Teachers' reflections

Although other data resources were also examined, due to space restrictions we will present only our analysis of the teachers' uploaded responses to questions. The data will be analysed in the light of the themes that are described above, that is, the components of nativeness/non-nativeness issues and ELF-aware pedagogy. The first category includes teachers' comments on the use of English in and out of their language classes, on the facilitating function of intelligibility in communications in and out of their language classes, and on the ownership of English, whether it belongs to native speakers only or to both native and non-native speakers. Focus group interview data includes teachers' reflections on answers shared on the web site and on their ELF-aware lesson plans.

How do teachers perceive the nativeness/non-nativeness issue and implications that arise from it for their own teaching context? For our participants, the global character of English is a powerful mechanism of communication that should be appreciated by learners, as the following extracts from teacher responses show:

To me as a teacher, in class, power is the ideas that the students have.

English is the medium to share the ideas all around the world, so my aim is to give importance to the comprehension side of this global language. (P1: Gamze, question 2)

When students do not be aware of the globalization of English, they have a tendency of criticizing their peers, even their teachers and regional English speaker teachers for not using standard English especially, their pronunciations. [...] There are different varieties of English all over the world and teachers of English even the ones who are native speakers should have knowledge of different varieties of lexis, discourse, grammar and pronunciations [...] students should be aware of all these variations. (P2: Sude, question 2)

However, teachers are practical too, when thinking about the practical implications for their teaching context. It is important for learners to have an awareness of the powerful ways in which English can help them grow as citizens of the world, but they need to understand that what is important is the successful use of English in this global context. In other words, global English should not be equated with an 'anything goes' attitude:

It is not possible to teach all the varieties of English, so we absolutely need some basic standard forms. (P5: Perin, question 2)

What this quotation also implies is that the global character of English needs an alternative pedagogical model, one that would not prioritise standard varieties of English, but one that would still integrate a rule-based system of English that would combine successful communication patterns across many different global settings involving non-native interlocutors. As the following teacher acknowledges, this is easier said than done:

The idea of ELF is a really great change in pedagogy as well. [...] This could be an encouraging thing for the people who cannot speak English in order not to make errors. I have a student in my class. She is a 10th grader. I cannot encourage her to speak. Her father is a judge. Finding correctness may take place in her family, but two weeks ago when the foreign students did an interactive lesson, she reacted them and answered some questions which I asked her to do. This helped her see that ELF is available in communication. (P1: Gamze, question 43)

What this means, essentially, is that learners should first understand and then accept, in their hearts, that they are ELF speakers. This is difficult, as attitudes and deeper convictions about what is desirable and achievable (in the form of the native speaker model of standardness) will contradict reality. It is for this reason that learners' exposure to real, successful (not in the sense of 'correct') interactions involving non-native interlocutors in different global contexts is of paramount importance. As the following excerpt shows, our participants understand this well:

I agree with the misconception of 'only NNS is accented'. There are some different accents in my own language (L1), too. Each language has some different accents. Speaking with accent does not mean lack of intelligibility. And, the misconception (NNS is responsible for communication problems) is especially important. Actually, most of the NNSs are fed with the same resources. And these are the books and other audio-lingual materials printed and published by the NS's countries. Native speakers are the ones who fed themselves with different sources like, their families, friends, social environments, cultures, and so on. In this case: How could NNS be responsible for communication problems? (P2: Sude, question 40)

A powerful way of becoming aware of the perils of deeply held convictions about the importance of native speaker standard norms in the teaching of English is relating them to what teachers and learners know very well, that is, their L1. The following quotation was a reflection from a teacher in response to a question following the reading of two articles from the ELF literature on intelligibility. What it shows is that thinking about our own context can help unlock these convictions and, subsequently, unblock teachers and learners from realising the true potential of successful ELF communication:

What is interesting for me is that the monolingual norms are undesirable in some contexts such as pronouncing the words according to RP. To tell the truth, this is new for me, and proves me the power of ELF [...] At this point, I consider my mother tongue. [...] Most of the people in Turkey do not use Istanbul Turkish even if they are educated, so different regions use different ways of speech. That can be quite possible in English as well. If this is the truth, we cannot insist on that merely the native speakers represent what is intelligible. (P5: Perin, question 40)

What our findings show is that different teachers respond differently to the implications of ELF regarding the teaching of specific norms. For example, for the following teacher, exposure to the rich variety of Englishes in the world does not imply the need for a clear rule-based system that should be used in this alternative pedagogical mode mentioned above:

Quite the contrary to the custodians of the language, I believe, if there is, diversity, there is richness. While I am reading Widdowson's article I start to think about the reason why most Turkish teachers give importance to teaching grammar. Could it be the respect to the owners of the language, could it be a way to teach Standard English by 'showing symbolic of solidarity'. Could it be a way to introduce the culture of the owners? Maybe showing us that English is an international language may help us giving less importance to grammar. We may find ways to show that English serves the communicative and communal needs of us, the speakers. (P1: Gamze, question 26)

When prompted to think about their role as custodians of English for their learners (following their reading of Widdowson's 1994 article on the ownership of English), this teacher offers a very concise perspective regarding the ownership of English when non-native speakers are involved:

I'm not a 'custodian' of English, but I feel myself as a person who has privilege of ownership of English, because I have used and taught it for years. [...] If this language has a right to invade everywhere in my country, I should have a right to own it. [...] Having this awareness is very important to adopt our changing role? (P2: Sude, question 26)

In response to the same issues, the following teacher goes even further:

To begin with, I can state that the author's view about the 'ownership' of English is simply the fact that no nation owns it. That is, if it is an international language, we cannot discuss the issue of who owns it? Instead, we can affirm that it is the language of the people all over the world. (P5: Perin, question 26)

For this teacher, since English is an international language, it is owned by the people who use it all around the world. What these perspectives show us is that, as English grows as a global language, it becomes a globally mobile language, occurring in various forms and blending with various languages in diverse contexts. As a result, the English that people use might have little similarity to its original form, whatever that might have been (Blommaert 2012). As Gamze states in the first quotation, diversity is richness.

What also arises from these teachers' engagement with the ELF-TEd project is that their growing self-awareness as non-native speakers boosts their self-confidence as teachers (on the issue of non-native speaker teachers' selfconfidence see (Bayyurt 2006, 2012; Llurda 2009; McKay and Bokhorst-Heng 2008) This is something that has not been previously documented in ELF studies of teachers. One way that this becomes evident is that, as the following quotation shows, teachers are described as having fewer limiting beliefs than their learners:

Teachers seem to be moving away from native-speaker norms faster than students are: It's something which I know from my own experience, because most of my students are still in the pursuit of having a British accent or an American accent. (P2: Sude, question 71)

Learners seem to find the ELF perspective less agreeable than teachers, even if they are aware of the global uses of English. This finding coincides with the expectations of the parents of young learners in primary schools, as seen in the primary teachers' data from this same ELF-TEd project (Bayyurt and Sifakis 2013, 2015).

When non-native EFL teachers become ELF-aware, they realise that they not only have a rightful claim to English, much like its many native speakers around the world, as we have seen; but also their knowledge of the local lang- uacultural context renders them more capable teachers:

As for changing role of my own, all those readings gained me self-confidence. Put differently, I have always thought that native speaker teachers are better than non-native speakers even though I have read some articles related to global English. I have never questioned the issue of who is better. But, now I'm very confident of myself that I teach the English which is useful for my students. I may not teach perfect English to a Pakistani student because I do not have any idea about his/her cultural norms and life. However, I know my students and their life, their way of learning English, so I'm sure I can teach better than any other native speaker teacher or non-native speaker teacher who is not Turkish'. (P5: Perin, question 26)

This is an important acknowledgement, especially as it draws from the Turkish EFL context. In Turkey, during the past decade, there has been a tendency to hire non-native English language teachers from other countries in Europe, Asia, and elsewhere in the world to teach at private schools besides native English language teachers. What the above quotation makes clear is the teacher's perspective regarding the advantages of hiring teachers who share the same L1 with the learners.

With regard to developing ELF-aware lessons for their own learners, our participants are specific about the need for a transformative perspective to established EFL practices:

When it comes to the need for transformation in ELT methodology, we can say that the current methodology does not suit to these aims and approaches to some extent. For instance, many course books do not exemplify any activity that may give the chance to practice interaction strategies. For my own teaching context, I can affirm that these goals are realistic because my students learn English in a foreign language context, and they need to communicate with people from all over the world. Henceforth, it is better for them to focus more on intelligibility rather than correctness. (P5: Perin, question 38)

However, the same teacher acknowledges that the ELF literature does not offer specific advice for teaching practice, which is something teachers need once they have become ELF-aware:

In my opinion, the teaching part is the most important for me as may be anticipated. First things first, there is not any clear explanation on how to teach. The comments are too general, so they are not practical. I think we talk about theory of how to teach ELF rather than the practice of ELF teaching. As for the goals and approaches, I agree with them. We should focus on intelligibility, textual competence and interaction strategies. (P5: Perin, question 38)

Similarly, for this teacher:

It is my contention that teachers need some ELF AWARE activities to help them to overcome subjective hindrances to use in class. Our state high school yearly plan given by the ministry includes global issues. The plans are made based on CEFR Descriptors. A guidebook could be prepared for the teachers to help them understand how they adapt ELF to classroom teaching. This guidebook could be a website or a Moodle. (P1: Gamze, question 71)

As already stated, in this project we were not focused on providing teachers with ready-made ideas or recipes for activities that could be used in their teaching context. We wanted to see how they would develop their own orientation of ELF-aware activities that would be appropriate for their learners and broader teaching context. While certain teachers struggled to come up with original ideas for ELF-aware activities, others were more creative with delineating a precise pedagogical approach, based on their readings of the ELF literature:

I will include different varieties of English to the curriculum and I will welcome when they produce new forms. I will not correct their mistakes immediately and I will inform all the students about the importance of it. The students also must be open-minded about their peers' different styles. I will prepare some extra materials for the quick learners. (P2: Sude, Question 111)

< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >