Hello, My TESOL Lounge Community,
Linked is a preview copy of the article Rai has written for the August issue of TESOL Connections. In this article, Rai looks at the terms and labels we use in the profession, specifically EL vs. MLL.
We thought this could be a good launch pad for further discussion within my TESOL. TESOL Connections, with this article, was emailed to all members on Monday.
Check out this article on how we use labels. Reading the article made me think about these questions:
Hi Allison,I think there is always going to be tension between labels and reality. In your metaphor, every food in the grocery store has its own label telling what food it is.But in schools, we do the opposite giving broad labels to categories of students. The analogy would be more like you go to the grocery store and everything is labeled meat, produce, breads, grains, or spices. All your recipes use the same broad terms. You are forced to act as if pork is the same as shrimp and tomatoes are the same as mushroomsin the pharmacy metaphor, this could be disastrous as there are many medicines we label "painkillers" but they cannot be prescribed interchangeably.In many states, ESL students are labeled special needs along with kids with physical or learning disabilities. You can see why that might be problematic I hope.
On the other side, I am often asked if my materials work for ESL or EFL. In the UK, they also have ESOL. I've used some activities in a variety of settings and found them effective. I don't know why I have to label them.I thought the article raised some interesting points as well.Best,Walton
Thank you for this post, Yuliya, and the article, Rai. This continues to be an important topic in TESOL, and in North America, where the default view of learning English as a new language has been based on a monolingually-oriented deficit perspective. This perspective has a long history in the US in particular, where it has persisted in national and state language policies and practices (e.g., the label "Limited English Proficient" encoded in ESSA (also called NCLB) 2000 to represent bilingual education still survives in school district documents), yet this perspective presents different manifestations and nuances globally. These manifestations have been produced within local and regional histories of conquest, colonialism, and migration.Speaking from the perspective of research in language education, there is plenty of documentation about the negative impacts of labeling on teachers and their students learning English (as Rai pointed to, in addition to documented harmful impacts on US English-speaking Indigenous and African American students, see for example the court's decision in Martin Luther King School Children v. Ann Arbor, MI Board of Education, 1979). Taking another view, there is research (see Alistair Pennycook and Nancy Hornberger, among many others) documenting the motivations and pitfalls for selecting English (or another "standard world" language) as a medium of instruction in contexts outside the US. The question of "what's in a name" brings to the fore who has the power to name and classify groups of people in a particular context. Labels may help an institution define its philosophy and/or how it will organize its language education programs yet may also obscure students' and teachers' competence. The questions Yuliya asked are a great way to understand what exactly labels do in a particular context, and we can look for "naming" operations that are helpful, as Allison implied. For example, how does understanding of "bilingual" as a continuum (see Hornberger, 2004) help? How does the change from "EL" to "multilingual student" help us in language education to understand our work, ourselves as educators, and our students? I have found it useful to engage international/multilingual students in discussion of this topic, and students appreciate the opportunity to explore meanings and impacts of labels on them. All best, J