarding pre-service English language teachers. The language teaching profession has generated great concern in Hong Kong and beyond. The researchers include Chinese language teachers in the study because of the recent introduction of Putonghua as a medium of instruction in local schools.
The book is organized in four parts. Part I: Being a Teacher in Multilingual Hong Kong: Motivation and Challenges, examines pre-service teachers’ motivations for becoming language teachers in Hong Kong and the challenges they face. Chapters 2-4 offer various perspectives on the situation. In chapter two, ‘It is not a Bad Idea for me to be a Language Teacher’, Xuesong Gao and John Trent elaborate on the experiences of ten elite Chinese student English teachers and investigate why they chose to pursue teacher education in Hong Kong. The chapter concludes with recommendations for stakeholders and policy makers to support foreign students’ professional development. In chapter three, ‘Cross-Border Pre-Service Teachers in Hong Kong: Identity and Integration’ Mingyue Gu concentrates on the teaching identities of elite non-local teachers. The author explores the participants’ identities as English language teachers with distinct linguistic and cultural influences and backgrounds. In the fourth and final chapter of the first part, ‘Journeys towards Teaching: Pre-Service English Language Teachers’ Understandings and Experiences of Teaching and Teacher Education in Hong Kong’, John Trent investigates the difficulties faced by pre-service language teachers in Hong Kong when forming their own identity. This chapter discusses the participants’ perspectives on language teaching and their peers when having completed their undergraduate degree in teacher education.
Part II: Being a Teacher in Multilingual Hong Kong: Culture, Commitment and Recruitment, builds on Part I. Part II explores the complexities and implications of the experiences language teachers face in the country. In chapter five, ‘Language Teachers and the Falling Language Standards in Hong Kong: An Internet-Based Inquiry’, Xuesong Gao questions whether teachers in Asian contexts are in a society and tradition that respects them. The author argues that cultural traditions can work against language teachers and educational reforms, especially in the age of the internet. Mingyue Gu reports on a comparative study in chapter 6, ‘A Comparative Study on Commitment to Teaching’ which explores the motivation and commitment to teaching student teachers from mainland China and their local peers. The writer examines educational experiences in the education programmes that influence cross-border students’ motivation to teach and their commitment to teaching. In the seventh chapter, ‘The Construction and Reconstruction of Teacher Identities: The Case of Second Career English Language Teachers in Hong Kong’, John Trent draws on evidence on how second-career English language teachers may be better supported in their professional training.
Part III: Being a Teacher in Multilingual Hong Kong: The Role of International Forces investigates the procedure for becoming a teacher in the specific multilingual country considering the discourses of teaching and learning that derive from Hong Kong’s educational system. In chapter eight, ‘Learning, Teaching, and Constructing Identities Abroad: ESL Pre-Service Teacher Experiences During a Short-Term International Experience Programme’, John Trent discusses the effect of short-term interest programmes and teacher beliefs about themselves as practitioners. It draws on teachers’ pre-service experiences during a short-term international programme in Australia. In chapter nine, ‘Identity Construction in a Foreign Land: Native-Speaking English Teachers and the Contestation of Teacher Identities in Hong Kong Schools’, John Trent reports on a qualitative study on the discursive positioning of native-speaking English teaching professionals. Trent reflects on insights from discourse theory to examine the self-positioning of the teachers in question.
Part VI: Being a Teacher in a Multilingual Hong Kong: Language and Politics, consists of the two final chapters focusing on the sociocultural landscapes of becoming a language teacher in the Hong Kong context. This final part reflects on the effect of the many changes in the education system and the challenges faced by practitioners discussed in previous chapters. This part connects the interface of language and politics with their effect on the profession. Additionally, part VI provides suggestions as to how teachers can respond to such political and linguistic forces by implementing teacher agency to create their own identities as language educators within the particular context. Xuesong Gao, in chapter ten, ‘Political Conspiracy or Decoy Marketing?: Experienced Chinese Teachers’ Perceptions of Using Putonghua as a Medium of Instruction in Hong Kong’, attempts to give Chinese teachers a voice regarding the issue of Putonghua being promoted as the medium of instruction, a great challenge for Chinese teachers. Eight language teachers took part in an interpretive inquiry, with a focus on attitudes about the medium of instruction. In chapter eleven, An Ethico-Political Analysis of Teacher Identity Construction’, Mingyue Gu investigates how language educators may enact their ethical activity to conceptualize new prospects for the reestablishment of their teacher identities. Gu’s in-depth investigation includes the nature of language education amongst a group of pre-service teachers and the formation and discursive determination of identity structure.
EVALUATION The evidence presented on the procedure for becoming a language teacher in Hong Kong, practitioners’ motivations and their identity formation represent a substantial contribution to the field of English language teaching, specifically teacher education, an underresearched and neglected area. The book is structured in a way which allows the authors to elaborate on the various issues investigated and so to provide readers with a clear picture of what occurs in Hong Kong, and give suggestions on how the situation can improve for potential language teachers and evidently language learning. Additionally, John Trent, Xuesong Gao and Mingyue Gu present the challenges faced by pre-service language educators, especially those from the mainland of China.
The contributors investigate the education system, the pre-service programmes and the effects they have on the language teaching profession, giving the reader a holistic view of professional development. This book develops valuable insights regarding Hong Kong’s teacher education policies and sociocultural issues, and provides a vivid description of research designs employed, which could provide models for similar contexts in other Asian countries and multilingual contexts, and inspire future doctoral studies in the field. I should note that there are, unfortunately, many typographical errors in the volume.
The book will be of great significance to language teachers, policy makers and researchers in applied and sociolinguistics, especially those focusing on language teacher development from an educational and/or political perspective. Further research in this domain is needed in order to establish higher standards of professional development, and this book provides readers with interesting and valuable input. There is, of course, room for more research in pre-service teacher education. There can be a continuation of the specific study, where a wider community of participants could contribute to the field, resulting to more information on the situation regarding pre-service teachers’ needs. Further studies can be conducted looking into the sociocultural element of becoming a language teacher to begin with.
In short, this book provides readers with helpful and hands-on information about educational programmes in Hong Kong. The authors successfully present the ethico-politics of teacher identity and the effects it has on the profession. With studies such as these, researchers and practitioners are offered a deeper understanding of teacher identities, especially the identities formed by teachers who enter a foreign country to pursue the profession of language teaching. More research on identity will help policy makers and stakeholders understand the needs of the pre-service language teachers and provide them with suitable training. Finally, awareness can be raised for a wider public and help clarify the significance of language teaching in modern education.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Christina Nicole Giannikas, PhD is a researcher at Cyprus University of Technology and online events support for IATEFL YLTSIG. She has taught English to adults and young learners in the UK and Greece and was a seminar tutor/guest lecturer at London Metropolitan University. Dr. Giannikas was also an assistant researcher for the ELLiE project (Early Language Learning in Europe). Her research interests include communicative language teaching, the use of the mother tongue in language teaching, the study of diglossia, educational policies, early language learning and the use of new technologies in the foreign language classroom.