Monthly Archives: December 2011

Anne-Marie de Mejía

NNEST of the Month

January 2012

Anne-Marie Truscott de Mejía is an Associate Professor at the Centro de Investigación y Formación en Educación at Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá, Colombia.  She holds a Ph.D. in Linguistics in the area of Bilingual Education from Lancaster University, U.K.  Her research interests include bilingual classroom interaction, the construction of bilingual curricula and processes of empowerment, and bilingual teacher development. She coordinated a research project sponsored by the National Ministry of Education on the state of the art of bilingual education in different regions in Colombia, as well as a diagnostic study about the conditions and needs of three bilingual public (state) schools in Bogotá in their transition towards bilingualism.  She is the author of a number of books and articles in the area of bilingualism and bilingual education both in Spanish and English.  Her latest publications include Forging Multilingual Spaces (2008) and Empowering Teachers across Cultures (2011), jointly edited with Christine Hélot.

January Interviewer: Ana T. Solano-Campos


1.      In Power, Prestige and Bilingualism, you point out that elite bilingualism is a world-wide phenomenon.  What is elite bilingualism? And what are the implications of this for teaching and learning around the world?

From what I know of so-called “elite” bilingualism, most programmes, at least in Colombia and other parts of Latin America, have developed from private schools set up originally to cater to children of foreign speaking people who settled in the country.  So today we still have various schools for French, German, Swiss, Italian, English and Hebrew speaking children.  For many years, these were the point of reference for the elite bilingual programmes developed for Spanish-speaking Colombians.  When they came into vogue, about 30-40 years ago, they were modeled on these community bilingual education programmes, and therefore paid a lot of attention to the development of the target language (in this case the international language the school had adopted rather than the student’s native language, or L1).  In many cases, Spanish, the L1 of most of the students, was used in such subjects as Religion, Physical Education, and Music, while English or another foreign language was used for the “high profile” subjects of Math, Natural Science, Economics, and others.  There was also very little reference to cultural considerations, as these were presumed to be non-problematic since the students came from the dominant language and cultural group.   It was considered important to have native-speaking teachers of the target language, as the development of a “native-like” accent was (and still is) seen as essential.  Moreover, most of the teachers hired had little knowledge of how to teach second or foreign language learners and therefore fell back on their knowledge of how to teach first language learners.

Now, although things have changed a lot in this respect and teachers and school principals are more conscious of the challenges involved in educating bilingual students, I think there are certain implications which can be drawn for teaching and learning around the world.  First of all, it is important to recognize that in a profession which historically has had a monolingual, foreign language ideological orientation, as Grosjean (1985) has noted, a bilingual is not two monolinguals in one person; and that therefore a bilingual education programme needs to focus on the bilingual development of the learners and not on second or foreign language learning per se.

Furthermore, I think that the question of academic language and content learning needs to be balanced in the curriculum by attention to communicative language interaction if, as is often the case, parents expect their children not only to be able to do examinations in the foreign language, but also to interact with speakers of that language.  I also feel that the notion of “the native speaker” and “native-like” accents needs to be problematized in light of the current debate as to whether the native speaker is now an anachronism.  In my experience, many teachers currently teaching in elite bilingual programmes have not questioned the value of native speaker expertise. Rather, they automatically assume that native speaker expertise is superior to the expertise of high-level bilingual teachers, who can also act as linguistic and cultural role models for their students. This is especially important in these days where, according to Graddol (2006), most interactions in English are between non-native speakers of the language.

Finally, I would recommend that the sensitizing of students to cultural similarities and differences be carried out from an intercultural perspective which is not limited to the celebration of festivities per se, but which tries to engage learners in an on-going debate leading to deeper understanding of the meanings and implications of difference, diversity and similarity from a historically-situated viewpoint.

2.      In what ways does the meaning of the term “bilingual education” differ in Latin American countries, like Colombia, and the United States?

As I understand it, this is a rather ironic situation. Whereas the term “bilingual education” in the US is generally seen from a rather negative point of view (one publisher told me that it was difficult to sell books with a title using the expression), the notion of “dual language education” is high profile.  The situation in Colombia, and I believe in many other Latin American countries, is different.  Bilingual education is often seen as the key to success, both in education and job-wise.  People believe, often against contradictory evidence, that if they are bilingual, understood here as being proficient in English, then they are en route to a better future.  Thus, bilingual education is a very positive selling point for private schools.

This, in fact, influenced the last government under Alvaro Uribe to name the language and education policy implemented in 2005 as “The National Bilingual Programme”, instead of referring only to ELT.  It was considered a more international perspective. In fact, up to now, it has taken into account the learning of only one language, English, and coincides with what many of my students have told me when they interview people about being bilingual: that to the majority, bilingualism means “investing in English”.  This “investment” has extended from the private sector to all public schools in Colombia and thus has made bilingualism potentially available to a much wider public.

3.     How do notions of inequality, deficiency, or prestige permeate bilingual and intercultural education in Colombia? How are these notions currently being contested?

As Enrique Hamel (2008) has noted, in Latin America, there are two sets of actors involved in bilingual education, situated at different poles of the social and educational scale, who hardly ever meet.  These are the teachers, researchers and school administrators who work in high prestige, bilingual education programmes for those learning so-called “majority” or international languages, where the bilingualism involved is valued and thus “highly visible”.  At the other end of the scale are the programmes designed for speakers of “minority” languages, particularly indigenous languages, where bilingualism is frequently undervalued and discriminated against and is thus “invisible” to most of the mainstream.

In view of this situation, a group of academics decided to do something practical to try and reduce the gap between researchers, teachers, students and others concerned with different types of bilingualism and bilingual education in Latin America.  In 2004, we organized a symposium in Buenos Aires, Argentina, (International Symposium on Bilingualism and Bilingual Education in Latin America – Bilinglatam) aimed at providing a forum for those working in bilingualism and multilingualism in both majority and minority languages.  This was initially supposed to be a “one-off” event, but has, in fact, continued, with symposia being held in Bogotá, Colombia in 2006, in São Paulo, Brazil in 2009 and more recently in Oaxaca, Mexico in 2011.  These events have helped to put people from Ethno-education programmes as these are known in Colombia (and as Intercultural Bilingual Education in the rest of Latin America), in contact with their counterparts who work with foreign languages. They have also helped to find points of contact among differences in policies and practices of bilingual and multilingual education in different Latin American countries, and thereby to contest the positioning of different types of programmes and languages as more or less prestigious and “useful” than others.

4.      When did you first become interested in bilingual education?  What motivated you to do research in this area?

My interest in bilingualism started, in fact, from very a personal situation.  My husband is Colombian and speaks Spanish as a first language, while I come from London and my first language is English.  I was trying to decide how to bring up our two children bilingual in English and Spanish and started asking around and reading about bilingualism.  The “one person – one language” was the formula recommended and seemed to work, up to a certain point.  I gradually became increasingly interested in the subject, and when I started work at Universidad del Valle, in Cali, I decided that I would like to do some research in the Colombian educational context on the effectiveness of foreign language teaching and learning.   I had noticed that the level of English Language Teaching (ELT) in the public schools was extremely low and thought that there must be an alternative.  The only other possibility seemed to be to look at the private bilingual school system, which had enjoyed a high level of prestige and success for over 80 years.  This led, in fact, to my PhD research project on code-switching at preschool level in two bilingual schools in Cali.

At that time (the late 80s), there was very little research being carried out in the field in Colombia.  Anything interesting in this area was related to indigenous bilingualism, but bilingualism in majority or international languages was not really recognized as a suitable study for research. I am glad to say that today this has changed radically and that bilingualism is commonly referred to in discussions about language and education in Colombia.

5.      How can teachers become empowered?

In our most recent book, “Empowering teachers across cultures”, Christine Hélot and I try to tackle this question in different linguistic and cultural contexts.  I don´t think there is any single way to bring this transformation about.  What I do believe is that helping teachers to become aware of power differences, both in the classroom and in the education system they work in, may lead to a realization that they can take responsibility for decisions about such things as the curriculum, about teacher education, about the use (or not) of code-switching in their classrooms, grounded in their pedagogical knowledge and experience, and not necessarily think their voice is not valued in these types of decision.  While it is a truism to state that no-one can empower anyone else, it is also possible to facilitate conditions where people can be helped to empower themselves, and the first condition for empowerment is conscientization, as Freire (1974) said many years ago.

When working with schools on these issues, what we have tried to do is literally to “let teachers´ voices be heard”.  In the discussion groups on specific readings in the area of bilingualism and bilingual education in our projects, which include different actors from the school community, teachers, parents (when possible), head teachers, students, and academic researchers, we try to keep silent, to encourage others to relate aspects of their practice to the issues under discussion.  This, in fact, is quite difficult to do sometimes, as we have found.  As academics, we are perhaps very accustomed to giving our views about the topic under discussion and often find it hard to take a back seat.  However, the result is worthwhile.  In one of the projects, teachers from the preschool section, who are sometimes seen as the least capable participants in such discussions, took the lead and provided a wealth of interesting and valuable considerations on their experience of teaching their bilingual learners.

One important consideration that I have found in projects relating to teacher empowerment is that it is vital to involve school administrators, such as coordinators and school principals,in these activities.  The decision making resulting from empowerment needs to involve both top-down, as well as bottom-up perspectives.  Sadly, I know of cases where teachers have tried to bring about change, but these attempts have been thwarted by the school administration.

Another important aspect in helping teachers and their students to become more empowered is to encourage them to carry out small-scale classroom research projects, which may or may not be action research projects.  Many teachers still think that research is done by those who work in universities, but often when they realize that they themselves can create knowledge and possibilities for change in their schools and classrooms by careful observation, analysis, and reflection on the implications of the findings of classroom data, then things begin to change.  I´m not saying that all teachers will respond positively to the carrying out of classroom research project.  Many will say that they do not have time in their busy schedules for such activities.  However, in my experience, there are always one or two committed individuals who will be encouraged to take on the role of “teacher-researchers”.  Then, of course, the door is open for teachers to work with their students on projects aimed at raising awareness on issues of power, resistance and empowerment.

6.      What research projects are you currently working on?

At the moment, I am currently finishing two longstanding projects along with other colleagues.  One has to do with the formulation of “Orientations” for schools in Colombia who wish to become bilingual or multilingual in international languages, such as English or French.  The Ministry of Education commissioned this project and hopefully, in 2012, the document will be published as official Ministry policy.

The other project has to do with language and content teaching and learning at the primary school level.  We looked at how teachers in eight bilingual primary schools in Bogotá taught content areas, such as Natural Science and Math in English, and their views on the difficulties, challenges and decisions involved in this.

Next semester, we are beginning a new project relating to teacher empowerment.  This time we are going to work with another university in the west of the country, Universidad del Quindío, on a joint project looking at how certain teachers in bilingual schools in Bogotá and in Quindío implement change in their classrooms, leading to empowerment, not only of themselves but of other colleagues working in close collaboration with them.

Thank you very much for the opportunity to talk about some of the things we have been doing recently, here in Colombia, and I do hope some ofwhat I have said here resonates with people who may read this blog.


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

Graddol, D. (2006). English Next. London: British Council. Available for free from the website of the British Council.

Grosjean, F. (1985). The bilingual as a competent but specific speaker-hearer. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development6, 467-477. Also in Cruz-Ferreira, M. (Ed.). Multilingual Norms. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2010 (19-31).

Hamel, R. E. (2008). Plurilingual Latin America: Indigenous languages, immigrant languages, foreign languages- Towards an integrated policy of language and education. In C. Hélot & A. De Mejía (Eds.), Forging multilingual spaces: Integrated perspectives on majority and minority bilingual education, 58-108. NY: Multilingual Matters.

Hélot, C., & de Mejía, A. (2008). Forging multilingual spaces: Integrated perspectives on majority and minority bilingual education. NY: Multilingual Matters.

de Mejía, A. M., & Hélot, C. (Eds). (2011). Empowering teachers across cultures. Frankfurt am Main : Peter Lang.

de Mejía, A. M. (2002). Power, prestige, and bilingualism: International perspectives on elite bilingual education. Buffalo, NY:  Multilingual Matters.


Liming Deng

NNEST of the Month

Dr. Liming Deng is a professor of English and the Deputy Dean of the English Department in the College of Foreign Languages and Literature at Wuhan University in Wuhan, China. She is a standing committee member of the China Writing, Teaching, and Research Association.  She is also a reviewer for The Chinese ESP Journal and The Open Journal of Modern Linguistics. She received her Ph.D. from City University of Hong Kong. Her main research interests in applied linguistics and second language acquisition include genre study, discourse analysis, academic writing, and ESP pedagogy. Since 1999 she has published more than 30 articles in journals and edited books.  In 2012 an article she co-authored entitled “The Role of Translation in EFL Classrooms: A Chinese University Case Study” which appeared in the book entitledFuture Directions in Applied Linguistics: Local and Global Perspectives edited by C. Gitsaki and R. B. Baldauf and published by Cambridge Scholars Publishing.   In the interview below she discusses her latest article entitled “Academic Identity Construction in Writing the Discussion & Conclusion Section: Case Studies of L2 Chinese Social Science Doctoral Students” which appeared in The Chinese Journal of Applied Linguistics. She has also undertaken several research projects over the past decade including her most recent one A Study of the Development of Chinese Students’ Generic Competence, which was funded by China National Social Science Research Grant from 2010 to 2013.  Professor Deng can be reached by e-mail at

December NNEST blog interviewer:  Terry Doyle

1) Please tell us about your experiences as an English language learner and also about your professional background as an English teacher and professor. When did you start learning English, and how did you become so proficient in English? What factors led to your decision to become an English teacher and later a professor? Also, tell us about your experiences of studying in Canada and in Hong Kong for your PhD.

Thank you for inviting me to this interview.

I began to learn English at the age of 12 when I was a junior high school girl. At that time we severely lacked teaching facilities such as computers and tape-recorders for learning English. Despite the poor conditions, I showed a strong interest in English as it was a fascinating foreign language so different from my mother tongue. I was particularly attracted by the rhythm basically represented through syllable stress and intonation whenever I read English aloud. I tried to improve my English proficiency through imitation, recitation, and extensive reading. In class I simply imitated my English instructor when she spoke English. After class I often went out of my way to read aloud any fables and fairy tales trying to recite some of the beautiful lines. Also, I read all the interesting short stories provided by the English instructor. As time went on, I became increasingly interested in English. I chose English as my major before I took part in the national entrance examination. After I entered Wuhan University as an English major, I tried ever harder to improve my English. I consciously made full use of any resources available to me to develop my listening, speaking, reading, and writing. I often went to the language lab to listen to various kinds of authentic English tapes and tuned in to such English radio programs as Voice of America every day. And I kept practicing spoken English with my speaking pair in my spare time for several semesters. Besides this, I developed the habit of speaking to myself in English every night before I went to bed. I enjoyed reading very much. I picked up a number of classic novels and short stories in the original to nourish my mind and increase my sense of language after class, especially during the summer and winter vacations. While reading, I tended to notice those well-written parts; after reading, I often wrote something down in English reflecting on what was most impressive to me. Meanwhile, I kept a diary in English, a practice which lasted four years till I graduated with a B.A. With my constant practice I became proficient in terms of listening, speaking, reading, and writing.

I chose to be an English teacher encouraged by my parents and sister as well as driven by my personal dream. My parents were high school teachers who had been teaching Chinese for more than 30 years by the time I completed my MA study. My sister had already worked as an English teacher in one of the key universities in China. They kept encouraging me to go in for English teaching for it was a very good occupation for female college students then and would lead to a practical job in the future as our government was attaching more importance to English language education. Personally, I had been dreaming about being a college English professor ever since I began my undergraduate study in the English Department of Wuhan University, one of the top ten national universities in China. This is simply because an English professor could not only enjoy a very high social status, but more importantly, he or she could derive much pleasure from educating students of various levels to be qualified world citizens in terms of good personality and comprehensive competences.

I received financial support from the China Scholarship Council (CSC) which was officially initiated in 1996 by the China Ministry of Education. It was through fierce nationwide competition that I obtained the government scholarship for one-year of overseas study. I was sent to Canada as a visiting scholar in November, 1997. I chose the University of Windsor for a one-year stay because this school has a good TESL learning center and provides good facilities for foreign visiting scholars. That was a very good experience in my life. I exchanged a lot with the professors and instructors teaching and doing research in TESL. I was invited to participate in their classes and teach the international students Grammar and Writing. It was due to such an experience that I got to know the theoretical principles of the process writing approach and how this approach is implemented in the writing classroom. And I read quite a few books and journal articles which are focused on teaching writing and writing research. This laid a good foundation for my subsequent academic career. I successfully obtained a couple of national research projects on writing after I returned from Canada. Based on the research data of the projects, I published a series of academic papers in key local  journals. I was able to be promoted to professorship 3 years later although I was breaking the school’s conventional rules as I did not hold a PhD yet.

Although I held my professorship for a couple of years, I still cherished the dream of pursuing PhD study in applied linguistics overseas. To balance family and study responsibilities, I decided to apply for a PhD program at the School of Graduate studies, City University of Hong Kong. Owing to my good language proficiency and academic background, I obtained a full scholarship for the first year of PhD study. And I was offered scholarships for another two consecutive years due to my good scholastic performance. I was lucky enough to be supervised by the world-famous linguist, Professor Vijay Bhatia, who has a very strong expertise in professional genre studies and ESP domain. He led me into the wonderland of genre studies and enabled me to further expand my research horizons. With his constant encouragement, nudges, and intellectual support, I fulfilled my PhD study within 3 years. What was most challenging during this time was doing ethnographic data collection and data analysis which involved case studies with 6 doctoral students in addition to my doctoral thesis writing itself. It took me more than a year to gather all the relevant research data as the 6 subjects might be suddenly absent from time to time at the last minute. Fortunately, they were kind enough to provide me the information I needed for my doctoral thesis research.

2) What are your main responsibilities as a professor at Wuhan University?  What aspect of this job do you enjoy the most? What kind of research have you worked on?

We are supposed to conduct at least two courses for undergraduates each semester and one course for the postgraduate students every year. Besides this, we must have some publications at least in the key local journals and presses. Nowadays also publishing in SSCI international key journals and important overseas presses is becoming the trend. In my job as an English professor, I enjoy teaching most. I love being together with my students. I’m easy-going, considerate, and helpful to my students, which in turn has brought me their deep love and trust. I’m open to changing the ways I teach according to the needs of different students. Whatever I teach, I try my best to cultivate the students’ intellectual ability through proper critical reading and writing. I’m just as happy as a king when any of my students has made progress in learning.

I’ve worked on L2 writing competence facilitation, academic writing, and the development of L2 learners’ generic competence in the Chinese context over the years.

3) Many of our readers are graduate students in applied linguistics and TESL around the world. What challenges have you had in your career, and what advice would you give young graduate students based on your experiences?

As the whole world is becoming increasingly competitive, we professors have more challenges today than ever such as expanding the breadth of our professional knowledge, improving the current subject knowledge structure, updating our computer skills, innovating our teaching methods, and gaining proper recognition in our relevant academic field at home and abroad through high-quality publications. I think these should be the big challenges all professors across the world are faced with nowadays. To better tackle these challenges, we need to view them as the driving force of our daily survival rather than deem them as a huge pressure. Another important thing to do is to try to keep abreast of whatever is going on in one’s research area simply through reading the current literature. This might be the key to enabling us to see further by standing on the giant’s shoulders. As a matter of fact, our inspirations mostly occur while we are going through the literature which is related to our own research area. Given the importance of reading the literature, I often suggest to my postgraduate students that they keep track of relevant academic journals, particularly the international ones, to sort out all the articles related to their personal research interest. It does work to increase the students’ academic growth and my own as well.

4)  Teaching is a very rewarding profession. What memorable experiences do you have as a teacher and professor during your career?

Teaching is really rewarding to me. I’ve taught as an English teacher at my university for almost 26 years, which has provided me a number of memorable experiences. I’d like to mention two here. One is of my students coming to my home on a rainy night to celebrate my birthday with me during the first year of my teaching. They walked far away to a well-known cake shop merely to choose a very particular birthday cake for me. To make me more happy, they sang a couple of popular folk songs one after another which moved me to tears. This was the most unforgettable birthday celebration in my life. Another is the annual graduation ceremony where I can feel deeply the pride and the excitement running over each of my students and myself as well when they put on their academic robes and take the group photo along with me. Nothing is so memorable than seeing your students growing up in front of you.

5)  I am sure that you are familiar with issues related to NNEST.  What issues in this regard would you like to address? What issues are particularly important in China? Do you feel that native English speaking teachers enjoy more benefits than non-native speaking teachers in China, as sometimes happens in other countries?

Nowadays the great majority of the Chinese English teachers across the country are challenged with high-degree pursuit and further development of their particular disciplinary knowledge other than language education. Most of the English teachers working at the schools of different levels still lack a PhD degree in English. The quotas for English doctoral program are rather limited on the one hand, and the teaching load for them is extremely heavy ranging from 10 periods to 18 periods of class time per week. It is apparently extremely demanding for English teachers to be able to enter English doctoral programs for further study. Meanwhile, an overwhelming majority of the English teachers in China are going in for General English which is meant to assist non-English majors in various disciplines with their English language proficiency. With the rapid development of English language education and more access to English teaching and learning resources on the Internet, non-English majors are becoming increasingly proficient in terms of listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Most of the students have already passed the national English test, the CET-4 ( College English- Band 4), before they enter college. Given such a big change, the main stream of College English teaching now can never be test-oriented. It should shift the conventional English language teaching to teaching subject knowledge related to the students’ particular discipline, instead. This is indeed ESP-oriented (English for Specific Purposes). However, it sets a big challenge for English teachers as they severely lack disciplinary knowledge. Thus, it has been a major issue in China now as to how to make it happen in reality so that these English teachers are able to manage the teaching of subject content to the Non-English majors.

Native- English speaking teachers used to enjoy more benefits in China, but this is only partially true nowadays. Most of the native- English speaking teachers are employed merely to teach listening and speaking for the essential courses of the undergraduates. There are exceptions for those native teachers who have PhD degrees or professorship along with rich teaching experience. They are more often invited to conduct core subject courses.

6)  You have done extensive research on theses writing. In your paper entitled “Academic identity construction in writing the discussion and conclusion sections of L2 theses: Case studies of Chinese social science doctoral students”, all of your six participants moved from a position of being “green hand” novice academic writers to one of full membership among academic writers “in a gradual process of academic literacy development and writer identity transformation.” Can you explain more about how a combination of “guided and legitimate periphery participation” and “social scaffolding” helped your participants? Also, can you give a particularly poignant example which illustrates how one of your participants managed to move through this process and how legitimate periphery participation and social scaffolding helped this person?

I found in my doctoral thesis research that the six participants moved from a position of being “green hand” novice academic writers to one of full membership among academic writers “in a gradual process of academic literacy development and writer identity transformation.” As manifested in the thick interview data, the student writers enacted their legitimate periphery participation in the process of drafting and revising their doctoral thesis writing basically through such social interactions as negotiation and mediation with those more knowledgeable community members including their supervisors, panel members, and other academics both within and outside of the school. In so doing, they obtained much more needed scaffolding and guidance for their ultimate disciplinary enculturation which helped them gradually evolve from novice student writers to the full membership of the particular discourse community. Take one of the participants, Cong, for example. He was in much trouble in organizing the content and rhetorical structure of the discussion and conclusion section in accordance with the academic conventions at the drafting stage. He related that this was mainly due to the lack of systematic training on doctoral thesis writing and his initial reluctance to discuss the specific thesis chapter writing with his supervisor and other scholars as he preferred a free and flexible writing style. Later at the revision stage when he came to realize the main problem in writing this section, he not only frequently went to his supervisor for advice and mediated with his panel members for suggestions, but also took the initiative to enter into professional conversation with other scholars as well. One day a famous scholar in his field, named Professor Smith (a pseudonym), came over for a talk for the faculty. Cong sought the chance to exchange with this big-name scholar particularly over the basic approaches to writing the Discussion & Conclusion section such as the ways of interpreting research data. As Cong recalled, he even went out of his way to talk about the main issues on thesis writing, particularly on the ways as to how to better deal with the Discussion & Conclusion section when he attended an international conference in the UK. Negotiating and mediating with the academics in this way not just helped Cong to acquire relevant conventions and norms for thesis writing and improve his drafted section in line with the rhetorical conventions, but also greatly enhanced his manipulating power in the subsequent revision and final shaping of this specific thesis part-genre writing. Through the whole process of drafting, revising, and shaping the Discussion & Conclusion section, Cong, like the other five participants, successfully moved from being a novice student writer at the initial stage to being a more skilled academic writer at the revision stage and finally to becoming a full member of the particular discourse community. It is apparently the combination of guided and legitimate periphery participation and social scaffolding that helped the participants, like Cong, to transform their academic identity along with the development of their academic literacy.

7)  In regards to the research mentioned in the previous question, you mentioned that this kind of research has not been carried out with L2 learners in Asian countries before.  What particular insights did your research contribute to the literature because the students were studying in Asia? Also, in comparing your research with that done in English speaking countries, can you tell us how the students in your study developed their academic literacy and transformed their identities differently from those in other countries, if indeed they did?

Doctoral thesis writing is viewed as a neglected conventional genre in the domain of L2 writing. There is a severe lack of empirical studies on how doctoral students go through thesis writing, especially on how they generally approach the specific Discussion & Conclusion section, in the literature. It is assumed that writing the Discussion & Conclusion section is challenging not merely for non-native English student writers, but also for native English student writers. The findings of my empirical research can thus offer some implications for L1 and L2 writing instruction and pedagogy, particularly for the one focusing on the teaching of the international students with Asian backgrounds.

Based on what I know from the literature and my own thesis research, I would like to say that both the non-native English speakers and the native English speakers follow a similar pattern in developing their academic literacy and transforming their identities, i.e., enacting their legitimate periphery participation through a sequence of discursive practices along with resorting to the academic resources available to obtain the needed social scaffolding. This might be seen as universal which can be further evidence for the importance of combining legitimate periphery participation with social scaffolding.

8 )  Let me move from talking about your academic work to something more personal.  How have you managed to balance your responsibilities as a mother and wife with those as a hard working professor?

It’s always a conflict to be a good mother and wife on the one hand, and a hard working professor, on the other. This keeps challenging me, indeed. To be a qualified mother and wife is not easy; to be a hard working professor seems more demanding. After all, one’s energy is limited. We are not supposed to overdraft our energy whatever role we play in our lives and work. I really find it hard to balance the responsibilities as a mother and wife with those as a hard working professor. But I have been struggling to keep these roles balanced as much as possible over the years. People around simply see me as a model of balancing the different responsibilities. Only I know how far I should go. Thanks to the constant support of my family, I’ve been able to be more dedicated to my teaching and research.

Thank you for taking the time to share your experiences and ideas with me and our readers, Professor Deng.


Chen, Q. and Deng, L.M. (2012) The Role of Translation in EFL Classrooms: A Chinese University Case Study. In C. Gitsaki & R. B. Baldauf ( Eds.), Future Directions in Applied Linguistics: Local and Global Perspectives (pp.88-103). Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing

Deng, L.M. (2012) Academic Identity Construction in Writing the Discussion & Conclusion Section: Case Studies of L2 Chinese Social Science Doctoral Students, Chinese Journal of Applied Linguistics,3,301-323.

  1. Insightful interview and enlightening answers~~

    • A representative profile for English Educators in China unfolds before me as I went through the interview. Thank Professor Deng here for sharing her both valuable personal and academic experience so candidly, which offers me a new fresh looking towards academic writing the exhibits the promising perspective for a language career.

  2. I’ve never seen a teacher as nice and respnsible as Professor Deng. She is not only a professor on linguistics, but also a professor about life, from both of which we benefit a lot. We all love her very much!

  3. Thank you for letting us know the challenges teachers in China face, and what keeps you inspired and inspiring!

  4. This interview is so magnetic and insightful for me as to renew my understanding of Professor Deng and my career as well. Her love of teaching and research and her persistence in pursuit of study shines a lot on me. I believe any young learners and researchers of English in China can be encouraged and enlightened from her academic experience. I feel very proud of having such a wonderful teacher in my graduate education. Her accomplishments verify again that a successful EFL learner needs a constant and challenging learning, in which high motivation, good aptitude and good learning strategies contribute a lot. This interview allows me to be more rational and thoughtful about future challenges and opportunities in English teaching and research, and about where and how I will go in the academic world. Thank you, Professor Deng.

  5. Professor Deng is the most inspiring woman I’ve ever met in my life. Though already a distinguished figure in the field of applied linguistics, she stays humble and hungry in the pursuit of knowledge. She is a role model to all of us. Meanwhile, being a teacher and a professor, for her, means much more than just bringing the latest researches and insights to her students’ study. She passes on to each and every one of her students the very spirit that linguists and educators should have. It is her enthusiasm and passion for linguistics, devotion and contribution to education, and unceasing motherly love for her students that move us all.
    She is an ardent researcher, an amazing teacher and a sincere friend. She is one of a kind!

  6. The interview shows that Prof. Deng is evidently a pioneer in applied linguistics, particularly written discourse studies, in China. Looking forward to her future researches in relevant areas as well as a larger Chinese crowd engaged in these studies!

  7. Thanks for giving people around you and beyond so much positive energy, both professionally and personally!

  8. a learmed teacher with a refined manner !

  9. Thank you for sharing your personal experience, which inspires me a lot. It also reminds me of your patient teaching and guidance in the past two years. Keep practicing with concentrated attention. I will stick to it!