“The concept of “native-like” proficiency is a moving target, which isn’t fighting fair. What is a native speaker, really? It’s becoming more and more difficult to define. The fact is, people speak the language(s) they know lots of different ways. The ways that people speak the language(s) they know relates to more than just the order they learned them in, for example, their education, experiences, and more. And, as my BILD colleague, Sumanthra, pointed out to me when we were talking about this topic, there are so many different groups around the world who use English, begging the question, which group has “ownership” of native-like proficiency? In other words, whose “native-like” proficiency should be considered the model? It’s simply not possible to define or answer these questions.” (Godfrey-Smith, 2016)
The excerpt above was written by my BILD colleague Lauren in her most recent post about the desired ‘native-speaker proficiency’ end goal many students aim for in their language studies. Her post is the springboard for this piece, where my purpose is to explore the effect of the “native-speaker” narrative on not only students but educators as well. Continue reading
I was recently teaching an ESL class of intermediate-level adults when the topic of being bilingual/multilingual came up; we’d been listening to a news story about how being bilingual boosts brainpower and decreases the chance of memory problems later in life. When I asked my students if they felt bilingual, I was sorry to see only a few of the two dozen students raise their hands. And yet, when I asked them to tell me whether they used English every day for communicative tasks like doctor’s appointments and grocery shopping and parent-teacher interviews, they all said yes.
We are living in a time of tension and fear. The world has been so unpredictable and shaky, with violence flaring up in every corner: the Charlie Hebdo incident in Paris; recent attacks in Nice, France, Belgium and Germany; recent shootings at an Orlando LGBTQ nightclub; and the 2014 shootings at Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada. Rather than dignity, liberty, and democracy being embraced, these ideals seem to be in remission. A major share of this insidious violence has been attributed to extremist beliefs and radical ideas. These beliefs and ideas, inspired by various motives, including political, religious, and ideological, breed violence and have led to terrorist acts. Educators who care about humanity, safety, and a free world are looking for solutions to least alleviate this seemingly chaotic global situation (Ghosh, Manuel, Chan, Dilimulati, & Babaei, 2016). Continue reading