For a long time, languages are actually associated with certain ideologies and attitudes that shape the way how one language is used or perceived. It is interesting that Van Herk (2012) tapped on the various language myths that we, as ESL learners or teachers, exposed to almost every day which creates somehow language anxiety.
Having Lauren spoken about language anxiety on FaceTime yesterday, she mentioned very sensitive issue that attached with me as English second language learner and teacher. She spoke about three types of people who might experience language anxiety such as; multilinguals, elders and more advanced L2 speakers. Personally, what is make me feel anxious toward the language is the fact that I have to sound like natives of English in order to be advanced L2 learner or teacher. It is actually one of the language myths that strongly appeared in almost all of my language educational life. I remember when I was in the high school that I was pushed to sound like native Americans by my English teacher in order to do the class presentation perfectly! At that time, I spent plenty of time watching American English YouTube channels and movies with no subtitle and I believed at that time these were the most accurate and advanced English version existed in the world.
Interestingly, reading Pavlenko’s (2009) article reminded me of my experience as both language learner and teacher. It brought me to the fact that upon all of my ESL classes in the middle and high school, none of the language teachers have actually mentioned the different vernaculars, dialects or even accents in English. There were only two types of spoken English at that time, good English which is native like or bad English which is in fact the Arabic English accent. In terms of teaching field, American English accent is actually considered as English speaking model which is highly privileged in any teaching language job application in Saudi Arabia. I remember when I was fulfilling my internship in the TESOL bachelor program in Saudi Arabia, I was required to achieve a story telling class for 3rd grade language students. Then by the end of that class, I should receive an evaluation sheet that tells me if I met the requirement to be qualified for teaching a language. I can not forget one of my supervisor comment who stated that “Your English sounds like a native speaker English and that is good for the kids to understand and follow up with the narrative of the story” so I received a good evaluation for that project. Now, when I enrolled in many sociolinguistics classes, I noticed that to be problematic behaviour. It is an overwhelming responsibility and mis-defined ideology of a spoken language that has created language anxiety for many language teachers and learners.
Hence, my questions to you:
- As a teacher, how can you create a safe space for your students and help them eliminate the misunderstood vision of being “native-like speakers”?
- In case of my country and the fact that they only accept teachers who sound like native speakers, what are your suggestions to the ministry of educations who have such an attitude toward hiring only “native-like” teachers?
- In your opinion, what factors that keep this type of language myth is still alive today in many language classrooms?
Pavlenko, A. (2003). ” I Never Knew I Was a Bilingual”: Reimagining Teacher Identities in TESOL. Journal of Language, Identity, and education, 2(4), 251-268.
Van Herk, G. (2012). What is sociolinguistics (Vol. 6). John Wiley & Sons.