Friday, September 30, 2016

TEFLology Episode 50: Parallelism in Professional Practice, Dictionary Additions, and Francis Lodwick

(TEFLology Podcast)

The new episode of TEFLology is online here.

In my previous review, I made the mistake of criticizing TEFLology for not being something else instead of recognizing it for what it was.  At this point in the series, I should have known better.  TEFLology is not intended to be an SLA course.  It's just supposed to be banter about various TEFL related topics.

This episode was pure banter.  I didn't learn a single useful thing from it, but the chat was interesting, it got me thinking about a few different topics, and the banter was pretty funny at points.  So no complaints.  (I certainly wouldn't recommend anyone take time out of their day to listen to this podcast, but put on in the background while puttering around the apartment, it provides a pleasant little distraction.)

This episdoe was about:
1) Parallelism in Professional Practice,
2) Dictionary Additions, and
3) Francis Lodwick

I'll make my comments about each briefly.

Parallelism in Professional Practice
The TEFLologists themselves are pretty straight forward about saying that this is just an idea they haven't fully thought out themselves.  One of them is thinking about developing this idea into a PHD thesis, but it's not there yet.
The concern seems to be the difference between the career paths of Japanese teachers of English and native speaker teachers of English--if everyone is teaching the same subject, why not have the same career trajectory?
Some reference is made to the difference between an ALT and the Japanese English teacher, which is a situation I have some experience with, but I think the TEFLologist who brought up the issue was primarily thinking about it in terms of the university setting.

To me, the problem seems obvious, and it all has to do with the bureaucracy.  Institutions (both private language schools and national governments) have different sets of rules, expectations, and mandatory qualifications for native speakers and non-native speakers, and for foreigners versus citizens.
That doesn't mean it's not fertile grounds for PHD research. Although everyone knows this in the abstract, I'm not sure any work has been done listing and categorizing the different expectations imposed on foreign teachers and Japanese teachers.

I'm cynical that a solution to this problem will ever be found.  It would mean requiring the various bureaucracies that recognize or give out qualifications to give up some of their power, and they are going to resist doing that.

Stray Observations
* During my time as an ALT, I often heard the rumor that the reason the ALT had so few duties in the classroom was because  the Japanese Teacher's Union had been concerned foreign ALTs would replace Japanese teachers, and so demanded it be codified that the ALT was only an assistant teacher who could not teach the class on their own.  I heard it often enough I believed it to be true, but I guess I shouldn't report it here without making the caveat that this was only something I heard reported informally in bars.

* A thought that's occasionally occurred to me when I've been reading about TEFL methodology: Why are all the big names in the field always native speakers of English? (Krashen, Rod Ellis, Michael Lewis, Scott Thornbury, Jack Richards, etc, etc, etc).  The people probably least qualified to talk about learning English as a foreign language would be people who speak it as a native language, right?
I wonder if this is because I only read in the English language myself.  When a Japanese person does a TEFL degree, do they study Krashen and Rod Ellis, or do they read Japanese experts on TEFL.
Or to put the question more broadly: are the recognized experts on second language acquisition different in different countries?

Dictionary Additions
Some interesting questions about what it means when a foreign word enters the English dictionary.  Does that then make it an English word?

This is especially an interesting question in classrooms where students are forbidden to speak their L1 (as in my school).  The TEFLologists ask the question if students should be permitted to speak these words once they enter the English dictionary?

It's also an issue for some students who have certain personalities.  During my time in Japan, I remember some Japanese students of English who insisted on learning the English word for everything--even in cases where the Japanese word had become common in English (anime or sushi, for example).

Francis Lodwick
Interesting discussion about artificial languages.  I don't really have anything to add here, except to reference The Ling Space episode on constructed languages, as a nice supplement to the TEFLologists discussion.  Ling Space video here.

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