"THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING A NON.NATIVE TEACHER OF ENGLISH" (AND 5)

My dear readers, this is the last post of a series pertaining to an Academic Paper whose author is Professor Dr Barbara Seidlhofer, Head of English at the University of Vienna, Austria. She admits that the English language is gradually becoming a real Lingua Franca in Europe, detached from specific nationalities and cultures and what really prevails is communication. We can think then that English does not belong only to America and UK, from which already Oscar Wilde said that they were two sister countries separated by one same language; but belongs to all speakers who use it as First and Second language and to the ones that use it for communivation purposes. In the same way that Spanish does not belong to Spain alone anymore. We only have to check the multiple possibilities offered by the Google spell checker for English or Spanish.

English is spoken as the main language in Canada, Puerto Rico, New Guinea, New Zeeland, South Africa, Nigeria, India,  Guyana,  Jamaica,  Belize,  Pakistan,  Bangladesh, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, the Philippines… In some other countries it is also the main language but not the official one; these include old British and North American colonies in the Caribbean and the Pacific Area:  AnguillaAntigua y BarbudaBahamasBarbadosBritish Virgin IslandsCaiman IslandsDominicaMicronesia Federation, GranadaGuamGuantánamo  Bay,  JohnstonMontserrat, the Northern Marianas  IslandsPalaosPuerto RicoSan Cristobel Island, Nieves IslandSanta LuciaSan Vicente and the GrenadinesTrinidad and TobagoTurkish Islands and CaicosVirgin Islands from USA

A number of countries use English as an official language as a unifying force, despite the influence of the main native languages; this would be the case of Bangladesh,  BotswanaFijiIndiaLesothoLiberiaMalauiMalasyaMaltaMauricius, Rwanda,  SeychellesSierra Leona,  SamoaSingaporeSomaliaSri Lanka,  Swaziland,  Tonga,  UgandaZimbabwe and Zambia.



Now I leave you with the end-piece of the paper.

5. Teacher education
This, of course, requires first of all that teachers should be well informed about developments which are potentially relevant for the profession. By definition, they are concerned with both language and teaching, and the trick is to get the balance right between the two. As people interested in and knowledgeable about their subject matter, language, they can reasonably be expected to keep up to date with developments in linguistic description, such as the fascinating findings about patterns of use revealed by the corpus-based scrutiny of English. It would indeed be unprofessional to dismiss these new insights out of hand and simply to stick to comfortable, tried-and-tested routines, “to avoid facing new information on the subject being taught” and “to take for granted what it is that is to be taught” (Sinclair 1991:490). But the subject is not ‘English’ but ‘English as a foreign language’. So as people concerned with, and paid for, inducing learning in their students, it would be equally unprofessional to get carried away by whatever findings the community of linguists makes available, and to assume that there is an immediate transferability of relevance from the domain of research to that of pedagogy: “We are concerned here not primarily with what language users know but with what language learners need to know” (Widdowson 1991:20). And what learners need to know can only be determined (or at least guessed at) through a careful process of appraisal and mediation. To what extent different and competing claims are reconcilable will depend on specific circumstances, and only the teacher concerned will be in a position to take local decisions. The crucial criterion for how informed these local decisions can be will be the quality of teacher education. EFL teachers who have a good idea as to what options are in principle available to them, and who have learnt to evaluate these critically, skeptically and confidently are unlikely to be taken in by the absolute claims and exaggerated promises often made by any one educational philosophy, linguistic theory, teaching method, or textbook. This seems an obvious enough statement to make, but many teacher training courses do not actually encourage trainees to stand back and think hard about not only the choices that have to be made, but also about the choices that can be made, especially when those are far removed from current concerns and fashions in the Inner Circle. For instance, when contexts of instruction are designed in reference to primary cultures and a shared primary language, this will create an opportunity to re-assess certain activities which have been disfavored and frowned upon in native speaker contexts, such as overt contrastive analysis and translation. Translation has hardly figured in Inner Circle discussions of language pedagogy, and this is not surprising since a great deal of the currently fashionable repertoire of EFL teaching techniques has developed in native speaker contexts like Britain, often in private language schools teaching heterogeneous classes without linguistic and cultural common ground. But there are quite a number of good reasons for using translation in different contexts. One of them is that it would be consistent with the general educational precept that learning is the extension of what is new from what is familiar. Translation relates the language to be learnt to the linguistic experience that people have already had, and this of course can reduce a good deal of the threat of the new subject, and help the learner to appropriate the new language. It is entirely natural to seek to make new experience meaningful by referring it to conceptual categories drawn from previous experience, and so translation is, in this respect, the reflex of natural learning. One might try to put a stop to it, as generations of English teachers were enjoined to do, but it has always been carried out covertly; students translate constantly, whether teachers acknowledge it or not. Further ‘unfashionable techniques’ which might be amenable to the same kind of reconsideration include copying (as used by Holmes (1996) with his students in Eritrea), and repetition and learning by heart. Cook (1994) argues that these two ‘currently outlawed’ activities are, partly due to Western cultural bias, neglected and undervalued aspects of ‘intimate discourse’ which should again form a substantial part of the language learning process.

6. Double lives
What all these considerations have in common is that they require a firm assertion on the part of the teacher that what she is concerned with is not primarily the phenomenon English as a native language, but the subject English, with its situation-specific requirements. Widdowson goes straight to the heart of the matter when he says: It has generally been the case, I think, that teachers of EFL have been considered (or consider themselves) as teachers of English which happens incidentally to be a foreign language. In this definition of the subject, English is paramount and its speakers privileged. But we can also conceive of EFL as the teaching of a foreign language which happens to be English. Now the focus of attention is on the foreignness and not the nativeness of the language, on what makes it foreign, and how, as a foreign language, it might be most effectively taught. (Widdowson 1994b:1.11, emphasis added) So we are concerned here not primarily with E (FL): ‘E’ as a ‘FL’ (foreign language), but with FL (E), or LF (E): a ‘FL’ – and a ‘LF’ (lingua franca)! – making use of English. It seems to me that the notion of foreignness is absolutely crucial for FL (E) teachers’ self-image, and it is a pity that this important element of their professional identity has tended to be played down, swept under the carpet for so long.8 The significance of teacher self image is suggested by a small-scale empirical study which I conducted this year with teachers of English in Austria (and which I referred to at the beginning of this paper). A questionnaire was devised to gain insights into how teachers evaluated their preparation for the profession with hindsight, from the vantage point of their daily practice. This questionnaire was sent out to about 700 (mostly secondary) teachers throughout Austria and exactly 100 were returned.9 Among the nine questions asked there were two which are of particular relevance here. One elicited whether respondents felt that during their studies the main emphasis was more on becoming an effective communicator in the language, i.e. as near-native as possible, or more on becoming an effective foreign language teacher, with a conscious recognition and discussion of the problems and advantages of being a non-native speaker teacher in their particular local conditions. Only just over one third (37 %) went for the second option, i.e. that the main emphasis had been on becoming an effective teacher, while 60% said that language proficiency had been in the foreground.10 The other question elicited whether being a nonnative teacher of English tended to be a source of confidence or insecurity for respondents. A clear majority (57 %) indicated that being a non-native speaker made them feel insecure rather than confident and only 27 % said the reverse was true. Some respondents did not tick either option, but gave a verbal response such as ‘neither-nor’, ‘neither and both’ or ‘it depends’, giving various reasons and explanations. Given the fact that the vast majority of teachers of English in Austrian schools are non-native speakers, rather than lament this state of affairs it might be eminently more useful to have a closer look at those respondents who draw confidence from their non-native status. Here are some comments from teachers who feel that their being Austrians rather than Americans, Britons, Australians, etc. can (also) be a source of confidence for them: Most see as the main advantage that they share their students’ L1. They gain confidence from ‘the knowledge that I can help pupils with problems because I know them’ [3]11, ‘I can understand why students make mistakes’ [23]. Some respondents describe in what respects the shared L1 is a strength: ‘specific problems to German speaking learners can be pointed out more easily’ [33], and several make reference to grammar and translation: ‘I can explain grammar better and understand typical Germaniums!’ [51]; ‘It [i.e. being a German native speaker] has advantages too (e.g. when teaching grammar, false friends, etc.)’ [20]. What is striking, however, is how often this confidence based on the shared language and culture is coupled with an insecurity teachers have about themselves as speakers of English. Many respondents express this feeling of ambivalence quite directly: ‘it depends; on the one hand confidence, because I know a German/Austrian learner’s problems from first-hand experience; on the other hand, a native speaker will be more competent in certain situations’ [1]; ‘confidence, in the knowledge that I can help pupils with problems because I know them; insecurity, in language competence’ [3]; ‘confidence: I can (?)track problems of German-speaking learners of English better; insecurity: what is definitely not acceptable in English? (Structure)’ [47]; ‘Both: confidence Æ to understand my students better; insecurity Æ fluency, range of vocabulary’ [88]; ‘Confidence – when I explain grammar, do translations: English Æ German; insecurity: speaking, vocabulary’ [91]. In the answer expressing the ‘undulating feeling’ quoted in the title of this paper, confidence is only mentioned indirectly, and the main question for this teacher seems to be how to come to terms with her own expectations [94]. One response that puts this ambivalence into a nutshell is: ‘confidence: as a teacher – insecurity: as a speaker’ [41]. But there are more assertive voices, too: ‘I don’t aspire to native speaker’s proficiency’ [77], even to the point of sarcasm about the attempt to gauge teachers’ feelings of confidence and/or insecurity: ‘This is a very inappropriate question. Why do you teach English? Ha ha, to feel insecure?’ Other factors in gaining self-assurance are experience (‘The more language teaching practice – the more confidence has developed’ [60]) and what I would describe as the ability to capitalize on the fact that non-native teachers are distanced from the language they teach because they had to learn it themselves, which gives them ‘confidence in explaining certain aspects and explaining concepts’ [29]. Concepts is the operative word here, which I shall return to below.

7. Significant distance
These few selected responses underline an important strength of non-native teachers, which is that because of their own language learning experience, they have usually developed a high degree of conscious, or declarative, knowledge of the internal organization of the code itself – unlike native-speaker teachers, whose access to the code is usually firmly anchored in context and who may therefore find it more difficult to abstract from specific instances. This distancing from the context can be an important advantage since all learning involves abstracting from context, via a conceptual rather than a contextual apprehension of meaning. Non-native teachers of a foreign language are already at a remove from the language, quite naturally distanced. And this vantage point is an advantage. It is particularly appropriate, in the context of a greater awareness of the ethnographic reality of actual classrooms, to relate this notion of distancing to more general concepts developed in psychoanalysis and cultural anthropology.

Clifford Geertz quotes the psychoanalyst Heinz Kohut’s distinction between ‘experience-near’ and ‘experience-distant’ concepts and explains it thus: An experience-near concept is, roughly, one that someone – a patient, a subject, in our case an informant [or a native speaker!] – might himself naturally and effortlessly use to define what he or his fellows see, feel, think, imagine, and so on, and which he would readily understand when similarly applied by others. An experience-distant concept is one that specialists of one sort or another – an analyst, an experimenter, an ethnographer, even a priest or an ideologist [or a teacher!] employ to forward their scientific, philosophical, or practical [or pedagogical!] aims. (Geertz 1983:57) [Remarks in square brackets added] This distinction is one of degree, not either-or, but the main point is that one is not intrinsically better, or more helpful, than the other, or, as Geertz says, Confinement to experience-near concepts leaves an ethnographer awash in immediacies, as well as entangled in vernacular. Confinement to experience-distant ones leaves him stranded in abstractions and smothered in jargon. (p. 57) The parallel I see between anthropological analysis and foreign language teaching is that, in the case of studying ‘natives’, you don’t have to be one to know one, and in the case of teaching a language, you don’t have to be a native speaker to know how best to do it – or rather, it is likely to be an advantage: non-native teachers have, in general, learnt the language they teach via the same concepts (grammatical, semantic, pragmatic, cultural, etc.) that they employ to induce learning in their students, and this seems to be what respondent [29] in the above extract from the questionnaire study is getting at. Geertz elaborates on this idea: To grasp concepts that, for another people, are experience-near, and to do so well enough to place them in illuminating connection with experience-distant concepts theorists have fashioned to capture the general features of social life, is clearly a task at least as delicate, if a bit less magical, as putting oneself into someone else’s skin. The trick is not to get yourself into some kind of inner correspondence of spirit with your informants. … The trick is to figure out what the devil they think they are up to. … People use experience-near concepts spontaneously, un-self-consciously, as it were colloquially; they do not, except fleetingly and on occasion, recognize that there are any ‘concepts’ involved at all. (Geertz 1983: 58) In terms of language teaching, or the teaching of anything else for that matter, the lack of distance from experience can create problems because teaching and learning are dependent precisely on the extension of familiar concepts, and for this the mere experience of being a native speaker is neither necessary nor sufficient. As Geertz puts it, …accounts of other peoples’ subjectivities can be built up without recourse to pretensions to more-than-normal capacities for ego-effacement and fellow feeling … Whatever accurate or half-accurate sense one gets of what one’s informants are, as the phrase goes, really like does not come from experience … as such. It comes from the ability to construe their modes of expression, what I would call their symbol systems… (Geertz 1983:70) More important, therefore, than the ability to ‘get into the skin of the native speaker’ is the ability to ‘get into the skin of the foreign learner’ – and, seen from the perspective of the learners’ primary culture, non-native FL(E) teachers may well be better equipped to do this than native ones. The double capacity to be at the same time familiar with the target language and distanced from it enables these teachers to lead a double life in the best sense of the word. It also allows us to reinterpret the notion of double think and double life in a way in which the word double has entirely positive connotations not of duplicity, but of value and strength, namely ‘something that is twice the size, quantity, value, or strength of something else’ or, if you like to see it poetically, ‘(of a flower) having more than the usual number of petals’12. And the process of cultivating these petals is serious teacher education”.
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Professor Itesh Sachdev speaks about social and health benefits of learning languages

My dear readers from over the World, here I present you a video with my old tutor at Birkbeck College at the University of London, Professor Dr Itesh Sachdev, now at SOAS (School for Oriental and African Studies). He directed my thesis writing on Social Psychology of Languages. He speaks about what the social and health benefits of learning languages are and how can speaking several languages make life more interesting.  Itesh Sachdev is now a Professor of Language and Communication at SOAS, University of London. His research focuses on the benefits of multilingualism.




I remind you that you can contact me at SKYPE as jordi.picazo, and get a free class of conversational English or Spanish. If you stay with me later payments are done securely and easily through paypal. Skype is a free program you can download in Internet. Just write SKYPE in Google and get it. Good luck!






"THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING A NON-NATIVE TEACHER OF ENGLISH" (4)

Dear readers from the World over, here you will find another piece of the Academic paper published by Professor Dr Barbara Seidlhofer on the issue. Please feel free to comment..

Informant and instructor roles
EFL teachers need to be able to handle different roles. On the one hand, they are under pressure to teach their students ‘authentic’, or ‘real’ English, that is to say English that has not been ‘doctored’ for pedagogic purposes. For this, they need to be competent speakers of the language (informants). On the other hand, they are under pressure to make the learning process real for their students, to help learners authenticate language so that they can make it their own in various contexts of use, including those of the classroom specifically designed to induce such learning. For this, they need to be competent pedagogues (instructors).
Difficulties may arise when teachers have to balance these two requirements in their heads while making choices as to what is relevant and helpful for their students: what do their learners have to do now, in the classroom, to get to where they are eventually going? With the advent of communicative language teaching , this second question receded somewhat into the background and over the years has become increasingly difficult to address. Taking into account the disciplines which have been particularly influential in the development of communicative language teaching, namely discourse studies, the ethnography of speaking, pragmatics and work in related disciplines, there are two perspectives on the subject EFL: in terms of the target communicative competence, and in terms of creating appropriate contexts for learning (Seidlhofer &
Widdowson (forthcoming)). Communicative target behaviour refers to the target language of the native speaker community in contexts of language use. This is for instance what the needs analysis of the Council of Europe is all about (e.g. Van Ek & Trim 1990). The definition of communication in target contexts of use is based on observations of native speaker discourse in specific contexts. For the purposes of FLT, these observations were then formulated in supposedly generally applicable ideas such as notions and functions, which constitute the groundwork of a communicative pproach. In some extreme cases, over-zealous communicative teachers have interpreted their  task (and have sometimes been encouraged to do so by the ELT industry) as that of getting their students to ape native speakers as faithfully as possible, of rehearsing them in patterns of nativespeaker behaviour, with all the cultural baggage that comes with this going unquestioned, even unnoticed (see e.g. Prodromou 1988, 1996; Widdowson 1994a). Correspondingly, great importance has been attached to authentic texts, that is naturally-occurring texts that have not been meddled with for pedagogic purposes. Clearly, in such a view of the subject EFL, native-speaker teachers reign supreme: as naturally occurring speakers of the target language, as it were, whose access to their language has not been meddled with for pedagogic purposes, they have a huge advantage over the non-native teacher because they can be admirable, infallible informants.
In communicative language teaching, the emphasis has tended to be on the target competence of the learner, but not on the pedagogic competence the teacher needs to have in order to facilitate learning. This is why language proficiency, that is the ability to model the target communicative behaviour, has achieved such paramount importance in the language teaching profession.
There has often been the danger of an automatic extrapolation from competent speaker to competent teacher based on linguistic grounds alone, without taking into  considerations the criteria of cultural, social and pedagogic appropriacy (Seidlhofer 1994).
As to the second perspective on the subject EFL, this is in terms of the context of the classroom in the actual process of learning, where the emphasis  is on communication not in contexts of language use in the native-speaker community, but in the transitional language which activates learning in the learner community. Here native speakers lose their initial advantages over nonnative teachers, since being an effective communicator in the target language does not automatically make for the ability to identify language which is pedagogically effective.
The familiar arguments in this context are that the non-native teacher in many cases shares the same background as the students, she knows the cultural context which the context of the classroom has to be constructed from, rather than just modelling it on the target community. Most importantly perhaps, the non-native teacher has been through the process of learning the same language, often through the same L1 ‘filter’, and she knows what it is like to have made the foreign language, in some sense, her own, to have appropriated it for particular purposes. This is an experience which is shared only between nonnative teachers and their students. One could say that native speakers know the destination, but not the terrain that has to be crossed to get there: they themselves have not travelled the same route. Non-native teachers, on the other hand, know the target language as a foreign language. Paradoxically, it is precisely this which is often perceived as a weakness, although it can be understood, and drawn upon, as an important resource. This shared language learning experience should thus constitute the basis for non-native teachers’ confidence, not for their insecurity.

 Double think
I have argued, then, that English as a foreign language is a quite different phenomenon from English as a first language. They are distinct experiences, which the teacher has somehow to reconcile – and this can be an overwhelmingly complex undertaking. While the balancing act required of EFL teachers between linguistic/pragmatic and pedagogic competences has always been difficult enough, the situation has been aggravated over recent years by rapid developments in the disciplinary areas which ultimately feed into teacher education and teaching methodology. Pushed along by drastic sociopolitical changes
in the ‘real’ world and technological revolutions in the ‘virtual’ one, many issues seem to have gathered critical mass all at the same time which are in urgent need of analysis, reflection and synthesis in order to make a positive contribution to TEFL. For instance, there are at present two major developments which seem to pull teachers in two directions.
Computerised text analysis has made available vast and detailed profiles of actual language use, and has made it possible to devise dictionaries and grammars based on corpus research. In Britain, the pioneer in this field, John Sinclair, has argued for some time that only corpus-based research provides valid descriptions of English which can then be the basis of teaching materials (e.g. Sinclair 1991). While the most famous outcome of the Sinclair team’s Birmingham research are the COBUILD Dictionary and the COBUILD Grammar7 (based on British and American spoken and written texts), the Nottingham-Cambridge CANCODE project aims at providing a corpus-based description of spoken grammar, in particular of informal, naturally occurring conversations conducted by native speakers throughout Britain (cf. Carter & McCarthy 1995). An important finding of these descriptions of actually occurring language use is that much of what we find in conventional grammars and textbooks (which was at least partly based on native speaker intuition) does not accord with the newly-found reality uncovered by corpus research. Existing textbooks are being examined with reference to certain features of real, i.e. attested language, and invariably found wanting (e.g. Boxer & Pickering 1995); the verdict is that practically all studies based on naturally-occurring data show that “at least some of what existing textbooks contain is wrong, or at best, misleading” (Channell 1996). Consequently, materials writers and teachers world-wide are exhorted not to withhold the newly available facts of native speaker language use from their students, to forsake EFLese and to teach them English as it is really written in Chicago, and really spoken in Cardiff. This claim might be summed up as “aspire to real native-speaker English!”.
But there is another, and as I see it, conflicting claim. This derives from the fact that we now know a good deal more than, say, 20 years ago about nonnative varieties of English and the use of English as an International Language.
There is an ever-growing recognition of the importance of institutionalised varieties of English in the Outer Circle (Greenbaum & Nelson 1996), of the sheer volume of non-native – non-native communication in English as a lingua franca (e.g. Meierkord 1996), and a recognition of bi- and multilingualism rather than monolingualism constituting the socio-linguistic norm. The notion of native speakers’ ‘ownership of English’ is radically called into question (Widdowson 1994a), and a lively interest is arising in describing non-native varieties of English and in drawing on these descriptions for a more realistic methodology of EIL (e.g. Baxter 1980, Brown 1995, Gill 1993, Granger (forthcoming), Jenkins 1996).

These insights pertaining to linguistic factors are complemented by developments in methodology. The prevailing orthodoxy of learner-centred teaching combines with an emerging respect for local cultures in lending strength to calls for an appropriate methodology (Holliday 1994) and alternative research agendas for classroom teachers (Holmes 1996). These changes go hand in hand with an increased confidence of, and in, non-native teachers (Medgyes 1994, Van Essen 1995-). This state of play might be summed up as an exhortation to EFL teachers “assert non-native norms and local values!” And to reconcile this request with the above one to “aspire to real native-speaker English!” would seem to require a considerable capacity to engage in double think. Seen in a positive light, however, EFL teachers can practise double think constructively by weighing up these conflicting demands and taking responsibility for resolving incompatibilities from the vantage point of their learners’ needs and interests.

A POEM BY GREEK POET CAVAFIS, IN CATALAN WITH SUBTITLES BOTH IN CATALAN AND SPANISH

To my friends from Argentina, Brazil, Singapore and Venezuela, please, feel free to comment… welcome everybody.

I am now reading The Odyssey by Homer in English, in the version translated by Colonel T.E. Lawrence, formerly T.E. Shaw, student and later a lecturer at Oxford University, which recounts the adventures of Odysseus on his voyage back to his island kingdom of Ithaca following the Trojan war. There his beautiful wife Penelope awaits him. T.E.Lawrence later worked for the British Government as a Middle East Adviser to the Colonial Office for his extensive knowledge of that area of the World. He later died in a motorbike accident in 1935. He indeed was the famous “Lawrence of Arabia”.  Lawrence believed it was the first real European Novel, and the oldest story-line in the World. 

I bring you here a video of a song in two of the several languages of Spain, Catalan and Spanish, sung by the author and singer Lluís Llach, from a poem by the Greek poet Kavafis. With subtitles both in Spanish and Catalan. I love it, and it encourages you to enjoy the journey, not only longing for the arrival. Many harbours await you where you will meet those who are learned and will be enriched…Comment if you wish. It lasts about 10 minutes but it is cut down by Youtube due to their policy of video length. it is about that journey to Ithaca, the journey of our life.

"The importance of being a non-native teacher of English" (3)

Dear friends, here you will find another piece of the Academic paper published by Professor Dr Barbara Seidlhofer on the issue. Please feel free to comment, and post on the blog instead of sending messages to my inbox tray. As you like.
“1. Conflicting messages
Although the most hotly debated socio-political issues to do with World Englishes are generally perceived to be of somewhat less direct relevance in the Expanding Circle2 than they are in the Outer Circle, recent developments in the study of institutionalised varieties of English and English across cultures (e.g.Kachru 1992), English as an international language (e.g. Pennycook 1994,Tollefson 1995) and ‘linguistic imperialism’ (e.g. Phillipson 1992) have had considerable impact on the discourse of English language teaching in general.

This is easily observed, for instance, by comparing conference programmes and proceedings (such as those of the annual conferences of the International Association for the Teaching of English as a Foreign Language, IATEFL) of the nineties with those of the eighties: whereas presentations and papers used to be mainly devoted to issues in the description and instruction of the language as such, we now find a much wider variety of topics, with cultural, political, social, ecological, psychological, technological, and managerial issues successfully competing for space with contributions focusing on the language proper. In short, there is a sense of breaking the professional mould, with a broader conception of what it means to teach languages going hand in hand with a more comprehensive view of the languages to be taught. Thus monoculturalism seems to have been replaced by multiculturalism, monolingualism with multilingualism, and targets seem to be criterion-referenced rather than (native speaker) norm-referenced. But are these wider visions shared by the majority of practitioners themselves? What are teachers concerned with in their daily practice? Obviously it would be ludicrous to try and give accurate and comprehensive answers to these questions, as these do not exist any more than does a universally valid description of these contexts. But what can be observed generally is a striking discrepancy: the ‘idealistic’ visions of global ‘real world/ whole person’ concerns mentioned above are contradicted by other (equally global) influences of a decidedly materialistic nature rooted in free market economy: most practical matters which impinge directly on teachers’ daily practice, such as textbooks, reference works, supplementary materials, examinations and qualifications still make almost exclusive reference to notions of the native speaker culture as the (uncontaminated?) source providing the language to be taught. To mention just a few examples, learners and teachers are enjoined to ‘get into the Head of the Native Speaker’ (advertisement for the Longman Dictionary of English Language and Culture) 3; to go for Cambridge examinations, certificates and diplomas: ‘make no mistakes, there are no equivalents’4; being a native speaker is still the trump card when competing for teaching jobs (cf. Illés 1991); teachers are bombarded with materials on rival national language initiatives such as those of the British Council and the United States Information Service, and textbooks produced in the UK and the US are a huge industry. Qualifying institutions offering diplomas for TEFL run different schemes for native and non- native teachers5. ‘Authentic materials’ are traded as the genuine articles reflecting native-speaker language use, and empirical studies find that future (non-native) EFL teachers in the Expanding Circle tend to prefer, identify with, and aspire to native English accents while looking down on their own local varieties6 (Dalton-Puffer, Kaltenböck & Smit (in press)). And so it is not surprising, either, that native speaker experts get the lion’s share of audiences at international conferences as well as references to their work (cf. Van Essen 1989), and we might note in passing the paradox that, globally speaking, the best-known authors arguing for the importance of listening to authentic local voices are not themselves local voices but tend to be white male Anglos from the ‘Centre’. Teachers are thus faced with fiercely competing discourses: that of inclusive claims made at a fairly abstract level, and that of native-speaker centred, exclusive forces prevailing in reality. This means that teachers have to cope with the contradictory powers of educational ideologies and market forces and negotiate the gaps between global claims and local conditions. This can be a demanding and even daunting task, for which they need to be prepared. In order to explore ways of meeting this challenge, I shall take a closer look at the unique contributions that non-native teachers in the Expanding Circle can make, and point to implications for priorities in teacher education.”

"Los gestos no tienen el mismo significado en todas las culturas"

For you that want to improve your Spanish, readers from so many countries, I attach an article posted by Raquel in the group Profesores de ELE (Español como Lengua Extranjera). Here it goes…

 

“Lo dice Marta García, profesora de la Universidad de Salamanca en una entrevista…

Marta García, profesora de la Universidad de Salamanca. Durante su ponencia en el seminario de Enseñanza del español como Lengua Extranjera de los Cursos de Verano de la Universidad de Almería ha analizado el lenguaje no verbal característico de la cultura española. Además, ha abordado el comportamiento que adoptamos los españoles en situaciones de la vida cotidiana.

Pregunta. ¿Somos conscientes los españoles de las diferencias existentes en la comunicación no verbal entre las diferentes culturas o es un tema que lo damos por hecho?

Respuesta. No, no somos conscientes en casi ningún caso. Creo que es un tema importante para los futuros profesores y profesoras de ELE (Español como Lengua Extranjera), ya que, en la mayoría de los casos, lo damos por sobreentendido. La comunicación no verbal se lleva en muy pocas ocasiones a las aulas y eso puede provocar frecuentes interferencias en la comunicación.

P. ¿Puede provocar la comunicación no verbal casos de incomunicación?

R. Claro. En culturas que no son muy próximas a la nuestra, se producen frecuentes interferencias. Ésta pueden afectar no sólo a la comunicación entre dos personas sino que estos malos entendidos pueden ocasionar desagradables problemas incluso al mundo de los negocios.

P. ¿Nos podría poner un ejemplo?

R. Sí. La cultura española es una cultura que le gusta la proximidad y el contacto. Al hablar solemos “tocar” a la persona con la que conversamos o nos acercamos bastante. En culturas como la japonesa, es una cultura de ausencia de contacto. Por lo tanto, cuando un japonés o japonesa llega a nuestro país se puede sentir incómodo o agredido si le tocamos al hablar. Siente que hemos invadido su espacio personal. Esto ocurre también en culturas como la norteamericana. Los estadounidenses consideran que alrededor suyo existe una especie de burbuja imaginaria que les pertenece y que si se traspasa estamos invadiendo su intimidad.

P. ¿Cómo nos puede ayudar conocer el lenguaje no verbal a la hora de enseñar el Español?

R. Nos ayuda bastante, no sólo a tener una fluidez verbal sino también cultural. El tener fluidez en el vocabulario y la gramática no es suficiente. Hay que tener también fluidez cultural. Es muy importante conocer las reglas culturales de la sociedad en la que estamos o pertenecemos.

P. ¿Cambia el lenguaje no verbal con el tiempo?. ¿Hay nuevos mensajes en las nuevas generaciones?

R. Sí. Es una pregunta frecuente que les hago a mis alumnos. La globalización está afectando a nuestra comunicación no verbal. Los españoles estamos adoptando gestos de otras culturas que vemos en el cine, la televisión, etc. Incluso dentro de nuestra propia cultura hay gestos que desconocemos, por ejemplo, los más jóvenes utilizan gestos que desconocen su significado los más mayores.

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