[xmca] Sam I Am

From: David Kellogg <vaughndogblack who-is-at yahoo.com>
Date: Wed Jul 04 2007 - 17:26:47 PDT

Dear Mike:
  Oh, I'd be very happy to talk about our work on grammatical metaphor (which we call grammatical reification) in teaching science concepts. Alternatively, Yongho and I could do something on moral education. That's close enough to what you call bilingual education (I think).
  Let me give you the traditional distinction (traditional among applied linguists) and then tell you what I think is wrong with it. Usually, we distinguish between:
  a) ESL (English as a second language, as in immigrants learning English in the USA)
  b) EFL (English as a foreign language, as in Koreans learning English in Korea)
  c) EIL (English as an international language, which is what happens when a Korean uses English to run an "international" American based business in China or Japan: two "non-native speakers" using the language as an artificial lingua franca, unconnected to any foreign culture)
  Note that this is an AMERICAN view, because for the Brits, who do not see themselves as a nation of immigrants, the distinction is more like this:
  a) ENL (English as a native language: Britain, Australia, Canada...)
  b) ESL (English as a postcolonial language: India, Nigeria, Ghana, Jamaica)
  c) EFL (English as a marketable commodity: France, Germany, Greece, Spain, Japan, China, maybe Korea)
  As you can see, NEITHER view is really a sociocultural one; the American view simply organizes groups of learners according to how they are useful to American interests (immigrants, consumers, lower-level corporate personnel), and the British one is nakedly neocolonial. NEITHER view takes the culture of the LEARNER as primary, as the foundation on which new linguistic knowledge is to be laid.
  It's understandable that they don't do this: as soon as you start to do it, you realize that there is no realistic way to put, say, Finland and France in the same category, much less Finland and Korea. You also realize, by the way, that the "postcolonial" world is about as "post" as the postmodern world was; there is plenty of irony in the suffix, but in the end not much real detachment from the main modifier. Postcolonial ELT is really neocolonial in one form or another, designed to prosper in boardrooms and foreign offices and not in the classroom.
  My problem is more interesting. My students are preparing to be elementary school teachers, and English is just one hour out of a twenty hour curriculum in third and fourth grade, increasing to two out of twenty in fifth and sixth grade. It's a tough language, even in the rather simple classroom form that I've developed, and they are frankly not that interested unless:
  a) I can convince them that English is NOT a "second language" or a "foreign language" or even an "international language" but a living part of their curriculum, which will strengthen their children's grasp (and appreciation!) of their all-important mother tongue.
  b) I can convince them that there are GENERAL EDUCATIONAL PRINCIPLES underlying the teaching of English and, say, the teaching of science or maths or morals or even Korean.
  It's a hard sell. But there is ONE thing that usually clinches the argument. It's this: if we don't teach it, then private education will, and they will inevitably teach it as an import, something that is alien to our language, our culture, and our curriculum, a kind of McCommunication that emphasizes AMERICAN ways of using the language and being used by it.
  Let me just take a very concrete example that crops up the very first day of the very first class. What do the children call the teacher?
  In English, it would be "Miss Kim" or "Miss Park" or "Miss Lee", because of course most of the teachers are young unmarried women, and over half of them have one of these three names. This is, actually, what the teacher's guide recommends: But the children don't do this; they fall silent or even flatly refuse.
  They sense, correctly, that there is something dirty in these names (this is how American GIs referred to Korean prostitutes during the Korean war). Some of the children simply go on using the Korean term "seonsaengnim" ("nim" is an honorific that cannot be translated into English). Others say "Teacher Kim" or even "Kim Teacher".
  In private education, of course, schools hire "native speakers" who use their first names, "Call me David!". Fortunately, most of the children do not realize that this is what they are doing, since a Korean first name comes last, but this means that even at university level they don't really grasp the use of titles in English.
  My favorite solution comes from the Korean ABBREVIATION of "seonsaengnim", which is "Ssaem". One of my grads began a class with:
  T: Call me "Sam"!
  David Kellogg
  Seoul National University of Education

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Received on Wed Jul 4 17:29 PDT 2007

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