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LINGUIST List 25.1002

Thu Feb 27 2014

Review: Applied Linguistics: Trent et al. (2013)

Editor for this issue: Joseph Salmons <jsalmonslinguistlist.org>

Date: 07-Jan-2014
From: Christina Giannikas <christina.giannikascut.ac.cy>
Subject: Language Teacher Education in a Multilingual Context
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Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/24/24-4298.html

EDITOR: John Trent
EDITOR: Xuesong Andy Gao
EDITOR: Mingyue Gu
TITLE: Language Teacher Education in a Multilingual Context
SUBTITLE: Experiences from Hong Kong
SERIES TITLE: Multilingual Education
PUBLISHER: Springer
YEAR: 2013

REVIEWER: Christina Nicole Giannikas, Cyprus University of Technology

SUMMARY
‘Language Teacher Education in a Multilingual Context, Experiences in Hong
Kong’ is a collection of studies exploring the situation of potential English
language teachers in Hong Kong, and seeks to understand issues in this
specific multilingual context. English is one of the country’s official
languages, together with Cantonese and Putonghua (standardized varieties of
Chinese) and it is widely used in the business and professional sectors.
Knowledge of English, according to the authors, is considered an essential
asset for career and social development; therefore English language learning
is important to the country’s education system. The authors, who are also the
editors of the book, present their findings as follows.

In the introduction, the authors present the language teaching situation in
Hong Kong and discuss the role that teacher identity plays for those aiming to
enter the profession of English language teaching. They have conducted
in-depth research, from various perspectives, in order to display the
increasingly complex and challenging conditions and policies regarding
pre-service English language teachers. The language teaching profession has
generated great concern in Hong Kong and beyond. The researchers include
Chinese language teachers in the study because of the recent introduction of
Putonghua as a medium of instruction in local schools.

The book is organized in four parts. Part I: Being a Teacher in Multilingual
Hong Kong: Motivation and Challenges, examines pre-service teachers’
motivations for becoming language teachers in Hong Kong and the challenges
they face. Chapters 2-4 offer various perspectives on the situation. In
chapter two, ‘It is not a Bad Idea for me to be a Language Teacher’, Xuesong
Gao and John Trent elaborate on the experiences of ten elite Chinese student
English teachers and investigate why they chose to pursue teacher education in
Hong Kong. The chapter concludes with recommendations for stakeholders and
policy makers to support foreign students’ professional development. In
chapter three, ‘Cross-Border Pre-Service Teachers in Hong Kong: Identity and
Integration’ Mingyue Gu concentrates on the teaching identities of elite
non-local teachers. The author explores the participants’ identities as
English language teachers with distinct linguistic and cultural influences and
backgrounds. In the fourth and final chapter of the first part, ‘Journeys
towards Teaching: Pre-Service English Language Teachers’ Understandings and
Experiences of Teaching and Teacher Education in Hong Kong’, John Trent
investigates the difficulties faced by pre-service language teachers in Hong
Kong when forming their own identity. This chapter discusses the participants’
perspectives on language teaching and their peers when having completed their
undergraduate degree in teacher education.

Part II: Being a Teacher in Multilingual Hong Kong: Culture, Commitment and
Recruitment, builds on Part I. Part II explores the complexities and
implications of the experiences language teachers face in the country. In
chapter five, ‘Language Teachers and the Falling Language Standards in Hong
Kong: An Internet-Based Inquiry’, Xuesong Gao questions whether teachers in
Asian contexts are in a society and tradition that respects them. The author
argues that cultural traditions can work against language teachers and
educational reforms, especially in the age of the internet. Mingyue Gu reports
on a comparative study in chapter 6, ‘A Comparative Study on Commitment to
Teaching’ which explores the motivation and commitment to teaching student
teachers from mainland China and their local peers. The writer examines
educational experiences in the education programmes that influence
cross-border students’ motivation to teach and their commitment to teaching.
In the seventh chapter, ‘The Construction and Reconstruction of Teacher
Identities: The Case of Second Career English Language Teachers in Hong Kong’,
John Trent draws on evidence on how second-career English language teachers
may be better supported in their professional training.

Part III: Being a Teacher in Multilingual Hong Kong: The Role of International
Forces investigates the procedure for becoming a teacher in the specific
multilingual country considering the discourses of teaching and learning that
derive from Hong Kong’s educational system. In chapter eight, ‘Learning,
Teaching, and Constructing Identities Abroad: ESL Pre-Service Teacher
Experiences During a Short-Term International Experience Programme’, John
Trent discusses the effect of short-term interest programmes and teacher
beliefs about themselves as practitioners. It draws on teachers’ pre-service
experiences during a short-term international programme in Australia. In
chapter nine, ‘Identity Construction in a Foreign Land: Native-Speaking
English Teachers and the Contestation of Teacher Identities in Hong Kong
Schools’, John Trent reports on a qualitative study on the discursive
positioning of native-speaking English teaching professionals. Trent reflects
on insights from discourse theory to examine the self-positioning of the
teachers in question.

Part VI: Being a Teacher in a Multilingual Hong Kong: Language and Politics,
consists of the two final chapters focusing on the sociocultural landscapes of
becoming a language teacher in the Hong Kong context. This final part reflects
on the effect of the many changes in the education system and the challenges
faced by practitioners discussed in previous chapters. This part connects the
interface of language and politics with their effect on the profession.
Additionally, part VI provides suggestions as to how teachers can respond to
such political and linguistic forces by implementing teacher agency to create
their own identities as language educators within the particular context.
Xuesong Gao, in chapter ten, ‘Political Conspiracy or Decoy Marketing?:
Experienced Chinese Teachers’ Perceptions of Using Putonghua as a Medium of
Instruction in Hong Kong’, attempts to give Chinese teachers a voice regarding
the issue of Putonghua being promoted as the medium of instruction, a great
challenge for Chinese teachers. Eight language teachers took part in an
interpretive inquiry, with a focus on attitudes about the medium of
instruction. In chapter eleven, An Ethico-Political Analysis of Teacher
Identity Construction’, Mingyue Gu investigates how language educators may
enact their ethical activity to conceptualize new prospects for the
reestablishment of their teacher identities. Gu’s in-depth investigation
includes the nature of language education amongst a group of pre-service
teachers and the formation and discursive determination of identity structure.

EVALUATION
The evidence presented on the procedure for becoming a language teacher in
Hong Kong, practitioners’ motivations and their identity formation represent a
substantial contribution to the field of English language teaching,
specifically teacher education, an underresearched and neglected area. The
book is structured in a way which allows the authors to elaborate on the
various issues investigated and so to provide readers with a clear picture of
what occurs in Hong Kong, and give suggestions on how the situation can
improve for potential language teachers and evidently language learning.
Additionally, John Trent, Xuesong Gao and Mingyue Gu present the challenges
faced by pre-service language educators, especially those from the mainland of
China.

The contributors investigate the education system, the pre-service programmes
and the effects they have on the language teaching profession, giving the
reader a holistic view of professional development. This book develops
valuable insights regarding Hong Kong’s teacher education policies and
sociocultural issues, and provides a vivid description of research designs
employed, which could provide models for similar contexts in other Asian
countries and multilingual contexts, and inspire future doctoral studies in
the field. I should note that there are, unfortunately, many typographical
errors in the volume.

The book will be of great significance to language teachers, policy makers and
researchers in applied and sociolinguistics, especially those focusing on
language teacher development from an educational and/or political perspective.
Further research in this domain is needed in order to establish higher
standards of professional development, and this book provides readers with
interesting and valuable input. There is, of course, room for more research in
pre-service teacher education. There can be a continuation of the specific
study, where a wider community of participants could contribute to the field,
resulting to more information on the situation regarding pre-service teachers’
needs. Further studies can be conducted looking into the sociocultural element
of becoming a language teacher to begin with.

In short, this book provides readers with helpful and hands-on information
about educational programmes in Hong Kong. The authors successfully present
the ethico-politics of teacher identity and the effects it has on the
profession. With studies such as these, researchers and practitioners are
offered a deeper understanding of teacher identities, especially the
identities formed by teachers who enter a foreign country to pursue the
profession of language teaching. More research on identity will help policy
makers and stakeholders understand the needs of the pre-service language
teachers and provide them with suitable training. Finally, awareness can be
raised for a wider public and help clarify the significance of language
teaching in modern education.


ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Christina Nicole Giannikas, PhD, is a researcher at the Cyprus University of Technology and the Social Media Coordinator for IATEFL YLTSIG. She has taught English to adults and young learners in the UK and Greece and was a seminar tutor/guest lecturer at London Metropolitan University. Dr. Giannikas was also an assistant researcher for the ELLiE project (Early Language Learning in Europe). Her research interests include communicative language teaching, the use of the mother tongue in language teaching, diglossia, educational policies, early language learning and the use of new technologies in the foreign language classroom.
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