Language Evolution: The Windows Approach addresses the question: "How can we unravel the evolution of language, given that there is no direct evidence about it?"
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Date: Mon, 28 Nov 2005 15:24:23 +0100 From: Ingrid Piller Subject: Teaching English to the World: History, Curriculum, and Practice
EDITOR: Braine, George TITLE: Teaching English to the World SUBTITLE: History, Curriculum, and Practice PUBLISHER: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates YEAR: 2005
Ingrid Piller, English Department, Basel University, Switzerland
This book is a kind of reference to English teaching in a number of countries. The editor has collected 15 articles which are all structured in the same way. Each article begins with a brief introduction to the country, usually of a geographical, demographic or historic nature. This is followed by an historical account of English Language Teaching (ELT) in the country under discussion. The third section is devoted to the ELT curriculum in that country. The next main section is devoted to a biography of an English teacher in that country – in most cases the author's autobiography. Each paper ends with a short conclusion, mostly mentioning challenges or problems for ELT in the nation under discussion.
Most of the featured nations are in Asia (PR China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, Sri Lanka). The others are located in the Middle East (Israel, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Turkey), Europe (Germany, Hungary, Poland), and Latin America (Brazil). The editor does not explain his rationale for these choices except for the absence of ELT in any African nation: the editor tried to find a representative of ELT in an African nation but didn't succeed and ''believe[s] [his] failure to some extent reflects the trauma of the African continent, devastated by civil wars, the AIDS epidemic, and economic and political crises'' (p. ix). However, a collection such as Owino (2002), with its contributions to questions of language education and policy in a range of African nations, written by leading African scholars, throws that assertion somewhat into doubt.
Given the reference character of the chapters and their uniform structure, I will not summarize individual chapters. Instead, I will move on to evaluating the undertaking as a whole.
With this, as well as a previous edited volume entitled Non-Native Educators in English Language Teaching (Braine, 1999), and his work as the founding president of the Nonnative English Speakers in TESOL Caucus (http://nnest.moussu.net/history.html), George Braine has established himself as one of the key spokespersons for non- native English-speaking teachers' (NNEST) issues. While most of the contributions to Braine (1999) were concerned with aspects of ELT and NNEST in the North American context, the concept of the NNEST has, in the present volume, been transplanted to contexts where English is a second or foreign language. I also reviewed the 1999 volume (Piller, 2000), and the contributions to that volume convinced me of the usefulness of the concepts of the NEST and NNEST to understand aspects of the ELT profession in North America. However, this is not the case with the present volume. There is such a diversity of contexts that the focus on 'non-/nativeness' seems to cloud an understanding of ELT in many of the contexts described rather than the opposite.
To begin with, it is not always NNEST who are being discriminated against in ELT institutions. The chapter by Claus Gnutzmann on Germany, for instance, indicates that it is next to impossible to find an ELT position in German public schools without German citizenship and local education and training. In this context, it is thus NEST who are being discriminated against. In this context, the differential valorization of NEST and NNEST coincides with the public-private divide in education. The public education system, where the state invests into the reproduction of the social order favors Germans, i.e. NNEST; whereas private ELT schools, which follow an economic imperative, favor NEST. Even within private schools the desired outcome may skew hiring practices differentially for N/NEST, as Chang (2004) explains with reference to ELT in Taiwan. There, conversation schools favor NEST while prep schools for various state exams favor bilingual Taiwanese teachers, i.e. NNEST.
The public-private divide points to another divide in international ELT that runs across the N/NEST divide, namely class and, often simultaneously, the rural-urban divide. A number of contributors bemoan the lack of ELT quality in their countries, but the contribution by Kanavillil Rajagopalan and Cristina Rajagopalan seems to be the only one that actually links differential English achievement in Brazil to persistent differences in wealth and privilege. Pasassung's (2003) ethnographic study of ELT in a remote village on Sulawesi is a good example of an ELT context where the issue of N/NEST is completely besides the point. In that context, ELT is of very low priority for both teachers and students, and the limited ELT that is imposed on them by the state is marred by lack of access to basic resources such as proper classroom accommodation or durable books.
Pasassung (2003) also shows that for a few girls in that village trying to excel in their English studies is their way of being ''modern'' and ''good'' at the same time. Clearly, gender is another key issue that permeates ELT internationally. The fact that ELT is a highly feminized profession, particularly at the lower levels (Pavlenko & Piller, 2001; Piller & Pavlenko, 2004) remains conspicuously invisible in the present papers – except in Peter Medgyes delightful account of his training as an English teacher in Hungary. This contributor acknowledges that his success as an English teacher had ''much less to do with [his] excellence than with the fact that [he] was a male in a female profession'' (p. 54).
As I have pointed out, the organization of the volume around nation states obscures key division in ELT within those countries – be in those of public vs. private education, those of teaching aims, those of class, or gender. However, it also obscures the global influences on ELT that work above the level of the nation state. Numerous commentators on globalization have pointed out that the loss of national sovereignty is a hallmark of globalization (e.g., Beynon & Dunkerley, 2000; Holton, 2005; Lash & Urry, 1994). The inexorable spread of English is another. Many of the practices described in the sections of the various ELT curricula can only be understood in relation to each other, and not as specific to a particular nation.
In sum, the combination of the two guiding principles of a focus on NNEST and a country-by-country focus has resulted in a rather unenlightening total. However, within that total there are some interesting individual reads, and readers interested in ELT in any of the 15 countries named above might still turn to the paper in question.
Beynon, J., & Dunkerley, D. (Eds.). (2000). Globalization: The reader. New York: Routledge.
Braine, G. (Ed.). (1999). Non-native educators in English language teaching. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Chang, J. (2004). Ideologies of English language teaching in Taiwan. Unpublished PhD, University of Sydney, Sydney.
Holton, R. (2005). Globalization. In A. Harrington (Ed.), Modern social theory: An introduction (pp. 292-312). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Lash, S., & Urry, J. (1994). Economies of signs and space. London: Sage.
Owino, F. R. (Ed.). (2002). Speaking African: African languages for education and development. Cape Town, SA: CASAS.
Pasassung, N. (2003). Teaching English in an ''acquisition-poor environment'': An ethnographic example of a remote Indonesian EFL classroom. Unpublished PhD, University of Sydney, Sydney.
Pavlenko, A., & Piller, I. (2001). New directions in the study of multilingualism, second language learning, and gender. In A. Pavlenko, A. Blackledge, I. Piller & M. Teutsch-Dwyer (Eds.), Multilingualism, second language learning and gender (pp. 17-52). Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter.
Piller, I. (2000). Review of: Non-native educators in English language teaching. Edited by George Braine. Language, 76(4), 960.
Piller, I., & Pavlenko, A. (2004). Bilingualism and gender. In T. K. Bhatia & W. C. Ritchie (Eds.), The handbook of bilingualism (pp. 489- 511). Oxford: Blackwell.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Ingrid Piller (PhD in English Linguistics, University of Technology, Dresden, Germany, 1995) holds the Chair of English Sociolinguistics and the Sociology of English as a Global Language at Basel University in Basel, Switzerland. Her current research focuses on linguistic aspects of globalization, specifically in the contexts of English language teaching and learning, romantic relationships and tourism. Her work has appeared in a variety of edited volumes and journals, including Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, International Journal of Bilingualism, Journal of Sociolinguistics, and Language in Society. Her most recent book is Bilingual Couples Talk (John Benjamins, 2002).