Tag Archives: multilingual

Dilin Liu

NNEST of the Month
February 2011

dliu [at] as [dot] ua [dot] edu

Ana Wu: Could you tell us your educational and professional background, and why you decided to become an educator?
Dr. Liu: After completing my undergraduate education with a major in English at Jiangxi University (now Nanchang University) in China and teaching at the university for a few years, I came to the U.S. in 1985 to pursue graduate studies, first receiving a master’s degree in TESOL from Oklahoma City University and then a Ph.D. in English from Oklahoma State University. I taught and served as the Director of MA TESOL at Oklahoma City University from 1991 to 2006 (first as assistant, then associate, and full professor). In 2006, I took the position of Associate Professor (promoted to Full Professor last year) and Coordinator of Applied Linguistics/TESOL in the English Department at the University of Alabama because UA is a research university where I would have more resources and time for research, something I enjoy doing very much. As for why I decided to become an educator, I guess it’s my destined professional calling. As just mentioned, I was selected upon graduation by my undergraduate alma mater to stay as an instructor of English. Then, when I was working on my dissertation at Oklahoma State University, I received a call from a former professor at Oklahoma City University encouraging me to apply for their advertised MA TESOL position. I applied, interviewed, and was offered the job. And the rest was history. Of course, the main reason I’ve been an educator for two decades now is that I really love teaching and research. I enjoy interacting with students and seeing them learn and grow. I sincerely believe, cliché as it is, teaching is a profession where what you do can truly make a difference in people’s lives.
Ana Wu: In your book chapter “Training Non-Native TESOL students: Challenges for TESOL Teacher Education in the West,” (1999) you said that cultural study, especially the study of cultures of English-speaking countries is therefore a subject that many NNS students want and should do more (p.207). Given that international graduate students in TESOL or applied linguistics programs stay in the USA two-four years, how can they maximize their opportunities to interact with local people, and continue to improve their communication skills and intercultural competence?
Dr. Liu: Based on my own experience and observation, the best thing to do is to find (or create) all possible opportunities to interact with individuals of other cultures or ethnic groups in this country. For example, one should try to participate in as many school and community activities as possible, including attending meetings of student organizations, visiting church and political gatherings, and attending/watching sports games. Also, one should try to read newspapers, listen to radio programs, and watch TV. The reason for participating in the aforementioned social, political, and sports activities is that, as I pointed out in my books on idioms, metaphor, and culture (2002, 2008), political, religious, business, and sports activities constitute arguably the most important aspects of American culture. The jargon used in these activities permeates American English (i.e., many English expressions/idioms come from these activities: promised land, touch base with, and the jury is still out [on something]. . .). A good knowledge of these topics will enable us to have a better understanding of the values and beliefs of American people (and also, believe it or not, a better command of American English as a byproduct). It is important to remember, however, that a casual participation and observation would not be enough. You have to be sensitive and pay close attention to what you observe, i.e. to note closely what people do and say. Then you have to reflect on what you observed, thinking about why the people acted the way they did and to what extent what they did and said is similar to or different from what people in your own culture typically do in the same context or situation.

Ana Wu: You have published over 30 journal articles, book chapters, and proceeding articles as well as three books (two authored and one edited). Also, you have served on the Editorial Advisory Boards of The ELT Journal (2001-2004), TESOL Quarterly (2005-2008), Reflections on English Language Teaching (since 2006), and the new TESOL Journal (since 2009). How do you deal with writer’s block and avoid procrastination? Would you share some of your writing rituals?
Dr. Liu: I don’t think I really have a good answer to the question of dealing with writer’s block and avoiding procrastination. I often have to fight these problems myself. One thing that I think may help us in dealing with writer’s block is to always keep an eye on issues that interest or puzzle you in your teaching and learning (as teachers, especially NNEST, we are always learning). If you constantly ask questions and try to find answers, you are likely to come up with a topic worth writing about. Concerning overcoming procrastination, I usually set aside blocks of time and a self-imposed deadline for a writing project.

Ana Wu: You also have remarkable experience holding leadership positions in TESOL. Before being currently coordinator and professor of Applied Linguistics/TESOL in the Department of English at the University of Alabama, you directed and taught the MA TESOL program at Oklahoma City University for 16 years. You were also the President of Oklahoma TESOL (1996-1997) and the Chair-elect/Chair of the Applied Linguistics Interest Section (1994-1996, 2010-2012).

a. How did you prepare yourself for these leadership positions? What kept you motivated when dealing with difficult teachers? What inspired you when feeling marginalized or unsupported?
Dr. Liu: Actually, I didn’t really do anything special in preparing for these positions and I haven’t really had colleagues that are difficult to work with. I think I’ve been just very lucky as I have always had very supportive colleagues and administrators.

b. According to Manrique and Manrique (1999), studies on immigrant non-European faculty demonstrate that 20% of male faculty were discriminated against by colleagues in their departments. Have you ever faced subtle or covert disrespect to your authority? What are your most vivid memories noticing innuendos about your nationality or racial remarks from your peers or administration? How did those events affect your teaching philosophy?
Dr. Liu: I’m afraid I might not be in the 20% mentioned by Manrique and Manrique. As I said above, I’ve been very fortunate to have extremely supportive colleagues and administrators, partially as evidenced by my successful tenure/promotional experiences at both OCU and UA. I’m not sure whether I’ve faced subtle or covert disrespect. The reason I’m not sure is perhaps I’ve always tried not to view any comments on my nationality, race, or accent as disrespect or discrimination. Instead, I’ve tried to see such comments in a positive light and use them as a motivation to improve. For example, I remember that, during my interview for the Oklahoma City University job, a few of the search committee members commented on the fact that I was not a native English speaker and the likely implications it might have (e.g., students’ concerns). One member said, “We could say that you [referring to me] are from California.” (I guess the person mentioned California because it’s known as a place with many immigrants). I considered the comment good-natured or good-humored, but I also used it as a constant reminder for me to work harder to prove that I could be as good as anyone else. My effort paid off. In my twenty years of teaching in the U.S., I’ve had very few students complaining about my English. In fact, many of them praised my command of English. Many non-native English speaking students stated in the course evaluations that they viewed me as their role-model and wanted to emulate me.

c. What strategies would you consider essential to NNESTs with foreign background in order to navigate the cultural politics in one’s academic community?
Dr. Liu:I’m afraid I don’t have a good answer because of a lack of real challenges I’ve experienced in this regard. To me, good performance on your job is the most important thing. If you do well on your job, generally your colleagues, administrators, and, most importantly, your students, would appreciate you. I may be wrong on this but it’s the impression I have based on my experience.

Ana Wu: What do you see yourself doing ten years from now? What do you want to be remembered for and why?
Dr. Liu: I may be retired then but even in retirement I probably will still be doing some teaching and writing. I would like to be remembered as a life-long language learner, teacher, and researcher who has had the wonderful opportunity to learn a second language and use it in a very rewarding profession. My reason for wanting to be remembered not only as a language teacher but also a language learner and researcher is that, to me, to be a successful language educator, one must simultaneously be a life-long language learner and researcher.

Ana Wu: Thank you for your contribution to the blog.

References

Liu, D. (1999). Training non-native speaker TESOL students: The challenges for TESOL teacher education in the West. In G. Braine (Ed.). Non-native educators in English language teaching (pp. 197-210). Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Liu, D. (2002). Metaphor, culture, and worldview: The case of American English and the Chinese language. Lamar, MD, University Press of America.

Liu, D. (2008). Idioms: Description, comprehension, acquisition, and pedagogy. New York: Routledge.

Manrique, C. and Manrique, G. (1999). The Multicultural or Immigrant Faculty in American Society. Lewiston, NY: E. Mellen Press.

 

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Isabela Villas Boas

 

NNEST of the Month
September 2010

Ana Wu: Could you tell us your linguistic and professional background, and why you decided to become an educator?
Dr. Villas Boas:I’ve always loved English. I learned it when I was eight and moved to the U.S. to spend three years while my Dad got his Ph. D in Architecture from Rice University, in Houston, Texas. When I came back to Brazil, in order to keep up the English I had learned, I was enrolled in an ELT institute called Casa Thomas Jefferson (CTJ), a binational center in Brasília, Brazil, where I am now the General Academic Coordinator. I didn’t intend to be a teacher at first. I majored in Journalism. But while I was still going to university, I also took the Teacher Training Course at CTJ and ended up getting a teaching job here. After I graduated, I worked for six months as a journalist, but it didn’t quite suit me. Then I was invited to become the Intermediate Course Supervisor and was happy to give up my career as a journalist. However, I felt I needed to invest in my professional development, so in 1998, encouraged by my husband, I got into the MATESL Program at Arizona State University (ASU). I already had two children, aged 2 and 6 at that time. My husband had the opportunity to get a six-month paid leave from his position at the Bank of Brazil, and then a one-year unpaid leave. We invested our savings in this unforgettable opportunity to live abroad with our family and we don’t regret it at all. We fell in love with the desert.I learned a lot during my MATESL program and focused my studies on two areas: testing and the teaching of writing, developing an applied project around the use of writing portfolios. I chose the ASU program because of the flexibility it offered in the choice of electives. Thus, besides the mandatory courses, such as Research Methods, Introduction to Linguistics, Second Language Acquisition and Methodology, I also took classes that contributed to strengthening my knowledge of English and English Linguistics itself –such as Syntax, Phonetics and Phonology, and Pragmatics and Discourse Theory – while also contributing to broadening my knowledge on teaching and learning in general – such as Testing (including Psychometrics) and Educational Psychology.Back to Brazil, I resumed my job at CTJ, where I was a Pedagogical Consultant before I had left. I made a point of attending and presenting in local, national and international conferences –TESOL being one of them – and decided to pursue a Ph.D in Education in 2005, focusing on Literacy Studies. My doctorate also consisted of interdisciplinary studies, providing me the opportunity to study the History of Education in Brazil more deeply, Interactional Sociolinguistics, Epistemology and Research in the Social Sciences, Institutional Evaluation, and Subjectivity and Education, with a strong focus on Vygotsky, among others.

In 2007, I became the General Academic Coordinator of the institution, and in 2008 I finished my Doctorate. My field of research is the teaching of writing, contrasting the product approach predominant in our regular schools and a process approach to teaching EFL writing. Writing is the thread that has woven my academic background, from learning a lot about writing in my undergraduate studies and researching this topic for my master’s and doctorate studies. Managerially speaking, with a B.A. in Journalism, a MATESL Degree and a Doctorate in Education, I believe I’ve gained the necessary breadth and depth to face the challenges involved in coordinating a large ELT Institute, where I have to use my knowledge about English, English Language Teaching, Education, Philosophy, and Communication on a daily basis.

Ana Wu: You have a master degree in TEFL and a Ph.D in Education. How did you develop your management and leadership skills? What advice would you give to faculty members who are promoted to leadership positions? What inspires you on a difficult day?
Dr. Villas Boas: I would say my leadership and management skills are a work in progress. It is not easy to move from a teaching position to a management position. I was lucky, though, that the institution where I work invested in providing leadership and management training for its academic coordinators through a renowned management school in Brazil which provided the basics of marketing, finances, strategic planning, human resources, managing processes, and other skills. For example, we worked on SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) matrixes and learned about the Balanced Scorecard Methodology. We even developed indicators and designed a system to measure them. An indicator that we identified as important was student satisfaction with our academic services, so we developed a system to measure this by administering a survey, analyzing the results, and acting upon them in order to improve our services. We have been following the same process every semester, always comparing results from previous surveys, identifying tendencies, and addressing specific concerns with teachers, for example. This training has helped me a lot. I also tried to focus my reading on management issues, but that was hard because I was still working on my doctoral thesis! I learned a lot by also observing more experienced peers who were already in management positions. But I never gave up teaching. I insist on teaching at least one group a year, and that’s exactly what inspires me on a difficult day. I love working with students, especially teens. Not long ago a student of mine came to me and said that she was getting better grades on her compositions at school because of what I was teaching her about writing in her English class! There’s no difficult day after this!!!

However, I still have a lot to learn. I think anyone who moves from a teaching to a managerial position should try to learn more about management but making sure they keep a balance between their academic and their managerial facets. I believe academic coordinators or directors are not like company directors. They can never lose sight of their academic background. That’s what makes us so sensitive and versatile, after all!!!

Ana Wu: You are the General Academic Coordinator of a large non-profit binational center in Brasília, Brazil, with over 14,000 students ranging from children to adults, beginners to advanced learners.
a. Could you tell us the percentage of NNES and NES professionals currently working at your institute? Has this ratio changed recently?
Dr. Villas Boas:We have very, very few NES on our staff, currently three out of the almost 200 teachers, supervisors and coordinators. We used to have more, but two instructors moved away and a couple of them had their contracts discontinued because they didn’t adapt to the institution. However, our NNES instructors are highly proficient. Most of our teachers have spent time abroad and are near-native speakers of English.

Besides, our students obtain excellent results at the end of their studies. An example is a fourteen-year-old student who has just finished our Advanced Course, obtained a score of 650 on the paper-based TOEFL and passed the Examination for the Certificate of Proficiency in English, a standardized advanced-level English as a Foreign Language examination, developed by the University of Michigan, with two high passes, one of them being Listening. She has never lived abroad and she never had a single native-speaking teacher during her studies with us. This hasn’t stopped her from developing near-native fluency . Thus, though we have very few NES on our staff, the fact that our NNES instructors are very proficient in the language has led us to achieve excellent results with our students.

b. Over the past years, have you noticed any changes in the profile of the native speaking applicants in terms of teaching experience, educational background, and teaching expectations?
Dr. Villas Boas: With some exceptions, most of our native-speaking applicants have usually been people who married Brazilians and moved to Brazil but didn’t have any formal training in TESOL. Then they took our Teacher Development Course – a 234-hour Certificate Program – and some eventually joined our staff. In other words, they received their training here. The TDC is open to the community and not all graduates from the program are necessarily hired; they have to go through our hiring process and pass all stages. Recently, however, we had a teacher from Australia who was already an ESL teacher when she applied and we actually hired her under a special two-year contract for foreigners. But this is a very bureaucratic process in Brazil and we only managed to obtain this special work permit because her boyfriend was a lawyer and helped out. We also had another very qualified applicant from England, but she ended up not going through the whole hiring process because she didn’t have many available hours to teach. At our institution, we require that our teachers have at least a 20-hour workload per week, so as to guarantee that teaching is really their profession, not just something they’re doing as a hobby or a temporary gig while they don’t get a “better” job.

Though we don’t think that native speakers are necessarily better than non-native speakers as teachers, of course we would like to have more native speakers on our staff, but academically qualified ones, people who chose TEFL as their career. For one thing, the presence of native English speakers forces us to speak English more frequently in the teachers’ room, for example, helping us keep up with the language. They also help us enrich our cultural knowledge and enhance our awareness of intercultural issues. In addition, though students don’t seem to find it essential, they do tend to appreciate having classes with native speakers of the language they are learning, at least from time to time. However, the salaries in Brazil are lower than those in the U.S. in all areas, and teaching is not an exception, so it’s hard to attract this sort of applicant. Besides the lower salary which makes it difficult to attract professionally trained NES, there’s the hiring restriction I mentioned above. Some ELT Institutes, especially smaller ones, don’t necessarily abide by labor laws and hire these teachers informally. We don’t do that. We go by the book.

c. According to BridgeTEFLJobs.com, in Brazil, the largest country in South America, the need for native-speaking English teachers is booming. Do you agree with the statement? Please explain.
Dr. Villas Boas: There’s definitely a shortage of English teachers in Brazil, so I think the need for highly proficient and academically qualified teachers of English is booming, which includes native speakers but doesn’t exclude non-native ones.

d. What advice would you give to NES whose profession is not teaching, but who are considering teaching English in Brazil?
Dr. Villas Boas: I suggest they enroll in a TESOL Certificate program to become professionals in the field. Teaching is not just a job. We have the power to change people’s lives and we have to use it responsibly. To do so, we have to know what we’re doing. Knowledge of Linguistics, Second Language Acquisition, Educational Psychology and ELT methodology are essential, as well as knowledge about educational technology nowadays.

Ana Wu: When discussing the status of NNEST in Intensive English Programs, researchers have pointed out that administrators generally prefer hiring NES to NNEST because they perceive that students do not want NNEST as their teachers (cited in Mahboob, 2004). Mahboob states that administrators’ perceptions have not been systematically studied, and that there are only a few studies of students’ perceptions (page 122).
Based on your experience as coordinator and in-house surveys, could you share some of the students comments (positive or negative) or expectations regarding having NNEST and NEST teachers. Also, how did those comments affect the instructors’ training and your role as administrator?
Dr. Villas Boas: I’ve noticed that this is a big issue in other countries, but I don’t feel it’s a big issue here in Brazil. To tell you the truth, I don’t think I’ve ever come across students who didn’t enroll in our institute or who cancelled their registration because the teachers were not native. This doesn’t seem to be a big issue here. Today, with multimedia resources at our disposal, including podcasts and Youtube, we can provide authentic input to students all the time and work with it in a pedagogically sound way. What’s the use of a native speaker who provides this input naturally but doesn’t know anything about ELT pedagogy? I have noticed, though, that students who hire private teachers seem to prefer native ones.

Maybe it is a big issue in countries where English is the native language, especially in Intensive English Programs with international students, rather than immigrants, because these students might have chosen to spend time abroad to have a more naturalistic experience with the language, and when they come across a non-native teacher, they might be frustrated. They shouldn’t be, though, if this teacher is proficient in the language and a qualified professional. Besides, they will naturally have the chance to interact with other native speakers. It doesn’t necessarily have to be their ESL teacher!

When I got my Master’s in the U.S., two of my most favorite professors were foreigners. I confess I was surprised at myself at first, for I had looked forward to the opportunity to perfect my English, but then I came to appreciate the varieties of Englishes not only from some of my professors, but also from many of my NNES colleagues who came from different parts of the world. I guess I “perfected” my English in a different way, becoming more aware of the fact that English has truly become a global language.

Ana Wu: Your institute organizes a two-and-a-half-day annual TEFL seminar, with international guests, open to the EFL community in the country. Could you tell us what other professional development opportunities are given to your instructors, novice and seniors? Do you offer different coaching or mentoring to NNES or NES?
Dr. Villas Boas: We provide a series of professional development opportunities. We have our Teacher Development Course, open not only to our teachers but prospective teachers or teachers from the community.

We also offer, though a grant from the State Department, a one-year, 120-hour Public School Teacher Development Program aimed at advancing competence in English and also knowledge of EFL Methodology. We’ve been holding this program since 2002.

Besides our yearly TEFL Seminar, we also have in-service workshops and pedagogical meetings every semester. In addition, we encourage teachers to participate and present in local, national and international conferences. This year, our school sent fifteen teachers and staff members to attend the TESOL annual convention in Boston, ten of which gave presentations. Five of our staff members presented in a conference in Argentina, back in February. We’ve just had our National Braz-TESOL Conference in São Paulo and thirteen teachers and management staff presented in it as well. In these three cases, the presenters received travel grants from the Casa Thomas Jefferson. We feel that when teachers choose a topic, research it, experiment in class and then put together a talk or workshop, they learn immensely and can share this knowledge with others. It also increases their self-worth. I’m truly proud of our staff!

Once or twice a year we also receive ELT specialists from the State Department, who give talks or workshops to a selected group of teachers, according to their field of expertise. These specialists are selected by the Regional English Language Office in Brazil and sent to different parts of the country to give workshops. We also encourage our faculty staff to attend one-day events featuring renowned authors organized by publishers.

In addition, we conduct a yearly Teacher Evaluation, and one of the standards in the evaluation is Investment in Academic Development. It is one of the most valued items in the evaluation system, and teachers’ participation in all the aforementioned programs and opportunities is considered.

For novice teachers at the institution, we provide a pre-service program offering the basic knowledge they need to start teaching in our institution. Then they are coached by a group of three highly experienced professionals, who observe their classes, give feedback, provide academic and emotional support – everything a new teacher in an institution needs in order to adapt and feel comfortable. Then, teachers are observed at least twice a semester, by way of a formative process that includes a pre-observation meeting, the observation itself, a post-observation meeting, and the completion of an observation report.

In sum, there’s always room for improvement, and I believe we nurture lifelong learning in our institution.

Ana Wu: Thank you very much for this informative interview!
Dr. Villas Boas: It’s my pleasure and honor to be able to share my experience with colleagues from around the world!

Reference:

Mahboob, A. (2004). Native or nonnative: What do students enrolled in an Intensive English program think? In L. Kamhi-Stein (Ed.), Learning and teaching from experience (pp. 121-149). Ann Arbor. MI: University of Michigan Press.

Teaching English in Brazil, http://www.tefljobplacement.com/brazil.php

Shondel Nero

 

NNEST of the Month
August 2010

In Guyana, we have what linguists call a “Creole Continuum” where everyday language use ranges from the most Creole forms (called “Creolese” by local people) to standardized Guyanese English. Typically, you’ll here more Creolese spoken among rural folk or those from lower socioeconomic classes with less formal education, and conversely more standardized English among urban, middle class, educated folk, but that is not an absolute. Most Guyanese move back and forth along the continuum depending on the context, topic, and purpose of communication, and often people speak Creolese as a marker of “true” Guyanese identity, or to show ethnic solidarity or difference. Creolese is often used for humor or in informal situations.

In my household, my parents were very different linguistically. Even though my parents were both from a rural village, my mother’s speech was much more Creolized than my father’s. My father is a truly British colonial man, and his speech and writing reflects that. So I was exposed to the full spectrum of language in my household.

I went to a very good high school – actually the top high school in the country. So, while getting very colorful Creole language from my mother at home, I was also getting a dose of British grammar school language and education as well. My generation was the first post-independence generation in Guyana. Guyana got independence in 1966 from the British (I was in high school during the 1970s). So, while there was an early attempt to introduce more Caribbean content into the curriculum during my time, we were still largely experiencing an entirely British curriculum – British textbooks, British exams, etc.

I developed an early interest in language at high school. I starting learning French at age 10, and immediately fell in love with it. The following year, I picked up Spanish. So, I chose the foreign language track in high school, and vigorously pursued language study at both “O” level and “A” levels (Note: These are British exams. There were two levels of British exams – the “O” level, meaning “Ordinary” level, taken at the end of your fifth year in high school. Then, if you passed O levels with a high grade, you could then apply to take “A” levels, meaning “Advanced” level exams a year or two later. Typically, you needed to pass at least five subjects at O levels to be eligible to take A levels). After graduating from high school, I worked for one year at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Guyana. I wanted that experience, as my first career choice was to become a diplomat in the Guyanese Foreign Service. However, during that year, I quickly realized the politics and economic problems in the Guyanese foreign service, so I thought maybe I can use my language skills in other diplomatic organizations such as the United Nations. With that in mind, I applied to college overseas, and I was accepted to Concordia University in Montréal, Canada to major in French and Spanish. So, I left Guyana in 1981 and moved to Montréal for college. I loved Montréal, except for the weather! You can imagine that I experienced my first winter at 19 years old! What a shock that was. Anyway, I graduated from college in 1984, then moved to New York to accept a job at Air Canada’s New York reservations office to be a customer service agent at the “French Desk”, obviously because of my French-speaking skills. However, I quickly realized that I couldn’t spend the rest of my life talking to passengers on the phone, and prospects for working at the UN seemed bleak, so I decided I needed to find a way to use my language skills, but in a multicultural setting, as I always loved language and cultural diversity. Also, I always enjoyed school, as I had a very positive high school experience. So, I decided that teaching immigrant children might be interesting since I’ll have a multicultural classroom.

So, this is how I came to be an educator. I decided to go back to school and pursue a Masters degree in TESOL, while I was working at Air Canada. I went to Teachers College (TC), Columbia University part-time for my MA in TESOL. I graduated from TC with my MA in TESOL in 1990, and immediately got my first teaching job at a high school in East Harlem, New York. I taught ESL – beginner, immediate, and advanced. I also taught two sections of French.
After teaching one year in high school, an opportunity came up to teach ESL writing in the English department at Long Island University (LIU), Brooklyn Campus. I was lucky enough to get the position. During my time at LIU, I became more committed to a career in academia, so I went back to TC and pursued a doctorate in Applied Linguistics. My dissertation focused on the acquisition of standard English by speakers of Caribbean Creole English (CCE). The interest in CCE came about because there were a growing number of students from the “English-speaking” Caribbean such as Jamaica and Guyana (Guyana is considered culturally Caribbean, even though it’s in South America) at LIU who were being placed in ESL classes, and I wanted to understand this phenomenon. It raised a number of interesting linguistic questions such as who is a “native” speaker of English? On what basis are placement decisions made for ESL classes? Is Creole English a separate language or a dialect of English? What are the appropriate pedagogical approaches for speakers of nonstandard varieties of English? These questions have fueled my research over the past 20 years, and I continue to wrestle with these questions and write about them.

After I left LIU, I taught at St. John’s University in their graduate program in TESOL/Bilingual Education from 1998 – 2007. Then I left St. John’s and joined the faculty at New York University (NYU) in the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development in September 2007. I’m currently director of our unit in Multilingual/Multicultural Studies, which encompasses graduate and undegraduate programs in TESOL, Bilingual Education, and Foreign Language Education. It’s a challenging but wonderful position. We have a large program, approximately 200 students, about half of whom are international students, mostly from Asia. I teach graduate courses in Second Language Theory and Research, and Doctoral Seminars in Educational Linguistics, and World Englishes and Dialects in Education. So far, I’m enjoying being at NYU.

Ana Wu: Despite the fact that you were born and raised in Guyana, the only officially English-speaking country in South America, you wrote in “An Exceptional Voice: Working as a TESOL Professional of Color” that the combination of being immigrant and Black tends to create an assumption of nonnativeness, specially among White peers (Nero, 2006).

a. As an educator, how has this assumption affected your pedagogical practices?

b. In the same chapter, you wrote about being an “exception” in the professional context, meaning attending to and living with a host of ambivalent (often contradictory) attitudes and expectations from students and colleagues alike (p. 25). What advice would you give to teachers who see themselves as being “exceptions” in their workplace?

Ana Wu: You have done extensive research about language and identity, second dialect speakers and Standard English as a Second Dialect (SESD). We know that a variety of Englishes have emerged worldwide, yet current educational practices generally do not allow students’ creole or vernacular varieties of English in the classroom.

a. What do you think about this practice?

b. You have researched and documented cases of speakers of varieties of English being (mis) placed in ESL classes (Nero 2000 and 2001). How do you think we can better prepare prospective language instructors in teaching training programs to understand the nature of World Englishes and question stereotypes?

Ana Wu: You majored in French and Spanish, and taught ESL and French at a public high school. What were your strengths as a French instructor? What did you enjoy the most as an ESL instructor and as a French teacher? How different were your students’ expectations?

As far as being an ESL instructor in high school, most of my students at that time were Dominican. I had known very little about the DR back then, so one of the things I enjoyed was learning about the DR from them. They loved their country, and every opportunity they got to speak or write about it, they would do take advantage of it. I also really enjoyed the students’ optimism – they were new immigrants, and they had an abiding faith in America. They all said that once they mastered English, they felt they could accomplish anything in America. My husband, who’s American, always says that immigration by definition is an optimistic idea. The immigrant always believes s/he can do better in the new country. When I looked at my ESL students, I saw that. Many of my ESL students were from poor families, and had low levels of literacy in Spanish, but still had high expectations for themselves and for me. They felt that their ESL teacher could best help them to overcome the language barrier, so they were highly motivated. I hope that I was able to help them in some small way achieve their dream.

Ana Wu: Thank you for your time and for this insightful interview!

References
Nero, S. (2000). The changing faces of English: A Caribbean perspective. TESOL Quarterly, 34, 483-510.

Nero, S. (2001). Englishes in contact: Anglophone Caribbean students in an urban college. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton.

Nero, S. (2006). An Exceptional Voice: Working as a TESOL Professional of Color. Curtis, A., & Romney, M. (Eds.). Color, race and English language teaching: Shades of meaning. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Carmen T. Chacón

 

NNEST of the Month
July 2010
cchacon15 [at] gmail [dot] com

Ana Wu: Could you tell us your professional background, and why you decided to be an educator?
Dr. Chacón: I was born in Táchira, a western state in Venezuela, today Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, in South America. I have lived in San Cristóbal, the capital of Táchira, for my whole life, except the two times that I have gone to study in the U.S. I got my B.A in education with a major in English. I remember that since I first studied English in high school, I felt in love with the language and its culture. Not surprisingly, English was my favorite subject, and I always did an outstanding job in my class.

It was not a burden for me to learn by heart textbook dialogues and grammar rules because I was curious to learn vocabulary and be able to read about the U.S. culture. I used to teach grammar to my friends in the high school, and soon I realized that I wanted to be an English teacher. So, I enrolled in a teacher education program in my home town to become an EFL teacher.

I still have vivid memories of some of my professors who were very concerned in teaching us “Standard” English and did the best they could so that we would acquire native-like pronunciation. I particularly remember one of them who used to say, “be careful,” just before we would talk or say something in English, so we wouldn’t make any mistakes.

After I graduated, I felt I didn’t speak native-like; that was frustrating for me. So, I applied for a government scholarship that was granted to me in 1980 to get my MA degree at Eastern Washington University in Washington State.

When I finished my M. A, I came back home and worked at a high school for about 13 years. Teaching at the high school was a highly demanding task because of the heavy teaching load and large classes, as well as the lack of resources and institutional support EFL teachers face in Venezuela.

Despite the context barriers, I never lost my passion to teach. In 1989, I applied for an opening at the University of Los Andes and won a position as a teacher educator. Later, in 1998, I got a scholarship to pursue my doctoral studies at the Ohio State University (OSU). Again, as I finished my doctoral studies, I returned to my hometown university where I am currently a tenured professor at the Modern Languages Department.

Being a teacher educator has been a great undertaking for me. When I looked back into my past as an NNEST, I realized I have rethought my teaching practice and changed my views about ELT, especially over the last years. Throughout my lived experiences as an English learner, an EFL teacher-researcher, and an educator, I am convinced that learning to teach is a never-ending process. I am committed to work hard to help NNES student teachers’ empowerment so that they are confident as English speakers.

Ana Wu: In your book chapter “My Journey into Racial Awareness” (2006), you said that during your master degree program, as a newcomer in the USA, you first perceived your race to be bound to nationality, and that later, your experience of being perceived as an NNES professional of color opened up your awareness of the role of race in the United States (p. 49).
As a teacher trainer, how does this awareness influence your sense of self and instructional practices?
Dr. Chacón: Being perceived as an NNES professional of color during my second journey into the U.S., has definitively made an impact on my identity as well as on my teaching practice. The construction and reconstruction of my subjectivity was a wake-up call that began since 1998, when I was involved for the first time in my life with topics related to language, power, and race during my doctoral studies. I wrestled myself with multiples identities and started to question my racial affiliation trying to figure out my racial ethnicity among U.S labels such as White, Jewish American, Asian American, Hispanic, Latino, etc. This struggle influenced both my sense of self and my teaching.

I came to have an interest and then became an advocate of NNESTs after I took a Seminar for Nonnative Speaker Professionals offered by Dr. Keiko Samimy in the spring of 2000. Sharing common issues faced by EFL teachers from different parts of the world was a comforting experience that in light of the readings (e.g., Braine, 1999; Lippi-Green, 1997; Pennycook, 2001 among others) made me reflect upon the “political” side of TESOL. Back home, in the fall of 2003, for the first time in our program, I offered a similar seminar for EFL teachers inspired by my own experiences as an NNEST.

The following year, I incorporated NNEST issues into the syllabus of the Seminar entitled Psycholinguistics (See Chacón, 2009a, “Transforming the Curriculum of NNESTs: Introducing Critical Language Awareness (CLA) in a teacher education program ”) that I have been teaching since 2004, as a regular class for fifth-year prospective teachers. I have students read, discuss, and debate articles from the NNEST CAUCUS as well as from selected readings by scholars (Amin, 1997; Braine, 1999; Lippi-Green, 1997, among others). The course goal is to help them open up their awareness of the relationship between language, race, and power.

Over the last years, I have shifted the focus of my teaching from a purely linguistic perspective to what Pennycook (2001), describes as a critical applied linguistics. As an EFL teacher, I am not only concerned about language acquisition but also about the interconnectedness of language, race, and power as present in discursive practices.

I keep myself questioning my cultural assumptions and how they influence my teaching.
My self representation as a TESOL professional made me reflect upon the fact that, in my role as an EFL teacher, I can unconsciously reproduce social inequity through discursive practices that have helped perpetuate conceptions such as “Standard” English and the native-nonnative speaker dichotomy. Now, I position myself as an NNEST who, rather than searching for native-like pronunciation, have changed her focus of teaching to intelligibility and to raise students’ awareness of language as ideology, as a marker of discrimination to label the “other” as inferior.

I have been fortunate to have Professors Keiko Samimy and Shelley Wong as my instructors and mentors at OSU. They inspired me to become an advocate of social equity and justice in TESOL.

Ana Wu: Why do you think the issue of race is relevant to English language acquisition?
Dr. Chacón:Let me start by saying that race was not an issue for me until my second experience as a Ph. D student in the U.S. Then, I started to realize that language is not only about acquiring communicative competence; a purely linguistic activity, but a way to express ideology, i.e., to express who we are and where we come from.

For many years, I believed in the neutrality of ELT. I was educated under the applied linguistics paradigm, considering the native speaker as the “norm” and regarding English language acquisition isolated from the sociopolitical and historical reasons that ground the expansion of English in the world. Disempowering discourses such as the superiority of an “idealized” native speaker, usually represented as the model from the Center, and the acquisition of “Standard” English are unconsciously bound to race. That is why most students would rather prefer Caucasian English teachers if they are asked to choose.

In Venezuela, the focus of ELT is the acquisition of communicative competence. English is generally taught from a descriptive perspective. Besides, racism is not openly recognized in my country; however, the majority of Venezuelans hold prejudices against Blacks and dark-skinned people. Western Eurocentric views are present in daily discourse, but most people are unaware of, or do not want to recognize the fact that we practice what Kubota & Lin (2006) describe as epistemological racism.

English from the Center is the most prestigious. When I ask my students to rank different English dialects, not surprisingly, they mention “Standard” American and British accents in the first and second place while African American Vernacular English (AAVE) is ranked last. They do not mention other varieties—e.g., Pakistani, Indian, Nigerian, Singaporean Englishes—because they are not aware of their existence.

The issue of race is relevant to ELT because the construct of race is socially and historically built through language, and through language we construct our identities. From my own experience, I would say that pervasive practices used to discriminate against NNESTs are rooted in colonial view of EIL. For this reason, it is crucial to develop a critical language awareness among NNESTs and empower them to contest social inequity in TESOL.

Ana Wu: We know that there aren’t many international graduate students from Central and South America in applied linguistics and TESOL programs in the USA. In your article “Empowering NNESTs” (2000), you wrote that you tried hard to be accepted into the academic community during your graduate program. As a Latin American, what were your challenges and how did you overcome them?
Dr. Chacón: A major challenge I faced as an International graduate student was a feeling of loneliness and exclusion in mainstream clases where my White classmates usually dominated the discourse. Class discussions were mainly centered on the U.S. It seemed to me that my experience as a Latina did not count, or may have not been interesting enough to be listened to. At first, I dealt with feelings of frustration and a sense of disempowerment for not being part of the “culture” of mainstream classes.

Another challenge was my accent. I got used to hearing comments about my accent and to seeing people staring at me as if they did not understand what I was saying. Later on, I realized that many people disliked or were not used to listen to an accent other than their own. As Lippi-Green (1997) points out, accents are bound to geographical places and represent privilege and social status. It is not only about the accent one may have, but how that accent is perceived in terms of race and power. In my experience, my accent was a marker of race and did not have the same status or prestige than the accent of someone coming from Australia or Canada.

Let me tell you an experience to illustrate what I am saying. It happened to me during the last quarter of my doctoral studies, while I was in charge of supervising a group of White teachers enrolled in a TESOL Endorsement Program. My first contact with the teachers was via email so we could set up an appointment to meet. I was very surprised that one of them did not respond to my emails. Concerned about the situation, I went to see the Program Coordinator. To my astonishment, she explained to me that that teacher who did not respond to my emails did not want me as her supervisor. She had asked the Coordinator to reassign her to the other supervisor, an African American lady. The reason, according to the Coordinator, was that the teacher was afraid she may not understand me.

I came to the realization that in TESOL language is connected to race and social status. That awareness empowered me and made reflect about my identity as an NNEST.

Ana Wu: What advice would you give to people with similar background as yours who are considering getting professional development in the USA?
Dr. Chacón: An NNEST coming to pursue professional development in the U.S. should keep in mind that as a newcomer he or she will face cultural and linguistic challenges. First, as an international student one needs to fit into the academic community and be ready to deal with feelings of loneliness and exclusion that make the adjustment harder. As foreigners, we are generally perceived as the “Other. So, we need to struggle with negative perceptions and stereotypes that affect our sense of self and undermine our confidence as English speakers.

NNEST needs to be conscious that language constructs identity and that as a result of biases and prejudices present in discursive practices, NNESTs’ credibility is not always judged in terms of proficiency. That is why it is very important to trust our strengths and work hard on our weaknesses to succeed in the academia and gain recognition as qualified NNESTs.

In addition, NNESTs need to raise their awareness of disempowering discourses that undermine their legitimacy and credibility as English speakers. Conscious awareness is critical for empowerment and building a sense of agency to transform NNESTs’ particular contexts and adapt their teaching to their students’ needs.

Ana Wu: As an EFL instructor in Venezuela with 26 years of experience, former department coordinator, and now as a teacher trainer, Do you think that local teachers have a second-class status when working with native speaking teachers (qualified or less qualified)? If yes, what kind of support do you think these instructors need and what can they do to promote more equality in the teaching profession? What do you think TESOL, Inc. and the NNEST IS can do?
Dr. Chacón: Well in fact, the native speaker dichotomy is not an issue that directly affects hiring practices for Venezuelan teachers, but it does influence their perceptions and beliefs as non-native speakers of English. When compared with native speakers, teachers generally express lack of confidence in their oral proficiency and judge themselves inferior when it comes to “nativeness,” accent, and cultural knowledge (Chacón, 2009b).

To promote more equality in the profession, TESOL can increase opportunities for NNESTs professional development, dissemination of research, and mentorship. NNESTs need a major support for visibility in the field through publications in the Journals sponsored by TESOL. Also, TESOL should encourage the incorporation of Seminars that address the needs of NNESTs who attend U.S. universities.

The NNEST Caucus, now NNEST IS, has undoubtedly been a powerful source of empowerment for NNESTs since its creation in 1998. I would like to see online communities of practice where teachers can come together and learn from each other.

In sum, I think that TESOL, Inc. and the NNEST IS should join efforts and keep working to increase opportunities for professional development, visibility, recognition, and credibility of NNESTs.

Ana Wu: Thank you for this inspiring interview!

References:
Amin, N. (1997). Race and identity of the nonnative ESL teacher. TESOL Quarterly, 31, 80-583.

Braine, G. (Ed.) (1999). Non-native educators in English language teaching. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Chacón, C. (2000). Empowering NNESTs. NNEST Newsletter. 2 (2).

Chacón, C. (2006). My Journey into Racial Awareness. Color, Race, and English Language Teaching: Shades of Meaning. In Curtis, A. & Romney, M. (Eds.), Color, Race, and English Teaching Language Teaching. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Chacón, C. (2009a). Transforming the Curriculum of NNESTs: Introducing Critical Language Awareness (CLA) in a teacher education program. In R. Kubota & A. Lin, (Eds.), Race, culture, and identities in second language education. Exploring critically engaged practice (pp. 215-233). New York: Routledge.

Chacón, C. (2009b). Acento y competencia lingüística: creencias de los educadores de inglés en formación. [Accent and linguistic competence: Beliefs of prospective English teachers]. Entre Lenguas, 14, 44-61.

Kubota, R., & Lin, A. (Eds.). (2006). Race, culture, and identities in second language education. Exploring critically engaged practice. New York: Routledge.

Pennycook, A. (2001). Critical Applied linguistics. A critical introduction. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Vivian Cook

NNEST of the Month
June, 2010
vivian [dot] cook [at] ncl [dot] ac [dot] uk

Could you tell us why and how you decided to become an educator?
Ana Wu, ESL instructor at City College of San Francisco.
Dr. Cook: I don’t think I ever made a conscious decision. After a BA in English literature, I was awarded a scholarship for the teaching of English in under-developed countries. Unfortunately I was then given medical advice not to go to the tropics. So I took a job teaching EFL at Ealing Technical College in London as the next best thing, where I was immediately involved in writing EFL coursebooks (I was press-ganged into writing Realistic English with Brian Abbs and Mary Underwood on my very first day of work). I became convinced that the only way to improve language teaching significantly was to understand how people learn second languages rather than to follow the latest teaching fashion. So this led to research and books etc to try to tell people what ideas were being developed about second language acquisition and how these might relate to language teaching.

Given everything you’ve written, and the voluminous research on which your work is based, this question may be too simplistic. As a teacher of fourth and fifth grade students who speak another language, it is critical that they develop adequate academic language to comprehend content and progress more quickly than the CALPS timetable of six years.
How can we help our students develop academic language most quickly? Thank you.
Jean L. Hill, tutor at West Street School in Southbridge, Massachusetts.
Dr. Cook: Telling Nature to hurry up is always a problem. I don’t think I know of any magic solutions: language learning is a complex process that takes time. One thing I certainly feel is that setting the L2 user as a target and praising the students as L2 users cannot but help; many are discouraged by thinking they have failed if they are not like native speakers. Whatever little they can do in the second language is still more than any monolingual native speaker can do.

With regard to academic English, it may be helpful to think what academic tasks mean for L2 users, not just for native-speaking students, and to get them to exploit the resource they have which the native speaker does not, namely the other language: a disproportionate number of Nobel Prize winners are bilinguals I understand. Of course the snag is that the gatekeepers who control examinations, etc, tend to assume that only ‘native’ performance is appropriate, so, for the sake of their students, teachers do have to bear these preconceptions in mind.

In your article, Going Beyond the Native Speaker in Language Teaching, you used the term L2 user for the person who uses a second language and L2 learner for the person in the process of learning it. One of the issues that resurrects once in a while in our NNEST Interest Section meetings and online discussion is about which term best defines us, people whose first language is not English. What do you think of the term “Non-native speaker”? What are the pros and cons of continuing using this term?
Ana Wu, ESL instructor at City College of San Francisco.
Dr. Cook: Originally ‘L2 user’ was simply a useful technical term that avoided some of the issues surrounding ‘L2 learner’. I think I object to any definition of people based on what they are not rather than what they are: I am not a non-female, non-young, non-lefthanded person; as Popeye said ‘I am what I am and that’s all that I am’. Inherently any ‘non’ definition discriminates in favor of a particular target rather than acknowledging people in their own right. The term ‘learner’ implies they have never reached some target (native speaker) rather than they have a target of their own (L2 user). I do now worry about the terms ‘L2’ and ‘second language’ as connoting some secondary status; if ‘L2’ were read aloud as cardinal number ‘L two’ OK, but everybody reads it as ordinal number ‘second language’; ‘second’ is a status-ridden term – ‘the First Lady’, ‘a first class degree’ etc come before ‘second …’ as indeed in ‘second-class citizen’.

‘Native speaker’ is now such a sensitive term I tend to avoid it where possible. In the UK at any rate ‘native speaker’ refers to ‘standard’ RP speakers – Received Pronunciation is the name of the standard accent in England, otherwise known as BBC English Oxford English or the Queen’s English. This is spoken by a small minority of English people, who don’t include the native-born inhabitants of Oxford or Newcastle, say, where ‘yous’ is the plural of ‘you’. One of my students is a Newcastle-born Muslim who does contract teaching in different parts of the Middle East; when he arrived for his last job, the head of department took one look and said, ‘We didn’t expect a native speaker like you’. Obviously none of us can legislate how words can be used and we have to accept the terms we are landed with – how much applied linguistics actually uses linguistics? But Applied Linguistics will doubtless remain the title as long as it lasts.

In recent papers I have argued that the umbrella term ‘L2 user’ conceals differences between at least five groups, partly based on the hierarchy in De Swaan (2001): L2 users of central languages such as Portuguese in Portugal; supercentral languages like Swahili in Africa; hypercentral languages like English used everywhere in the world as a second language; identity languages like Mandarin Chinese learnt as a heritage language by overseas Chinese speakers of say Cantonese, and personal languages used e.g. between married couples; plus a group of L2 classroom learners whose only purpose is to pass educational requirements. I think we have to be clear that second language acquisition and language teaching may be very different among these groups: much SLA research is concerned with only one of these groups and not necessarily generalizable to the others; the same with teaching – what works for one L2 user group may not work for others.

As regards to multilinguals, World Englishes, and EFL instructors who are L2 users, what areas do you think textbook publishers have neglected?
Ana Wu, ESL instructor at City College of San Francisco.
Dr. Cook: Having been involved at the start of MATSDA, the materials development association, and as an ex-course-book writer, I became aware of the gulf there was between the bright new ideas of course-writers and the books that publishers wanted to publish. To exaggerate slightly, since the 1980s that there has been in essence one published English coursebook in the UK, produced with different covers, pictures and writers’ names, but having the same mixed ‘communicative’ methodology, grammar, aims etc (now being given labels from the Common European Framework, alias CEFR). I could not fathom why, for example, Krashen’s work was not the source for a whole wave of textbooks; not that I agreed with it, but it was certainly worth trying out in coursebooks and would have sold to large numbers of his fans; Norm Gary had a listening-based course for hotel staff that never I think found a publisher but was excellent material. Publishers have maintained a blockbuster approach to English coursebooks rather than diversifying into the many original approaches to teaching that are around.

Some of the overlooked areas I have described in articles are:

The L2 user target. The students are presented on page after page of their coursebooks with powerful native speaker figures who dispense wisdom to humble L2 petitioners such as tourists and students; celebrities in coursebooks are chosen for their fame not for their ability with other languages, yet footballers, tennis-players or F1 drivers are excellent L2 users, both while playing their sport and when being interviewed on television afterwards. So giving a higher profile to successful L2 users in coursebooks is one priority.

Related to (1) is the question of English as Lingua Franca (ELF). It seems undeniable that most use of English world-wide is between people whose first language is not English. Their need is to use English with each other, not with someone who has it as a first language. This must substantially change the concepts of what the student has to do and to learn; descriptions like the CEFR are not appropriate if they do not take into account the distinctive ways in which L2 users use language. It may be that the description of an idealized native speaker is useful as a standard that can be used internationally, just as the yard was supposedly based on the distance from Henry I’s nose to this fingers: but this is for convenience rather than to kowtow to the native speaker; we don’t honor Henry I every time we measure a yard. Another possibility is to try to write descriptions of EFL grammar, phonology, etc, as practiced by Jenny Jenkins and Barbara Seidlhofer; myself I doubt that there is a common core to ELF but a large range of subvarieties that may need separate descriptions. The alternative I now favor is to see ELF as a dynamic process that L2 users employ to communicate with each other; they need to develop the skills of such interaction, about realworld issues not trivial classroom tasks.

The other concern is writing. Since the 19th century Reform movement, speaking has been seen as the core of the language class. Arguably, however, writing is just as important for life today, what with emails, etc – I am doing this interview on a keyboard not a telephone: students need to send emails, go on Facebook, etc. On the one hand, this has led to a lack of organized teaching of the writing system – spelling, punctuation, etc – where teachers do ad hoc correction or fall back on misleading so-called rules they remember from childhood; yet, spelling mistakes are probably more important than pronunciation mistakes as they carry overtones of lack of education etc for many people. This ignores the difficulties for many learners of transferring from one script to another, say, Chinese or Greek to English.

But also you can see on every page of a beginners’ textbook how written language is used as a prop for speaking exercises as if it did not matter in its own right – checklists, mappings etc unlike any ordinary written text. The written language is systematically distorted for teaching ease. Take the neat idea of making people attend to particular forms by highlighting in bold, italics etc – enhanced input. There are very tight conventions in the written language on how these may be used (look at any publisher’s guide for their authors), which these modifications completely flout. We are sacrificing the system of writing for a short-term gain in speaking.

In your 1999 article, “Going beyond the Native speaker in language teaching,” you conclude that there should be “more emphasis on the successful L2 user” and also more use of the L1 in language teaching. In the past 11 years how much change in attitude among teachers, students, program directors, and researchers has there been on these two points? Also, what further change do you hope and/or think will occur?
Terry Doyle, ESL Instructor at City College of San Francisco.
Dr. Cook: In terms of second language acquisition research, lip-service is now being paid to the efficient L2 user as opposed to the deficient L2 learner. It still has not made much actual difference to SLA research; research methods like grammaticality judgements imply comparison with native speakers; research questions such as the effects of age on second language learning and whether L2 learners have access to Universal Grammar revolve around whether the learner is like a native speaker – to me a side issue that doesn’t look at what they really are. There is a growing band of researchers into how second languages affect people’s thinking, reflected in my book co-edited with Benedetta Bassetti coming out in the autumn Language and Bilingual Cognition (Psychology Press). The research base for the L2 user as a distinctive kind of person gets stronger every year.

I have been encouraged by two recent books:
Ortega, L. (2009), Understanding Second Language Acquisition, Hodder Education.
Scott, V.M. (2009), Double Talk: Deconstructing Monolingualism in Classroom Second Language Learning. Prentice Hall.

These are useful applications of similar approaches, which I would like to have written myself. My old warhorse Second Language Learning and Language Teaching (Hodder) has become much more L2 user oriented in its fourth edition. I am impressed by the extent to which these ideas are now known in places I visit – China, Iran, Italy and Portugal in the past couple of years. I have also tried putting some of my standard talks on Youtube to see if that helps people to access them.

In regards to placing more emphasis on the successful L2 learner, and in regards to the focus of this blog, I’d like to know how your notion of “multi-competence” is important in regards to “non-native teacher” issues. In your 1999 article, you comment on the strength of “non-native” teachers as language teachers because “students may prefer the fallible non-native speaker teacher who presents a more achievable model.” What is the value of “multi-competence” for language teachers? Could you say more about the strengths “non-native” teachers possess as language teachers? Finally, do you believe that perceptions about native vs. non-native speakers as language teachers have changed in the last decade?
Terry Doyle, ESL Instructor at City College of San Francisco.
Dr. Cook: The issue of native (NST) and non-native speaker teachers (NNST) is fraught with difficulty, having financial, political and career implications in many countries: I met one teacher who was hired as a native speaker (which she was) but paid as a non-native local (as she was a naturalized citizen of the country by marriage). A key point is of course ‘everything else being equal’; teachers may be useless because of their lack of training regardless of whether they are native or non-native (though it is perhaps inevitable that many expat teachers have less knowledge and experience of the demands of the local education system); teachers that speak fluently and communicate effectively may achieve more regardless of nativeness, perhaps easier in the L1. If L2 users are different kinds of people from monolinguals, inevitably the monolingual NST belongs in one group; the multi-competent NNST in another group of L2 users. Students can aspire to become part of the latter group, not the former. Assuming that the NNST speaks the same L1 as the students (which is not the case in many parts of the world), they have got there by the same route that the students are following, not by the L1 route that the NSTs followed.

Advantages are then the NNST teachers’ better understanding of the pitfalls and shortcuts on this route, being a visible role model for the students of someone who successfully did it their way, and knowing the students’ L1. Given two otherwise equivalent teachers, the NST has an advantage only in terms of the native model that is being shown to the students; if this is highly valued by society and by the students themselves (as it probably still is), this may be an advantage for the NST. As soon as we can persuade people to aim at becoming effective L2 users rather than second-rate imitation native speakers, this sole NST advantage disappears and what is needed is a teacher who can model successful L2 use, who may or may not be a native speaker – I was once told to my surprise that I had given a talk in ELF rather than in English. As with anything to do with language, the neutral scientific view clashes with the deep emotional and non-rational feelings that human beings have about language; the native speaker construct has been incorporated in language teaching and in popular ideas about bilingualism for so long that the inertia in changing it is immense. But a lead from curriculum designers, examination boards and coursebook writers might help – like the Japanese MEXT‘s goal of ‘Japanese with English Abilities’ or the Israel curriculum which ‘does not take on the goal of producing near-native speakers of English, but rather speakers of Hebrew, Arabic or other languages who can function comfortably in English whenever it is appropriate’.

Ana Wu: Thank you very much for your time and consideration in answering the questions submitted by the members of the NNEST IS!
Dr. Cook: I have enjoyed answering these questions and hope these answers are reasonably coherent. Follow-ups for these ideas can be found on my website http://homepage.ntlworld.com/vivian.c/, particularly the on-line papers http://homepage.ntlworld.com/vivian.c/Writings/; there are even my first amateurish videos on YouTube (search for itsallinaword). You can email me on vivian.cook@ncl.ac.uk

Lisya Seloni

NNEST of the Month
May 2010

lisyaseloni [at] gmail [dot] com

 

Ana Wu: Could you tell us your background and why you decided to be an educator?

Dr. Seloni:I was born and raised in Istanbul, Turkey. Growing up in Istanbul, I was surrounded by various languages: Turkish, my native language, and Ladino and Hebrew, my heritage languages. Due to my ethnic background, I was exposed to, and acquired some receptive knowledge of Ladino (Ladino is a Romance language used among the Sephardic Jews in the Balkans and Turkey), also called Judeo-Spanish (djudeoespanyol), while I was growing up in Istanbul. It is mostly the elderly members of families who spoke Ladino, and my generation was usually kept distance from this language due to various political and sociocultural reasons. During my primary and secondary education, I learned some Hebrew at school. And, of course, while I was growing up, there was always this dominant narrative that English was the language that one needs to master to be able to get ahead in life. So, I attended an English language institute on weekends while I was in high school. Being a member of various overlapping communities, one of the things that I vividly remember was the variety and richness of the kinds of literacy practices that my peers and I were carrying out within and beyond the school contexts. Although I lost most of my heritage languages due to not being able to use them on a daily basis, being part of a minority group raised my awareness on various social, political and linguistic issues that became much more significant in my adult life later on. And, what I now find interesting is that I didn’t realize the richness and importance of my heritage languages while growing up in a multilingual context In Istanbul until I pursued my graduate studies where I grew a deep interest in how people use spoken and written language to create communities and certain identity categories. My current scholarship and teaching always bring back these early literacy experiences. .

As the first generation college graduate student in my family, reading and writing has always been a central part of me growing up. Although my parents did not receive college education, they have always emphasized the importance of reading and writing by sharing with me various anecdotes and stories during my childhood. Sharing and interacting with people to construct knowledge and experiences have always excited me, so striving to become and be an educator has been my life passion. Due to having come to a decision about pursuing language education, I majored in English language education as an undergraduate in Istanbul University where I specialized in sociolinguistics and teaching English using drama.

Before moving to the United States in late 2001 to pursue my graduate degree, I worked in various capacities in Turkey teaching English as a foreign language. I was especially passionate about working with the economically disadvantaged population in Istanbul. My most memorable experiences include teaching in a small language institute for more than 3 years where I taught English to kids from shantytowns. I recall having students from various age levels, and sociocultural backgrounds, and this always made my classes so very interesting. While I was in Turkey, I was also a part of an organization called Cagdas Yasami Destekleme Dernegi (CYDD). CYDD, which is a nonprofit association in support of contemporary living, is one of the largest organizations in Turkey that harbors various educational projects aiming to promote equality in education in Turkey. There, I taught reading, writing and speaking in English to adult medical students from different parts of Turkey who did not have the economic and material access to English education in their colleges.

I came to the US at the end of 2001 to pursue my graduate degree. I remember how tough it was to get acclimated in a new culture and a new institution while the country was in turmoil. Having completed my MA degree in TESOL at University of Central Missouri in 2003, I moved to Columbus, Ohio to pursue my doctoral degree at the Ohio State University and completed my degree in August, 2008. During my doctoral education and beyond, I have been very fortunate to have had an opportunity to interact with so many inspirational scholars such as Alan Hivela, Keiko Samimy, David Bloome, Shelly Wong who did make a big impact on how I view schooling, learning and teaching.

After completing my degree at the OSU, I was hired to as a tenure-track faculty in the graduate studies in Composition & TESOL at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. I feel fortunate to be able to do what I love doing: teaching and writing. It’s a true privilege to get paid for thinking and creating scholarly work.

Ana Wu: With Marcia Farr and Juyoung Song, you co-edited the book Ethnolinguistic Diversity and Education Language, Literacy and Culture, first published in 2009. 


a. Tell us about the making of this book. Why is this topic important to you? Where did the idea come from? How long did you work on it? How was the experience of working with 18 renowned authors?
Dr. Seloni: With this book, our primary goal was to explore crucial issues that emerge at the intersection of language diversity and literacy education in the United Sates. I am very excited about this book mainly because the collection of articles not only provides a very recent overview on sociolinguistic research but this collection also discusses important pedagogical application on how we should fight against the monolingual ideology and standardization movements in many educational contexts. In this project, my main responsibilities were to collect the manuscripts, edit the chapters with Marcia and Juyoung, and co-author an introductory chapter. I am delighted and extremely privileged to have had the opportunity to work with some stellar scholars such as Marcia Far, Walt Wolfram, Samy Alim, Ofelia Garcia , Alan Hirvela, Teresa McCarty and Terence Wiley. I believe that this book will be a great contribution to our understanding of ethnolinguisitic diversity in the 21st century throughout the U.S. educational contexts.

The idea of this book derived from the New Ways of Analyzing Variation (NWAV) conference that we hosted in 2006 in Columbus, Ohio. Marcia Farr, with whom I was working at that time, suggested that we work on an edited collection where we collect manuscript that specifically explores the dominant language ideologies and how these enact in different educational contexts in the U.S. We invited the presenters of NWAV conference, worked on the proposal of the book and began collecting manuscripts. So, it took about 3 years to compile the manuscripts, revise the drafts and publish the whole book. I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with Marcia, her vast publishing experience in the areas of sociolinguistics and teaching of writing really helped me to expand my knowledge base on what goes on in compiling and editing a book. As an emerging scholar, I learned a great deal about the process of editing the book. The process was a long and arduous one, but my overall experience was a very positive one, especially since Marcia and Juyoung were extremely easy to work with. Because of these reasons, editing process was easier than I had imagined.


b. What advice would you give to our members who want to publish a book or edit an anthology? How does one start?
Dr. Seloni: I’m still learning the practices that go in editing or publishing a book. In my opinion, it is important to read widely and identify areas in which one wants to make a contribution. One’s knowledge in the field is an important asset and factor when it is time to write about the focus of the collection and the audience the volume aims to address. Finding contributors who have important things to say regarding the topic in question is crucial. You want to make sure that the sections of the book are consistent in terms of their quality, and length; and of course, choosing the right publisher is another important step. The book proposal you submit to the publishers receives feedback from external reviewers, and you need to make sure that you sufficiently address their feedback. As far as I remember, modifying our proposal was the part that took the longest. We worked hard to thoroughly address the publisher’s questions about the potential contribution of this book and the questions that were raised by the reviewers. Editing a book can take a long time, but it’s a very good learning experience especially for the emerging scholars. 


Ana Wu: You have been the NNEST IS editorial assistant since the end of 2005.


 a. In this position, what are the challenges and what do you enjoy the most?
Dr. Seloni: My work as an editorial assistant was one of the most fruitful international service during my graduate school. As a member of the editorial team, I had the opportunity to work with Sandra Zappa Hollman and Kyung-Hee Bae. The collegiality and the vast writing experiences of my co-editors brought with them certainly helped raise the quality of our work. Reading the manuscripts and taking an important role in proving feedback have been most enjoyable aspects of this position. There is something very empowering in reading contributors’ first drafts, negotiating and working as a team to improve a manuscript. One can learn so much through such interactions. I also witnessed how professionals can get to know one another in the digital environments, and do quality work via online interactions.

To me, the hardest part as an editor, was handling the feedback process. Asking the contributors to make substantial revisions in their manuscript, whether the revisions are related to stylistic issues or issues of organization, is not an easy task. I have been too conscious about not changing the authors’ authentic voice, but I also could not help but ask myself “what does changing one’s voice mean in the context of editing?” Does asking the contributors to change their lexicon choices or the way they write organize the paper mean that I am interfering with their voice and their writerly identity? When we offer substantial changes to the manuscript, I try hard to be faithful to the gist of the paper, but again this is not an easy thing to do. I think this was the question that popped up quite often in our discussions in the editorial team. I am still struggling with this question as I respond to my students writing, or serve as a manuscript reviewer for multiple journals. 


b. What would you say to our members who are interested in applying for an editor or editor assistant position, but do not have enough self-confidence or experience?
Dr. Seloni: This is certainly a great place to gain experience with editing and revising scholarly work in the field. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect. No one is born as a confident teacher, scholar or an editor, you become one. I believe that such roles require performative actions that we learn by doing and by interacting with more experienced peers, and by being engaged in various discourse communities. So, my advice would be, to go for it and take a leadership role and not wait too long to be a part of an academic community. Graduate school teaches us many important skills to navigate our way in academia, but I do believe it’s not the only place. Since I became a member of TESOL in 2005, I have been learning so much regarding what it takes to be a contributing scholar by attending the meetings, interacting fellow educators in conferences, and participating the NNEST newsletter work.

Ana Wu: As an assistant professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, your research areas include Social Justice issues in Language Education, among Second Language Literacy, Educational Ethnography, and Applied Linguistics. In terms of educational inequalities (class, race, gender, etc) in the TESOL field,


a) what do you think ESL/EFL instructors can do to make schooling more effective to minority students and to those who speak vernacular varieties of English?
Dr. Seloni: We need to remember that with the movements of globalization, the field of TESOL has gone through various methodological and theoretical shifts in terms of its conceptualization of language, culture, literacy, learning, and identity. I am glad to witness that the field is gradually gaining a more interdisciplinary nature, opening itself to various sociocultural, political, and institutional issues, and more importantly, it is orienting itself to students’ various needs and expectations and taking into account their diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds. Today, it is almost impossible to have totally homogeneous classrooms wherever we teach.I think even the work homogeneous does not reflect the make-up of any class in any society today.

If we are talking about teaching minority students in the US, one of the things that I learnt from my reading and research experience is to make sure that we not only understand the ethnolinguisitc richness they bring but legitimize those by incorporating the rich “funds of knowledge” (Pratt, 1991) students bring into the classroom discourse. Critical Pedagogy teaches us the importance of student participation and incorporating their backgrounds meaningfully. For instance, Ira Shor (1992) says “ the goals of [critical] pedagogy are to relate personal growth to public life by developing strong skills, academic knowledge, habits of inquiry, and critical curiosity about society, power, inequality, and change” (p. 15). To create an optimum space for democratic and dialogic community for minority students, we need to start with participatory classrooms. In other words, it is important to go beyond the banking concept of education (Freire, 1970) and create collaborative and participatory classroom activities that will legitimize and recognize non-standard variations, whether it is linguistic, social or cultural. It is also important to establish a community in the classroom where there is multiple spaces for socialization and wide range of ways of doings. To create this community, just like many scholars in our field emphasize, we need to start from the student and what they bring to the classroom. Hence, we need to carefully analyze how our classroom practices (activities we promote, languages we use, texts we bring for students to read, constructing the seating arrangement etc.) marginalize, promote, affirm students who come from nondominant cultures and languages. Our students’ identities and lives, just like ours, are constantly in flux and changing in relation to their context. Therefore, we need to redefine and reconceptualize how we view schooling, learning and teaching. It is my firm belief that if we, as language educators, do spend considerable amount of time on multiplicity of voices that students bring in to class and strive to create alternative spaces for them to express themselves and, meanwhile teach them, as Lisa Delpit always says “the culture of power”, we will be closer to creating a democratic society in which each individual is valued and seen as a contributing member of their personal, academic and cultural lives.

b. which seminal paper(s) inspired you? Which ones would you recommend our graduate students in applied linguistics or TESOL programs read?
Dr. Seloni:There are so many scholarship areas that have inspired and continue to inspire me that it’s really hard to pick a few to recommend. The scholarship and teaching of my own mentors that I mentioned above have certainly influenced how I view language teaching. Since my interests have mostly lied in the intersection of second language literacy, critical pedagogy, discourse analysis and educational ethnography, there are various important scholars who inspire me. Alastair Pennycook, Suresh Canagarajah, Ryoko Kubota, Ulla Connor, B. Kumaravadivelu, Cynthia Nelson, Brain Morgan and many more in the field of TESOL and Applied Linguistics. I recently taught a course on Intro to TESOL and my text choice was Kumaravadivelu’s Cultural Globalization and Language Education. I also used parts of his Beyond Methods and Canagarajah’s Resisting Linguistic Imperialism in English Teaching. I think both of these texts aim to move the TESOL field beyond the transmission model of education and promote localized and context sensitive by carefully problematizing some of the standard ideologies that permeate in the field.

Ana Wu: Congratulations on being the symposium organizer of the Academic Literacies Symposium in February, 2010. Being so involved and committed in your teaching career, how do you balance work with family? What do you do to avoid being burned-out?
Dr. Seloni: Thank you, Ana. The conference was a wonderful experience. It was great to be able to talk about various issues related to academic Literacies with so many wonderful scholars.

Balancing work and family is, as many will agree, never an easy thing. While juggling so many balls, learning how to prioritize is something that I, as a multilingual junior faculty, am striving to learn. One thing that I have been observing is that many graduate students and junior faculty members have the fear of being criticized and compared to, which, I think one of the many reasons people in the academy, especially women scholars, are burned-out. We live in a society where we always compare ourselves with the “other” whether it is the other junior colleague or a seasoned teacher in the field. This is an exhausting feeling if it takes you in. It becomes all about how you perceive yourself as a scholar and how you think you are being positioned by others. To avoid being burnt-out, I am trying to teach myself that as long as I strive for progress (not for perfection, as the saying goes) and do what I do because I am passionate about it, not because of some tenure requirement, I will establish a healthy relationship with my colleagues, with my work and stop fighting with my different “selves” who do not always collaborate with one another. I know it is an idealistic outlook, but the feeling of making a contribution to the field instead of my tenure box is what keeps me going.

It is also important to recognize that many scholars, especially international scholars, have nomadic lives. It’s the same in my situation. I am always on the go, traveling to various places to participate in academic and social communities, especially in the lives of my family. As a multilingual woman scholar who is trying to carve her own space in academia, it has never been easy to build and maintain a community in which one can grow as a scholar. People have segmented lives and once you are out of graduate school you are pretty much by yourself in terms of building that community. This is another type of a burn-out for me (i.e, trying to build a community), and one of the best ways to deal with this has been going to conferences and engaging in discussions with mentors and peers who have been going through the same challenges.

Traveling between states and even countries to see my family has been tough. However, as odd as it may sound, there is always something refreshing in not belonging to anywhere, living in between various cultures and worlds. Traveling to see my family in Istanbul is a way for me to travel throughout time and history. In one year, many things change. People change; history changes. As a returning person, you are never totally at the center of this change nor are you at the periphery. Oddly enough, this middle space gives you some sort of privilege to claim a “learner” identity who can act critically. It is also funny but I get a lot of writing done when I travel by plane or train. I wish I can always travel so that I can produce more. I think traveling and passing through and interacting with so many lives and spaces have a magical power that inspires me to reflect critically and write more passionately.

Ana Wu: Thank you for this inspiring interview and good luck in your next project!

References:

Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Continuum. (M.B. Rabos, Trans.)

Pratt, L. (1992) Arts of the contact zone. Profession 91.(p.33-40).

Shor, I. (1992). Empowering education. Critical Teaching for social change. The University of Chicago Press.

Judith Tanka

NNEST of the Month

February 2010

jtanka [at] unex [dot] ucla [dot] edu

Ana Wu: Could you tell us your background and explain why you wanted to be an educator?

Ms. Tanka: I was born and spent the first 17 years of my life in Budapest, Hungary. When I immigrated to the U.S. in the late ‘60s, I was a teenager mainly preoccupied with learning the language, fitting into a new culture and then navigating a very different higher education system than what I had been familiar with. Becoming an educator didn’t occur to me until the confluence of some fortuitous events in my senior year at UCLA. One night I decided to sit in on an ESL class that my mother was attending at a local adult school. As a second language learner, I knew when I saw good teaching, and this wasn’t it. To my amazement, the teacher was a high school math instructor moonlighting in an ESL program, without any training or any inkling about how to help a group of working adults communicate in a new language. I remember being frustrated, thinking that I could do a better job teaching this class just by virtue of having been an ESL student myself. Then around that time, I happened to meet a graduate student who was completing her M.A. at UCLA’s TESL Department (now Applied Linguistics). When I found out that there was such a major as TESL, it was one of those ‘ah ha moments’ for me. It suddenly became clear that teaching ESL was what I wanted to do.

Ana Wu: You immigrated to the USA at the age of 17. Did you speak English when you first came here? How was your experience of adjusting to the culture and being accepted by your classmates?

Ms. Tanka: I spoke no English at all when we arrived here. I came on a Monday and enrolled in a local high school on Wednesday, where I was placed in the lowest level of their NES classes. “Non English Speaking” was the designation they used back then. My classmates were international students, of course, including a couple of Hungarians, who helped me overcome some of the initial and inevitable culture shock. I recall being bewildered by the entirely strange system of “class periods” where students would go to a different class taught by a different teacher each hour rather than staying together in one room, with teachers coming to them. Overall, however, the adjustment went quite smoothly, and I learned enough English to be mainstreamed after a semester. My American classmates were very welcoming, fascinated by a refugee from a communist country in their midst, inviting me for sleepovers – another strange custom I remember being puzzled by. Academically, I soon found most classes too easy, about two years behind what I had learned in my Hungarian high school.

Ana Wu: Your first textbook was Interactions I – A Listening/Speaking Book (now in the 5th edition), first published in 1985 for the Interactions/Mosaic Series. Since then, you have written three successful books.

a.How did you first come upon the idea of writing a textbook? How long did it take from the time you started to write until it was published?

Ms. Tanka:Initially, a colleague and I had an idea for a completely different project – video based lessons on controversial issues. The idea grew out of our shared classroom experiences and successful conversation lessons that we thought publishers might be interested in. When we shopped the proposal around, one publisher showed mild interest but suggested that we temporarily shelve the project and instead join a group of authors to write the listening/speaking section of a new academic textbook series already slated for publishing. My colleague and I jumped at the chance – one of the best decisions I’ve made in my professional life.

The first manuscript (Level 1 of Interactions) took approximately a year to complete and an additional year in production before it was published. This seems to be the general time line for most textbooks, from the time the authors sign a contract. Of course much more preliminary work goes into it from inception until the signing of the contract.

b. As an experienced writer, do you still face challenges in your writings? If yes, do you think that these challenges are language/nativeness related? And how do you overcome them?

Ms. Tanka: My challenges in writing textbooks lie mainly in the area of trying to stay fresh and relevant to the ever-changing ESL market while keeping my materials methodologically sound. After living and working in an English speaking environment for over 40 years, my language abilities /non-nativeness have pretty much ceased to be an issue. Yet, I have not become entirely complacent about this; still, to this day, I feel most confident when I’m able to work side by side with a native speaker co-author.

Ana Wu: What advice would you give to NNESTs who want to get started writing a textbook?

Ms. Tanka: I would give the same advice to NNESTs as to anyone else who wants to write a textbook: draw on your teaching and your own language learning experience as to what works in the classroom. Then survey the textbook market to see if existing texts already address what you’re proposing to write. In other words, is there another book or multi-media program that does it just as well or better than what you can produce? My second advice is to team up with a co-author or a team of authors, preferably people with compatible temperaments, work ethic and creative ideas. For NNESTs, a native speaker co-author provides an added advantage. I’ve found the give-and-take between my coauthors and me tremendously rewarding, creatively energizing and ultimately resulting in a better product.

Ana Wu: You have been working at the UCLA Extension American Language Center for 30 years. As a previous Acting Director and current member of the Recruiting Committee, what advice would you give to NNES applicants when applying for a job (from writing a letter to preparing for an interview) at an IEP institute?

Ms. Tanka: Since a resume provides the first impression of a candidate, I can’t overemphasize the importance of proofreading a resume and cover letter before sending them. As an NNES, I have never sent out a resume without asking a native speaker (or two) to look over what I’ve written, if for nothing else than to spot possible typos. Errors in these introductory documents can be an immediate turn-off, perceived as a sign of sloppiness or downright incompetence. I’m not saying we’ve never interviewed candidates who had spelling errors or missing articles in their writing, but these errors definitely act as red flags. On the other hand, do not try to sound overly polished in your writing, lifting paragraphs from ESL methodology texts, elaborating extensively on your teaching philosophy. You will have plenty of chances to discuss your views on classroom methodology during the interview. I think the same qualities that make you a good classroom teacher should shine through during the interview: be personable, confident, sincere and knowledgeable. These qualities are not language dependent. Treat the interviewer as a colleague who is familiar with and sympathetic to NNESs’ challenges. We know that most NNESTs bring a wealth of experience to the job, so we’re willing to overlook minor errors or a slight accent if you’re a good fit for the job. On the other hand, don’t take it personally if you are not hired due to lack of accuracy/fluency in English. In IEPs, there is heightened sensitivity to customer satisfaction; rightly or wrongly, our students expect (and often demand) to learn from instructors with native or near-native English proficiency, and our hiring practices reflect this market demand.

My final advice regarding the interview process is to learn as much as possible about the prospective job and institution ahead of time. My last question during an interview is usually, “Do you have any questions for me?” I’m always most impressed with candidates who have specific questions to ask about our curriculum, schedule, faculty and working conditions; it shows that they’ve gone to our website and done their homework. In other words, they’ve invested some time as a sign of sincere interest.

Ana Wu: Thank you for this interesting interview!