Thursday, November 30, 2006

California & ELLs; Current projects

"Almost 30 percent of the non-English speakers in the United States live in California, many of them in households that are 'linguistically isolated' because they lack adults or teenagers proficient in English..."

I'm not sure I have anything to say about this article, I just thought it was kind of interesting.


Current papers:
1. "Oath as Paradox: The Complicated Act of Swearing to Tell the Truth." A paper that looks at oaths as speech acts, their religious meaning, their legal meaning, their use in conversation. Two muddled conclusions: 1) Our use of/demand for oaths shows that we don't expect people to tell the truth under normal circumstances, and/or 2) We don't even tell the truth when we do use oaths, so they must mean something new altogether. I suggest five possibilites for what they do in modern usage. I would have liked to spend some more time on this paper, but I feel like I learned a lot doing the research.

2. "Correcting the Fallacy of Contrastive Rhetoric: Bakhtinian and Ethnographic Perspectives." This one is being edited right now. Takes as a starting point a 1992 article by Terry Santos (my professor) in which she argues that ESL Writing as a field is pragmatic -- its aim is only to give students the tools they need to succeed in academic writing -- and that therefore it is unlikely to take up the mantle of ideology that has been so prevalent in L1 composition (e.g., social justice, "affirmation" of students' nonstandard dialects, promoting democracy). I argue that a) L2 writing has at least begun to accept a sociocultural orientation, b) that this is not a bad thing, because it remains pragmatic and encourages instructors/researchers to look at students as individuals. I "dis" CR for a while, and then argue that the application of Bakhtinian theory (which is all about hybridity, intertexuality, intercultural langauge/identity) can help to correct the fallacy of CR -- namely, an essentialized vision of culture that sees student writing as large-culture-bound. There's a section on Holliday's* "ethnographic imagination" that hasn't been fleshed out yet, but it's sort of about how ethnography can help teachers, researchers, and students better understand how ESL writing works.

3. Untitled Masters Project -- interviews with ESL writers, analysis of ESL writers' texts, etc. Gearing up for this one.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Christians in English Language Teaching Conference

Christians in English Language Teaching Conference
Seattle Pacific University , Seattle , Washington , USA
March 20, 2007


Featured Speakers:
Suresh Canagarajah, Baruch College , CUNY , USA
David Smith, Calvin College , USA

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

More on TESOL and Christianity

These are old articles, but a paper on World Englishes that my friend Caroline delivered at HSU's Fall English Studies Conference got me interested in doing a little more reading on the subject. She mentioned Christian ESL teachers whose not-so-implicit goal is, essentially, to "destroy Islam" (that's how the Mother Jones article describes it, anyway).

Anyway, that led me to a very thoughtful article in Christianity Today by a Nonnative English speaker who learned English -- and converted to Christianity -- due to the influence of a Christian English teacher.

As for whether Christian ESL teachers should evangelize, if you know me I think you won't be surprised that I don't believe they should -- or at least that they should be honest to everyone about what their "true" goals are. I agree with Seaman (whose work on cross-cultural perception I used to write a paper about comics in ESL Writing instruction), who says in the CT article "You don't go in as a prophet; you go in as a servant."

As Sayers wrote, "the only Christian work is good work, done well." To be a Christian ESL teacher is to simply and faithfully equip learners with the linguistic tools they need to communicate in English.

There are a lo of people in TESOL who are Christians -- Scovel, Seaman, and Canagarajah are a few high-profile names -- and I hope that aspiring teachers (like me) will note their humble approaches to teaching.

Monday, September 11, 2006

the Apostle Paul and TESOL

"Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. 1If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and he is a foreigner to me." Is this stuff relevant?

Karl Johnson of Cornell's Chesterton House wrote this about Canagarajah's presentation (which was, sadly, cancelled) on ESL and Christianity: "Although the entanglement of Christianity with colonialism and the teaching of English is complex, Christianity commonly preserves and empowers native cultures against the homogenizing tendencies of Western culture precisely because Christianity values vernacular languages."

Babel. Pentecost. Imperialism. Evangelism. International English Teaching. I suddenly want to explore this issue way more. Christianity as linguistic Good Guy? Sociolinguistics term paper, anyone?

Related Reading: The Ascent of Babel: An Exploration of Language, Mind, and Understanding by Gerry T. M. Altmann

Monday, June 19, 2006

Never the two shall meet

Some genuis(es) decided it was a good idea to schedule TESOL 2007 and CCCC 2007 on the same weekend, 2000 miles apart.

I.O.U. a report from the JSLW this space!

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Education = Big Business

Here in the CSU system, we like to pretend we're immune to the corruption that seems to be all over the upper echelons of the University of California system. But...we're not.


This week I wrote a paper on the article "Cognitive and Sociocultural Perspectives: Two Parallel SLA Worlds?” from the 40th anniversary issue of TESOL Quarterly. Essentially my position was that the cognivists may have to split off and go hang out with neuroscientists if they want to keep being so sciency. Only in much more elloquent terms, I hope.


The HSU English department has graciously given me the funds to attend the 5th Annual Symposium on Second Language Writing at Purde University this summer. I'm looking forward to it. I'm also hoping to put together an ESL/SLA/AppLing grad student panel for HSU's fall English Studies conference. (I have kind of resigned myself to staying at HSU, which means taking a year's worth of non-AppLing classes. I don't think it will be so bad, but it's not my first choice, necessarily. As long as we can get out of here in mid-May.)

Monday, April 24, 2006

Ethnography and SLA (part 1, I hope)

Ethnographic methods, which have their roots in the field of anthropology, have over time been adopted by other social science-related disciplines. (I need a little more on how this has happened.)

As I approach my first attempt at ethnography from the dual perspectives of a student in an anthropology course and a novice scholar (let me just say right now that I love this term that I learned from Atkinson and Hammersley's book: "acceptable incompetent." That's what I am. I want to be an acceptable incompetent for the rest of my life.) in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) and applied linguistics, I am beginning to avail myself to the embarrassment of riches available to the scholar whose focus is, very broadly, an ethnographic approach to the study of how language is taught, learned, and generally used. Specifically, my project examines the use of language in a multilingual ESL (English as a Second Language) classroom, and in my cursory readings as I prepare to write my ethnography, I have identified a number of fields whose scholars can point the way toward a framework – or at least a scaffolding – for my own research, and which may be influential in shaping the direction of my future academic work. (My ethnography has roots in second language acquisition, sociolinguistics, sociology of language, linguistic anthropology, discourse analysis, TESOL, classroom research....and a lot more )

Helpful Reading:
Understanding Communication in Second Language Classrooms
The Classroom and the Language Learner: Ethnography and Second Language Classroom Research

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Multidisciplinarity / Interdisciplinarity

Other than clocking in at a whopping eight syllables, what do these words really mean? I'm working on an annotated bibliography for my Ethnography project, and for the introduction I want to talk about how/where I'm "situating" my research in "the field" -- of which there actually isn't "one," at all. I've got one foot in two fields--Anthropology, which is actually the department in which the course is, and TESOL, which is more specifically what I'm studying ethnographically (I'm observing ESL classes. TESOL, of course, fits under the rubric of "Applied Linguistics" as well. Linguistics and Anthropology do a lot of cross-pollinating, and both could accurately be described as "multidisciplinary."

Anyway, I don't want to get bogged down in the details of what it means to be interdisciplinary, but guess I do want to situate my own work as being a product of both my own interests and of necessity -- I have to be doing anthropology for the class, I should be doing TESOL for my degree, and in a broader sense I think I want to be "doing" applied linguistics -- that is, studying language and culture. As ethnography encourages personal reflection on the research being done, this paper, as a supplement to my actual "mini-ethnography," is an ideal place for me to work out what it is I really want to do.

Possible Reading*: Interdisciplinarity: History, Theory and Practice by Julie Thompson Klein

By the way -- what is Applied Linguistics? Maybe the mission of the Center for Applied Linguistics will give us some idea. Their mission is:
"Improving communication through better understanding of language and culture."
To accomplish this mission, CAL "promotes and improves the teaching and learning of languages; identifies and solves problems related to language and culture;serves as a resource for information about language and culture; conducts research on issues related to language and culture."

(*which is to say, maybe you'd like to read it; I certainly don't have time to.)

Welcome; too little, too late?

I've created this blog in the final month of my second semester of graduate study in TESOL. I'm attempting to work out just what, if anything, I want to study in the future, and just what it is I'm doing now. I've name it "Applied Applied Linguistics" partly in fun, because I think it's silly when disciplines try to legitimate themselves by appending the adjective "applied" to their titles, and partly because I really am trying to figure out how the study of Applied Linguistics and a number of other disciplines with which I'm flirting will actually impact me as a student, a scholar, and a human being. Plus, I'll be "applying" all this stuff soon enough, I hope.

If all goes as planned, I'll be getting my praxis on in China or Mongolia, teaching English at the university level as a Peace Corps Volunteer, starting in less than three months.

I plan to explore, among other things:

Applied Linguistics
Linguistic Anthropology
Sociology of Language
Ethnograpic approaches to TESOL and/or Applied Linguistics
Ethnography of communication
Language and culture
TESOL and religion
TESOL and, broadly speaking, "cultural imperialism"

Some thinkers/authors/theorists/whatever I'm interested in:

Suresh Canagarajah
Patricia Duff
Howard Gardner
Benjamin Lee Whorf

I consider myself a novice at most of this stuff; I'm here to work out my academic future in fear and trembling. Stay tuned.