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Review of  New Directions for Research in Foreign Language Education

Reviewer: Joshua Pope
Book Title: New Directions for Research in Foreign Language Education
Book Author: Simon Coffey Ursula Wingate
Publisher: Routledge (Taylor and Francis)
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Issue Number: 29.3709

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In their introductory chapter, Coffey and Wingate describe their volume’s motivations to showcase work being done on foreign language learning and teaching around the world. They aim to support teachers and scholars as they strive to not separate language from social, political and cultural contexts.

In Chapter 1 (“Navigating Precarious Territory: Teaching Turkish in Greek-Cypriot Classrooms”), Panayiota Charalambous, Constadina Charalambous and Ben Rampton present approaches teachers of Turkish in Cyprus use in the context of teaching a language that has historically been used by an “enemy” community. For decades Greek-Cypriots and Turkish-Cypriots were physically and legally divided. In 2003, as Cyprus sought EU membership, intercultural contact increased. This included teaching Turkish as a foreign language to Greek-Cypriots. In two ethnographies, the authors found teachers employed three main approaches to present the Turkish language and people to students who may still view anything Turkish as the “enemy.” The most common approach was for teachers to only teach language, completely decontextualized of any sociocultural content. The second most common approach was to frame Turkish as a local language. Teachers using this approach organized visits with Turkish-Cypriots and to Turkish locales. They presented information about their own experiences with Turkish language and people. They did not employ this approach without consideration of the students’ maturity and they frequently continued to avoid politics. Finally, one teacher aimed to make Turkish a cosmopolitan language used in a multicultural Europe, just like any other European language.

In Chapter 2 (“Language Learning as Opportunity Across the Lifespan”), Simon Coffey presents the language autobiography, elicited written and/or oral data that comes directly from the participant, as a valid instrument in data collection. It is a tool that allows for examination of heterogeneity of social class, unlike many other frameworks and methodologies. He includes one autobiography that supports his argument that language autobiographies demonstrate language learning leading to social class mobility and movement from one language to another. Coffey’s example was Sue, a native speaker of British English who grew up in the “armpit of the universe.” Upon discovering an interest in French, she made language learning a “project of self,” a way to mobilize herself upward socially, into a more sophisticated life. When speaking French, she felt she was able to free herself of her L1 social baggage, an accent from the “armpit.” Coffey reminds us that this was a time in the 20th century during which French enjoyed great prestige in Europe.

In Mairin Hennebry’s chapter (“Foreign Language Teaching for Citizenship Development”), the prospect of including citizenship in foreign language curricula is advocated. Traditionally, citizenship is comprised of three elements: civil, political and social. Citizens participate in their communities, vote and enjoy freedoms. There is a distinction between bound citizenship, referring to nationality, and unbound. The latter is not legally defined and goes well with cosmopolitan citizenship, being a citizen of the world, working towards peace, human rights and global democracy. Foreign language classes can be an optimal context for learners to develop cosmopolitan citizenship because it allows them to engage with a diversity of identities, different values and their own multiple identities. Foreign language teaching can be the means to promote citizenship since it works as a bridge that connects communities globally, thus facilitating stronger senses of citizenship allowing learners the integrative motivation that frequently leads to stronger L2 gains (Dörnyei, 2009; Gardner, 2001). However, Hennebry presents data from five European countries that find a lack of explicit mention of citizenship in the countries’ stated foreign language learning objectives even though they may focus on cultural awareness and engagement with diversity. This is partially because of a curricular focus on language teaching. Non-linguistic elements, like citizenship, are marginalized even though teachers value their inclusion. The connection between weak foreign language learning and extra-national citizenship is even felt in the UK House of Lords as it linked such weakness to British isolationism. Particularly in the wake of Brexit, Hennebry advocates for the inclusion of citizenship in foreign language teaching to prevent such insularism.

Jennifer Jenkins, in Chapter 4, “Not English but English-within-Multilingualism,” argues for a reconceptualization of research into English as a Lingua Franca (ELF), the use of English by only non-native speakers of English. After giving an introduction into research on ELF, she presents her reasoning into why such a reconceptualization is necessary. In general, English should not be the primary focus of the situation. Instead, the focus should be on multilingualism. The number of non-native speakers of English is surpassing the number of native speakers, who all live in an increasingly multilingual world. Therefore, Jenkins provides terminology that allows for the reconceptualization. For example, instead of ELF, she promotes English as a Multilingual Franca which is defined as a situation of “multilingual communication in which English is available as a contact language of choice, but is not necessarily chosen” (p. 72). This definition places emphasis on the multilingual environment, acknowledging that all native and non-native languages spoken by participants are represented in the interaction even if they are not used. A key implication Jenkins suggests for researchers in SLA and language educators is to move away from the notion of a native speaker ideal as, in some situations, this is not the reality learners are entering.

“Glocal Languages: The Globalness and the Localness of World Languages,” by Manuela Guilherme is a logical progression from Jenkins’s previous chapter. The author begins by establishing the tradition of seeing English as the lingua franca of globalization as part of the colonial era. It is a one-sided perception of globalization. Any linguistic or cultural pedagogy that follows suit also suffers these shortfalls. Instead, Guilherme proposes the term ‘glocal language’. A glocal language can be the global or the local language; the colonial language, official language of a new state or the indigenous language. Even a language that would not be considered global, like Danish, can be glocal because it is possible to see its evidence around the world as it is an L1 or early L2 to many. Importantly, a glocal language is not a lingua franca as it brings cultural baggage, along with the native speaker/non-native speaker mythical standard. In the end, Guilherme proposes a focus on critical intercultural awareness in glocal language education, meaning a post-colonial approach “that responds to globalization, how it affects localisms and, above all, how the former is dynamically and intensively affected by the latter” (91).

Rachel Shively, in Chapter 6, “Language Socialization during Study Abroad: Researching Social Interaction outside of the Classroom,” presents her research on L2 learners’ social interactions with host families, peers and service personnel during their semesters in Spain. She does so under the theoretical framework of language socialization, which involves learners participating in social interaction who are thus socialized into the local linguistic and cultural communities of practice. Shively presents the qualitative data of her participants briefly in order to give ideas of how socialization can occur. She demonstrates how participants learned from implicit socialization how to interact in social encounters. In addition, multiple participants altered the way they use humor based on their experiences in social interactions. For example, one participant realized his deadpan humor was not successful, leading him to use a different tactic. Finally, when giving assessment statements about their beliefs, Shively showed participants increased their vocabulary and that native speakers of Spanish also acted as experts to guide them. She concludes that observing study abroad research under the language socialization framework is an effective way to understand how learners become members of a society, increasing their linguistic and sociocultural competencies.

In Chapter 7, “French Language Textbooks as Ideologically Imbued Cultural Artifacts: Political Economy, Neoliberalism and (Self-) Branding,” David Block and John Gray analyze two French foreign language textbooks, finding ways in which they portray ideologies. The two books analyzed were chosen to represent two parts of the global economic crisis that began in 2007. The first textbook was a 2010 edition which was prepared earlier in the crisis, the second from the text’s 2015 edition, when fuller effects of the crisis were felt and understood. Their analysis took into account portrayed elements of neoliberalism and manners in which individuals may brand themselves. The 2010 edition included content that described French workers as “bad” because they were not branded as exciting or, in some ways, sincere. However, they were branded as sophisticated and sincere in the sense that they were honest. While much of this portrayal does not fall in line with neoliberalism, Block and Gray say that there is an element of it due to a message of efficiency and preparation. By the time the 2015 edition was prepared, more evidence of the global financial crisis had made it into the text. For example, there were stories from people who had immigrated to and emigrated from France, the latter for various reasons including economic. Block and Gray indicate that the crisis brings together elements of the neoliberal citizen, excitement and competence.

Chapter 8, “The Need for New Directions in Modern Foreign Language Teaching at English Secondary Schools” by Ursula Wingate and Nick Andon, presents the increasing problem of demotivation and decreased enrollment in foreign language classes in secondary schools in England. Wingate and Andon had as goals to observe teaching methods and consider their impact on learner motivation, to interview teachers about their beliefs and to make recommendations. The authors observed lessons and interviewed teachers whose classes were observed. In general, the methods observed lacked the opportunity for learners to communicate in creatively produced language. Specifically, they were led by teachers through tightly controlled language activities like filling in blanks and choral repetition. They also observed overpraise, unengaging games that disintegrated due to lack of purpose and a lack of follow-up on activities, leading to lack of effort by learners.

From their interviews with teachers, Wingate and Andon found common themes about teachers’ backgrounds and their beliefs about methods. There was little knowledge about communicative principles that should inform lesson plans. Teachers set low expectations to preserve positive emotions. They claim to challenge high achieving students and support low achievers but in practice provide pointless activities. In general, there appeared to be discrepancies between what teachers planned and what was realized. Therefore, Wingate and Anton recommend a reconceptualization of teaching methods that are informed by theory and take into account the whole learner, not just the learner who can produce grammatical structures.

In Chapter 9 (“Developing Competence for French as a Foreign Language within a Plurilingual Paradigm”), Nathalie Auger argues for language teaching philosophies that take all learners’ linguistic repertoires into account. She mentions Roma speakers of Catalan and other migrants that can make up a French as a Foreign Language class. Such a perspective has typically not been present in French classes due to strict focus on communication in the target language. However, having students do activities in which they compare and contrast languages they speak can show them that all languages are equally valued and can ease social and identity-related tensions in the classroom. There should be a transformation in teacher training as well because pre-service teachers need to learn to think about their own plurilinguistic experiences and how to facilitate practice, making their teaching of French universal.

Angela Scarino wrote Chapter 10 (“Assessing the Diverse Linguistic and Cultural Repertoires of Students of Diverse Languages”) in order to show that many common frameworks for language learning are generic and do not take into account the multilingual variety present in K-12 students. Following a summary of points on globalization and policy, Scarino presents the SAALE study, carried out nationally in Australia. It was to determine what K-12 learners could legitimately achieve in learning one of four languages. The study tested for relationships involving learners’ language and cultural backgrounds and time-on-task. Findings indicate linguistic background is important since those who learned the target language as an L2 experienced achievement significantly lower than the other groups. Intensity of study (i.e., study abroad) also led to higher achievement in Japanese and Chinese.

The SAALE study helped administrators in Australia come up with policy under which different frameworks and standards were adopted for different languages and for different learner groups. This is as a start towards considering learner background in their assessments.

Chapter 11, entitled “Embedding the Assessment into the Learning: A New Direction for High-Stakes Speaking Assessments,” Martin East presents how secondary-level learners undergo L2 oral assessments in New Zealand. In all subjects, this country implemented a new philosophy in high-stakes assessments that allows for a formative assessment valuing feedback. For L2 oral assessment, this means a switch from conversations between teacher and student to a peer-to-peer spontaneous interaction. East presents interview data from language teachers about the importance of interaction and how they manage the need for accountability and standarization in assessment. East’s data show overwhelming teacher support for focusing on interaction. However, it was common for teachers to worry about stressful spontaneity, difficult standardization and lack of confidence that learners’ true abilities will be reflected. In an effort to match the need for interaction with the need for accountability, teachers suggest learners have much practice with spontaneous interaction inside and outside the assessment context.

The final full chapter of the volume, entitled “Toward a Framework for US Collegiate Foreign Language Instruction: Curricular Considerations” by Heidi Byrnes, presents issues that primarily plague university-level foreign language departments in the United States. Across the country, departments are charged with teaching beginning-level language courses as well as high-level content courses. Traditionally, the divide between courses has been complete. However, Byrnes reminds that, if a curriculum is informed by theories that see SLA as emergent, there should be no divide. Language learning continues during “content” courses and content is learned in “language” courses. She presents eight foundational principles to consider when working with curriculum, most focusing on seeing language and content as linked and part of the real world. Byrnes concludes her chapter by showing how her own German department used Systemic Functional Linguistics to reform their curriculum.

Claire Kramsch’s afterward concludes the volume by asserting that the chapters presented highlight issues in SLA that were not present 30 years earlier. Such topics include the need to not see binary classifications (L1 versus L2, for example) and the English bias in literature. The themes present in the volume better reflect 21st century reality of globalization.


My evaluation agrees with that of Kramsch and centers on the book’s effective division into four parts. The first part, “Change Rationales for Language Study” includes Charalambous, Charalambous and Rampton’s data about new rationales for teaching Turkish to Greek-Cypriots in Cyprus to foster positive intercultural relations. Coffey’s chapter on using language autobiographies to determine how one’s reasons for learning language can be for upward social mobility also adds an important rationale. Lastly, Hennebry proposes tying teaching citizenship development into language learning as a way to promote cosmopolitan citizenship in learners and to foster intrinsic motivation. These three chapters provide important rationales for language study that go beyond those of traditional classroom practices, allowing learners to imagine and realize their own integrations into target communities.

Part 2 is entitled “Foreign Language Study for Global Multilingualism.” The first two chapters complement each other well by focusing on different aspects of how a wide range of speakers use English as a lingua franca throughout the world. Both Jenkins and Guilherme promote important updates to the notion of English as a Lingua Franca, both seeking to remove focus from the English language and concentrate on the multilingual and multicultural contexts that exist in communicative situations in which English is used. While both chapters present important information, one may have sufficed. Shively’s chapter on social interaction during study abroad fits the section’s theme well, and differently from the previous two chapters. It returns the volume’s focus to non-English languages as Shively’s data gives clear images of how learners begin to become socialized members of Spanish society while abroad.

The third part is “Critical Perspectives in the Classroom.” All three chapters promote innovative ways for educators to critically consider practices and adapt to improve learner experiences. Block and Gray do this by showing how textbooks can teach more than just language. They can be used to demonstrate important sociological information such as economic effects in France. Wingate and Andon provide a particularly useful opportunity for teachers to critically think about their practices by demonstrating that teachers do not always facilitate the communicative interactive practice for the students as much as they think. Such information allows for critical reflection not only for teachers but for teacher educators. Finally, Auger provides critique on the notion that the target language should be the only language of a classroom. Instead, modern day pluralingualism should be embraced for pedagogical purposes.

Part 4, “Innovation in Policy and Practice” provides important ideas when looking toward the future, particularly considering assessment. Both Scarino’s chapter about taking the whole learner into consideration when assessing their abilities and East’s chapter on providing formative assessments in place of only summative, suggest innovation in language assessment, supported by what has been implemented in their countries. Byrnes’s treatment of the curricular divide in US higher education is meaningful and should be taken further.

In conclusion, Coffey and Wingate assembled a volume that informs the language researcher and educator versed in theory well. It was a particular treat to read about pedagogical practices implemented in multiple parts of the world. This helps solidify the editors’ globalized perspective.


Dörnyei, Z. (2009). The L2 motivational system. In Z. Dörnyei & E. Ushioda (Eds.), Motivation, language identity and the L2 self (p. 9-42). Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

Gardner, R. (2001). Integrative motivation and second language acquisition. In Z. Dörnyei & R.W. Schmidt (Eds.), Motivation and second language acquisition. Honolulu, HI: University of Honolulu.
Joshua Pope is Assistant Professor of Spanish at Doane University. His research interests include language learning during study abroad and language pedagogy.

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ISBN-13: 9781138673991
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