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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Issues in Applied Linguistics

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ial is a refereed journal managed by scholars in the field of applied linguistics. Our aim is to publish outstanding research from faculty, independent researchers, and graduate students in the broad areas of second language acquisition, language socialization, language processing, language assessment, language pedagogy, language policy, making use of the following research methodologies (but not limited to): discourse analysis, conversation analysis, critical discourse analysis, critical race theory, and psychophysiology. ial publishes articles, book reviews, and interviews with notable scholars.

Issue cover

Conference Proceedings

Languages, Identities, and Accents: Perspectives from the 2010 Linguistic Diversity Conference

In our introduction to this special edition of Issues in Applied Linguistics we, the co-editors, discuss our motivations for organizing the 2010 Linguistic Diversity Conference in response to reports that the Arizona Department of Education had instructed districts to remove teachers who spoke “heavily accented” English from their ESL classrooms. We outline our objectives of civic engagement, advancement of public understanding, and promotion of sound research-based language policies, as well as our ultimate goals of advocacy, change, and social justice. We describe the article contributions to this special edition, organized under two main sections that primarily argue that 1) language is more than a system of signs and symbols; and 2) accents are co-constructed by speakers and hearers in interaction. We share our hope that this volume can serve as an informative resource for diverse stakeholders in language scholarship, education, and policymaking. Finally, we invite others to dialogue with us through new media and join our campaign against linguistic misinformation and intolerance.

The Practice of Theory in the Language Classroom

In this article, the author makes the case that poststructuralist theories of language, identity, and investment can be highly relevant for the practical decision-making of language teachers, administrators and policy makers. She draws on her research in the international community to argue that while markers of identity such as accent, race, and gender impact the relationship between teachers and students, what is of far greater importance are the teachers’ pedagogical practices. This research suggests that language teaching is most effective when the teacher recognizes the multiple identities of students, and develops pedagogical practices that enhance students’ investment in the language practices of the classroom. The author concludes that administrators and policy makers need to be supportive of language teachers as they seek to be more effective in linguistically diverse classrooms.

More than Just a Hammer: Building Linguistic Toolkits

The movement in national educational policy towards teaching a singular, non-accented American Standard English reached a crescendo with the Arizona Board of Education’s attempt to prevent any teacher with a “heavy accent” or “ungrammatical” speech from teaching English. We suggest that part of what underlies the fears that were articulated in Arizona are ideologies about language learning (as well as about language itself). We challenge those ideologies as we present a model of language development and curriculum that recognizes and affirms the multiple tools or “repertoires of linguistic practice” that all young people possess. Our research suggests that when students are supported in examining their various language practices, the insights they gain will help them work towards mastery over all of their linguistic “tools,” including those tools that are most valued by dominant society.

Social Issues in Applied Linguistics: Linguistic Diversity in the Classroom and Beyond. Is it Wrong or Just Different? Indigenous Spanish in Mexico

Varieties of L2 language use are frequently rejected and criticized in the absence of linguistic criteria to sustain such attitudes. In Mexico, indigenous varieties of Spanish, the second language (L2) of diverse populations, has been stigmatized as uneducated Spanish. A majority of elementary school teachers interviewed, who are Spanish first language (L1) speakers, maintain that particular variations in accent and pronunciation as well as some grammatical variations are characteristic of indigenous population that lack school training. I have argued that these L1 language attitudes focus the attention on what these L2 speakers do not master, neglecting all the discursive strategies that they master successfully in their everyday communications with native Spanish speakers. The aim of this paper is to show, from a sociolinguistic point of view, how a group of indigenous women who have acquired Spanish L2 in intense but informal contact with Spanish L1 speakers are able to participate successfully in conversational personal storytelling. The study of language strategies developed in the context of informal social interactions, offers evidence of the sort of L2 competences that may be acquired without formal instruction. These competences do not deserve stigma; rather they may offer ideas to educators for improving those discursive strategies used by students in formal L2 classrooms.

Looking Within and Beyond: An on-the-Ground Account of Arizona Teachers’ Implementation of the Four-Hour English Language Development Model

This article focuses on teachers’ key role as implementers of language policy. It looks at how teachers uphold, modify, or even reject language policy through their teaching practice. First, we touch on the English-only movement in the United States, which influenced the creation and implementation of the 4-hour English Language Development (ELD) model in Arizona. Next, we present the components of the 4-hour ELD model (i.e., Discrete Skills Inventory, Super SEI Strategies, time allocations). We turn to Ricento and Hornberger’s piece (1996), which discusses how policy formation and implementation consists of many layers; teachers’ roles are often underemphasized. We then describe the methods and purpose of the Lillie et al. (2010) study and explain how the present study emerged from it. We move on to present three vignettes that capture the varying ways in which teachers enact the 4-hour ELD model. Key findings were that although the 4-hour ELD model was prescriptive, teachers ultimately shaped curriculum in their own classrooms, thereby playing a pivotal role in language policy implementation.

Speaking from Experience

This paper recapitulates the address given on the second day of the conference by the author as a representative of the hosting department. It is based on my personal experience as a lifelong learner of English and university professor, rather than on expert research on the subject. I recall the most embarrassing English errors I made during my teaching career, present evidence of the power of preconceived notions in judging language performance from my childhood and from my son’s youth, and provide examples of varying language use by English native speakers that present problems for the concept of linguistic “correctness.” I conclude by stressing the value of linguistic diversity found in the U.S. and the wisdom of nurturing the richness of linguistic heritages this country possesses.

Who’s “Unintelligible”? The Perceiver’s Role

Public discussion of Arizona policy regarding non-native English-speaking teachers often presupposes that assessments of a teacher’s intelligibility are clear-cut and obvious. This paper discusses research indicating that such judgments are by no means straightforward; fair and accurate assessments also require consideration of the role of the listeners. For example, listeners’ attitudes toward non-native speakers may influence how they interact with non-native speakers, as well as the degree to which they acknowledge those speakers’ proficiency. Even without clearly negative attitudes toward the speaker, listeners’ perception may be biased by expectations so that the same pronunciations are heard as different depending on the listener’s beliefs about the speaker’s language background. In some cases, it is the perception of “standard” English that is inaccurate, effectively imposing a higher standard on non-native than on native speech. These findings suggest that impressionistic assessments of non-native English are very likely to result in discrimination.

Grammar, Pronunciation, or Something Else? Native Japanese Speakers’ Judgments of “Native-Like” Speech

This paper explores speech factors that influence native Japanese speakers’ perceptions of “native-like” speech. The conventional criterion of “native-like” proficiency has focused on grammar or pronunciation, which researchers recognize as important. This paper challenges this top-down discussion of “native-likeness” and examines the online (while listening) and offline (after listening) perceptions of 108 native Japanese speakers who are not academic researchers in a multi-dimensional way, in order to investigate (1) what factor(s) contribute to perceptions of “native-like” speech? and (2) For linguistically lay people, what factors determine “native-like” speech?

The methods of analysis used were factor analysis and correlations. My analysis of online perceptions of “native-likeness” is consistent with prior research that highlights grammar and pronunciation as the most important and noticeable features of non-native speakers’ speech. However, my analysis of offline perceptions reveals the significance of interaction-related factors, suggesting that grammar and pronunciation are less influential on native speakers’ holistic judgment of “native-like” speech. From these results, I propose two types of unnaturalness: overt and covert, the latter of which is illustrated to have a profound effect on native speakers’ overall impressions of non-native speakers’ speech. In conclusion, this paper highlights a possible disagreement between academic and lay perspectives with implications for teaching that places more emphasis on interaction than on accuracy for L2 learners.