LINGUIST List 26.3214

Wed Jul 08 2015

Review: Applied Ling; General Ling: Bigelow, Ennser-Kananen (2014)

Editor for this issue: Sara Couture <>

Date: 15-Feb-2015
From: Zsuzsanna Zsubrinszky <>
Subject: The Routledge Handbook of Educational Linguistics
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Book announced at

EDITOR: Martha Bigelow
EDITOR: Johanna Ennser-Kananen
TITLE: The Routledge Handbook of Educational Linguistics
SERIES TITLE: Routledge Handbooks in Applied Linguistics
PUBLISHER: Routledge (Taylor and Francis)
YEAR: 2014

REVIEWER: Zsuzsanna Zsubrinszky, Budapest Business School

Review's Editor: Helen Aristar-Dry


“The Routledge Handbook of Educational Linguistics” aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the many ways in which education and linguistics intersect by addressing critical issues in education through the dynamics of language use, choice, policy, learning and teaching in multilingual and multicultural settings. Each chapter in the book offers an overview of an issue that should serve as a valuable entry point for someone new to the field, as well as a useful compass those familiar with the topic. It consists of seven major thematic parts: Part I deals with the ‘Ways of knowing in educational linguistics’, and Part II focuses on ‘Advocacy in educational linguistics’. Part III presents ‘Contexts of multilingual education’, while Part IV is devoted to ‘Critical pedagogy and language education’. Part V is divided into 5 sections that cover ‘Language teacher education’ and Part VI is titled ‘Language instruction and assessment’. Finally, Part VII addresses ‘Ethics and politics in educational linguistics’.

Beginning with a list of 33 contributors and the introduction by the editors, Martha Bigelow and Johanna Ennser-Kananen, Part I, ‘Ways of Knowing in Educational Linguistics’ includes chapters which underline the importance of maintaining methodological rigour through established methodologies, as well as encouraging the use of new methodologies in order to trigger changes in educational contexts. In Chapter 1 ‘Methodologies of Second Language Acquisition’, Susan M. Gass provides a historical background to research methodology of Second Language Acquisition (SLA) starting from the 1960s to the end of the of the last century. Then she continues with new techniques (quantitative/qualitative split, verbal reporting, and study quality) as well as current emphases related to study quality (replication and reporting, meta-analysis, and power and effect size). In Chapter 2 ‘Ethnography in Educational Linguistics’, Teresa L. McCarthy explores the three complementary facets of the ethnographic enterprise – seeing (through a holistic lens), looking (experiencing, enquiring and examining), and being (voices, motivations, ideologies, instances and consequences), which have long been associated with studies of language in education. She follows Harry F. Wolcott (2008), who claims that ethnography is a “way of seeing” human behaviour through a cultural lens, and a “way of looking” based on long-term situated field work. David Cassels Johnson and Thomas Ricento in Chapter 3 ‘Methodologies of Language Policy Research’ discuss the relationship between language policy and language planning by presenting the core issues (national, multilingual language policies and their relationship with power), and the latest debates on power in language policy and the educator's’ role in the process. They also provide implications for education, how researchers, teachers and students can plan, act and observe individually and collectively and reformulate practices based on critical examination. In Chapter 4 ‘Researching Identity through Narrative Approaches’, Christina Higgins and Priti Sandhu trace the development of narrative approaches in the study of identity formation and change in educational linguistics. They argue that narratives can provide a basis for concrete pedagogical materials and activities in classrooms of all kinds, therefore, their impact on student engagement with learning would be a very exciting direction for further research.

Part II is devoted to ‘Advocacy in Educational Linguistics’, in which the individual chapters make a powerful argument that an advocacy turn in educational linguistics is needed to move away from deficit-oriented perception of L2 learning and teaching, and to take a clear stance toward equitable multilingual education. In Chapter 5, Christian Faltis examines ‘Language Advocacy in Teacher Education and Schooling’. After a brief historical accounting of the relation between societal events and language orientations, the author provides a discussion of the dimensions of language advocacy in the current contexts and outlines recommendations for future teacher education. Chapter 6, ‘Educational Equity for Linguistically Marginalised Students’ by Anthony J. Liddicoat and Kathleen Heugh starts with the authors’ assumption that linguistic marginalisation is an important element in educational inequality, which may result in less access to social, economic, and political resources for the groups concerned. They argue that there needs to be a radical reconsideration of the role and nature of multilingual education for educating such children, and also they call for new materials that incorporate the linguistic and cultural traditions and knowledge of marginalised groups into school education programs. In Chapter 7, ‘Is there a Place for Home Literacies in the School Curriculum? Pedagogic Discourses and Practices in the Brazilian Educational Context’, Elaine Rocha-Schmid discusses the discourses of language and literacy that have dictated the status of Brazilian low income students’ home literacies and language in the school curriculum. Focusing on the changes in discourse and the students’ resistance to the literature culture, Rocha-Schmid considers it important to look into the students’ uses of digital literacies as well. She argues that language discrimination and traditional conceptualisations of rigid literacy and orality paradigm have played a very strong role in lower class children’s school failure. The final chapter of Part II, Chapter 8, ‘Non-native Teachers and Advocacy’ by Enric Llurda, explores the effects on teacher identities of racialized categories associated to the native/non-native distinction. Around thirty years ago Medgyes’ (1983) pioneering work openly discussed the struggle of non-native teachers wishing to be recognized in the profession while at the same time feeling somehow inadequate for the job. His work paved the way to a great deal of future research on non-native English teachers’ (NNESTs) advantages, i.e. shared learning experience with their students, and their disadvantages, i. e. language deficit, inferiority complex and discriminatory practices as compared to native English teachers (NESTs).

The purpose of Part III, ‘Contexts of Multilingual Education’ is to ensure the inclusion of various educational contexts, and to outline the specific needs and assets of emergent multilingual students in classroom contexts as well as on systemic levels. In Chapter 9, ‘Established and Emerging Perspectives on Immersion Education’, the authors, Siv Björklund and Karita Mård-Miettinen present immersion education as a type of bilingual education program, which has been driven by clearly defined concepts and guidelines as well as product-oriented and process-oriented research objectives in changing linguistic and educational conditions. In Chapter 10, ‘Bilingual education’, Ofelia García and Heather Homonoff Woodley point out that bilingual education programs everywhere in the world vary in their goals, language use, and students served. They argue that these programs are mainly shaped by sociocultural and socio-political factors, historical contexts and the power of speakers and languages, and thus, they have the potential to offer a just education, levelling the power differentials among language groups. In Europe, however, the term pluriligualism has become widespread to refer to an individual’s ability to use several languages to varying degrees and for distinct purposes. In Chapter 11, ‘The Intersections of Language Differences and Learning Disabilities – Narratives in Action’, Taucia Gonzalez, Adai Tefera and Alfredo Artiles focus on the growing population of emergent bilinguals with learning disabilities (LDs), who occupy a liminal space between language and ability differences. In order to examine the complexity of these intersections, the authors use narratives on the role of culture in learning, language differences, and the ways in which these factors shape school performance. They conclude that narratives can provide a better understanding of the educational needs of this population. In Chapter 12, ‘Theory and Advocacy for Indigenous Language Revitalization in the United States’, Mary Hermes and Megan Bang discuss some of the historical factors that have led to the endangered state of approximately 300 different languages (Reyhner, 1995) in the United States. They claim that Indigenous languages in the US are seen to have little intellectual, cultural, moral and economic value because the country is dominated by English and is generally prejudiced against the use of non-English languages. The authors call for the collaboration of scholars and Indigenous groups to develop a pedagogy which can revitalize Indigenous languages. Chapter 13, ‘Visual Literacy and Foreign Language Learning’ by Carola Hecke, gives a historical account of the images in foreign language teaching from the 17th century to the present and explains the didactic functions of images. Then the author discusses ways to improve students’ visual literacy in foreign language courses. The last chapter in Part III, ‘When Language is NOT the Issue – The Case of “AAVE” Literacy Research, Teaching, and Labov’s Prescription for Social (in) Equality’ by Elaine Richardson, offers a telling case in the field of sociolinguistics, with regard to how we should think about the distinct language use referred to as African American Vernacular English (Labov, 1972), a language variety that was once thought to be sloppy speech, errors and sign of mental retardation. Labov’s work raises serious concerns about the workings of sociolonguistics for social inequality and for the future of Black English.

Part IV, ‘Critical pedagogy and Language Education’ extends the discussion by focusing on a variety of issues through the lens of critical pedagogy. It starts with ‘Reframing Freire – Situating the Principles of Humanizing Pedagogy within an Ecological Model for the Preparation of Teachers’, by Maria del Carmen Salzar, who articulates the values based on Paulo Freire’s educational philosophy that guide her practice as a teacher educator. By generating a curriculum map, she calls for the development of ecologically-minded humanizing dispositions in education. In Chapter 16, ‘Heritage Language Education –Minority Language Speakers, Second Language Instruction and Monolingual Schooling’, Jennifer Leeman and Kendall A. King focus on heritage language education narrowly defined, i.e., the linguistic and affective characteristics of heritage language learners, heritage language learning processes, discourses surrounding heritage languages and students in classrooms and teaching materials, and finally, heritage students’ educational needs and pedagogical approaches that can best meet them. In Chapter 17, ‘Disentangling Linguistic Imperialism in English Language Education – The Indonesian Context’, Setiono Sugiharto discusses the genesis of English language education in the Indonesian context, and he deals with the consequences of the fervent promotion of learning English, such as the inequality of access to education, the marginalization of children from low income families, the deprecation of native language education and the resistance against the national language planning. In Chapter 18, ‘Immigrants and Education’ by Lesley Bartlett and Jill Koyama, the authors review the contributions of anthropologists, sociologists and linguists to the topic of immigrants and education. They discuss how these three approaches have shaped the existing knowledge base, posed new debates and paved the way to new and emerging areas of enquiry regarding immigrant education. In Chapter 19, Loukia K. Sarroub and Sabrina Quadros return to Freire to discuss theoretical and practical issues of ‘Critical Pedagogy in Classroom Discourse’. The authors intend to reactivate and reconfigure a critical pedagogy approach for the purpose of promoting multilingualism in education.

Part V is entirely devoted to ‘Language Teacher Education’, an area of educational linguistics that has been neglected. This section explores teachers’ beliefs and identities, ways to develop students’ literacy, the use of corpora in teacher education and the possible ways to analyse learner language. Chapter 20, ‘Teachers’ Beliefs about Language Learning and Teaching’ by Sun Yung Song, delineates the nature and the current main trends of teachers’ beliefs about language learning and teaching. By offering a historical overview of the research on language teacher cognition, the author discusses an agenda for future research intended to expand the knowledge base of teachers’ beliefs, as well as implications for teacher education. In Chapter 21, ‘Chinese L2 Literacy Debates and Beginner Reading in the United States’, Helen H. Shen, deals with the uniqueness of the Chinese writing system and its impact on U.S. learners, who find it rather difficult to learn to read and write Chinese. Therefore, she argues that it is extremely important to seek best practices (e.g., adjusting curriculum goals and learning content, integrating CALL instruction, shifting the teaching pedagogy from knowledge transmission to knowledge construction) to improve learning efficiency within limited classroom learning periods. In Chapter 22, ‘Language Teacher Identity’, Jason Martel and Andie Wang present four prominent themes in the language teacher identity research: 1) how language teachers’ identities are shaped in interaction; 2) how identities shape their practice; 3) how these identities are complicated by their native/non-native speaker status; and finally 4) how intercultural experiences influence teacher identity. Chapter 23, ‘Corpus-based Study of Language and Teacher Education’ by Alex Boulton and Henry Tyne, deals with the question: “what do corpora bring to language teaching”? The authors suggest that sensitively used corpora can provide an additional set of tools and techniques for a variety of purposes, can increase language awareness and metacognitive skills, can build on and promote existing ICT skills, and also, can allow exploration of individual questions, fostering autonomy with potential for lifelong learning. In Chapter 24, ‘Second Language Acquisition and Language Teacher Education’, Sachiko Yokoi Horii explores the fundamental issues of research-practice connections between the field of second language acquisition (SLA) and language classrooms. In reviewing the past and current research in SLA and related fields, she asks what SLA as a research field can offer to teaching practice and how it can impact language teachers and their classroom practices.

Part VI, ‘Language Instruction and Assessment’, addresses language instruction across different educational settings. With their analyses of critical issues in language instruction and assessment, the authors of this section give concrete examples of the challenges and successes of multilingual education, and based on these, offer future paths for the field of educational linguistics. In Chapter 25, Jennifer Dailey-O’Cain and Grit Liebscher provide an overview of the research on the ‘Primary Language Use in Foreign Language Classrooms’. They discuss the controversies surrounding the use of the primary language in the classroom by highlighting its positive and negative sides. The authors argue in favour of the use of the primary language in the classroom on the basis of three sets of findings: 1) primary language can be a cognitive tool in learning the target language; 2) learners can behave as fluent bilinguals; 3) primary language use can allow learners to construct identities in a conversation. In Chapter 26, ‘Language Assessment in the Educational Context’, Dina Tsagari and Jayanti Banerjee make a distinction between testing (i.e., evaluation of student performance in class in line with their individual needs) and assessment (i.e., summative measurement procedures carried out at specific times of a school year). Looking particularly at classroom-based assessment, Tsagari and Banerjee discuss the importance of enhancing student involvement, incorporating special language and other needs, and improving teacher literacy in assessment, as ways of improving good practice in the field. In Chapter 27, ‘Analyzing Classroom Language in CLIL’, Do Coyle describes the nature of classroom language as a highly complex phenomenon, depending on the cultural context, the goals, and the projected outcomes of the learning. He adds that it also depends on the teachers’ values and belief systems, and the professional development, learning and experiences in which individuals engage. In Chapter 28, Yun Xiao deals with ‘Heritage Language Education in the United States’. For heritage language speakers (HL), the author finds that the ‘ecological environment’, with its rapid changes, has produced a remarkable generational language shift, leading to a high level of linguistic variation. To counter the HL loss and shift, he argues, there need to be drastic responses from the American formal education system. In Chapter 29, titled ‘Learner Language’, Sisko Brunni and Jarmo H. Jantunen offer a useful overview of learner language that draws on multiple traditions and research programs (e.g., error analysis, development phases in learning, learner language variation, and pragmatic success) in second language acquisition. They call for the application of this research knowledge in teacher training and study books.

Part VII, ‘Ethics and Politics in Educational Linguistics’ concludes this volume by underlining the importance of dealing with ethical questions when doing research in educational linguistics. It is widely believed that only if we remain self-critical and committed to high ethical standards can we truly claim to be advocates for multilingualism and equity in education. Kristen H. Perry and Christine A. Mallozzi’s chapter, titled ‘ ”Who Gets to Say?” Political and Ethical Dilemmas for Researchers in Educational Linguistics’, explores ethical and methodological issues of applying discourse analysis in research involving language learners. The authors attempt to analyse narratives of adult refugees by seeking and describing important issues in discourse analysis, such as power relationships, decision-making regarding the research, language use and the data/participant selection, etc. In Chapter 31, ‘Education and Language Shift’, Leanne Hinton deals with the frequent tensions between educational institutions and language maintenance/revitalization. She examines how educational language policy has affected language shift with regard to the “colonial languages” and immigrant languages, and then she focuses on the engagement of education in reversing language shift. In Chapter 32, ‘Looking Back, Sideways, and Forward – Language and Education in Multilingual Settings’, María E. Torres-Guzmán and Ester J. de Jong present the multiple levels in which multilingualism is manifest – from macro societal circumstances, to minoritized and immigrant communities, and to macro classroom interactive processes across time. And finally, in Chapter 33, ‘Addressing Dialect Variation in U.S. K-12 Schools’, Julie Sweetland and Rebecca Wheeler identify several promising lines of inquiry available to future educational linguists interested in dialect variation, including situated, engaged scholarship in partnership with students, teachers and schools. In addition, ethnographic inquiries into language with primary and secondary learners hold great promise for ensuring that more productive approaches to sociolinguistic diversity are adopted in K-12 settings.


For a volume of this magnitude and scope, the editors are successful in organizing the chapters thematically so that each section is coherent in its focus. The handbook offers over thirty authoritative and critical explorations of methodologies and contexts of educational linguistics, issues of instruction and assessment, and teacher education, as well as coverage of key topics such as advocacy, critical pedagogy, and ethics and politics of research in educational linguistics.

Each chapter relates to key issues raised in the respective topic, providing additional 1) historical background, i.e. how the topic has arisen from other disciplines; 2) core issues and key findings related to the research on the topic; 3) research approaches, i.e. the traditional epistemologies employed; 4) new debates including the current dilemmas; 5) implications for education, i.e. future directions in educational linguistics; and finally, 6) further reading, i.e. a list of the most important historical and recent books and articles on the topic. The one exception to this is Richardson’s article (Ch. 14), which does not conform to this structure.

One of the major strengths of the volume is that it contributes to the field of educational linguistics in two ways: (1) by expanding the community of scholars with voices from different geographic regions of the world, as well as with the voices of emerging scholars, representing diverse methodological approaches, and (2) by explicitly focusing on advocacy and offering useful examples. The authors in the handbook provide an excellent comprehensive overview of the field by showing that research in educational linguistics can produce knowledge that can give agency to educators, students, families, and thus create streams of resistance and action that can effect change in arenas where education and language intersect. Consequently, readers will find it interesting and important to note how different researchers balance or situate their work within and between contexts of education, language/linguistics, and social change. Though each chapter is written by a different author(s), the writing style is uniform, which is one of the book’s highest merits. Also, the bibliographies at the end of each chapter offer the reader ample opportunities to further explore the topic.

In terms of the handbook’s shortcomings, I would only mention one minor thing, that is, although in the majority of the contributions there is a kind of summary of the chapter at the end of the introduction section, in some articles (e.g., Ch. 1, 3 and 14), both the introductions and the summaries of the main issues are missing; they would have been useful to orient the reader.

This handbook is an essential volume for any student or researcher interested in the issues surrounding language and education in multicultural settings, and it will definitely inspire thinking, theorizing, and action among new and established researchers.


Labov, W. 1972. Academic Ignorance and Black Intelligence. The Atlantic Monthly. Retrieved from

Medgyes, P. 1983. The schizophrenic teacher. ELT Journal, 37, 2-6.

Reyhner, J. A. 1995. Maintaining and renewing Native languages. Bilingual Research Journal, 19(2), 279-304.

Wolcott, H. F. 2008. Ethnography: A way of seeing, 2nd edn. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.


Zsuzsanna Zsubrinszky is Associate Professor of English Linguistics in the English Department at Budapest Business School, College of International Management and Business. Her research interests include discourse analysis, intercultural communication and English for Specific Purposes. She has published on business communication, intercultural communication and politeness issues in business emails.

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