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Review of  The Foreign Language Educator in Society


Reviewer: Lynn Pearson
Book Title: The Foreign Language Educator in Society
Book Author: Timothy G. Reagan Terry A. Osborn
Publisher: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Book Announcement: 14.585

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Date: Thu, 13 Feb 2003 19:12:01 -0500
From: Lynn Pearson <pearson@bgnet.bgsu.edu>
Subject: The Foreign Language Educator in Society: Toward a Critical Pedagogy.

Reagan, Timothy G., and Terry A. Osborn (2002) The Foreign Language
Educator in Society: Toward a Critical Pedagogy. Laurence Erlbaum and
Associates, paperback ISBN 0-8058-3592-X, xiv+185pp, $24.50.

Lynn Pearson, Department of Romance Languages, Bowling Green State University

DESCRIPTION OF THE BOOK
In this book, the authors connect foreign language (FL) education with
critical pedagogy with the aim of developing critical awareness on the part
of FL educators in the US about issues beyond questions of teaching
methodology. Some material was previously published in articles (Reagan,
1997, 1999; Reagan & Osborn, 1998). The book covers such topics as
language attitudes, language practices, language rights, language policy,
and others to illustrate the social, political, ideological, and economic
facets of language education. The book is written for use in FL education
programs at basic and advanced levels, and for other courses in critical
pedagogy, critical language awareness, sociolinguistics, social and
cultural foundations in education. It contains nine chapters of text
followed by two sections of questions, the first set for reflection and
discussion and the second set relating to classroom practice.

CHAPTER ONE When Methodology Fails: A Critical Look at Foreign Language
Education
This chapter presents the challenge of expanding the focus in language
education beyond teaching methodology to consider other issues that affect
learners' outcomes in acquiring target languages (TLs). Although many
students take FL courses at some point during their studies, few attain
advanced levels of proficiency in the TLs. The failures in language
teaching and language learning cannot be explained solely as matter of
methodology. Instead, the authors critically examine the 'social,
political, cultural, historical, and economic context in which language
education takes place' (p. 2). For example, structural and institutional
constraints of most FL programs preclude the needed exposure to a TL in and
out of the classroom. In addition, the ideological restrictions on FL
education are considered, such as the use of 'foreign' to reflect the
'Otherness' of a TL, the preference for certain dialects (e.g., Parisian
French vs. other French varieties), and the treatment of native or heritage
speakers, who speak a variety different than the classroom norm, as
remedial learners. Despite these very real challenges, the authors argue
for FL education as way to 'introduce and initiate the individual into our
common, human social, and cultural heritage' (p. 12). Through the study of
the TL, learners can gain awareness of shared and different realities that
exist in the world and develop tolerance and understanding of linguistic
and other types of diversity.

CHAPTER TWO From Reflective Practice to Emancipatory Knowledge in Foreign
Language Education
This chapter focuses on the knowledge base needed to teach a FL effectively
and the concepts of reflective practice and critical pedagogy. Using a
conceptualization by Shulman (1987), the authors outline the categories of
knowledge for a language educator. The authors propose an alternative
conceptualization to more accurately reflect the actual work of FL
educators, namely, the teacher as 'decision-maker.' The concept of
'reflective practice' has been introduced by education scholars as a way
for teachers to reflect on their rationale for decisions in
instruction. Reflective practice is a cyclical process with
'reflection-for-practice' (reflection about instructional planning before
teaching), and 'reflection-in-practice' (employing knowledge of content,
pedagogy, and learners in the classroom), and 'reflection-on-practice'
(retrospective reflection post-teaching). By using reflective practice,
educators can improve their teaching and empower themselves as decision
makers in their instruction. A special note is made of the growing number
of native-heritage language educators and how reflective practice can help
them to employ their own background knowledge to contextualize the TL in
their classes. The concept of 'critical pedagogy' is introduced with
reference to the role of public schooling in the US context. Citing the
work of various scholars (Freire, 1973, 1974; Giroux, 1992, McLaren, 1989
and others), the authors define cultural pedagogy as the 'recognition that
schooling is an intrinsically political activity' (p. 28) instead of
neutral or objective. With regard to FL education, critical pedagogy
provides a framework to critically analyze the field in order to examine
its failures and its potential to 'function as a positive and constructive
force in American education' (p. 30).

CHAPTER THREE Whose language is Real? Language Variation and Language
Legitimacy
In this chapter, language varieties and their legitimacy are examined with
regard to social, political and educational contexts. The chapter begins
with a discussion of the terms language and dialect and the construct of
linguistic legitimacy, defined as 'which varieties are deemed by society
(or some subset of the society) to be legitimate, and which are not' (p.
34). To illustrate how the linguistic legitimacy of various languages has
been challenged, three examples are presented: African American Vernacular
English, American Sign Language (ASL), and Esperanto. Each case is
detailed to demonstrate that classification of a language as 'illegitimate'
stems from nonlinguistic, social, and political biases rather than actual
linguistic factors. For example, the legitimacy of ASL has been questioned
because it does not have written literary tradition and the learning of ASL
as a FL to fulfill requirements at US universities has been rejected
because ASL is not 'foreign' or does not possess a 'culture'. The issue of
linguistic legitimacy is extremely important for FL educators because they
are a primary source for their students regarding language and language
variation. Learners need to be aware of other varieties of the TL and even
learn alternate vocabulary and structures, along with those of the
mainstream variety. In addition to this sociolinguistic knowledge, FL
education can develop learners' 'critical language awareness' about the
political and ideological power of language. Instead of reaffirming
prejudicial attitudes towards a language and its speakers, FL study can
'empower students to better understand the social roles of language in
society' (p. 51).

CHAPTER FOUR Constructivist Epistemology and Foreign Language Teaching and
Learning
In this chapter, the authors detail the central assumptions and concepts of
'constructivism' and how this theory can contribute to pedagogical practice
in FL education and other instructional contexts. A brief discussion of
the use of metaphors in educational discourse is presented to illustrate
how metaphorical expressions allow comprehension of complicated issues and
concepts. For example, use of war metaphors, such as 'being in the
trenches' illuminate a teacher's preoccupations with classroom management
and his or her responses. Constructivism is an important metaphor in
educational literature for understanding knowledge and learning. It
rejects both behaviorist and transmission-oriented approaches to
learning. In the constructivist model, learners construct their knowledge,
making learning an individual and personal process. Learning also an
active and collaborative process. Constructivism as a theory has many
competing approaches, but two main types that have emerged are 'radical
constructivism' (knowledge is the result from the learner's active mental
effort) and 'social constructivism' (the learner's individual active and
mental processes take place in a sociocultural context). While
constructivism is not a theory of teaching, constructivist classrooms
exhibit certain features, such as instructional strategies based on
students' responses. For FL instruction, constructivist concepts reflect
the process of TL acquisition, which is a 'reconstruction' both of
linguistic structures and patterns of behavior. The authors provide
several examples of constructivist approaches in FL teaching: a
communicative lesson on the Spanish verb 'gustar' "to like", the role of
grammar explanations, and use of technology for native speaker interaction.

CHAPTER FIVE Critical Curriculum Development in the Foreign Language
Classroom
This chapter addresses critical curriculum development for the teaching of
FLs. Traditional models of curriculum development are hierarchical moving
from a starting point of defining philosophical issues, to setting goals,
and finally, to the formulation of units and lessons. While such models
make connections between curriculum components, their top-down organization
is not conducive to the core principles of critical pedagogy with its
democratic and holistic approach to curriculum. The authors propose three
characteristics for the critical language curriculum to guide development
and practice. The first is that the critical language curriculum is based
on 'problem posing' with regard to language. The questions and issues
presented to learners may concern specific communicative goals in the
curriculum, but also incorporate awareness of language, language use, and
language attitudes (e.g., language in advertising from the US and other
countries). The second aspect of critical language curriculum is its
holistic construction and extension beyond disciplinary boundaries. An
interdisciplinary curriculum links FL study with other areas. Units or
themes for critical interdisciplinary study of culture need to have
connective validity by integrating language skills, contextualizing or
subjectivizing the domestic or home culture, and giving primary focus to
pluralism at the global or local level and language diversity. The third
characteristic of critical language curriculum concerns evaluation of
learners' emancipatory knowledge. Assessment in this curriculum model
would test the ways that learners "construct, deconstruct, and reconstruct
the world as related to language diversity" (p. 79). Evaluations can be
done in either target or native language and assess students' understanding
of language diversity and/or TL skills.

CHAPTER SIX Foreign Language Teaching as Social Activism
The role of FL educators as social activists is presented. The authors
argue that studying languages in our education systems serves to identify
the 'foreign' or the 'Others'. Learners may acquire language skills, but
retain ideologies of 'Otherness' with regard to the TL and its
speakers. Instead, FL educators can embrace teaching as a 'political act'
and counter the foreignness within the FL curriculum, pedagogy, and
assessment in favor of an approach that values language
diversity. Strategies to incorporate the ideals of critical pedagogy
within the traditional structure of FL teaching include various types of
curricular nullification to formulate socially transformative
pedagogy. Along with critical reflection (see Ch. 2) and critical
pedagogy, curricular nullification and other activist practices can change
the role of FL classroom from the 'definer of deviance to an educational
agency for social change' (p. 89).

CHAPTER SEVEN Language Rights as Human Rights: Social and Educational
Implications
The chapter outlines the concept of language rights. It provides an
overview of language rights within the construct of human rights as
detailed in various international agreements. Language rights have been
defined as the right to express and develop a language and to have
education in a mother tongue. Despite the provisions in United Nations
Declarations and the constitutions of various countries, violations of
language rights continue to occur throughout the world. Some cases of
language right violations in educational contexts are presented with regard
to specific languages: Kurdish in Turkey, Russian in Post-Soviet Estonia,
immigrant and indigenous language in the United States, and the Deaf
communities' languages in various countries.

CHAPTER EIGHT When in Rome (or Pretoria): Language Policy in International
Perspective
In this chapter, language planning is discussed as an applied
sociolinguistic activity using examples from various countries. Language
planning and language policy are detailed to show the ways of reforming
linguistic codes and language use and the issues that motivate such
changes. Some language planning activities include language status
planning, to designate an official language, and language
revitalization. The ideological bases of language planning are also
addressed. As the authors note, language planning activities can empower
and liberate, in the case of linguistic pluralism, or serve as a tool to
oppress and dominate, as in the case of linguistic assimilation. Next the
process of language planning is outlined: 1) Initial fact-finding phase; 2)
Formulation of goals and strategies to achieve them; 3) Implementation
process; 4) Evaluation of all aspects of the language planning
process. The authors propose the application of Kerr's (1976) tests for
good public policy to evaluate and language policies and the planning
processes. Two extensive analyses of language policy development and
implementation are presented: Post-Apartheid South Africa and the case of
Irish in Ireland. The chapter concludes with a discussion of language
policy at the school level and its relevance for FL educators.

CHAPTER NINE Toward a Critical Foreign Language Pedagogy
The final chapter discusses the implications of issues raised throughout
the book for FL teaching and learning. FL education is more than teaching
a linguistic code and includes developing learners' knowledge about
language and attitudes towards language. The authors advocate teaching for
the development of metalinguistic awareness as part of the critical
pedagogy of FL education. The knowledge about language can include many of
the issues covered in the book and others and an outline of metalinguistic
knowledge base is presented. Teachers can use various strategies to
examine their roles in creating an 'emancipatory FL pedagogy', such as
critical reflection, curricular nullification, and employing metalinguistic
content in their classes. Two strategies recommended by the authors to
begin reflection on teaching and attitudes are teaching portfolios and
teacher narratives. The authors also detail their own identities and
contexts ('two white guys' in the US who teach and study languages and
cultures) as an example of the critical reflection needed for emancipatory
pedagogy. The book concludes with appeal for FL educators to expand the
scope of FL teaching to not only teach a TL, but also to develop learners'
awareness about language.

CRITICAL EVALUATION
Reagan and Osborn's book makes a valuable contribution to the field of FL
teacher education. The wide range of topics addressed in this volume
rightfully expands the scope of concerns for language educators. Readers
of the book are asked to consider language teaching within social and
political contexts and to examine the role of the language educator as the
conveyor of knowledge about the TL, its speakers and cultures. The authors
outline several useful concepts and strategies, such as reflective
practice, language awareness, and constructivism, among others, to aid
present and future FL teachers to develop their critical pedagogy. The
various theoretical concepts are related to very real methodological
dilemmas that face FL teachers; namely, teaching grammar, assessment, and
formulation of FL curriculum. In addition, the book presents current
examples from different countries to demonstrate how the phenomenon of
language education is shaped by questions of language legitimacy and
language planning.

This book is highly recommended to its intended readers: present and future
FL teachers. The text is concise and clearly written, making it both
accessible for introductory classes and sufficiently complex for more
advanced readers. The question sets that follow each chapter provide
thought-provoking queries to stimulate discussion and aid readers to
examine the various issues in terms of their work as language
educators. For classes that do not specifically pertain to language
education, the book, as a whole or in parts, will still be a excellent
resource for introducing students to the topics covered by the authors.

REFERENCES
Freire, P. (1973). Education for critical consciousness. New York: Seabury
Press.

Freire, P. (1974). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Seabury Press.

Giroux, H. (1992). Border crossings: Cultural workers and the politics of
education. New York: Routledge.

Kerr, D. (1976). Educational policy: Analysis, structure, and
justification. New York: McKay.

McLaren, P. (1989). Life in schools. New York: Longman.

Osborn, T. (2000). Critical reflection and the foreign language classroom.
Westport, CT: Bergin & Garvey.

Reagan, T. (1997). When is a language not a language? Challenges to
linguistic legitimacy in educational discourse. Educational Foundations,
11, 5-28.

Reagan, T. (1999). Constructivist epistemology and second/foreign language
pedagogy. Foreign Language Annals, 32, 413-425.

Reagan, T., & Osborn, T. (1998). Power, authority, and domination in
foreign language education: Toward and analysis of educational faiure.
Educational Foundations, 12, 45-62.

Shulman, L. (1987). Knowledge and teaching: Foundations of the new reform.
Harvard Educational Review, 57, 1-22.




 
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER Lynn Pearson is an Assistant Professor of Spanish and Undergraduate Advisor for Spanish Education majors at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. She teaches courses in second language acquisition, history of Spanish, and dialectology. Her research interests include interlanguage pragmatics, teacher education, dialectology, and using technology in language and linguistics courses. She recently completed a project, which employed digital audio technology to teach Spanish dialectology.

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