Reconciling what you believe in and what you have to do: English-only policies in language schools (by Grace Labreche)

This week’s guest blogger is Grace Labreche, a PhD Student at McGill University. She is interested in accent bias towards second language speakers, specifically in shifting the focus off of accent reduction practices and towards addressing accent bias among native speakers. In her research, Grace asks: How can we mitigate the bias in listeners instead of asking speakers to reduce their accent? How does a listener’s language attitudes and ideologies impact their listening bias? As an applied sociolinguist, she hopes to use her research to inform educational policy in language learning institutions. When she is not working or in school, Grace loves to paint and cross stitch. She also enjoys gardening while listening to horror podcasts, much to the dismay of her neighbours.

It is a little over a year today that I began the exciting new chapter in my life as a language school administrator in a private language school. This language school, like many others in Montreal, is a boutique language school, whose main clientele are wealthy international students and tourists looking to take some language courses while visiting abroad. The courses are costly compared to government funded language programs and the school’s main source of student recruitment is international language tourism agencies and advisors. 

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Something in the water: Language anxiety doesn’t come from within (by Kate Hardin)

This blog post includes a linked audio file. Just click on the link below if you would like to hear the post read aloud. Scroll down to read the text.

I stood under the awning of a second-hand store somewhere in the Berlin neighborhood of Neukölln, caught between a summer breeze and the musty, cool air of the shop. While I hung back, my partner was chatting with the gruff shopkeeper. “I’ve lived here for two years,” he said. I knew he’d meant “I lived here two years ago,” but the old man didn’t. Funny what a difference an umlaut can make.

Without missing a beat, the shopkeeper responded, “Dein Deutsch ist aber schlecht.”  But your German’s bad.

This was typical berliner Schnauze, and it became a running joke.

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New in town, again (by Kate Hardin)

This week’s blog post includes a linked audio file. Just click on the link below if you would like to hear the post read aloud. Scroll down to read the text.

New BILD member Kate Hardin is a first-year PhD student in Education Studies at McGill. She holds a master’s in linguistics and European languages from Die Freie Universität in Berlin. Her research interests include cross-linguistic pedagogy, newcomer education, and adult/community language programs. At McGill, she plans to investigate the language learning of adults with limited formal education. Outside of the university, she’s an avid cook, a friend to every dog, and a fiddler who makes up in enthusiasm for what she lacks in skill.

My name is Kate, and I’m a recovering monolingual.

My partner and I moved to Montreal in September. In many ways, the experience has brought us back to 2012, when, after finishing my bachelor’s, I received a grant to teach English at Cherepovets State University in Russia. Despite a minor in Russian, I was far from ready to live my daily life in the language. My degree had left me with just enough speaking ability to get myself into trouble that I couldn’t talk my way out of. Still, I was determined to make the most of this opportunity to master the language.

For me, the summer before we left was a frenzy of flashcards. But my partner, having already exceeded expectations by agreeing to follow me to the taiga, made no preparations beyond some half-hearted efforts to learn the Cyrillic alphabet. He joined the chorus proclaiming that once we arrived, we would be immersed in the language and would have no choice but to pick it up. If only it were so.

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There and back again: Dialect levelling and maintenance (by Melissa Enns)

“It’s a dangerous business… going out of your door. You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep to your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.”  Bilbo Baggins (The Fellowship of the Ring

I’ve often thought of this line as I’ve gone through life’s adventures. Like Bilbo in The Hobbit, I find that I miss the comfort of the life I left, yet when I finally return home, I find myself changed, more worldly, and somehow unable to slip back into life as I used to know it. It is a disconcerting feeling, as though somehow I’ve been separated from a piece of my identity. Recently, I’ve realized that the same could be said about my idiolect, or personal dialect. 

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A Large Intimate Group: Teaching Social Interaction, 100 students at a time (by Jacqueline Peters)

I am a teacher and one of the few things I’m secure in is my ability to teach, regardless, or maybe because of, my love of research and learning. I’ve been a teacher since I came to Quebec over 25 years ago. I taught ESL to small groups or individual adults. My classes were intimate by nature, as many of the students were shy about speaking a foreign language in front of strangers, of losing their carefully constructed identities as confident, intelligent adults. In order to get those confident, intelligent adults and later often apprehensive, international students and diffident, unemployed youth to speak out loud, I learned that I had to create a safe space where they felt comfortable making the inevitable mistakes of language learners and  to continuously craft a secure place in which they could recover from banging their heads against the vagaries of the English language.  Continue reading