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 have been anticipating the publication of this post for several weeks now. It is our first spoken word poem and it comes to you from Jennifer Burton, at University of Regina. After completing her degree in Justice Studies, she decided to take one year out of her life to teach English as a Second Language in Seoul, South Korea. Teaching in Korea soon became her life and one year quickly turned into five. In 2010, she returned back “home” to Regina, Saskatchewan and continued teaching ESL at the University of Regina. Currently, she is writing her MEd thesis where much of her work is informed by her experiences as a teacher and language learner, centering on some of the themes highlighted in the BILD blog.
A few weeks back I wrote about the experience of teaching ESL in Montréal, and I talked specifically about the challenge of what to call ourselves. Are we ESL teachers, or EFL teachers? I didn’t really arrive at a definitive answer to my question, although on my private social media account my friends and I all thought that ‘English as an additional language’ (EAL?) is a more inclusive term than either ESL or EFL and we wholeheartedly agreed that the rest of the world (and the entire ESL/EFL community) should follow in our example and adopt this new – better – acronym. Now that we have that puzzle solved, let’s talk about a different side of the prism that is teaching EAL (alas, I don’t think it will stick, so I’ll continue with ‘ESL’ – under duress) in Montréal: who/where do we teach (or not)? This question is on my mind lately as my 4th-year B.Ed. (TESL) students continue their final field experience and get closer to graduation. Next week, we’re going to do job interviews simulations and they are all thinking about where they can (or can’t) find employment. It tells an interesting story…
Eighteen months ago, I gave up teaching English full-time at a cégep to start my doctorate at McGill. Since then, I’ve been involved in the teacher education programs at McGill and have had the chance to work with undergraduate and graduate students preparing to become language teachers in Montréal and beyond. Recently, in a class with my 4th year B.Ed. (TESOL) students, we had a conversation about the political, cultural, and institutional factors that play a role in our teaching. Listening to these student teachers, brightly poised to enter the job market as English language teachers, I wondered: what’s it like to teach English in Montréal? The short answer is: it’s complicated. The long answer is… long. So, I’m going to explore this question over the course of my next few blog posts. In this instalment, I grapple with our nomenclature.