Said, S.B. and Zhang, L.J.(Eds.) (2014) Language Teachers and Teaching: Global Perspectives, Local Initiatives, New York: Routledge
Cost: £85 hardcover
This volume forms part of the well-established series ‘Routledge Research in Education’ and is a companion piece to the earlier linguistics centred ‘Language Teaching through the Ages’ (Wheeler, 2013). As its title promises, Said’s and Zhang’s edited collection brings together a number of empirical studies from across the globe. There are six sections: 1. Policy in Education, 2.Theory-Practice Nexus, 3. Beliefs, Expectations and Negotiating a Professional Self, 4. Reflective Practice, Feedback and Facilitation, 5. Teaching and Learning in New Times, 6. Teacher Learning in Cross-Cultural Contexts. There is, therefore, a welcome overview of current areas of interest in language teaching. Care has been taken to cover key aspects in major education systems, from Canada through Spain to the developing language teaching arena of China, demonstrating that language teaching practice and theory can be universal.
The collection’s concept of using local initiatives to exemplify global perspectives is amply illustrated in Gagné and Valencia’s (section 1) examination of teacher candidates’ target language proficiency. By taking the bilingual context of Canadian schooling, the issues surrounding target language use come into greater relief and the analysis of the content and delivery of language proficiency tests provides food for thought for language teacher educators across all continents. Andon and Leung’s (section 2) comprehensive analysis of language teaching methods ensures that theoretical aspects are given as much weight as practical approaches in this collection and their advice to match methodological choices to the appropriate context is one that we might all heed. Methods are clearly detailed across the studies with Zhou’s (section 6) grounded theory study of Chinese teachers in the United States providing a step by step analysis which would be pertinent for novice researchers. In keeping with the promise of the global perspective it would have been apposite to discuss how the Chinese–American dichotomy translates to the smaller stage of European cross-cultural classroom interfaces. As the teaching population becomes ever more mobile, it seems relevant to acknowledge the acculturation needs of a range of native speaker teachers. However Kumaravadivelu’s afterword seeks to set the collection in its broader context once again, and is a timely reminder of how professional identities and classroom practices can come together to influence language teaching.
Said and Zhang’s edited collection can therefore be seen as achieving a balanced global dimension, although Europe might be considered underrepresented with just one entry. The emphasis on English as a second language teaching is perhaps understandable given its present dominance, though one might have expected more substantial contributions from the Hispanic community, or indeed Arabic and African languages, given the growth in world languages which will surely come. Language Teachers and Teaching therefore provides a comprehensive synopsis of language teaching today. It reflects what works out in the classroom and whilst it might not present radical alternatives, despite accustomed sections on e-portfolios and wikis, it provides a platform for an informed and ongoing debate.
This collection would be a valuable text for undergraduate or post graduate students beginning their training as language teachers. (Although the hard cover is a little pricey if this is indeed the intended market). It would enable them to take a wider view of both the profession and the academic field of language teaching and to be guided in their reflections on their own practice. It also remains useful for teacher educators as they can be confident that in recommending this text to students, the students will be cognisant of key contemporary language teaching issues. Similarly it is beneficial for serving teachers as it enables them to reinforce and update their own knowledge whilst supporting student teachers effectively.
Elaine Pattison, Senior Lecturer in Modern Foreign Languages (Initial Teacher Education)