Friday, October 17, 2014

The Hustle

I had this disagreement the other day with a group of friends at dinner when I told them that I "hustle," and that maybe in this day and age or in this 'academic climate' or whatever, maybe I am going to have to "hustle" for a long time.

This apparently was funny because to them "hustle" meant something like "be a prostitute"
(which while we're at it is not terribly inaccurate when it comes to some academic teaching positions but that's not my point), but really what I meant was that for years now, I've had to "hustle" as in obtain by force  or sell (myself) aggressively for jobs. Small, insignificant jobs.

Not a year has gone by in the last ten years when I haven't applied for at least one job. Most years, I apply for three or four or five or ten.  I get some of them. Actually, I get a lot of them. But "getting a job" doesn't mean I won't have to hustle ever again. It just means I won't have to hustle for a few months, maybe.

I'm not necessarily complaining. Usually I like the jobs that I do. (Usually.) But I get so tired of hustling.

On that note, Fair Employment Week is coming up at UBC.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Studying Yourself

In the last few years, I have been involved in somewhere between one to three projects that involve some degree of "research about myself" (and, crucially, my interactions with other people). One has been published (Heng Hartse & Kubota 2014), two are in progress, and of these two, one is floundering at the moment.

For now, anyway, here are some notes on methodology references that may be useful to me and to others who find themselves studying themselves and what they are doing.

You'll need access to an academic library -- preferably UBC -- to follow most of the links.

The Wikipedia page on Autoethnography is as good a place as any to start:

Collaborative Autoethnography [UBC eLink]
"...Their book serves as a practical guide by providing you with a variety of data collection, analytic, and writing techniques to conduct collaborative projects. It also answers your questions about the bigger picture: What advantages does a collaborative approach offer to autoethnography? What are some of the methodological, ethical, and interpersonal challenges you’ll encounter along the way? Model collaborative autoethnographies and writing prompts are included in the appendixes. This exceptional, in-depth resource will help you explore this exciting new frontier in qualitative methods."

Spirituality in Higher Education: Autoethnographies [UBC eLink]

"Twenty chapter authors--from a variety of faith traditions--discuss the ways in which their own beliefs have affected their journeys through higher education. By using an autoethnographic, self-analytical lens, this collection shows how various spiritualities have influenced how higher education is understood, taught and performed. The book will stimulate debate and conversations on a topic traditionally ignored in academia."

"Identity Dialectics of the Intercultural Communication Instructor:  Insights from Collaborative Autoethnography" [Link]
ABSTRACT One way to deal with teaching challenges is to share personal stories with other teachers. In this article, four intercultural communication (IC) instructors consider how their teaching narratives provide insight into the dialectical tensions that exist with regard to teacher identity in the classroom, specifically in the context of their IC courses. Using a collaborative approach to autoethnography, we reveal four dialectics that highlight how our identity and intercultural experiences impact our teaching of IC: [1] Objectivity—Subjectivity; [2] Personal—Professional; [3] Learner—Teacher; and [4] Within—Beyond the Comfort Zone. These dialectics invite discussion regarding how IC teachers can navigate these contradictory tensions to be more effective instructors.
Lapadat, Judith C. (2009). Writing our way into shared understanding: Collaborative autobiographical writing in the qualitative methods class. Qualitative Inquiry, 15,955-979 [link]

ABSTRACT From her experience as an instructor, the author finds that it is valuable to engage graduate students in conducting a study within their qualitative methods course. In this article, the author discusses how she used a collaborative autobiographical research approach. Class members generate autobiographical writing to be shared with the group, and then the group collaboratively analyzes and interprets the set of autobiographical materials. The author goes on to describe two examples of collaborative autobiographical projects grounded, respectively, in memory-work and narrative inquiry frameworks. The complexity of autobiographical writing and the value of collaboration are discussed, along with ethical issues relating to role blurring, coresearcher relationships, anonymity, Research Ethics Board timelines, and cycles of consent.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

L2 Writing and Translingual Writing - what's going on?

The latest issue of the SLWIS newsletter (from the L2 writing interest group of TESOL) includes a short piece by a number of well-known L2 writing scholars indicating their intent to clarify the "difference" between L2 writing and translingual writing.

The is in response to the recent interest in translingual writing -- a term coined by a popular 2011 paper by Horner, Lu, Royster, & Trimbur -- from what we in L2 writing have traditionally called "L1 composition" scholars. The concern that the L2 writing scholars have is this (my emphases):

...we are concerned about the tendency to conflate L2 writing and translingual writing, and with the even more disturbing trend to view translingual writing as a replacement for L2 writing. For example, we are concerned about the confusion and degrees of uncertainty resulting from a proliferation of such terms as: translingual writing, translingual writers, and code-meshing. There are also concerns about how this conflation may impact hiring practices for L2 writing specialists at postsecondary institutions and the comments of editorial boards for articles under review. We acknowledge that this trend has been largely confined within the discussion of U.S. college composition, so many who work in other contexts may be less familiar with the controversy.

This alarms me a little, since I am on the job market and have been looking into L1 rhet/comp jobs. I didn't know the situation was as serious as they suggest. They go on to quote their forthcoming piece in a top NCTE journal:

“...translingual writing is a particular orientation to how language is conceptualized and implicated in the study and teaching of writing. It emphasizes the fluidity, malleability and discriminatory potential of languages” but it “has not widely taken up the task of helping L2 writers increase their proficiency in what might still be emerging L2s and develop and use their multiple language resources to serve their own purposes."

I think I agree with this.

I talk about the emergence of translingual writing perspectives in my dissertation, and in general I am "in favor" of this perspective. The real benefit is that as a theoretical perspective, "translingual writing" does something very simple and elegant: it flattens out all variation in written language use into "language difference." This is a very sociolinguistic approach to writing; it encourages researchers and teachers alike to reconsider the question of "why anyone writes anything" (to quote myself recontextualizing a quote of Labov) with fresh eyes. Error, variation, dialect, register, slang, etc. -- they all come together, and I believe this is a useful and productive way to approach L2 writing. I advocate a "non-error based approach" to L2 writing in general -- not because I believe errors don't exist, but there is a long string of studies in both L1 and L2 composition that have proven over and over that judgments of error are subjective and complex, and when we look for errors, we find them.

However, where I see a need to be cautious is in simply referring to the actual process/product of writing as "translingual writing." Aside from my own belief that "translingual" is a misnomer for what is meant to be described (we really are still talking about English writing here, despite translingual scholars' arguments against "English Only" in US composition), I would say that there is no thing called translingual writing; the texts are still the same texts they would've been if they were written before we coined the term "translingual."  This is why I like to simply call this perspective the "translingual approach to writing" -- because it is a way of understanding written language and what to do with it.

There's more to be said here, but I'm just interested in seeing how this whole thing plays out over the long term. We may be entering a new era of engagement of L2 writing scholars in L1 composition, and this is certainly of interest to me as I put a tentative toe or two into the job market.

Monday, July 07, 2014

PhDing When You Could Be Doing Something Else

Was doing some reading "for fun" last night and suddenly had the thought "I could have been reading Kierkegaard and Augustine for the last five years if I'd really thought about what I wanted to study for the rest of my life!"

Anyway. Life is long, hopefully, so there's time yet for that sort of thing, maybe. My bedside stack of books right now is Kierkegaard, R.R. Reno, the Book of Common Prayer, Stephen Prothero, Garrison Keillor, and, finally, John McWhorter who is at least a linguist.

The warning of Paul Matsuda's 2007 blog post, which I've quoted here before, still rings in my ears:

If you feel like you are sacrificing something else when you read and write in your field, entering a Ph.D. program may not be the right career decision. If you have that much discipline to complete the degree requirements without really enjoying the process, you might consider choosing from many other career options out there that don't require a Ph.D. and that you might actually enjoy.

He's right, of course. I am sacrificing something else. But how can anyone who chooses a vocation do otherwise than to sacrifice something? And frankly, I'm shocked and a little saddened by how little the people I know in my field seem to read of anything but applied linguistics.

My point though, or the reason I've taken a break from fretting about the chapter I'm reworking right now, is just this:

The dissertation really is the loneliest, saddest part of doing a PhD. I can see why in Europe you just start with the diss, and get on with it as quickly as possible. None of this mucking about with learning and teaching and thinking a lot. (No offense, European academia.) I've been trying to write this damn thing for the better part of two years. Every day I move a little closer to being done, and the distance left to go often feels insurmountable. But I know that soon I'll be done, and this won't be hanging over my head any more. There'll be other things, sure, but it's nice to remember that every once in a while, you do get a choice. Three years ago I chose this dissertation; next year, I'll choose something else.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Others Mean Differently

"Why are many city people so violent in condemning what they consider substandard forms of speech? The answer seems to be that, although the attitudes are explicitly formulated in connection with immediately accessible matters of pronunciation and word formation, what is actually being reacted to is something much deeper. People are reacting to the fact that others mean differently from themselves, and they feel threatened by it.”

MAK Halliday

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Why "Ownership of English" is the wrong question

Henry Widdowson’s 1993 plenary address at TESOL, later published in TESOL Quarterly as “The Ownership of English,” started a trend in TESOL and applied linguistics which did two things, one of which I think was more explicitly intended, and one of which I think was less intended but also important:

A (more intended): Started a conversation about non-native speakers’ full “ownership” of English, not as linguistic second-class citizens, but as people who can use, shape, and “own” English in their own right.

B (less intended): Made “ownership” an important metaphor for talking about users of English.

Widdowson’s speech/essay discusses issues which are still very much in play for TESOL scholars who wrestle with the implications of the spread, localization, and use of English in diverse contexts around the world: what is standard English, what are standards, how are we to understand the role of both native and non-native speakers of English as teachers of the language, and so on. At one point he posits what I take to be his central question:

“The question is which community, and which culture, have a rightful claim to ownership of standard English?”

Even if we remove “standard” from this question, in order to expand it to any sort of English, I suggest that this is not quite the right question to be asking. Especially given the recent turn that encourages us to think less of langauges as reified “things” and more as resources that people use for certain purposes, it makes less and less sense to think of languages in terms of “ownership” at all -- even though ideas about native/nonnative speakership or even things like legitimacy or authority are still very relevant, both ideologically and practically.

So, why “ownership?” Who bestows it? How does one come to claim it? Although Widdowson carefully and persuasively argues that English is not (or is no longer)  under the sole provenance of British ‘native speakers,’ one might wonder whether any speaker or group of speakers of a language can be said to “own” it.

Try asking this of yourself: do I “own” my language? The pronoun I used in that sentence seems like a clue: I call English MY language. Yet it seems to me this is more of a way of denoting a closeness to or an affinity for a language, or a way of speaking, meaning, or even, dare I say, being in the world. Yoo (2014) uses the “ownership” of names as an analogy, arguing that just as Korean speakers of English using English does not mean they own English, neither does the fact that other people use your name more often than you use it mean that they own your name. Ren (2014) refutes this, arguing that a language is much larger and more complex than a name, and that it's a medium of communication through which people express their identities -- thus, NNESs can indeed "own" it.

I'd like to suggest a different analogy, but for the purposes of showing that "ownership" isn't the issue.

 Let's think about the way we refer to other things as “ours.” I speak of my wife, my son, my parents -- but of course I do not in any meaningful way consider myself to “own” these people. When I call them “mine,” I am referring to the strong ties that connect us, my close relationship with them, even in some cases our biological kinship. If you’d prefer a different illustration, think of the way we talk about, say, “my hockey team,” “my university,” “my favorite song.” I don’t claim to “own” any of these things, but I feel a very strong connection to, say, the University of British Columbia in a way that many people in the world do not. I am familiar with it, I use its resources, I can get around it with ease in a way I could not before I was enrolled there.

In the same way, when I say English is “my” language, I don’t mean that I own it, but that I am close to it, I am familiar with it, I know how to use it. I’m less comfortable calling other langauges “my” languages, though I might in a pinch refer to Spanish or Chinese as “my foreign languages,” even if I feel like I’m not very good at them. The fact is that I have been surrounded by English for my entire life, so I feel very comfortable calling it “my” language, but neither I nor anyone I know, nor even the country I live in or other people who speak it, really “own” the language.

Note: Stop reading here if you’re satisfied with this argument. I’m pretty satisfied with it myself. Read more below if you want to get nit-picky about current debates in applied linguistics, world Englishes, and ELF.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

New article published in the Journal of Second Language Writing

Very happy to mention that the article I co-wrote with Ryuko Kubota has been published by the Journal of Second Language Writing. Click the reference below to read, and see the abstract below.

Heng Hartse, J. & Kubota, R. (2014.) Pluralizing English? Variation in High-Stakes Academic Texts and Challenges of Copyediting. Journal of Second Language Writing 24, 71-82.

Paralleling the pluralistic conceptualizations of language as found in world Englishes and English as a lingua franca (ELF), pluralizing language use - that is, accepting deviations from standard Anglo-American written English - has been advocated in the field of second language (L2) writing. However, the question of how this pluralization is or can be achieved remains underexplored, particularly at the level of lexis and grammar, which has traditionally been an important focus for readers of L2 writers' texts. This question becomes contentious in high-stakes academic writing, which entails negotiation between L2 writers and gatekeepers (editors, copyeditors) who are expected to ensure academic sophistication and rigor of published texts. This article addresses theoretical issues related to differences in language use by critically analyzing the authors' own process of copyediting nonnative English writers’ manuscripts prepared for a book publication.. It examines the role of literacy brokering (textual mediation by editors, proofreaders, and others) at the lexicogrammatical level in academic text production. We found that despite sympathy for an approach that would pluralize English usage, the textual mediation of lexical and grammatical items was often driven by native-speaker intuition and was idiosyncratic. This idiosyncrasy further poses skepticism about the applicability of both error-oriented approaches to and pluralistic theories about L2 writing to copyediting in high-stakes academic publishing.  We conclude that pervasive ideologies and accepted practices in academic publishing make it difficult to pluralize academic writing at the level of lexis and grammar. We conclude with suggestions for advocacy, research, and practice for L2 writing scholars and literacy brokers.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Recent Publications

A few things published recently. #2 is the only "academic" publication, but they are all related to stuff I do academically, namely: "Chinglish" / English in China, transnational higher education, joint-venture universities in China, religion in applied linguistics, and world Englishes.

1. NYU Shanghai and the Future of International Higher Education in China
at Asia Pacific Memo

2. Chinglish Triumphant? The Unusual Case of Long time No See
in Asian Englishes

3. On Encouraging Religion-Related Research in TESOL
in the CELEA newsletter

4. On Not 'Being an ESL Teacher' All the Time
in the BCTEAL newsletter

Monday, February 03, 2014


I need to remind myself that January has gone really, really well.

What happened in January? Well, a lot of pretty great things.

First, I won an award from the American Association of Applied Linguistics, which means something like I had one of the best proposals among all the grad students who submitted this year for their conference.

Then, I had a book proposal accepted by the TESOL association (the other big professional association in my field, other than AAAL), on a topic I've been wanting to do a book on for 5+ years. (I'll be co-writing it with a colleague -- more information is coming this summer.)

Then, on the last day of the month, I had a manuscript (that I've been working on with a professor for over a year and a half) accepted by the Journal of Second Language Writing. I don't want to sound like a star-struck bumpkin, but I never dreamed I would get a publication in the JSLW. I have honestly always seen it as a journal that is only for really well-known people in our field, like, say, professors at Purdue.

I'm not (I hope) one for horn-tooting, but I need to remember that these things have happened. My "career" is going well.

But every time I open my dissertation document, my heart sinks and I feel like I am a total failure, that my advisor will not be pleased with what I've done, that my committee will not let me pass, that the external examiner will be unimpressed, and that I will never finish my Ph.D.

This is in spite of what appears to be evidence (above) that I am good at what I do. Again, I'm not saying this to big-up myself. It's just really hard for me to square all the non-dissertation good stuff with the sheer uncertainty of the dissertation process. When I was writing my first book, I knew that when I finished it I wasn't going to be totally happy with it, but I also felt like the stakes were low -- the editor was a good friend, the publisher was small and not marketing the book much, I had no advance I needed to earn royalties against, and most of all, I felt like all I was responsible for in the writing was to make up stuff off the top of my head.

Writing my dissertation feels nothing like this. The stakes feel incredibly high -- my ability to get a job I've trained for for nearly a decade to support my family is on the line,  I'm losing money every semester I stay in school, and I have this nagging doubt that the way I'm going about it is all wrong.

This is probably what they call "impostor syndrome" -- the idea that you don't deserve your success, that you are fooling anybody who thinks you're doing a good job. It is alarmingly frequent in academia. It's said to affect women and minorities disproportionately, though I guess I am an exception. I'm as male and WASPy as they come (though a professor last term did make a reference to 'everyone in the room being a member of an underrepresented/disenfranchised group,' and since I was the only person in the room who was not either a woman or an ethnic minority or gay or transgender, I can only assume she was, quite charitably, referring to my allusions to being an Evangelical, which is actually something of a marginalized position in academia) and I would estimate that I spent 50% of my workdays just sort of sitting at my desk and fretting about not being good enough at what I am supposed to be doing.

So remember: January has gone really, really well.

And February is going to be tough.

But (I tell myself, even though I don't totally believe it) February is going to go well, too, because I am good at what I do.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Language repertoire of a teacher training class in Vancouver

A list of what languages were represented in our classroom. The question was simply "which languages do you have in your repertoire?" The question of what constitutes a repertoire came up. I defined it as "whether you feel the language is a part of your life in some way."

One member of the class was absent when we did this and she would've added some more, so the totals would have been:

English - 17
Mandarin - 7
Cantonese - 4
French - 4
Korean - 3
Japanese  - 2
Spanish - 2
Indonesian - 1
Punjabi - 1
Hindi - 1
Latin - 1

So, some questions.

Is there anything surprising about this?

How does this list affirm (or not affirm) beliefs about what languages are important/common in Vancouver, or BC, or Canada, or North America?

How many of these are "native" vs "non-native" languages? Does that matter?

What would happen if we conducted class in a language other than English?

What language families or regions of the world are not represented? Why?

Monday, January 27, 2014

Sociolinguistics and language teaching: 20 years ago and today

I'm currently teaching one of my favorite courses at UBC, which is the second half of a sequence of classes on applied linguistics for current or future language teachers. This course focuses on applications of sociolinguistics to language teaching, a subject I really enjoy teaching (and learning) about.

We use the 2010 book Sociolinguistics and Language Education by Hornberger & McKay. What I find interesting is that this book is basically an update of a very similar volume they edited about 20 years ago, and by comparing the contents of the books you can see what's changed since then.

Right away, you can see that the 1996 book is more focused on 'traditional' areas of sociolinguistics: variation, sociology of language, interactional sociolinguistics. The 2010 book adds three sections that have hugely grown in importance (and some might say "trendiness"): language (and) ideology, language and identity, and a whole section for language and literacy where it's just a chapter in the first book.

As I've said before, applied linguists tend to use the term "sociolinguistics" loosely, and 2010 book shows that we've placed some things under that umbrella that may not have been there before: new literacy studies and multiliteracies, identity stuff, and studies of ideology/power. 

I think I'll have more to say this when the course is over, but for now, here are the two tables of contents for comparison.

McKay, S. & Hornberger, N. (1996). Sociolinguistics and language teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Chapter 1 Language attitudes, motivation, and standards 3 Mary McGroarty
Chapter 2 Societal multilingualism 47 Kamal K. Sridhar
Chapter 3 World Englishes 71 Braj B. Kachru and Cecil L. Nelson
Chapter 4 Language planning and policy 103 Terrence G. Wiley


Chapter  5 Regional and social variation 151 John R. Rickford
Chapter 6 Pidgins and Creoles 195 Patricia C. Nichols
Chapter 7 Language and gender 218 Rebecca Freeman and Bonnie McElhinnyvi

Chapter 8 Ethnographic microanalysis 283 Frederick Erickson
Chapter 9 Interactional sociolinguistics 307 Deborah Schiffrin
Chapter 10 Intercultural communication 329 J. Keith Chick

Chapter 11 The ethnography of communication 351 Muriel Saville-Troike
Chapter 12 Speech acts 383 Andrew D. Cohen
Chapter 13 Literacy and literacies 421 Sandra Lee McKay


Chapter 14 Language and education 449 Nancy H. Hornberger


Hornberger, N. & McKay, S. (eds.) (2010). Sociolinguistics and language education. Bristol: Multilingual Matters

Part 1: Language and Ideology
1 Language and Ideologies Mary E. McGroarty
2 Language, Power and Pedagogies Hilary Janks
3 Nationalism, Identity and Popular Culture Alastair Pennycook

Part 2: Language and Society
4 English as an International Language Sandra Lee Mckay 
5 Multilingualism and Codeswitching in Education Nkonko M. Kamwangamalu
6 Language Policy and Planning Joseph Lo Bianco

Part 3: Language and Variation
7 Style and Styling J├╝rgen Jaspers
8 Critical Language Awareness H. Samy Alim
9 Pidgins and Creoles Jeff Siegel

Part 4: Language and Literacy
10 Cross-cultural Perspectives on Writing: Contrastive Rhetoric Ryuko Kubota
11 Sociolinguistics, Language Teaching and New Literacy Studies Brian Street and Constant Leung
12 Multimodal Literacy in Language Classrooms Viniti Vaish and Phillip A. Towndrow

Part 5: Language and Identity
13 Language and Identity Bonny Norton
14 Gender Identities in Language Education Christina Higgins
15 Language and Ethnicity Angela Reyes
16 Language Socialization Patricia A. Duff

Part 6: Language and Interaction
17 Language and Culture Gabriele Kasper and Makoto Omori
18 Conversation Analysis Jack Sidnell
19 Classroom Discourse Analysis: A Focus on Communicative Repertoires  Betsy Rymes

Part 7: Language and Education
20 Language and Education: A Limpopo Lens Nancy H. Hornberger