There are places you don’t write reviews about. You don’t write them because the review might cause more people to go, and then it won’t be what you wrote about. Surfing was the first adventure sport. And it invented the idea of the secret location. But what if you are a struggling Nicaraguan, with all your savings invested in a two room hotel. A single mum that needs to catch a bus for four hours to medical care through the dust and heat, when your daughter is sick. Who when she is isn’t sick, which she almost always isn’t, is more welcoming and relaxed than a person seems to have a right to be. This is the place you really want to go to if you are surfing in Nicaragua. The town of Gigante, the wave Colorado, the restaurant Mare Mar, and Bimania’s little hotel, Cabana’s de Gigante. Google the wave. This is the town near it, not the gringo ghetto in front. The rooms are comfy, private, secure and air conditioned. Lobster dinner’s you can’t finish for 5 bucks or so. Liters of beer for less than $2 and the best rum in the world for about $6 a half liter. Beautiful, friendly and world class waves. Enough of a party but normally a quiet fisherman’s beach. I love these people, and I never say that. The last thing I want is more people to go there, but then, I know that’s what they need. It’s an $80 taxi ride from Managua airport, which seems cheap now, but you can get there on buses through Rivas for about $5. It is about $30 from San Juan. Also there is an excellent Spanish school in the town with private lessons for between $5 and $10 per hour. I came for a weekend and stayed for 4 months. I have no financial connection at all to anyone there. Ask for Omar. He’s the only taxi driver and he’s a dude. And Birmania, the hotel owner, she’s a stunner.
Tag Archives: stuart hall
How has the spread of English as a global language impacted on English language teaching?
England and America are two countries separated by a common language.
George Bernard Shaw (1856 – 1950)
From a pragmatic personal perspective taken from a student undertaking studies in teaching English, it is very encouraging to write an essay on the implications of the spread of English as a global language. Clearly a very important implication for me is that of my expanded opportunities as an English Language teacher. Of course it’s purely chance that I’m an Australian first language speaker of English rather than for example a Russian teacher in Poland in the late eighties, watching powerless as international events devalue my intellectual capital to a degree that I am unemployable.
Before considering the implications, what does it mean for a language to become “Global” and what evidence do we have that English has attained this?
David Crystal in his book “English as a Global Language” states “A language achieves a genuinely global status when it develops a special role that is recognised in every country.” (2003: 3) Crystal indicates that English is not the most significant global language because it is the mother tongue in the most countries, as Spanish holds that position, but rather it is because of the special roles English plays within countries. He indicates that there are two main ways that countries do this. Firstly they make English an official language where it is used in areas like the law, government and education. “English …now has some kind of special status in over seventy countries. This is far more than the status achieved by any other language.” (2003: 4)
Secondly English is given status as the preferred foreign, second or additional language taught in schools or made available and desirable to be learnt within the community generally. “English is now the language most widely taught as a foreign language – in over 100 countries…and in most of these countries it is emerging as the chief foreign language to be encountered in schools, often displacing another language in the process.” (2003: 5)
Crystal cements the position of English by indicating that around a quarter of the world’s population are either fluent or competent in its use. (2003:6)
The diverse uses for English, the implications for different cultures, the changing nature of the language itself and the roles it plays in different communities are all infinitely complex. A method of simplifying and interpreting these interactions is represented within Karchru’s “Concentric Circles Model”(1985) as discussed by Joanne Rajadurai in her article, “Revisiting the Concentric Circles: Conceptual and Sociolinguistic Considerations”. This model rejects the legitimacy of the “native” and “non-native” speaker model and instead adopts one that reflects, “the types of spread, the patterns of acquisition and the functional domains in which English is used across cultures and languages” (Kachru, 1985, p.12). (Radjadurai, 2005)
Kachru’s model describes three concentric circles in the spread of the English language. These are the Inner Circle, the Outer Circle and the Expanding Circle.
The inner circle consists of what might have once been considered the “native speakers”. It includes countries like England the United States and Australia. People in these countries may often represent their cultures as being monolingual, and though this can easily be demonstrated to be inaccurate, it does indicate the very high regard in which English is held, and indeed there is probably a majority in each nation that only speak the one language.
The Outer Circle countries are ones that have a history of English Colonialism. Examples are countries including India, Malaysia and the West Indies. As in the example of India, people from Outer Circle countries will generally speak at least one or two languages as well as English. English has a particular function in legal, government and educational matters and is a lingua franca for peoples with different mother tongues. There are great regional and national variations within the English’s spoken. The Expanding circle countries account for the rest of the world. Speakers learn English for particular purposes but especially for international communication.
This model moves away from notions of a standard English possessed by native speakers, and therefore the relative inferiority of non-native speaker English. Coupled with the statistics for the exponential growth in global English use, it causes a great deal of concern for some people in the way it may be seen to be representing both a historical and continuing expansion of a hegemonic power centered in an “Inner Circle” of English language speaking countries. This theory of a deliberate expansion of hegemonic power using English as a weapon is known as Linguistic Imperialism, widely attributed to the work of Robert Phillipson who wrote a book with this title in 1992. The issues surrounding English linguistic imperialism are discussed by Phan Le Ha in her article “Teaching English as an International Language” (2008) She paraphrases Phillipson (1992) as saying that “…the dominance of English and ELT as ‘Linguistic Imperialism’ when he draws readers’ attention to the claim that the ‘Centre’ (English speaking countries) imposes it’s own cultural values, military and economic power, wants and needs upon the ‘Periphery’ through ELT and so called ‘aid’. (2008: 72)
Ha notes that under a model of Linguistic Imperialism ELT can be seen as a “weapon” or “tool” of colonialism and sites an argument from Pennycook (1998) that “ELT today is used to back up and strengthen the current global expansion of English and its underlying cultural values.” (2008:72)
Understanding the implications of this power relationship is a crucial concern for English language teachers, and has clear implications for pedagogy and practice within the classroom. The issue is acknowledged by Skehen in his article “Second and Foreign Language Learning and Teaching” where he recognises its’ importance alongside other issues in language teaching. He summarises the argument as saying that,”…the teaching of English is not a neutral activity, but contributes to the perpetuation of existing international power structures, and implicitly the downgrading of local cultures and power. (2006 :57) He makes a more specific observation, citing Adrian Holliday, in “the insufficient attention paid to local needs and to the different conditions that operate in many language teaching contexts.” (2006: 57) This second point is very important. Not only does the language teacher need to be aware of the power relations they may be inappropriately perpetuating through their pedagogy and practices, but that in strict practical terms, these practices may well be inappropriate and ineffectual anyway, in relation to the objective of English language acquisition amongst the target group. The solution to deconstructing hegemonic power relations and providing an appropriate and effectual curriculum for the diversity of English learners globally is to create resources and pedagogy that suits the individual context. In this sense the identity and experience of the teacher, meaning their cultural background and their relationship with the English language, is included as pedagogy and as a resource in the classroom.
Perhaps the most important theoretical approach educators have in deconstructing the colonialising effects implicit in ELT comes from the study of Critical Pedagogy (CP). In the article “Resisting Linguistic Imperialism in English Teaching” Canagarajah reflects on the skills CP can provide for the student. The idea is that no matter who we are or what we teach, learning is always situated and is never neutral in relation to power. In the absence of a neutral space, the best tools you can provide the student with are the tools to determine for themselves the power relationships and implicit agendas within information and teaching so as to make their own informed opinions. Canagarajah explains this “..mainstream pedagogies assume that learning is value free, pragmatic, and autonomous, they can practice teaching as an innocent and practical activity of passing on correct facts, truths and skills to students…For CP, however, teachers have the ethical responsibility of negotiating the hidden values and interest behind knowledge, and are expected to help students to adopt a critical orientation to learning.” (1999: 16-17)
It is from an understanding of CP that I feel I can best address the issues that arise in relation to my place as a teacher in an expanding or outer circle country, given that I am a representative of the inner circle hegemonic power.
Andy Kirkpatrick in his article “Implications for English Language Teaching” (2007) discusses the different models that have been used within English language teaching globally and their advantages and disadvantages within different contexts. These models are particularly useful in relation to the notion of English teaching within Kachru’s concentric circles, and in addressing issues related to the hegemonic power relations and the different needs of English students in different contexts.
Kirkpatrick presents three models. An exonormative native speaker model, an endonormative nativised model, and a lingua franca model. The exonormative native speaker model (2007:184-189) is one that has historically been chosen by the majority of outer circle countries and is probably ubiquitous amongst those in the expanding circle. The first reason it is so popular is because models based upon inner circle or what has been understood as “native speaker” English are seen to possess “prestige and legitimacy”. Complementing this, Kirkpatrick explains that exonormative models have been codified, meaning they are supported by established grammars and dictionaries. These provide a standard which learning can be easily measured against. (2007: 184)
Resources that support codified exonormative native speaker models are also far more plentiful than resources that support forms of English spoken outside of the inner circle. A massive industry exists that continually produces and promotes these resources. Accompanying them is a veritable army of native speaking middle class English teachers, desirous of employment in destinations made attractive by their lack of middle class English teachers.
Kirkpatrick also notes that there exists an innate prejudice towards inner circle English. It is often seen as the “proper” or “standard” English and that governments that strive towards this standard are “seen to be providing the best for their people”. (2007: 185)
The advantages then of this type of English teaching, according to Kirkpatrick, are that a) It has prestige and legitimacy, b) that it is codified, c) that there are numerous resources, d) it may be a popular decision for legislators. I would add two benefits to this. Firstly, along with the sense of prestige and legitimacy is the fact that studying “Native Speaker” English may meet the educational expectations of the students and therefore they may be more motivated to learn it. Secondly that governments may choose this model as it is most in line with international English testing, and so will best prepare students for success when they are measured against codified international standards.
Before considering the disadvantages, I believe it’s worth reflecting on what I consider are the two key considerations when teaching English as a Global Language. These are; where are you teaching? And, what are the students reasons for learning the language? Continuing with this in mind, Kirkpatrick presents a very sound case for the disadvantages of an exonormative model within outer circle countries, and, I believe, a less conclusive case for the disadvantages in expanding circle countries.
As a “Native Speaker” and a prospective ELT, this model very much benefits my employability and, before I commenced studies in the area, it was the only view of ELT that I was aware of. Kirkpatrick rightly points out a number of serious limitations contained in this model, with one of the main ones being how it may unjustly benefit teachers like myself, to the detriment of locally trained teachers and more importantly, the students. Turning to his words, “… the choice of an exonormative model automatically undermines the value and apparent legitimacy of a local teacher’s own model of English.” He notes that this model does not recognise the many advantages of having an English teacher that speaks the same first language as the students and has been through the same process of language acquisition that the students are undertaking. He further notes that students are presented with examples of language speaking that even their local English teachers cannot master.
Overall then, imposing a exonormative model greatly advantages the hegemonic dominance and the capitalist enterprise of inner circle countries. It undermines the skills of local teachers and provides a model that may appear unrealistic and unattainable. It fails to appreciate the benefits that accompany a bilingual teacher familiar with the students first language.
The legitimacy of this model varies when it is examined in relation to my two key considerations for English as a Global Language, being location and motivation. This model is least appropriate in outer circle countries. As Kirkpatrick points out, it is only appropriate in these contexts for students whose reason for learning English is to use it in inner circle countries, and these students are a small minority. If the motivation to learn English is other than for it’s use within an inner circle country, and if their exists a nativised form of English, then it seems reasonable that an endonormative model would both empower the local community and function better.
An endonormative model is one where “a localised version of the language has become socially acceptable.” (2007: 189) A summary of the benefits includes; the multilingualism of the teacher is recognised as an asset, the teacher provides a model of English that seems attainable by the students, the teachers are familiar with the social norms and the school community as a whole and therefore able to integrate their practice within the system, teachers are aware of and sensitive to the cultural norms and therefore are “less likely to promote Anglo-American values in the classroom.” (2007: 189), money is not wasted on employing expensive foreign teachers and purchasing expensive teaching materials.
There are some disadvantages however. The main one is consideration as to whether the language has been codified. Are there sufficient resources in terms of grammar and dictionaries to support a meaningful curriculum? Another is will the students, within a Global English context, be intelligible?
One of the biggest differences found in endomorphic localised versions of English is that they may be syllable timed rather than stress timed. This is because English is adapted to take on the structure of the first language that exists in the community that has adopted it. Returning to Crystal’s book “English as a Global Language” we can see that he recognises the importance of the issue. “…some kind of syllable-based speech among second-language English learners is widespread, apparently affecting all areas where new varieties are emerging, in Africa, South Asia, South-East Asia and the Caribbean. “ (2003: 171) He stresses the extent of this problem, suggesting that it is perhaps the most significant between established and developing Englishes. “The emergence of widespread syllable-based speech in what was formerly a stress-based hegemony has repeatedly given rise to problems of comprehension, when speakers from both constituencies interact.” (2003: 171)
Kirkpatrick dismisses the issue with the statement “…as long as speakers have a genuine motivation to communicate across cultural and linguistic boundaries, they will be able to communicate.” (2007: 189) I agree with him but I would extend this idea of motivation further to suggest that the model, overall, is far less important than the students desire to learn the language.
Consideration as to the appropriateness of an exonormative or endonormative model in expanding circle countries is more complex. On the one hand, the same negative issues are present in that it represents an extension of inner circle English culture and values. It provides a vehicle for the industry of language resources generation, it disempowers local teachers and it provides an example that students may feel is impossible to attain. However if they have to pick one model and, unless there is a regional imperative to teach a nativised English, it would seem for pragmatic reasons in terms of availability of resources and for a sense of prestige, legitimacy and potential opportunities within inner circle countries, that an exonormative model might be applied. This is a particularly sensitive issue when considered in light of regional hegemonic power as being a far more pressing issue than distant hegemonic power. China would hardly take on an Indian endonormative English.
Kirkpatrick presents a model of English as a Lingua Franca which may best address the needs of students whose purpose is to learn English as a Global Language, particularly if they reside within expanding circle countries but also within the outer circle. This model is problematised in that it cannot be codified. In this sense it is more of an approach than a model. An approach based on the aim of successful cross-cultural communication within the use of English. Kirkpatrick enthusiastically supports this approach. “In aiming to teach and learn English in ways that would allow for effective communication across linguistic and cultural boundaries the focus of the classroom moves from the acquisition of the norms associated with a standard model to a focus on learning linguistic features, cultural information and communicative strategies that will facilitate communication.” (2007: 194)
This discussion of desired approaches within the ELT classroom is a vital segue into the second part of this essay, which will consider practical tasks aimed at addressing the needs of students in a range of Global contexts, and who are studying English for a variety of purposes.
Within this essay I have presented several different global contexts where English is being studied and examined relevant issues effecting how English should be taught in each of them. I will now examine an example of how English may be taught within each of these learning environments. The environments I
have determined are; an expanding circle country using an exonormative example as a norm rather than a model and an ELF approach; an outer circle country using an endonormative model within a codified strand of English; an inner circle country teaching English with an exonormative approach to foreign students.
For each of the three I am assuming that I am the teacher. The challenge is how can a 36 year old, white, male, inner circle native speaker with university training and little experience of the language or culture of the host country, meet the language needs of students in such a global context?
My example of an expanding circle country where I am teaching an English class is in Cambodia. The group is a class of fifteen adult students between the ages of 18 and 30. Their abilities range from beginner to intermediate. It is an evening class and I am working for a volunteer organisation. Students take the classes free of charge. The motivation for students to undertake the class is primarily to enhance their employment opportunities within the service and tourism industry.
The language model is one that uses an exonormative English as a guide rather than a model, but is primarily focused upon ELF as the students will encounter more speakers who do not have English as a first language as do. Being measured against a native model is irrelevant. In fact developing a stress timed language rather than a syllable timed one could, as Crystal indicates, be a hindrance to communication. However in the absence of an appropriate nativised model, I believe that the advantages indicated by Kirkpatrick, support “native” English as a guide.
I base the structure of the class upon continuum of five categories suggested as a basis for Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) and Task Based Language Teaching (TBL) in the article “Language teaching in East Asian Classrooms” by William Littlewood. (2006: 247)
The objective of the class is for students to become familiar with the language they will experience in a hotel environment and to have experienced using this language in verbal exchanges.
i) Form focused
Students will be given a list of 16 vocabulary words. These are written on the board as well as given on a handout. On the hand out they are accompanied by a picture. Students repeat the words after the teacher. The focus is on pronunciation.
ii) Pre Communicative Language Practice.
The teacher holds up the picture. The beginner students say what the word is using their sheet. More advanced students don’t use the sheet and are encouraged to put the word into a sentence.
iii) Communicative Language Practice.
Along with an assistant. Ideally another English teacher who comes from a country other than my own. Role model interactions in a hotel that might use these words.
Perform them simply first and then, especially for the benefit of more advanced students, improvise. Make it funny and relevant to personal experience.
Students break into pairs and create interactions related to the vocab.
iv) Structured Communication.
Students break into groups of three. Spread ability levels amongst the groups. They are to produce a roleplay around the vocab and hotel situation. They are to present it back to the group.
Show a funny scene from Faulty Towers, one that relies on visual comedy more than language.
v) Authentic Communication.
Students that are ready take the role of a manager or receptionist at a hotel. The teacher becomes a customer who makes a series of requests. Adapt the requests to the level of the student. Students that are not ready for this will still benefit from observation.
Assessment is based upon being able to successfully communicate meaning in the class. They are not working towards an accreditation. During each task the teacher will provide feedback and suggestion to the students. Given that there are students of varying levels, attention to error treatment is dynamic in that confidence in speaking far more important than students being precise.
I feel that this task is realized as a CLT activity and is appropriate in relation to the aims of ELF indicated by Kirkpatrick. Particularly moving away from norms and focusing on cultural information and communicative strategies that will facilitate communication. (2007: 194)
Within this lesson and series of lessons, it is the sharing of the cultural information from cultures other than that of Cambodia, especially in my case Australian, but hopefully representing many other cultures through a range of teachers and student identities, that is just as important as the lexicon or grammar.
I make a final point about this context and this lesson in relation to linguistic imperialism and CP. Teaching English to poor students in a developing nation such that they can better serve rich English speaking tourists sets off flashing red lights in terms of power inequality. The answer is CP. Throughout the discourse in the classroom students need to made aware of empowerment strategies, deliberately noticing ways they may be exploited and appropriate and inappropriate ways tourists may interact with them.
For the second example I wish to examine what it would mean for me to teach English in a country that recognises an endonormative nativised model. Interestingly I’ve found it almost impossible to find a relevant example. Instead I have decided to consider myself as a teacher within a high school in Singapore teaching students in year 7 in a less affluent area.
I am making the assumption that whilst I am employed specifically for the purpose of my inner circle English, the school students will predominantly use Singlish and will demonstrate some resistance to the curriculum.
The use of English in Singapore is a fascinating issue when investigated in light of empowerment and CP. The government has imposed a strict curriculum based upon an exonormative native English. But there exists a very strong endonormative English known as Singlish. Kramer-Dahl in the article, “Reading The Singlish Debate” (2003) indicates that there is a direct correlation between English usage in the home and income levels. She suggests that the closer your language is to native speaker, the higher your living standard is likely to be. In this sense it seems empowering to have all students studying an exonormative model. However she points out that “…even though the English-knowing bilingual policy makes the highly valued English language available to everyone, the various proficiency levels among the population will ensure that “the power base of the ruling English – educated elite will not be eroded” (S.H. Tan, 1996, p.118 in Kramer Dahl, 2003: 163)
With this background I believe that the best way to approach the class is in a bi-lingual way. This will empower the students to value their own form of English and will utalise students first language as a means to explain concepts in native English. To do this I will have to operate with a native speaker and so this lesson will be run in a team teaching situation. It can be assumed that during the lesson the other teacher will be adding to my instruction and working directly with the less proficient students.
I wish to base this lesson firstly around the differences between syllable timed Singlish with stress timed “Standard English”. The lesson will be based upon the strategy of “noticing” the differences and being able to adjust their speech for different situations.
Although I have not set out this lesson plan in a communicative framework like in the lesson plan for the Cambodian classroom, I place the pedagogy for this lesson firmly within a CLT framework.
In order to present my culture and my identity to the students in a realistic and hopefully engaging way, I am basing the class on the “real text” the film “Crocodile Dundee”.
This is a 50 minute class. There are 25 year 7 students in it.
Introduce the topic.
This class fits into a unit of work where students have already focused on some rules of stress in English. They have done exercises in noticing stresses and are working towards more communicative strategies that will get them talking in the class.
Hand out the script from the knife scene in Crocodile Dundee (As found in the appendix). Ask the co-teacher to read out the extract as it would be pronounced in Singlish. Ask if there are any volunteers to read it out with a “Standard English” stress.
Allow them to attempt it.
I read through it once. Then play the film clip on You Tube. The first time they are to enjoy the clip. The second time they are to mark where the stresses are on each word.
Students are to form into groups of three. They are to practice saying the lines from the film. They are encouraged to experiment with the stress to change meaning or to repeat the stress as it is found in the film.
Students have the opportunity to present their script to the class is they wish, although this is not compulsory.
Students are then set the task of researching a scene from film script of their choice for which they can also find a video clip on the internet.
Their project, to be completed in the next class, is to highlight where the stresses are within the dialogue and to present it to the class with correct stress. They are then to present the video clip for the classes comparison.
Students may, if interested, and as an extension, present the script with their translation into Singlish.
Assessment for this class will be based on observation of the students’ participation and grasping of the concept of stress. It will also be based on the accuracy of the submitted film script which will have the stresses marked. It is assumed that first language interference will continue within the stress/syllable divide within class. It will even continue through choice. In this sense it’s about encouraging the students to continually “notice” when the use one or the other register so as to gain the skill to switch between them.
The third class that I wish to present a lesson for is important because I feel that it is set in a context that is neglected within Kirkpatrick’s models. It is for a year 10 ESL class in Melbourne. Within Global English there is clearly a role for inner circle countries teaching English to students from other cultures that celebrates rather than deconstructs the values of the inner circle nation. A curriculum that values their culture and a CP approach that gives them the skills to interpret their new classroom and community are just as important, just that the influence of a Western hegemonic English is, in this case, appropriate as it represents the world they are integrating into instead of a colonialising power.
CLT approaches are also just as valid in an inner circle country as elsewhere. In this instance the class fits into a VELS (Victorian Essential Learning Standards) framework where students attend ESL classes that run parallel to mainstream English strands. VELS allows a great scope for teachers to use innovative strategies to foster learning within curriculum and assessment. Also, student can reach VELS standards within ESL classes in the areas of Personal Development and even Work Related Learning with a VET framework. (Vocational Education and Training.) I have selected a lesson that reflects the opportunity to integrate ESL teaching alongside the social and vocational needs of the student.
The Lesson Plan has been selected from the text “New Ways In English for Specific Purposes” by Peter Master and Donna M. Brinton, Editors. (1998: 296-300) It is titled “Name that Job”. The full text is provided in the Appendix however this is a summary.
The game is based upon Pictionary. Students are asked what jobs they know (an adaptation from the text) List these jobs on the blackboard. The text suggests that you separate these jobs into blue collar and white collar. I would not use this distinction as I find it represents a value system that I am not comfortable representing. Instead I would divide the jobs into; needs higher education and doesn’t need higher education. These words are placed on vocab cards and two different games are played with the words.
The purpose of the activity is to familiarize students with job terms, as well as being an introduction to the topic of what training is required for what job.
Being a fun and dynamic activity, it provides multiple avenues for communication and feedback from the teacher. It also provides a pathway into a more structured investigation into individual career pathways. Assessment and feedback is entirely immediate and vocal.
These are simply three examples that relate my understanding of best practice of ELT to three very different contexts. The spread of English as a Global Language is a fascinating and frightening phenomenon that may turn out to be one of the most significant sociological events in human history. Particular when witnessed within a synergistic relationship with technology. I have sort to present an overview of the impact of this Globalisation on language teaching, both generally and in specific contexts. Being aware of these implications within whatever context we are teaching in must be one of the key considerations when we form our pedagogy and practice.
Vocabulary for working in a hotel.
Script Handout for Knife Scene for Crocodile Dundee.
You got a light buddy?
Yeh sure kid. There you go.
And your wallet!
Mic! Give him your wallet!
He’s got a knife.
Ha Ha Ha Ha. That’s not a knife. That’s a knife!
Just kids having fun. You alright?
I’m always alright when I’m with you Dundee.
Canagarajah, A.S. (1999) Adopting a critical perspective on pedagogy. In Resisting linguistic imperialism in English Teaching. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp.9-37.
Crystal, D. (2003). English as a global language (2nd ed.) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Kramer-Dahl, A. (2003) Readi ng the “Singlish Debate”: Construction of a Crisis of Language Standards and Language Teaching in Singapore, Journal of Language,
Identity & Education, 2(3), 159-190.
Kirkpatrick, A. (2007) Implications for English Language Teaching. In A. Kirkpatrick World Englishes:Implications for International Communication and English Language Teaching. Pp. 184 – 197. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.
Litlewood, W. (2007). Communicative and task-based language teaching in East Asian classrooms. Language teaching, 40. Pp.243-249.
Master, P and Brinton, D (Ed) (1998) New Ways in English for Specific Purposes Pantagraph Printing, Bloomington, Illinois USA Pp. 296-300.
Shehan, P. (2006) Second and Foreign Language Teaching and Learning. In K. Brown (Ed.) Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics. Pp. 51-59. Elsevier. Oxford.
Rajadurai, J. (2005) Revisiting the Concentric Circles: Conceptual and Sociolinguistic Considerations. Asian EFL Journal 7 (4) Retrieved on October 10, 2010 from http://www.asian-efl-journal.com/December05PDF%20issue.pdf#page=111
Film (1986) Crocodile Dundee, Director: Faiman, P. Writers: Hogan, P and Shadle K; Producer: Cornell, J. Paramount Pictures. Accessed November 6, 2010 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=01NHcTM5IA4
Australia is currently developing the first National Curriculum for all schools from primary to Year 12. You are an experienced ESL teacher and are reporting to a national forum on the following questions. Can the English subject curriculum be inclusive of all students? Or should ESL students from immigrant and refugee backgrounds be identified clearly as having separate language needs from native English speaking students? For your report, use examples from the literature and your own experience, if relevant. You might also draw on web-based material or media reports.
Students from immigrant and refugee backgrounds are considered to be students who have arrived from a country other than Australia. The definitions of these two terms, immigrant and refugee, are nicely contained within the words themselves. An “immigrant” is someone who “migrates” and a “refugee” is someone who seeks “refuge”. What differentiates this group is the unique histories and identities of the individuals within in it, and as an adjunct to their histories and identities, their differing motivations for leaving one country for another. Recognising how these students identities have been constructed and engaging with the issue of how these identities will converge with cultural differences found in Australia and the English language provides a framework for considering what their diverse language needs may be. Stuart Hall, a leading British cultural theorist, encapsulated this notion during a speech he made at Hampshire College Massachusetts in 1989. He stated “The logic of identity is the logic of the point of origin from which discourse or history of practice originates. History has to be understood as a continuous dialectic or dialogic relationship between that which is already made up and that which is making the future.” (1989: 19- 20)
With immigrant and refugee students we need to understand “that which is already made up” so as to positively influence “that which is making the future.”
In presenting the context of Victoria to prospective international students, the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development web site states that “Nearly half of Victoria’s population was born overseas or have a parent who was born overseas.” (Accessed 2010)
These statistics are reinforced nationally through the Australian Bureau of Statistics report on Migration released in March 2007, which indicate that, “At 30 June 2006 almost one quarter (24%) of the Australian population was born overseas.” (2007: 9)
Specifically in relation to the implications for language use the ABS website reveals that, “The 2001 census indicated 2.8 million people (16% of the population) spoke a language other than English at home.” (Accessed 2010) The most common of these languages in descending order where Italian, Greek, Cantonese, Arabic Mandarin and Vietnamese.
The Australian culture that immigrant and refugee students will be integrated into is easily demonstrated to be one that is already both culturally and linguistically diverse. Historically immigration levels have been remarkably stable, with the report indicating “High levels of immigration to Australia in the years before 1891 resulted in 32% of the population enumerated in the 1891 census as overseas-born.” (2007: 43)
Although it is simple to support Australia as a historically culturally diverse and multilingual country statistically, the constructed cultural identity that immigrant students will encounter may not reflect this reality. There exists in Australia a notion a myth that we exist in a mono-culture, meaning that we are predominantly descended from white British backgrounds and that we are Christian in our beliefs.
Deconstructing this fixed notion of what it means to be Australian is a crucial necessity of all education systems in Australia and particularly so if we are to introduce curriculum at a national level.
Stuart Hall, in his article “Representation: Representations and Signifying Practices” indicates that “language is central to meaning and culture and has always been regarded as the key repository of cultural values and meanings.” (1997: 1) He explains that cultural meanings and therefore linguistic representations are never fixed, they change over time as they respond to an endless range of inputs and processes. He refers to this as the discursive approach. “’Discursive’ has become the general term used to refer to any approach in which meaning, representation and culture are considered to be constitutive.” (1997: 6)
The discursive approach presents a challenge for the National Curriculum in relation to how it meets the language needs of immigrant and refugee students. How will a national curriculum allow for the engagement of these students into a national discourse of identity and how will it influence their personal discourses of identity? More particularly, how will it respond to the influence of the myth of the Australian Mono-Culture?
Stuart Hall notes that “…attempting to fix meaning is exactly why power intervenes in discourse.” (1997: 10) The creation of a National Curriculum is an exercise in the Australian Federal Government using its power to intervene in the discourse that occurs throughout the many thousands of classes in Australia each week. One very positive reason for them to do this is to counter the intervention of power in discourse from those with agendas’ they consider un-desirable.
Leigh Dale discusses these issues of the intervention of power in Australian society by those who benefit from the agenda of the “Myth of the Monoculture” in the article “Mainstreaming Australia”. He notes that, “The re-establishment of the myth of the monoculture means security, certainty, comfort for that minority who successfully claim exclusive possession of the national story…” (1997: 17)
Leigh Dale was writing about a period of Australian history in the mid 1990’s, when political groups lead by John Howard and Pauline Hanson successfully manipulated the national discourse or the national story, such that it benefited them and those who looked like them. John Howard knew how to manipulate language to influence discourse. An example being the program I ran at the time in Townsville, called LEAP (Landcare Environment Action Program). This was defunded, and then re-labeled as a “Work for the Dole” program. The negative labeling of unemployed young people was very deliberate. In similar ways, groups “other” to John Howard and Pauline Hanson’s mainstream, were systematically positioned as lazy, parasitic, un-Australian and threatening. Very much within this “other” were immigrants and refugees.
If it is agreed that language is the privileged media through which meaning is represented in culture, and if it is agreed that culture develops through discourse, then from this theoretical background I find it essential that the National Curriculum must be fully inclusive of immigrant and refugee students. Their voices must be heard as a part of the national story. Achieving this is surly harder if the government positions them as separate within its national structure.
My position on this issue is very clear. I support full integration and am very much against anything that essentialises the differences within our community, particularly if it creates a hegemonic power from advantaging one group over another. I also believe that full integration provides the only real opportunity for interculturalism and that students from all backgrounds are highly valuable resources in the classroom. I hold this view for theoretical reasons that I have discovered in the readings, in conjunction with my experiences working with disadvantaged youth, migrants and especially young people from indigenous backgrounds throughout John Howard’s terms as prime minister.
I attended Caulfield Grammar Wheelers Hill for my secondary schooling and experienced immigrant students from privileged backgrounds in Asia. I remember these students being very quiet and having issues with expression when required to talk in class.
A highly relevant research paper was presented at the American Accounting Association Mid Atlantic Regional Meeting held in March 1998, titled,” BARRIERS TO LEARNING EXPERIENCED BY ASIAN STUDENTS IN AMERICAN ACCOUNTING CLASSES”. The authors indicate the difficulties Asian students encounter despite their education in the English language. These difficulties arising as much from a cultural difference in the educational experience as from their lack of proficiency with the language. “We learned that significant differences exist between American and Asian college classrooms-especially when…the curriculum stresses communication and interaction skills. These differences, in conjunction with differences in cognitive and linguistic patterns, constitute formidable barriers that initially prevent successful participation in the American accounting classroom (Beaven, Calderisi, Tantral, 1998)
My observation of Asian students at Caulfield Grammar equates exactly with this description of the barriers faced by Asian accounting students in the US. The authors describe the resultant feelings that commonly develop in these students,” Our Asian informants told us their first year in accounting classes was akin to being in a swamp of misery. In their native lands they had excelled in their studies, their self-concept and self-esteem reflecting this excellence. Yet in their introductory American accounting classes, they found themselves unable to articulate what they knew and felt miserable, often becoming depressed. No matter how hard they worked, they often achieved only marginal understanding and felt doomed to failure.” (Beaven et all, 1998)
Based on my reading of the literature and my experiences working with students from other cultures, I believe that all students, no matter what their language ability, previous experience of education, socio- economic background or intellectual capacity, will experience some barriers to education when studying in an Australian context. I observed that even the very high functioning students with extensive formal English instruction and wealthy backgrounds such as those at Caulfield Grammar experienced these barriers. My suggestion is that the language needs of these students centre around successfully engaging with the educational discourse. They are issues around learning the manners and expectations of another culture. Learning the language is about learning how the language is used in context, by students and by teachers. To learn this, they must be in a genuine classroom and positioned as belonging. My readings into the consideration of an alternative curriculum for what is often referred to as EAL students (English as an Additional Language) are influenced by this approach. Not only do I believe that it is philosophically sound, I believe that in practice an integrated curriculum is the most effective method of teaching, not only for the EAL students, but for all students in the class. Any system that separates EAL students from others, runs the risk of perpetuating the barriers that caused the apparent need for them to be separated.
At the other end of the scale are the students that present the greatest fear for teachers and the greatest challenge to the practice of fully integrating students of all language levels into the classroom. How do you work with a student who has seemingly no ability in the English language at all? Indeed often no experience of literacy or education in their own cultures? Can we expect the National Curriculum to be inclusive of these students and can we expect teachers to meet their needs in addition to a normal workload?
By returning to the ABS report we can see that students from backgrounds that indicate they are likely to experience disrupted schooling and a lack of instruction in the English language are increasingly represented, “Between 1996 and 2006, of the 50 most common countries of birth, persons born in Sudan recorded the largest average increase (27% per year), followed by persons born in Afghanistan (13%) and Iraq (10%). (2007: 44)
Young people arriving with histories of violence, poverty, personal tragedy and deprivation present challenges for the whole community and not just for schoolteachers. These students most significant language learning needs have as much to do with resolving issues related to their personal circumstances as with learning grammar and vocabulary. Immigrant and refugee students are not alone in the way social issues present the largest barriers to their education. I believe that issues related to poverty and deprivation create the greatest barriers to education in all areas and for all students. The issue is discussed in the article “No Child Left Behind: Misguided Approach to School Accountability
for English Language Learners” (Crawford, 2004) They state that, “Like in other areas of education poverty is probably the worst factor. As in other developmental processes, numerous hereditary and environmental factors are involved in learning a language. Among the most important is socioeconomic status; children from high-poverty, less educated backgrounds tend to need more time to acquire English (Hakuta, Butler, and Witt, 2000).” (2004: 4)
I currently work in a community high school in Melbourne’s inner west with students that have been unsuccessful in school due almost entirely to issues related to low socio-economic status. On occasion we have students enrolled who come from refugee backgrounds. My personal experience as the English teacher at the school is that the needs of these students are very similar to the needs of the class generally. I may adapt materials and adjust my expectations but overall these refugee students tend to present less challenges than other students because they tend to be more motivated to learn and their behavior tends to present less issues than other students who are more familiar with the environment.
Being able to successfully address issues related to students living in poverty is as crucial an issue in my school as it is with refugee students. Crawford sites research that reveals “.a group of bilingual students in Arizona needed, on average, 3.3 years to acquire “native-like” oral proficiency in English. But the pace of acquisition varied widely, from one year to 6.5 years (Pray and MacSwan, 2002).” (2004: 4) Crawford considered that the main determinant of the rate of English language acquisition was the student’s relative socio-economic status.
I believe that not only is the largest language need for EAL students addressing social issues related to low socio-economic status, but that this is an issue common to students from all backgrounds regardless of their language ability. Community integration, respectful and integrated classrooms, building relationships with the family, interaction with outside agencies, extra support as required and a flexible and relevant curriculum are the methods a teacher uses to address social issues for all students. Rather than separation and labeling as difficult, EAL students can and should have their social issues addressed in the same ways as other students. The fact that students from refugee and migrant backgrounds often have complex social issues that pose barriers to language learning is no reason to separate them from mainstream education. The opposite is true. The best method of addressing their issues is by assisting the fullest possible participation in their new community.
The proposed National Curriculum is acknowledged to be similar in nature to the VELS (Victorian Essential Learning Standards) so it is instructive to investigate how EAL students are catered for in this state.
In a video presentation on the Department of Education and Early childhood development website, the Minister Bronwyn Pike, presents Victoria’s three stage approach to the educational needs of EAL students. ( 2007 :accessed 2010)
These stages are; Phase 1: Intensive English Language classes. Phase
2: Transition or bridging programs and Phase Three: Index funding.
The first phase runs for between six and twelve months depending on
the specific language needs of the student.
These intensive language programs are run in specialist language
centers or other facilities that are normally not housed within
schools. The purpose of this phase is to provide students with
sufficient language and cultural skills to be able to begin functioning
in a classroom and a school environment. This is the only phase
where students are not integrated into a school. This stage seems
essential if the student is not to be set up to fail in the classroom. And
should avoid teachers being given the very difficult task of catering to
a student sufficient basic skills.
The second stage, transition or bridging programs are conducted in differing ways to reflect the needs of varying student groups. One example of this is the program run by the Geelong Language Centre which is discussed on the film by the principal, Peter Macer. He explains that all students are enrolled at North Geelong Secondary College. They attend assembly each day and become a part of a form group. Initially students attend the new arrivals centre which has a time table that mirrors that of the rest of the school. As soon as the teachers feel the students are capable, they are integrated into the normal timetable, especially in elective classes like art, music PE and cooking. When individual students are ready they are gradually entered into the mainstream program. Once in the program support is continued for the students using different strategies as required. He states that “They (the teachers) do team teaching. Sometimes we have withdrawal, sometimes we have some of our aides who come in and just do support around the classroom.” (2007: accessed 2010)
The third phase of support, index funding, is financial support that follows the student on a case by case basis for up to five years. This money may pay for additional support for aides or programs that should assist the language development of the student.
The short film goes on to discuss three other language schools around Melbourne, all with similar integration programs. The language used to describe their programs is very similar and very much in agreement with notions of inclusion, of dealing with issues students have outside of the classroom and of celebrating the cultural differences that students bring with them. Peter Macer for instance states that “A good ESL program has to…involve three layers. You have to look at in the classroom, you have to look beyond the classroom and you also have to look beyond the school.” (2007: accessed 2010)
Enza Calabro from the Noble Park Language School states that “If somebody comes from another country you can’t just forget about their culture and teach them, you’ve got to start from where they are and value what they bring to school.” (2007 :accessed 2010)
The stages when students are considered capable of moving from one phase to the next with a resulting withdrawal of support must be very difficult decisions to make. Jenny Miller in her article, ”Identity and Language Use: The politics of Speaking ESL in Schools”, indicates the way students whose first language is other than English can suffer a level of intimidation and fear within school that can render them silent. She states that, “Students from subordinate groups are silenced because the are unable to represent themselves or to negotiate their identities through their first languages at school.” (2004: 293)
The first phase must provide sufficient language skills to allow students to begin being comfortable negotiating their identities through English within the school. The following phases must continue to support the students in this process with particular emphasis on their value and legitimacy within the classroom.
Throughout the video it appears that the language schools are universally determined to assist the full integration of students into all aspects of mainstream schooling, with one notable exception. Students are systematically segregated within the English curriculum.
Ruth Vear form the Marroondah Secondary College describes their English program. “We have two mainstreams of ESL. We have mainstream ESL which are specialist classes from year seven through to year twelve and students are withdrawn from English and the go and receive English as a second language. Our second program is what we call bridging program and that’s designed for students who’ve come from refugee backgrounds who haven’t had the same level of education as our local ESL’s and so we try and bridge that gap between what they know and getting them ready to go into a mainstream class.” (2007: accessed 2010)
Why is it that inclusion and integration are universally recognised as essential in addressing the educational needs of migrant and refugee students, but in the most crucial of areas, English studies, we decide to abandon this principle in favour of segregation?
The obvious answer is that streaming the English curriculum meets the varying needs of EAL students. The VELS has a parallel strand of ESL which can be assessed concurrently with English Standards. A process is described where students can be supported through the ESL strands until the assessment in the English strands becomes more relevant. This is how the relationship is described in the ESL companion. “As ESL students move through the ESL standards, the English standards are likely to become more appropriate for describing their English language learning. When the learning of ESL students starts to approximate the levels of the English standards of their peers, the English standards should be used instead of the ESL standards. However students are still likely to require ESL support after they have progressed to the English standards.” (2008: accessed 2010)
I think that it is important to notice that this approach to ESL education does not in any way preclude the students from being in the same English class as other students. Neither does it suggest that ESL students are required to undertake curriculum that is different to that of students studying the mainstream English standards. In fact is made clear that the goal of the ESL curriculum is to progress students to a level where they are assessed in regard to mainstream English standards. Further, the Phase 2 and 3 support for ESL students offered by the government does not specify that students must be segregated into other classes. The decision to segregate students into separate ESL classes is entirely the schools.
Other than for the purpose of providing extra support for EAL students, the other reason that schools may choose to stream students into separate English classes is to prepare them for the separate ESL year 11 and 12 VCE subject. Currently in Victoria, students are able to study ESL as a parallel subject to English and use it to gain an Enter score for University. With this as a pathway to university it does make sense to stream EAL students in this direction. In my opinion though, the existence of this subject in years 11 and 12 is extremely problematic. It essentialises the difference between students who are capable in the English language and those that are not, for the entirety of their school life. It means that students in mainstream English classes miss out on the opportunity to engage with students from other cultures, and it provides an accreditation that is valued lower than achievement in mainstream English Curriculum. The evidence for this last point is found on the Melbourne University website where they indicate that the minimum entry score for ESL has risen to 30 where as for VCE English the minimum entry score remains at 25. (Accessed 2010)“
My view that their should not be a parallel strand of EAL English curriculum at year 11 and 12 level is not supported by the NCB, although I find their representations on the issue contradictory.
In their response paper to the NCB the ACTA indicate in one paper that “We believe that it is possible to develop a truly inclusive curriculum within the general principles espoused by the NCB.” (2010)
But in another they refer to a parallel course.. .“…the EAL (or “EALD”) course should have the status and credentials to allow successful students to gain university admission without having to complete additional units from any other course. In particular, it should not be necessary for students to supplement the EAL (or “EALD”) course with the English course in order to gain university entrance. The English and EAL (or “EALD”) courses should be different courses but of equal status” (2010: 9)
For the numerous reasons that I have detailed I believe that it is not desirable to have a separate year 11 and 12 EAL course. From the example I present from the Melbourne University website I believe that it is unrealistic in a modern education market place to expect that an ESL or EAL year 11 and 12 course will hold the same currency as mainstream English.
I believe that the case for integrating refugee and migrant students into the same English classes as their peers as soon and as often as possible is very compelling. I believe that full integration has a range of benefits for both the EAL students as well as the students already in the class.
In the text “Striving for the third Place: Intercultural Competence through language Education” Crozet et al present the challenge that a deeper level of intercultural exchange and experience is achievable if multi-lingualism is embraced alongside multi-culturalism. Not to suggest that students must learn complete new languages, but simply that just as our cultural meaning is stored in our language, so too for other cultures. So to attain the stated aims of the NCB, to “adapt, create and communicate effectively.. in a “global environment” as intended within the English curriculum, (2009) students must engage with the languages of other cultures. Crozet et al call this process the achievement of a third place, and that “The ability to find this third place is at the core of intercultural competence.” (1999: 5) Having students from many cultures within the same English class is a great advantage for all students in developing cultural competence and attaining the stated aim for that subject by the NCB.
Although I strongly advocate for a fully integrated English curriculum that can meet the needs of students with a diversity of language and social needs, it is crucial to investigate the limitations posed by centralised pedagogical control generally and specifically issues that arise from the proposed NCB. The rigidity of a fixed curriculum directly affects the ability of a teacher to address the specific language needs of migrant and immigrant students.
A powerful example of the government weighing into the discourse of language teaching in schools is that of recent events in Singapore. Kramer-Dahl discuss that within Singapore a “discourse of crisis” was set in motion in relation to “..the sorry state of the nation’s English grammar and of grammar teaching in schools..” (2003: 160) Widely represented in the media with many prominent people being given a voice in the discourse, their contention was that standards of grammar had moved away from “proper” or “standard” English, and that the practice of Singlish was widespread and encouraged in schools. The solution was to establish a new English syllabus, with a “grammar course for teachers and “the more rigorous grammar teaching” prescribed in the new English-language syllabus had by then become “pre-emptive moves” in the ministry’s “action plan,” both established to “arrest” the spread of Singlish and “to prevent the erosion of Standard English” (“Moves to Prevent,”199d – sited in Kramar-Dahl:2003: 178)
This is a clear example of a government using it’s power to establish it’s desired meaning within the cultural discourse. Kramer-Dahl goes on to describe a myriad of negative implications that occur from this type of intervention.
Despite overtures to multiculturalism in its stated aims, the English curriculum proposed by the NCB continually refers to a “Standard Australian English” or SAE. (2009: 4)
In its’ aims the NCB makes two relevant points.
To “learn Standard Australian English to help sustain and advance social cohesion in our linguistically and culturally complex country”
and to “respect the varieties of English and their influence on Standard Australian English.” (2009: 4)
The first point is concerning in that it suggests that Australian “social cohesion” is “sustained” and “advanced” by fostering monolingualism through English education. This to me sounds suspiciously like a representation of Australia similar to that represented through the “Myth of the Monoculture”. Just like in Singapore there seems to exist a notion that any gravitation away from a “Standard English” will result in a loss of social cohesion, a loss of standing in the world, a decreased ability to trade with other countries, a decreased ability to sell ourselves as English educators, and generally a loss of our cultural heritage as white, middle class and British. Although students will be encouraged to “respect the varieties of English” they must “learn standard English”.
As in Singapore, the implications for students from refugee and migrant backgrounds, and for all students from a “third space” perspective, are substantially detrimental. A hegemonic power is created whereby students who are not considered to have the SAE accent or grammar are essentialised as linguistically deficient. This may be supported through assessment tasks, especially year 11 and 12 certificates and the NAPLAN testing that will be deliberately biased in favor of those within the hegemonic language group. Non-native SAE students will be restricted when entering into the cultural discourse. Participation in which is predicated upon them first attaining native like SAE proficiency. This limits the opportunity for genuine interculturalism and interlingualism.
Resistance will develop against the SAE. Students who feel they are not welcomed or recognised or prejudiced against will deliberately celebrate their own accents and dialects as a strategy of defiance against the hegemony.
The worst effect is that our cultural identity is falsified to become one that does not recognise the vast and historical extent of Australian cultural and linguistic diversity.
All this must be understood however within an Australian democratic environment rather than a Singaporean totalitarian one. Race riots won’t break out and ghetto’s won’t form on the basis of a few words from the NCB. Our great advantage is our ability to interpret curriculum initiatives to meet the diverse needs of the students in our care. In my identity as an Australian and an English teacher, I feel completely confident that if Julia Gillard provides me with a curriculum that resembles a station wagon, I can cut it into a Ute, if that bests fits the needs of my students. The freedom and ability to do this is what informs my entire argument for full integration.
There are two things that I would seek from the NCB in order to best meet the diverse language needs of refugee and migrant students within a fully integrated English program.
First, remove references to Standard Australian English, and instead refer to something like a “valued and diverse English inclusive of all dialects and accents”.
Secondly, ensure that the curriculum is sufficiently flexible such that teachers are able to adapt it to the specific needs of their students.
Australian Bureau of Statistics (2007) Migration Commonwealth of Australia. Full PDF.
Australian Bureau of Statistics (2005) Sourced from http://www.abs.gov.au/Ausstats/abs@.nsf/0/DFD8C90C1A541EFECA256F720083300A?Open Accessed 10/10/10.
Australian Bureau of Statistics (2006) Sourced from
Australian Council of TESOL Associations (2009) Response to National Curriculum Board English Framing, Sourced from http://www.tesol.org.au/Issues/Australian-Curriculum. Accessed on 16/10/10
Beaven, M. Calderisi, M and Tantral, P (1998) Barriers to Learning Experienced by Asian Students in Accounting Classes. Presented at the American Accounting Association Mid Atlantic Regional Meeting.
Crawford, J (2004) No Child Left Behind: Misguided Approach to School Accountability For English Language Learners. National Association for Bilingual Education. Full PDF.
Crozet, C. Liddicoat, A. Bianco, J (1999) Striving for the third Place: Intercultural Competence through Language Education. Language Australia, the National Languages and Literacy Institute of Australia: Melbourne.
Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (2010) Victorian Government Schools International Student Program. Retrieved 15/10/10 from http://www.study.vic.gov.au/deecd/live/why-victoria/en/people–culture.cfm
Dale, L (1997) Mainstreaming Australia, full pdf.
Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, (2007) Sourced from http://www.education.vic.gov.au/studentlearning/programs/esl/ Accessed 10/10/10
Hall, S. (1989) Ethnicity: Identity and Difference. Hampshire College, Amhurst, Massachusetts.
Kramer-Dahl, A (2003) Reading the “Singlish Debate”: Construction of a Crisis of Language Standards and Language Teaching in Singapore. From the Journal of Language, Identity and Education, 2(3), 159-190: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
Hall, S (1997) Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices. London: Sage.
Miller, J. (2004). Identity and language use: The politics of speaking ESL in schools. In Pavlenko, A. & Blackledge, A. (Eds.) Negotiation of identities in multilingual contexts. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters, pp. 290-315.
National Curriculum Board (2009) Shape of the Australian Curriculum: English, Full PDF.
University of Melbourne website. Sourced from http://preprod.vca.roadhouse.com.au/intapplication/#cs_2697#cs_2697 Accessed 15/10/10
Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority,
State Government of Victoria (2007) English as a Second Language (ESL) Companion to the Victorian Essential Learning Standards Sourced from http://vels.vcaa.vic.edu.au/support/esl/esl.html Accessed on 10/10/10.
Language and Representation Essay.
The first article I will be summarizing by Stuart Hall “Representation: Cultural representations and signifying practices” (1997) is a study of the crucial links between language, culture and how shared meanings are constructed and represented within language.
Language is where we both produce and exchange meaning. Within a shared language are the shared understandings and cultural values of a group of people.
Language operates as a ‘representational’ system. Language symbolically represents shared cultural meanings. It does this through spoken sounds and the written word, but also through any other way that meaning can be represented and understood. It can be represented through music, body language, gesture, arbitrary symbols and through objects.
Hall indicates that ‘culture’ has a specific meaning, “Culture is concerned with the production and exchange of meanings..between the members of a society or group.”
Culture “is what distinguishes the human element in social life from what is simply biologically driven. “ (p.2)
So culture is everything in our lives, that is not biological, physical or from nature. According to Claire Kramsch in her article, ‘The Relationship of Language and Culture’, “Nature refers to what is born and grows organically.” Where as “ culture refers to what has been grown and groomed.” (1998, p.4)
Further, culture is how members of a group share their common understandings of their world. Different groups of people have different understandings of the world. They develop different shared meanings and therefore different cultures.
Hall indicates that Language is the ‘privileged media’ through which meaning is created and shared. Language then represents the meanings of things as understood by different cultures. Cultural difference is represented in different languages.
“To say that two people belong to the same culture is to say that they interpret the world in roughly the same ways and can express themselves .. in ways that will be understood by each other.” (1997, p 2)
Crucially for Halls arguments, this does not mean that Culture has fixed meanings within a culture. He completely rejects an essentialist approach that understands that things have one fixed meaning. Instead within any group, there is substantive variety of meaning on any subject and an array of strategies to represent it.
Importantly these understandings are not consciously shared. They permeate all aspects of our emotional conduct and have real effects on the regulation of social practices.
Hall presents a model for the development of these shared cultural meanings, referred to as a ‘circuit of culture’. There are five steps within his circuit of culture, and meaning is produced at any of these five junctures and is fed back into the system. The five elements are; Representation, Identity, Production, Consumption and Regulation.
Meaning is constantly being produced whenever people interact with each other. It is also being produced, and at increasingly rapid speeds, when people interact with any form of media, including television and the internet.
Hall stresses thought that the most privileged, or effective media in the development of meaning is language. Language includes communicated systems that are not spoken or written but can be interpreted by the members of a culture, including body language and music. All these languages work through representation, where an act, a symbol or a noise represents a shared intended and to a degree receivable meaning.
Language can also be understood as a signifying practice. Meaning is coded into a language as interpretable symbols or signs.
Hall notes two similar versions of constructionism, Semiotics and Discursive theory. He notes that Discursive theory is more relevant as it is focused on the “effects and consequences” of representation rather than the ‘how’ of representation.
Discursive theory is an effective framework because it allows for an understanding of history, the politics of meaning and issues in relation to power.
Hall’s most important conclusions inform the notion that meaning is never truly fixed. Meaning is “..always being negotiated and inflected, to resonate with new situations.” (1997.p10)
Meaning must enter into the circuit of culture and circulate until it has been received or decoded at some other point in the chain. Trough this circulation shared meanings are developed, understood, represented in language and are tested and adapted. Such a process is ‘Dialogic’, a dialogue sustained by shared cultural codes.
The second of the two Stuart Hall articles I am summarizing, “Cultural Identity and Diaspora” (1997) is the presentation of a discourse of culture about his own historical background. The focus of this essay is the formation of identity within a historical and discursive framework. It examines the experience of the African Diaspora in the Caribbean and the narratives of displacement.
Hall looks broadly at the issues around identity. He notes that far from being fixed, identity should be seen as a ““production” which is never complete, always in process and always constituted within, and not outside, representation.” (p.51)
Hall relates this understanding specifically to the idea that there are two ways of thinking about ‘cultural identity’. One is an understanding of a one true history, a fixed shared culture that can be excavated from beneath layers of disenfranchisement. This attitude has been crucial in post colonial struggles. Although such a view is fixed, and therefore not compatible with Halls discursive views, he notes that this discovering of the past, whilst not unearthing a singular culture, is a crucial part of re-imagining the culture. Fed into the discursive turn, this historical imagining provides a shared cultural representation for the present community.
The second view of cultural identity is one that recognizes the many points of differences amongst the Diaspora, as well as the similarities. This view recognizes that history has intervened at many levels and that the resulting unique experiences have created the different flavors of Caribbean culture. In recognizing these differences we note that the situation is continually in flux, and therefore that cultural identity can never be fixed in one point of history, but is a process that is always developing.
Hall argues that this transformative view is the best way to understand and interpret the trauma of Caribbean colonial history. It recognizes the changes that were made to the culture through the interference of power and control. It recognizes the results of a people subject to an Edward Said ‘Orientalist’ type imagining. Further it provides an understanding of how this understanding of the ‘Other” was even internally imposed upon the minds of the people, through forced displacement and other displays of power.
So all understanding of the Caribbean must be considered in a dialogic framework with two vectors, one is the similarity of experience, the other is the vector of difference.
Hall notes that the cultures that arrived from Africa were originally extremely different, with different tribes, different gods and cultures, and it was precisely the trauma of slavery that united them. This dialogic of difference and commonality has always defined the African Caribbean culture.
Hall makes the important point that taking a historical and discursive view of culture does not indicate that meaning is trivial because it is always in development. He notes that “meaning in any specific instance, depends on the contingent and arbitrary stop.” (p.54) The positioning that participants within a culture take at any moment, how they understand their world, is the important and functional representation at that time.
In this essay, Stuart Hall has applied discourse theory to his own sense of identity. In the next section of this essay I will relate that theory to my own life.
One clear example of the link between language, identity and cultural difference in my life was the process of becoming an atheist in a very strict Christian family.
I will discuss this example in relation to the two previously summarized Stuart Hall articles, along with the article “The relationship of language and Culture” (1998) by Claire Kramsch, along with other readings as they become relevant to my discussion.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1 King James V.
Rejecting God within a fundamentalist Christian family is to be placed and to understand your self, as an other, separated from a shared culture. It is to lose common threads of identity with your immediate culture and instead to develop a strong identity based on what you are not, rather than what you are. From the lens of discourse theory I can look back and see how this deliberate positioning affected my identity. Most interestingly though, like the experience of the African Caribbean Diaspora, I am not able to separate myself from my history when considering the development of my cultural identity. There is within my family the dialogic of belief and non-belief, but beyond that is a series of values, practices and shared meanings that that I hold in accord with the belief side of my culture.
I became an Atheist at a very early age and it was due to my sense that the cultural understandings of Christianity did not fit with my experience of my own biology, meaning my sexual urges, and my sense of justice. (You could argue that either of these were culturally nurtured but that has always been my historical imagining.)
Kramsch notes this difference between culture and nature in the work of the Romantic poet, Emily Dickinson, presenting her thoughts of “The General Rose – decay” The rose represents nature without culture, “Beautiful, yes, but faceless and nameless.” (p. 4)
Culture in this sense adds or is the meaning to the meaningless. But culture must first have the nature to interpret, and it was my re-interpretation of nature that caused me to become an “Other”.
Shakespeare as usual says it best.
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” (Romeo and Juliet, Act 2, Sc. 2)
After what I would determine to be an encounter with her biology through falling in love with Romeo, Juliet takes the step of questioning her cultural identity and the hatred and bloodshed, loyalty and history that are represented in the names of Capulet and Montague. What is in a name? Sadly for her and tellingly for the link between language, culture and identity, everything is in a name.
The history of my becoming an Atheist, at least as I now imagine it, is similarly inspired by encounters with nature or my own biology.
To continue Kramsch’s theme of understanding through the Romantic Poets, my rejection of God is represented by William Blake in his poem the “Garden of Love.”
So I turned to the Garden of Love
That so many sweet flowers bore.
And I saw it was filled with graves,
And tombstones where flowers should be;
And priests in black gowns were walking their rounds,
And binding with briars my joys and desires.
The rose, the nature, that which was not cultural, was my joys and desires. The culture that was being imposed on my joys and desires was that of the priests in dark gowns. I felt that the meaning given to the rose was one I couldn’t accept and therefore rejected it.
Hall states that “attempting to fix meaning is exactly where power intervenes in discourse.” (1997. p.10)
I found myself within a discourse of resistance against a culture that sought to fix meaning.
I feel very strongly that it was my biological impulses that lead me to a position of resistance to the Christian culture. The reason I focus on this concept is that I feel the impact of the natural is neglected in Hall’s articles. Had I been born gay, or a woman I can imagine an increased biological influence that would create an even stronger discourse of resistance against a fundamentalist Christian culture.
Referring back to the Dickinson poem, Kramsch states that “the poem itself bears testimony that nature and culture both need each other. “ (1997. p5)
In his article Cultural Identity and Diaspora (1997) Hall
does recognize physical geography as being one of the three major influences in the discourse of Caribbean identity. He calls this the Presence Americaine, and describes it as “..not so much power, as ground, place, territory.” (p.57)
The shared experience of an environment unlike anything in Africa has both created a unified sense of identity when before there was none, and changed existing cultural practices and understandings. Two obvious examples are religion and cooking.
I would like Hall to further develop how nature feeds into the circuit of meaning, especially considering that culture feeds back into nature in the way that it shapes and impacts the natural environment.
Positioning myself as ‘Other’ to my family and social group was very significant to my identity.
Kramsch states “To identity themselves as members of a community, people have to define themselves jointly as insiders against other, whom they thereby define as outsiders.” (1997 p.8)
I believe that the enormous success of the Cult of Christianity lies in a very effective understanding of this notion of how a community is strengthened by defining itself against others. It tells you that you are an “other” but offers a simple method for you to become within the culture – to become ‘Saved’.
In the article “Entity and Difference” Katherine Woodward, (2007) presents an example of otherness during the war in the former Yugoslavia, that “presents different identities dependent on two separate national positions, those of Serbs and Croats…two distinctly identifiable peoples..” (p. 8)
More importantly she notes that “Identities are given meaning through the language and symbolic systems through which they are represented.” (p.8)
Difference is represented in language and in symbols like the cigarettes that they smoke. The main difference though is that of the ‘other’. Being Croat means that you are not Serbian and vice versa. However when questioned, Woodward notes that a Serbian soldier quickly recognizes that there are actually significant similarities between the two peoples.
Just like this example of otherness in the former Yugoslavia, I experienced how Christianity deliberately creates a duality of otherness between those that support its cultural representations and those that don’t. I also recognize that despite the explicit otherness of Christian thinking, I share with them more cultural understandings than I have differences.
How Christianity represents meaning and otherness in signs, symbols and language is a rich field. I think the most stark example is the language of ‘saved’ and ‘unsaved’ and ‘Hell’ and ‘Heaven’. I grew up in a time when Hell was real. It’s horrors were presented to us in Sunday School in great detail. Anyone who chose to be other than Christian was to be permanently punished.
Interestingly, the meaning of Heaven and Hell within Christianity and how it has changed in the Anglican and Uniting church, and not changed in the fundamentalist churches during the last twenty years, demonstrates well Hall’s circuit of culture. A change in community values that has supported such things as the ordination of women and homosexuals within the progressive protestant denominations, has simultaneously witnessed a change in belief from one of punishing the ‘other’, to one of celebrating shared values like love and peace. The representation of the ‘other’ going to ‘Hell’ seems to have been discarded.
However, the fundamentalist churches, with the clear exercise of power within the discourse, have reinforced their views over heaven and hell as they have fought to fix meanings within their culture.
it always seems to be the Diasporic or colonialsised churches that are most focused on essentialising meaning. My family arrived in the mid 1800’s from Scotland and still define themselves through their conservative Presbyterianism. Their cultural identity was reinforced through it’s positioning as an ‘other’.
The Christianity that I was exposed to formed what Kramsch refers to as a ‘discourse community’. A Group where “Common attitudes, beliefs and values are reflected in the way members of the group use language – for example, what they choose to say or not to say and how they say it.” (1998, p.6)
I remember being told in Sunday School that swearing was the same thing in the eyes of god as murdering someone. I have never heard my father swear, I heard my mother once say the word ‘bloody’ and I’m fairly sure I have never sworn in their presence.
Being a Christian means not swearing, at least according to my parents.
There are numerous examples of pro-active ways that Christianity reinforces it’s representation of meaning through the use of language. The main one is bible study. The bible being a text that supposedly contains all the culture of Christianity. Even this example of a text does not escape Hall’s circuit of culture. What books are included in the bible, what translation is used, what parts of it are in vogue and simply different interpretations of the same verses, all change over time and all reflect different meanings.
Other examples of meaning reinforced through shared cultural practice are that of prayer, the singing of hymns and the saying of grace. During these activities participants vocalize and share their beliefs in a ritualized format in front of witnesses. They use similar wordings and represent key understandings like the request for the forgiveness of wrongs they have committed, admitting their failings and declaring their commitment to a common identity and culture.
The most uniting example of this is the use of the “Lords Prayer.” From the gospels of Mathew and Luke in the New Testament, this passage is used throughout the world to state a clear, shared and fixed representation of Christian belief. It was noted on the Lords Prayer Wikipedia page that “On Easter Day 2007 it was estimated that two billion Roman Catholic, Anglican, Protestant and Eastern Orthodox Christian, read, recited or sang the short prayer in hundreds of languages.” (2010)
Christianity provides fantastic examples of meanings that are communicated in ways like language, but through signs or symbols rather than written or spoken forms. As Hall states “..we can see that all these practices ‘work like languages’, not because they are all written or spoken, but because they all use some element to stand for or represent what we want to say, to express or communicate a thought” (1997 p.4)
The symbol that illustrates this concept best, anywhere, is ‘The Cross’. The Christian Cross is Christianity. For Christians it is a symbol of belonging, representing their beliefs in the existence of god, their faith in the concepts of the bible as well as ideas of sacrifice and salvation. For those positioned as ‘other’ it’s meaning ranges from a comforting presence, as in on a tomb stone, or a ward against vampires in fiction, to one of extreme disgust, representing the infidel, the un-clean, or a hated competitor.
I have always felt that positioning myself away from the culture of Christianity had a profound effect on the development of my identity and caused difficulties within my sense of belonging and ongoing challenges with my representations of meaning. However I am challenged in this belief through my reading of Halls article, “identity and difference.” It is reductionist and too simplistic to see myself as either within a Christian culture or outside of it, as I used to imagine. He states “The past continues to speak to us. But it no longer speaks to us as a simple “factual” past, since our relation to it, like the child’s relation to the mother, is always-already ‘after the break’. (1997. p53)
I cannot discard the history of my Christian up- bringing and the influence of that culture on my identity. I’m not either Christian or non – Christian in a binary sense but instead have representations of meaning that stem from both Christian and non- Christian influences. I share a sense of social justice and a common sense of manners and respect for family and elders which indicates the type of language I may use in certain situations.
I abhor violence. I respect notions of love and justice as guiding principals in preference to those of economic rationalism.
These are shared cultural traits between myself and the ‘other’ I had positioned myself against. In association with the progressiveness of the church in a post modern context on issues like hell and women’s rights, and indeed even the actual existence of god, I find that my beliefs and theirs can become more one of fusion, or hybridity, rather than one of resistance.
Stemming from these Christian influences arises the final concern I have with Hall’s theories. I find that they are entirely relativistic in relation to aesthetics and morality. I can’t shake the notion that some kind of essentialist truth and aesthetic exists, some things are just more beautiful, or better than others. This essentialist moral position must come from either within people or from without. My Christian influenced understanding of the world suggests to me that there is such a thing as right and wrong and that this is a thing external. I cannot justify this however in any rational way.
Libertarian socialist philosophers like Chomsky and Bakunin, would argue that this essentialist authority comes from within each individual. As Prakash Kona relates in the article “Noam Chomsky: Post Structural Anarchist”, “The human mind with its inbuilt mechanism of rules can hypothetically function to the utmost level of its competence in the absence of authority.” (2010)
Bakunin seems to have a similar perspective when quoted in the same article as saying that human liberty “is the organization, at once planned and free, of a social environment, in conformity with the natural laws inherent in every human society.” (2010)
If there is some external essentialist form of truth and beauty, or if there is an “inbuilt mechanism of rules” or “natural laws inherent in every human society” then this would have a significant impact on the way meaning is formed or understood in society and provide challenge to Stuart Hall’s arguments.
Kramsch, C (1998) The relationship of language and culture. In Language and Culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 3 – 14.
Hall, S. (1997) Introduction in Hall, S. (ed.) Representation: cultural representations and signifying practices. London: Sage, pp. 1-11.
Woodward, K. (1997) Introdution. In Woodward, K (ed) Identity and Difference. London: SAGE Publication, pp.8-21.
Hall, S (1997) Cultural identity and diaspora. In Wodward, K (ed) Identity and difference. London. Sage Publication, pp. 51-59.
From – Linguistic and Literary Broad Research and Innovation
Volume 1, Issue 1, 2010
Prakash K (2010) NOAM CHOMSKY: POST-STRUCTURAL ANARCHIST Department of English Literature,
The English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad, India
“The Lord’s Prayer”, 2010, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lord’s_Prayer, last accessed on 2nd September 2010. Sited – (Kang, K. Connie. “Across the globe, Christians are united by Lord’s Prayer.” Los Angeles Times, in Houston Chronicle, p. A13, April 8, 2007