LINGUIST List 32.2198

Mon Jun 28 2021

Review: Applied Linguistics: Rudolph, Selvi, Yazan (2020)

Editor for this issue: Jeremy Coburn <>

Date: 15-May-2021
From: Melissa Hauber-Özer <>
Subject: The Complexity of Identity and Interaction in Language Education
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Book announced at

EDITOR: Nathanael Rudolph
EDITOR: Ali Fuad Selvi
EDITOR: Bedrettin Yazan
TITLE: The Complexity of Identity and Interaction in Language Education
SERIES TITLE: Psychology of Language Learning and Teaching
PUBLISHER: Multilingual Matters
YEAR: 2020

REVIEWER: Melissa B Hauber-Özer, George Mason University


Rudolf, Selvi and Yazan’s edited volume provides interesting glimpses into the complex processes of identity development and negotiation among language learners and teachers alike. Although each chapter takes a somewhat unique approach to the topic of identity, common threads in the theoretical approaches used and intersecting findings make for a cohesive volume. Most chapters focus on English as a second or foreign language, but the studies cover an interesting array of student populations and national contexts, including the United States, Colombia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and Japan.

The introductory chapter written by the editors, “The Complexity of Identity and Interaction in Language Education,” establishes the central concept of the volume: critical perspectives on how identities are formed, assigned, and contested in and through language teaching and learning. The introduction also provides a broad review of related literature, including relatively recent work by Blommaert (2010), Canagarajah (2017), De Costa and Norton (2017), and Kramsch (2014), which is useful as a reference but could have used a bit more context about the focus of the volume. The chapter then gives an overview of the book’s scope and contents, which are organized into three sections, summarized below.

Part 1, “Learners, Teachers, and the ‘Ares,’ ‘Cans’ and ‘Shoulds’ of Being and Becoming” consists of four chapters examining teacher identity development. “The Monolingual Bias: A critique of Idealization and Essentialization in ELT in Pakistan” by Syed Abdul Manan, Maya Khemlani David, Liaquat Ali Channa and Francisco Perlas Dumanig seeks to address a gap in the research on the management and maintenance of language policies and practices in elite schools. This study offers useful implications regarding deficit-based monolingual policies for EFL and English-medium contexts and the suppression of multilingual students’ identities and potential, but it would have been significantly strengthened by interviews with administrators to corroborate or contest teachers’ claims and power analysis to go much deeper into school dynamics.

The second chapter, “Constructing ‘Other Identities as a French Second Language Teacher” by Meike Wernicke, critiques the native-speaker standard in Canada that is tied to concepts of national belonging and race as well as lingering colonialist ideologies. This multiple case study of over 80 French second language teachers participating in a professional development program takes a discursive-constructivist approach to examine how teachers authenticate their identities through various assertions.

Chapter 3, “‘English is the Commercial Language Whereas Spanish is the Language of my Emotions’: An Exploration of TESOL and Bilingual Teacher Identity and Translanguaging Ideologies” by Lobat Asadi, Stephanie Moody and Yolanda Padrón, uses narrative inquiry to determine the ideologies of bilingual and TESOL teachers at a public university in Texas about identity and translanguaging (Garcia, 2017). The chapter offers a very interesting discussion of the colonial roots of English language pedagogy and the possibilities of translanguaging for decolonizing the field, but the findings could have been more streamlined in certain areas and could have delved more deeply into participants’ insights.

Chapter 4, by Véronique Lemoine-Bresson, is titled “Identity Dynamics in the Speech of Language Teachers in French and German Primary Schools: How Do They Go About Constructing ‘Interculturality’?” Through focus groups with participants in a teacher training course and inductive phenomenological analysis, Lemoine-Bresson examines how French and German teachers construct professional identities. The chapter presents an interesting topic but could have presented a fuller analysis of the data, particularly the links between stereotypes and teacher identity.

The fifth chapter, “English in Cuba: Reflections on a Study of Cuban Teachers’ and Students’ Relationships to English” by Jeremy R. Gombin-Sperling and Melanie Baker Robbins, reports on an interview study with Cuban English teachers. Set against the backdrop of more than a century of US-Cuba power struggles and the authors’ prior deficit views of Cuban English teachers, the chapter provides a fascinating glimpse into a place and subject unknown to most US English teachers and presents a valuable critical reflective approach.

Part 2, “Teacher Identity as/in/Beyond Practice,” begins with Şeyma Toker’s contribution, “From Being a Language Teacher to Becoming a Graduate Student-Teacher: In the Midst of Professional Identities.” Toker draws on Wenger’s (1998) communities of practice framework and narrative inquiry to trace the journey of a Turkish teacher of English through her early years of teaching and then graduate school in the United States. The study provides insight into the construction of professional identities amidst power dynamics and native-speakerism.

In a similar vein, Chapter 7, “Who Am I and Where Do I Fit In: A Narrative Analysis of One Teacher’s Shifting Identities” by Naashia Mohamed is a richly detailed and thought-provoking narrative of a Maldivian teacher’s professional identity development. Mohamed effectively uses the personal interpretive framework (Kelchtermans, 2009) and positioning theory (Davies & Harré, 1990) to illuminate how the teacher both positions herself and is positioned by others.

April Salerno and Elena Andrei’s contribution, “Suntem profesori / We Are Teachers: Self-exploration as a Pathway to Language Teacher Education,” takes an interesting approach and provides insightful reflections about their experiences as bilinguals and language (teacher) educators. The chapter left me wanting more detail, however, particularly regarding Elena’s perspective, as April’s experiences formed the bulk of the findings.

Chapter 9, “Teacher Identity Construction in Progress: The Role of Classroom Observations and Interactive Reflective Practices in Language Teacher Education” by Alfredo Urzúa, presents an interesting observation model that includes both peer and supervisor observations and the use of Ward and McCotter’s (2004) reflection rubric. However, a bit more depth or critical analysis on the part of the author, whose positionality and relationship to the participants are not addressed, would have enhanced the chapter.

Sedat Akayoğlu, Babürhan Üzüm and Bedrettin Yazan engage an interesting though somewhat complex theoretical framework based on Kanno and Norton’s (2003) construct of imagined identities, positioning theory (Davies & Harré, 1999), and identities in interaction (Bucholtz & Hall, 2005) as well as a useful project model in Chapter 10, “Preservice Teachers’ Cultural Identity Construction in Telecollaboration.” However, a more thorough description of the participants’ interactions and overview of the findings would have been helpful.

Part 3: Learner Negotiations of Identity in and Beyond the Classroom

Chapter 11 by Shinji Kawamitsu begins the third part of the book, addressing “Meaning-making as a Site of Struggle: One Japanese Language Learner’s Negotiation with Identity and Writing.” This chapter takes an interesting poststructuralist approach to examine the relationship between investment in second language writing and identity through a multi-stage writing assignment in an elementary-level college Japanese class. Kawamitsu illustrates how a student’s linguistic resources constrain the ways she can presents herself in the target language and contribute to her own subjugation (Darvin & Norton, 2015), a phenomenon many adult language learners can likely identify with, as well as useful insights for educators.

Chapter 12, “Negotiating Complex Identities Through Positionings in Ongoing Interaction: A Case Study in a Foreign Language Teacher Education Program in Colombia” presents a poststructural ethnographic case study by Adolfo Arrieta and Nayibe Rosado. This study examines a teacher’s and his students’ speech acts, positions, and storylines (Harré & Van Langenhove, 1999) to illuminate the ways interactions demonstrate reflexive and interactive positioning (Davis & Harré, 1990). The chapter’s title is somewhat misleading, however, as the study takes place in a college classroom rather than a teacher education program.

Sarah Hopkyns expands on Davies & Harré’s (1990) positioning theory, using Pavlenko and Blackledge’s (2004) identity categories (assigned, assumed, and negotiable) to provide interesting insights into the dominance of English-medium instruction in the United Arab Emirates in Chapter 13, “Dancing between English and Arabic: Complexities in Emirati Cultural Identities.” Through a phenomenological case study with 100 Emirati university students, Hopkyns documents uses of, attitudes toward, and effects of English on cultural identities and relationships, including an apparent mismatch between language ideology and real-world practices.

The final contribution, “The Story of Tabasum: An Exploration of a Refugee Student’s Developing Identities” by Eliana Hirano and Caroline Payant, takes the reader to a very different context, the Midwestern US. Employing Bakhtin’s (cite) dialogic approach and the communities of practice (Wenger, 1998) framework, Hirano and Payant analyze the experiences of an Afghan student with interrupted education adapting to the demands of university and attempting to patriciate in classroom communities, build relationships with professors, and find a sense of belonging. The chapter is clearly presented and compelling, offering valuable insights into both students’ and educators’ roles in creating supportive learning communities in the college classroom.

In the afterword, Glenn Toh closes the volume with a critical reflection on his personal experience of returning to multilingual Singapore with his Japanese-speaking family, drawing connections to the volume’s chapters and encouraging continued work on the topics addressed.


In summary, Rudolf, Selvi, and Yazan succeed in establishing the complexity of identity and interaction in second/foreign language teaching and learning through this collection, highlighting important issues such as power dynamics, language ideologies, English hegemony, native-speakerism, and interrupted education within a relatively coherent collection. It is admittedly a challenge to pack in sufficient context for the reader and delve fully into study design and findings in edited volumes, and several of the chapters would have benefitted from additional detail and nuance. Furthermore, a more standardized structure for the chapters would have been welcome, as would more up-to-date theories and citations, as the majority of theoretical literature cited is from the 1990s or early 2000s. There is a particularly heavy focus on Davies & Harré’s somewhat dated work on positioning theory (1990, 1999) and Wenger’s (1998) communities of practice framework while more current theories of identity and imagined communities (Darvin & Norton, 2015; Norton, 2013) and translanguaging practices (Garcia, 2017) receive less attention. As Toh asserts in closing the volume, continued scholarship in the roles and negotiation of identity in language education is needed.

From a methodological and theoretical perspective, the volume presents a variety of promising approaches for scholars designing studies on these issues, which is one of its primary contributions to a field long dominated by positivist and experimental models of research. It also spans a variety of geographical and cultural contexts, although most studies focus on university classrooms rather than PK-12 and non-formal education settings. As such, the volume would be a worthwhile addition to teacher educators’ libraries, a potential text for second language acquisition courses – particularly for those planning to teach at the university and adult levels – and a useful supplemental resource for research-focused applied linguistics courses.


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Melissa Hauber-Özer completed her Ph.D. in International Education at George Mason University and instructs teacher education and research methods courses. Melissa previously taught adult literacy and English as a second language in the United States for over 15 years in both non-formal and university settings. Her research focuses on language and literacy education in migration contexts and employs critical participatory methodology to examine issues of equity and access for linguistically and culturally diverse learners.

Page Updated: 28-Jun-2021