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[Xmca-l] Re: Tensions in Second Language learning

It's very interesting to compare this paper with Professor Jang's 2011
paper co-authored with Robert T. Jimenez:

Eun-Young Jang & Robert T. Jiménez (2011) A Sociocultural Perspective on
Second Language Learner Strategies: Focus on the Impact of Social Context,
Theory Into Practice,
50:2, 141-148, DOI: 10.1080/00405841.2011.558443

In some ways, the papers are very similar--the data is identical in one
place (p. 42), and the conclusions are for the most part congruent. But
consider how different the titles are. "Impact" in one place, and "tension"
in the other.

There is this note to the 1935 version of Vygotsky's report on preschools,
where Zankov, Elkonin and Shif complain about Vygotsky's idea that the
child directs his or her own learning before preschool, the environment
directs it after preschool, and preschool therefore represents a kind of
transitional stage. On the one hand, if the child is directing his or her
own learning, how can we say that the environment is the ultimate source of
learning? And if the environment is the ultimate source of learning, as
Vygotsky says, how can we say that the child is himself or herself part of
the environment?

Professor Jang gets around this problem just as Vygotsky does--adroitly. On
the one hand, strategies are expanded to include "sets of actions performed
to deal with problems (perceived by the researcher, indicated by the
learners)". On the other, contexts are expanded to include "pedagogical
assumptions, power relations, and interracial conflict".

I think this solution to the problem is the correct one: when we consider
the relationship of the child and the environment, we cannot treat it like
an unstoppable force meeting an unmoveable object. But for me that means
that both the child and the environment have to be considered in "internal"
(that is, abstract, linguistic) terms. We can't think of speech as actions;
it's more useful to think of actions as speech. We can't think of the
social situation of development as a material setting: it's a relationship
with others.

Contrariwise, it seems to me that when we consider "racism", it is more
helpful to consider it in "external", that is, concrete, nonlinguistic
terms. In the 2011 paper, Professor Jang and her co-author are willing to
openly criticize the idea that languages are learned in exactly the same
way whether they are first or second languages. Here, they just quote the
teacher's comments on "mommy skills".

It's a very revealing quote. One thing it reveals is why it's probably not
helpful to refer to "racist" as an "insult" (p. 40) or to imply that racism
and anti-racism is really just a matter of having the right attitude (as
the Republicans did in the Sessions debate or as Bernie Sanders did when he
referred to Trump supporters who voted for Obama as "not having a racist
bone in their bodies").

You can see that subjectively, the teacher is being anti-racist--all
students, French, Turkish, Egyptian, Korean, use the same strategies, just
like we all have mommies.She has all the right attitudes, and probably
doesn't have a racist bone in her body. But that doesn't diminish by one
jot the terrible damage that this kind of indiscriminate discrimination
does in the classroom.

David Kellogg
Macquarie University


On Sat, Mar 4, 2017 at 7:16 PM, Alfredo Jornet Gil <a.j.gil@iped.uio.no>

> Dear all,
> I am excited to introduce MCA's current issue article for discussion,
> *"We Got Rid of Her Sentence for Revenge": Re-Viewing Second-Language
> Learner Strategies Considering Multiple Tensions in the ESL Classroom*?
>  The article, explores relations between (English) language and power and
> inequality in the context of second language learning classrooms, examining
> episodes of tensions related to the learners' proficiency and ethnicity. To
> do so, Eun-Young, the author, draws from a quite wide range of
> socio-cultural research.The article is particularly relevant considering
> what is going on in Europe and North America with regard to ethnic
> discrimination (to say it softly). Although not directly addressing the
> latter larger questions, the study offers empirical and theoretical
> accounts of that same type of relations in which ??privilege and inequality
> are at stake.
> Eun-Young has kindly accepted participating in the discussion and I
> believe will be joining soon. Meanwhile, the article is attached ?in this
> e-mail and soon open in the T&F pages. Enjoy the read, and everything else.
> Alfredo