Book review published: Critical Perspectives on Language Education

I am happy to say that the Linguist List has just published a book review by yours truly, for an edited volume titled Critical Perspectives on Language Education: Australia and Asia Pacific (Dunworth & Zhang: 2014).

The book comprises an introduction and 10 chapters on English Language Teaching and the teaching of Languages Other Than English, in the educational context of Western Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong. These are:

  1. Occupying the ‘Third Space’: Perspectives and Experiences of Asian English Language Teachers (by Toni Dobinson)
  2. Changing Perspectives of Literacy, Identity and Motivation: Implications for Language Education (by Paul Mercieca)
  3. Constructing Meaning from the Unfamiliar: Implications for Critical Intercultural Education (by Ilan Zagoria)
  4. Can Teachers Know Learners’ Minds? Teacher Empathy and Learner Body Language in English Language Teaching (by Maggie McAlinden)
  5. Code-Switching and Indigenous Workplace Learning: Cross-Cultural Competence Training or Cultural Assimilation? (byEllen Grote, Rhonda Oliver and Judith Rochecouste)
  6. The Retention of Year 11/12 Chinese in Australian Schools: A Relevance Theory Perspective” (by Grace Zhang and Qian Gong).
  7. Towards the Establishment of a WACE [Western Australian Certificate of Education] Examination in Japanese as a Heritage Language: Critical Perspectives (by Hiroshi Hasegawa)
  8. A Place for Second Generation Japanese Speaking Children in Perth: Can they Maintain Japanese as a Community Language? (by Kyoko Kawasaki)
  9. Tamil Language in Multilingual Singapore: Key Issues in Teaching and Maintaining a Minority Language” (by Rajeni Rajan)
  10. “Functional English and Chinese as Mediums of Instruction in a Higher Institution in Hong Kong” (by Zhichang Xu)

In my review, I comment on each of these chapters, and also make the following comments about the book as a whole:

This volume makes two important contributions to the scholarship about language education. Firstly, it provides a fascinating snapshot of the linguistic ecology of Western Australia. In this regard, it is useful to read about multicultural and multilingual communities, the role(s) of English within such spaces, and the challenges faced in the maintenance of minority and heritage languages. There are interesting historical and demographic data in some of the contributions, which may be valuable to readers with an interest in the languages of Western Australia, Singapore or Hong Kong. The second contribution that the book seeks to make is to provide a critical perspective of language education. The book raises important issues about language contact, hybrid identities, and the role of education in the maintenance of non-dominant languages, mostly in the context of Western Australia. Many of the chapters that make up the collection are successful in raising awareness of such themes and problematising dominant discourses. The contributions by Xu and Grote, Oliver and Rochecouste stand out in this regard, and the points they raise resonate quite broadly.

Yet, despite the merits of individual chapters, the collection as a whole is only partly successful in delivering what it promises. As most of the chapters have been contributed by scholars working at Curtin University in Perth, Australia, issues that are of mainly local significance are over-represented, at the expense of broader themes of the linguistic ecology in the Asia-Pacific region. Moreover, there is some tension between claims like “chapters (have) been written from a position that endorses a critical approach to language and intercultural education” (p. 2) and the inclusion, in the collection, of chapters that fail to connect with the literature on critical education or critical applied linguistics, and even chapters that are only tangentially related to education. In making this observation I am not passing comment on the quality of these contributions, which is usually hard to fault; rather, it is their inclusion in a volume titled “Critical Perspectives on Language Education” that I find problematic. This problem is compounded by the lack of a strong editorial voice that could have highlighted salient unifying themes. There is sporadic reference to similarities across chapters in the introduction (pp. 1, 7) and cross-referencing in the text, but these fail to add up to an explicitly articulated argument.

In addition to the above, there are a number of minor issues with the book, which detract from its value. One is occasional carelessness in the arguments put forward by some authors. Although I do not have expertise in the Western Australian context, and cannot provide detailed commentary on the validity of individual claims, I was frustrated to find several inaccuracies in the text. For instance, there is reference to the “official language” of the USA (English is the dominant language of the country, but does not have legal status), and just a few lines after that, linguistic enclaves are referred to with the singular form ‘Sprachinsel’, rather than the plural ‘Sprachinseln’ (p. 167). Elsewhere, sources are cited which are not listed in the bibliographical sections (e.g., pp. 120, 197), and key information seems to be missing from some chapters, leading to occasional methodological opacity. Individually, these are very inconsequential infelicities, but taken together they have a cumulative effect of undermining the credibility of the book. In the same vein, it seems that the authors have been let down by Springer’s copy editors. Starting from p. xi, titled “About the Author” (sic), I found a number of punctuation, capitalisation and typesetting issues, which do little justice to the content of the book. More disconcertingly, the hierarchy of headings appears to have been flattened in many chapters. The fourth chapter, for instance, has been segmented into 26 sections, some spanning a single paragraph, and each starting with a Level 1 heading. This structure makes it unnecessarily difficult to follow the author’s argument. One hopes that such issues might be corrected in subsequent editions.

On the whole, this volume makes a useful addition to the scholarship about language education. Some of the chapters will be of particular interest to scholars interested in critical education, language contact and language maintenance. The book contains a good range of interesting examples of how concepts such as the ‘third space’ have been applied in the setting of Western Australia, and multiple thought-provoking insights into the linguistic ecologies of large, multicultural cities. I believe that the book would be especially suitable as a work of reference for teacher education programmes in these settings, as it could be used to build awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity, and it might help to counter the sometimes insular orientation of specialist teacher training. Furthermore, many of the contributions could be used to inform debates about language policy in Western Australia, and I expect that teaching practitioners and policymakers in these settings might benefit from consulting it those chapters that are relevant to their needs.

The full reference of the book is: Dunworth, K. and Zhang, G. (eds.) (2014). Critical Perspectives on Language Education: Australia and Asia Pacific. Berlin: Springer.


Featured image: Stockholm Public Library, Image Credit: Wikipedia

Call for Papers: Language Learning Technologies

I was recently sent a call for papers that may be of interest to anyone of you who’s doing English for Specific Purposes, or English for Academic Purposes, and has an interest in Educational Technology.

The Special Issue of Journal of Teaching English for Specific and Academic English for 2015 will focus on Language Learning Technologies, and a call has been put out for papers that help “to better understand the theoretical, practical, methodological and technical aspects of the language learning technologies” as well as “relevant research trends and societal needs” associated with such technologies. The issue, which will be edited by Milorad Tošić, Valentina Nejković, and Nadežda Stojković (all University of Niš, Serbia), is to be published at the end of 2015.

An indicative, but non-exhaustive, list of topics that will be considered includes the following:

  • Social computing technologies for Language Learning
  • Online communities for Language Learning
  • Virtual environments and language learning games
  • Technology enhanced assessment
  • Ontology and Semantic Web driven language learning
  • Big Data and Linked Data for language learning
  • Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) for Language Learning
  • Mobile Language Learning Technologies
  • Best practices in language learning technologies
  • Language Learning Technology Infrastructure
  • Technology intensive learning methodologies
  • Pedagogy for Language Learning Technologies
  • Technology enhanced Language Teaching

Prospective authors are invited to view submission instructions at the journal website, and are advised that the call for papers is open until 1st October 2015.

So if you happen to have done research relating to Educational technology, or maybe have insights from a recent thesis which you’d like to share, this seems like a good venue to showcase your work.


Featured image by adikos @ flickr, shared through a CC-BY licence.

A journal to avoid

A few days ago, I was sent an unsolicited Facebook message inviting me to contribute to an India-based journal called LangLit. As I assume that similar messages are being sent far and wide, I would like to caution readers against sending manuscripts to them.

First things first; here’s the message:

Call for Research Papers, Interviews, Book Reviews, Poems n Short Stories for LANGLIT: An International Peer Reviewed Open Access Journal ISSN 2349 – 5189.. (Vol.2 Issue 1) Deadline for Paper Submission: 10th Aug 2015  Date of Publication : 30th Aug 2015 [redacted]@gmail.com Sincerely hope that you will contribute.. http://www.langlit.org

Author beware

In my opinion, the journal is an example of what might be called bad faith academic publishing. A clear sign is that the journal attempts to deceive prospective authors and readers by claiming to be a peer-reviewed journal. However, as far as one can tell from the message above, the time-frame from submission to publication is merely 20 days, which is too short for meaningful peer review and corrections.

Secondly, the journal misrepresents its content, when stating that they publish “high-quality written works presenting original research with profound ideas and insightful thoughts”. A cursory glance through their latest issue (vol. 1, issue 4) shows that it contains approximately 150 (!) main submissions, plus a few dozens of interviews, short stories (e.g., A Cyborg Shipwrecked on our Shore) and poems (including Bliss of Love, Eternal Love, Love’s Sake and Proud Sacred Love). Of the papers in the issue, only one was empirical, in the sense that I understand the word, and -at the risk of sounding snobbish- it failed to impress me.

To their credit, the publishers are reasonably upfront about their Article Processing Charges. The privilege of placing your work in their journal will only set you back 500 Indian Rupees, which is about 7€ (£5, $8, or a few thousand Greek Drachmas should things go south). This sets them apart from the worst of predatory journals, but does little to improve their academic standing. From the looks of it, the charges do not include a proofreading service.

Picture1
Sample author bio

I have discussed this journal with Jeffrey Beall, who curates an authoritative index of predatory publishers, and he concurs with my assessment. You can now find LangLit in his list of standalone potential, possible or probable predatory journals.

Not convinced?

You may think that there’s little harm done by submitting a unambitious paper you may have written to a journal that has a credible-sounding title and only charges a modest fee. If that is the case, I would encourage you to think twice.

First, such a publication would harm your reputation, and the merits of the paper would be lost because of its association with bad research and mediocre poetry. Moreover, once published in a bogus journal, a paper is unpublishable elsewhere, and that includes future revisions. Not to put too fine a point to it, research published in a bogus journal is wasted. Finally, there are better ways to gainfully spend even a small amount of money. Willy Renandya suggests buying reference materials, or donating to charity that supports teacher development in under-resourced settings.

As for your article, you might consider sending it out to one of many excellent open-access journals that do not charge publication fees. Alternatively, if your work doesn’t fit their publication needs, you can always share it in a blog post!


Featured image: “Danger” by Shawn Carpenter @ Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

New article in Working Papers in TESOL & Applied Linguistics

I am happy to announce the publication an article co-authored by Juup Stelma, Zeynep Onat-Stelma, Woojoo Lee, and myself in the latest issue of Working Papers in TESOL and Applied Linguistics published by Teachers College, Columbia University.

In our article, titled Intentional Dynamics in TESOL: An Ecological Perspective, we put forward a theoretical model that draws on ecological psychology and ‘nativises’ it for TESOL. Central to this model is the construct of intentionality, which we develop, by suggesting and defining key elements of it. For the article, we have also re-analysed data from previous studies by Juup, Zeynep and Woojoo, and -using these data as examples- we show how the model can be used to further our understanding of the settings that the studies describe.

Here’s the abstract of the article:

This paper presents an ecological perspective on meaning-making, conceptualised as developing intentionality and exemplified with reference to three international TESOL settings. The paper draws on philosophical and folk-psychological perspectives on intentionality, including Searle’s (1983) distinction between intrinsic (individual) and derived (social) forms of intentionality and Young, DePalma and Garrett’s (2002) modelling of intentional dynamics in educational settings. The paper illustrates the analytical affordances of the perspective through sample analyses of intentional dynamics found in three international TESOL settings. This includes: (i) young learners’ interpretations of love and marriage in a joint writing task in a Norwegian primary L2 classroom, (ii) a Turkish teacher’s first experience of teaching English to young learners, and (iii) the impact of the English as the global language phenomenon on the teaching of English to young learners in South Korea. The paper concludes that explorations of intentional dynamics on different levels of language education activities can enhance our ecological understanding of the cognitive, social and political dimensions of TESOL.

The full citation (in APA format) is: Stelma, J., Onat-Stelma, Z., Lee, W. and Kostoulas, A. (2015). Intentional Dynamics in TESOL: An Ecological Perspective. Teachers College, Columbia University Working Papers in TESOL and Applied Linguistics 15(1) 14-32.

The paper, incidentally, is Open Access, which means that you can read, download and share it without going through a paywall. We hope that you find the article interesting and useful. As hinted by the scope of the journal, the model that we are developing is very much a work in progress, so if you want to find out more about what we are doing, or if you have any feedback, do get in touch. Oh, by the way, we are also happy to be cited. ;)


Featured Image: Fractal flame | Credit: Wikipedia | CC BY-SA

Call for Papers: Manchester Forum in Linguistics (mFiL 2015)

The Manchester Forum in Linguistics (mFiL), an annual international conference that has been organised since 2012, will take place in 6-7 November 2015 at The University of Manchester. The event is primarily addressed to post-graduate students and early career researchers in the field of Linguistics.

This year’s plenary speakers include:

  • Dr James Murphy (University of the West of England);
  • Dr Márton Sóskuthy (University of York);
  • Dr Danielle Turton (Newcastle University); and
  • Dr Jenneke van der Wal (University of Cambridge)

A call for papers has been issued for oral presentations (20 minutes, followed by a 10-minute discussion) and posters in all areas of linguistics. The organisers have indicated that proposals that have implications for theory or are methodologically innovative will be especially welcome.

Interested researchers are invited to submit an anonymous one-page abstract (A4, 2.5cm margins on all sides, 12pt Times, single-spaced) in PDF format. This should be uploaded via EasyChair by midnight (GMT) of 19 July 2015. Notification of acceptance will be given by 24 August 2015.


Featured Image by Mike Peel | CC BY-SA

Αχιλλέας Κωστούλας Ιστοσελίδα και Ιστολόγιο

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