WP2 The Idealised Native-Speaker, Reified Ethnicities, and Classroom Realities: Contemporary Issues in TESOL

Leung, Harris & Rampton
SKU WP2 Collection: Key word


TESOL practice within the schooling sector in England has been mainstreamed. Historically this represents a major advance in terms of pedagogical relevance and equality of access, but our current research (Rampton, Harris and Leung, 1997) and our recent experience in working with teachers have suggested that mainstreaming itself has generated a number of new and unresolved issues in relation to language use, ethnicity and social identity. This paper seeks to advance a number of propositions:
* socially and ideologically inspired conceptualisations of the language learner and the associated language pedagogies in England over the past forty years or so are no longer adequate to cope with the range of “bilingual learners” typically encountered in classrooms, particularly in urban settings.
* Some of the recent developments in cultural theory assist a critical analysis of the prevailing thinking. They also contribute to an understanding of the changing nature of the linguistic formation and social identity of the bilingual learner, and of the resulting need for the development of an expanded notion of TESOL pedagogy.
* In the specific arena of language, little development of such an expanded pedagogy is possible without the displacement of conventional notions of the “native speaker” of English (what we label here the “idealised native speaker”). We can begin to do this by asking about the “language expertise”, “language inheritance” and “language affiliation” of all learners of English in the classroom (Rampton, 1990), questions which can be posited with regard to any language attributed to them.
* Language use and notions of ethnicity and social identity are inextricably linked. Because of this, specific attention must be paid to the way that many “bilingual learners” actively construct their own patterns of language use, ethnicity and social identity. These can often be in strong contradiction to the fixed patterns and the “reified ethnicities” attributed to them by many of those attempting to develop effective TESOL pedagogies.
The current historical moment of profound change and flux is not a time for the pronouncement of grand strategies or solutions, but rather an opportunity to engage in open analysis and questioning as a first step towards both a better understanding of some of the problems encountered in classrooms and the possible development of an expanded and more responsive TESOL pedagogy. We would like to stress that in this paper we are writing specifically of the English urban context, although we hope that some of what we say will have a resonance for colleagues working on TESOL questions in other major urban centres in other world locations.