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Review of  Contextualising English as a Lingua Franca


Reviewer: Joshua M Paiz
Book Title: Contextualising English as a Lingua Franca
Book Author: Xavier Martin-Rubió
Publisher: Cambridge Scholars Publishing
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Computational Linguistics
Sociolinguistics
Subject Language(s): English
Issue Number: 30.1963

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Review:
SUMMARY

‘Contextualizing English as a Lingua Franca’ is an edited collection that aims to concurrently expand how English as a lingua franca (ELF) theory conceptualizes EFL phenomena while also offering insights into ELF-aware pedagogy. To do this, the editor, Xavier Martin-Rubió of Universitat de Lleida, gathers contributions from ten authors on three continents. The contributors—mostly Europeans—provide an expansive view that takes on current issues in ELF and English language teaching (ELT). The result of this ambitious and dipartite goal is a surprisingly compact hardcover, coming in a little shy of 300 pages. It is a polyvocal collection in three parts that manages to maintain the fidelity of the contributors’ independent voices in keeping with ELF ideology. To aid in this endeavor, the editor has broken the book into three major sections that look at the intersection of computer-mediated communication (CMC) and ELF (Section 1), ELF across contexts (Section 2), and the pedagogical ramifications of ELF (Section 3). In this review, I will work through each section in turn.

Section One of this book covers a range of CMC-related issues in ELF. In Chapter Two, the author provides a conceptual and analytic framework for working with ELF data that has been gathered in CMC environments, which they refer to CMELF. Notable in this chapter is that the author (Bosso) makes a concerted effort to address the ethical issues using data mined from (semi-) publicly available sources like Facebook or SinaWeibo, chief of which are informed consent and privacy protection. Chapter Three focuses on how Web 2.0 tools, such as wikis and video content, can be used to scaffold teacher education programs in ways that facilitate an understanding of ELF perspectives on language education. It offers a fine-grained look at the use of these resources in a teacher education program at a Spanish university, pointing to a net-positive effect on teacher preparation and ELF-inclusive attitudes. In Chapter Four, the authors (Novotná, Císar̂ová, & Tufano) use Canagarajah’s (2013) translingual approach to advocate for ELF-inclusive approaches to raising the rhetorical awareness of students’ learning to write in English for academic purposes (EAP) classes. Their research indicates that using a translingual approach that focuses on cultural differences and similarities can be helpful to student writers.

In Section Two, the focus moves to an interrogation of how ELF is realized in different national contexts and domains of life (e.g., the classroom, the immigration office, etc.). In Chapter 5, the contributor discusses the intersections of ELF and identity theory in the Vietnamese context. Their focus is on how ELF varieties of English are used in social and academic settings in Vietnam, and the possible impacts that this might have on the speakers; for example, they might realize a social and academic self. Their findings indicate a conflicted sense of self on the part of the participants and ambivalent attitudes towards ELF varieties of English. Chapter 6 shifts focus to the Grecian context for an examination of the so-called real needs of the learners. It suggests that Greek ELF learners need more exposure and top-down training on handling non-native English speakers’ production of ELF-varieties of English. Chapter 7 moves to the Czech context and provides an examination of students’ attitudes towards English as a foreign language (EFL) and ELF paradigms for instruction, finding that there is the need for students to adjust their attitudes towards “proper” English for ELF to fulfill its emancipatory potential. Chapter 8 closes out this section by looking at ELF interactions among migrants engaging with Italian immigration officials. It found that phonological issues, as opposed to morphogrammatical ones contributed the most to the communicative difficulties experienced between ELF interlocutors in the study.

The final section shifts to a description and analysis of ELF-informed pedagogies for English for specific and academic purposes (ESP/EAP) classes. This section gathers work from three national contexts—Japan, Brazil, and Turkey. In Chapter Nine, Yaeko Hori (the author) describes an ELF-aware pedagogical approach that attempts to aid students in acquiring transcultural competence. This approach is based on a four-part model that moves students from engagement with global Englishes, to reflecting on their language use, and then on to analyzing that use in situ, before finally practicing the communicative abilities in an ELF setting. The study suggests that this approach was helpful in raising student awareness of the varieties of English used across the globe, which they may encounter in lingua franca situations. Chapter Ten moves the reader to Brazil, where the authors investigate collaborative curriculum design. In this chapter, they advocate for an ELF-informed pedagogy for English language classrooms in keeping with an activist view of language learning. By tying ELT in Brazil to wider students’ rights to their own languages movements (STROL), the authors argue that the ELF paradigm provides a useful tool to guide language curriculum design in what has traditionally been referred to as the EFL context (see CCCC, 1974; TESOL, 1987). It achieves this efficacy by creating space for awareness raising and buy-in around non-native varieties of English. Chapter Eleven rounds out the volume with an examination of ELF instructional materials in the Turkish context. The authors find that the use of ELF and world Englishes (WE) paradigms equipped early- and pre-service teachers with critical tools that allowed them to interrogate native-speaker bias in instructional materials. The study in this chapter concludes that this approach to teacher education enabled teachers then to find, or construct, curricular materials that were ELF/WE informed and that were better able to speak to English as it is used in the students’ local context.

EVALUATION

As a young doctoral student, I was warned away from edited collections by a trusted advisor, and now dear colleague. I have tried to not to let that advice taint my reading of edited collections, or to blanch when I am invited to contribute to them. As a co-editor of a collected volume, I know all too well the challenges of quality control and project management (Silva, Wang, Zhang, & Paiz, 2016). That being said, with a good press and diligent editors, both book editors and copy editors at the publishing house, amazing things can happen with this kind of book. ‘Contextualizing English as a Lingua Franca: From Data to Insights’, however, suffers from many of the problems that typically plague edited collections, and these problems are exacerbated by the publishing model of Cambridge Scholars Publishing, which researchers on sites like researchgate.net have described as being overly reliant on contributors to perform even basic copy editing of the texts. I will say that ‘Contextualizing English as a Lingua Franca’ is an ambitious book, collecting research from almost a dozen national contexts, many of which are underrepresented in the wider socio- and applied linguistics literature. That being said, the quality of this work as presented in this book gives me pause. In this evaluation, I will begin with the collection’s demerits and close on the positive attributes of this text.

Almost immediately, quality control issues become apparent in the text. On the table of contents page of the copy that I was given for review, there are glaring editorial errors. Specifically, the title of Chapter Six is missing the first eight words of the title; there are only eleven words altogether. The table of contents is critical for an edited collection because it is where potential buyers/readers first engage with the text’s scope and determine if it fits their needs. An error of this magnitude, which should have easily been caught during copy editing, is a rather sizeable red flag for me as a reviewer. Again, I fully understand the challenges inherent in edited collections, but this speaks to a fundamental issue with Cambridge Scholars Publishing’s production model. Many of the more established presses that I am aware of—Oxford University Press, New York University Press, Equinox Publishing—will have a manuscript go through a round of in-house copy editing to avoid exactly this kind of error. Additionally, the book is missing an index, which makes it difficult to see how ideas might cross over from chapter to chapter, or to guide your reading, or raiding, of the text. Issues with production quality persist throughout the book. Almost every graphical element is grainy and difficult to parse. This is likely because the source material for these graphics were not high-resolution images. Also, there are linguistic issues with the works that should have been caught during the copy-editing stages, such as one author’s reference to “edition software” when they likely mean “editing software” (p. 37), or the use of archaic versions of country names, such as Rumania for Romania—which almost completely fell out of use in the 1990s (see NGram Viewer, n.d.). (Note here, that I am not concerned with the lexicogrammatical differences of different varieties of English (e.g., American English and Euro English).

There are also quality control issues with the work reported on in the contributions. For example, two chapters take very problematic approaches to their theoretical frameworks. Both Chapters Six and Ten uncritically blend the WE and ELF paradigms. The authors of both chapters offer no discussion of how these paradigms diverge from each other—treating them as largely the same—and in doing so, they completely fail to reconcile potentially debilitating ideological differences (see Fang, 2017), thereby weakening the analytical power of the framework. In other places, authors fail to fully operationalize theoretically rich terms that will inevitably have a bearing on how they analyze their data. In yet other places, such as in Chapter Nine, there are potential methodological issues. The research instrument is an English language survey with rather complex lexicogrammatical structures and theoretically nuanced items; however, by the researchers own admission the students taking these surveys were at an elementary level of English proficiency. Whether or not native language versions were provided participants is not reflected in the appendices, nor is it discussed in the methods section of the paper.

As for the volume as a whole, it is often difficult to see the connections between the different contributions. This difficulty can potentially be linked many missing editorial elements that would have helped greatly, be it an index, section introductions, or a functioning introduction to the book. The closest this book comes an introduction is Chapter One, which is an odd mix of an introduction, the editor’s goals for gathering these papers, and their armchair analysis of some of their own ELF interactions, an analysis which is seemingly presented without member-checking or any other form of validity testing. Because of the scope and organization of the first chapter, it makes a very ineffective introduction to the book, leaving the reader still unsure as to the connections between the contributions, beyond all being about ELF. This feeling is compounded when none of the contributions reference any of the other chapters in the volume, nor do they reference the “guiding principles” that the editor sets out in the first chapter. All of this leads to a volume that is difficult to see as a cohesive whole, making it feel more like a volume of a quarterly journal than a book. Taken with the quality issues—editorial, theoretical, and methodological— it creates a book that raises the wrong kinds of questions once read from cover-to-cover.

That being said, some positive notes must be mentioned. As a Western academic in TESOL/Applied Linguistics, I firmly believe that there is the need to create more spaces for voices from under- and unrepresented context. As it stands, we know far too much about ESL learners at Western universities; and we know far too little about non-traditional learners in global contexts. This book does an excellent job of creating just that kind of space. In this compact 281-page tome, eight different national contexts are represented, some of which, like Greece and Vietnam, are woefully underrepresented in the literature. I commend the editor for purposefully creating space for under- and unrepresented voices. Also, there are some very strong contributions in this collection. For example, Chapter Eight provides meaningful insights into migrant issues and the use of ELF principles, insights that can impact policy and practice at the national level in transformative ways that create more equity for migrants and asylum seekers. Chapter Ten is also an exceptionally strong contribution that models both how ELF can be used to realize transformative and emancipatory pedagogies that create value around multilingual Englishes and how collaborative curriculum design, led from the bottom-up, can lead to change at the national level. Both of these chapters provide actionable recommendations that may have relevance beyond their original contexts.

My final evaluation of the book is that while there are some strong contributions and it does a praiseworthy job of creating space for marginalized voices, because of its weaknesses, this edited collection does not justify the price tag (61.99 GBP/81.35 USD). This book represents an ambitious effort, but it gets stuck in a quagmire of editorial and copy-editing issues that simply shouldn’t have been allowed to occur if proper quality control was exercised by Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Note: I have reached out to Cambridge Scholars Publishing about some of the typographical errors, and they assure me that they will be addressed in future publication runs of the book.


REFERENCES

Canagarajah, Suresh. 2013. Translingual practice: Global Englishes and cosmopolitan relations. New York: Routledge.

CCCC. 1974. Students rights to their own language. College Composition and Communication 25(3). 1-32.

Fang, Fan. 2017. World Englishes or English as a lingua franca: Where does English in China stand?. English Today 33(1). 19-24. DOI: 10.1017/50266078415000668.

Martin-Rubió, Xavier. Ed. 2018. Contextualizing English as a lingua franca: From data to insights. Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

NGram Viewer. N.d. Google Books. Retrieved from: https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=Romania%2CRumania%2CRoumania&year_start=1870&year_end=2008&corpus=15&smoothing=3&direct_url=t1%3B%2CRomania%3B%2Cc0%3B.t1%3B%2CRumania%3B%2Cc0%3B.t1%3B%2CRoumania%3B%2Cc0

Silva, Anthony J., Wang, Junju, Zhang, Cong, and Paiz, Joshua M. Eds. 2016. L2 writing in the global context: Represented, underrepresented, and unrepresented contexts. Beijing: Beijing Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press.

TESOL. 1987. TESOL member resolution on language rights. TESOL International Association. Retrieved from: https://www.tesol.org/advance-the-field/tesol-member-resolutions/member-resolutions/tesol-member-resolution-on-language-rights-(1987)
 
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Joshua M. Paiz holds a doctorate in second language studies (TESOL) from Purdue University. He is currently a teaching assistant professor in EAP at George Washington University, where he also coordinates the Applied English Studies program. His research interests include LGBTQ+ issues in applied linguistics, Online Writing Labs as L2 writing support tools, and sociocognitive approaches to SLA. His work has appeared in TESOL Journal, TESL-EJ, Asian EFL Journal, and the Journal of Language and Sexuality. He also serves on the editorial advisory board for TESOL Journal and as an associate editor for Asian EFL Journal. He is also on the review panel for a variety of journals in ELT and applied linguistics.

Versions:
Format: Hardback
ISBN-13: 9781527508712
Pages: 287
Prices: U.K. £ 61.99