Why only now?

Géraldine Gras (post #3):

For my third and last blog post, I wanted to focus on an issue that was made evident from our second class of Educational Sociolinguistics: the lack of teacher preparation for second language teaching (beyond the second language itself). My group and I presented on the second week, on the topic of language identity amongst others.  “How embarrassing! I knew nothing about language identity as a language teacher”, I thought to myself. This was followed by a ton of readings, hundreds of questions and self-doubt. It wasn’t until I spoke with teachers around me (from my schools and other graduate students) that I realized, my lack of knowledge was shared. Why is it that many of us, teachers, have never heard of certain concepts in our second language education despite completing an undergraduate?

I understand that a graduate degree must go beyond all the material covered in the four year undergraduate degree (which is already quite extensive), however it seems to me that at some point, in some class, someone should mention language identity to second language teachers in training for positions in cities full of diversity such as Montreal. However, language identity or whatever it may be – it doesn’t really matter, what does is that this is an example of one of the many issues linked to second language teaching. Most issues regarding the acquisition of the language are covered in undergraduate degrees, however issues related more to the social component of language teaching – are (were, for me) not addressed. Can I really sit here and write that this lack of knowledge stems from our teacher training programs? No. It goes beyond universities.

How many teachers have sat through a presentation on a PED day and returned to their class without knowing what to make of what had been presented? Sensitive issues related to the social component of second language teaching could be addressed in workshops. It seems to me like school boards and political parties SHOW diversity as oppose to BEING diversity. Oh there I go, how did political parties get thrown into this? Well I refer more to politics in general that have a big influence on how diversity, may it be cultural or linguistic, is perceived by the population (Hello media! That’s a whole other topic of its own) and how much power it is allotted. Think about it… you utter the word “bilingual” in Quebec and everyone (let’s be honest here) thinks of French and English, even speakers of another L1!

Second language instruction has an affect on a _______ (fill in the blank). A part of me felt like I had failed my students when I first found out about language identity, meanwhile someone argued with me that language identity was another “new thing, and even if it was a thing it would be the parents’ business not the schools”. At the end of this semester, I still wonder where I stand in the big picture and what role I play. If anything, I have also grasped a new understanding of the term “reflecting on one’s practice” in a way deeper meaning than simply adopting the appropriate classroom management strategies. For now, I spark conversations with everyone about language identity.

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2 thoughts on “Why only now?”

  1. Hey Géraldine,
    I completely agree with you! I’m coming from a bit of a different degree, but nonetheless, I still think everything you outlined applies. I did my undergraduate degree in High School Education, with my primary teachable being English. Yet, none of the topics covered in the course were ever brought up in my undergraduate degree. I was privileged enough to be able to continue my education, but many teachers will never be exposed to a course like this. I think some of these major topics need to be either integrated into our undergraduate degree or like you said done by the schools/ school board.

    Sophia

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    1. Good comment. I think you’ve articulated a real problem that many people feel, which is that there’s often a disconnect between what get’s taught at the undergrad level and beyond, as well as a disconnect between concepts we’re learning right now and teaching out there in the ‘real world’. In terms of language identity itself, it’s true that the term isn’t widespread at the undergrad level (I don’t remember every hearing about it when I was training to be a teacher) or in the school system. And yes, you may get some snarky people who laugh and call it a “buzz word”, but ultimately the concept behind the term shouldn’t be ignored. As long as people can somehow embrace the reality that language identity exists in many diverse ways, then it can be integrated into education policies. Whether or not this will happen is another question!

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