The Pedagogical Implications of ELF in a Domestic Migrant Workplace

Kellie Gongalves


Linguistic studies on the pedagogical aspects of ELF in professional and business contexts has largely focused on 'white collar' workplace settings and BELF. In this chapter I discuss the pedagogical aspects of EIL since they are appropriate for teaching domestic workers and ELF speakers within a local, domestic labour context among Portuguese and Spanish-speaking domestics and their Anglophone clients in a multilingual cleaning company in New Jersey, U.S. This project is situated within a broader theoretical framework of mobilities and globalization within the 21st century (Urry 2000; Adey 2010; Kramsch 2014) and concerned with the 'consequences of globalization' (Bauman 1998) and the 'turbulence of modern migration' (Papastergiadis 2000), both of which point to transient and dynamic individuals and the complexity of language learning and use of the target language, English.

Domestic workers' accounts of language practices among the densely-tied social networks (Milroy 1987 [1980]) within their local community reveal that individuals do not rely on English in their private, daily lives since their ethnic enclave accommodates to Portuguese and Spanish-speaking residents (Gonsalves 2012). As a result, English serves as an additional language of wider communication for these workers and inevitably influences their investment in the target language (Norton 2000; Block 2007), which also correlates to the amount of time they have resided in the U.S. and their experiences of learning English within traditional and formal classroom settings. For the domestic workers who use ELF in the workplace, insecurities about their language skills indicate that comparisons to native speaker norms (Jenkins 2007; Cogo 2010) are still very much alive. Moreover, domestic workers' language practices do not always coincide with how their language use is perceived by co-workers, language brokers and their English-speaking clients, many of who assess their skills positively.

This chapter explores the communicative practices and ELF perceptions of Portuguese-speaking domestic workers interacting with their Anglophone clients. The chapter is structured as follows: In the first section I discuss how ELF is understood in relation to migration and the workplace. I then explore the communicative practices of migrant domestic workers employed by a cleaning company, using examples of interview data with the workers and company clients. I conclude the chapter by outlining the pedagogical implications and recommendations for ELF-based teaching to migrant domestic workers in the future.

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