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The non-native modern language teacher : language practices, choices, and challenges Lecki, Sabina E.

Abstract

Previous research exploring the issues and challenges facing non-native language teachers has predominantly studied teachers of English. However, due to the status of French as an official language and waves of European and Asian immigration within the Lower Mainland of British Columbia there are many other modern languages of interest and relevance being taught besides English. The question then arises: What are the issues and challenges facing non-native teachers of languages other than English, and what is their unique contribution to modern language teaching? Do the findings and theories developed from previous research conducted mainly in English language teaching contexts, particularly with respect to language use practises, choices, and challenges, apply to other language teaching contexts? In this qualitative study of 22 non-native modern language teachers, participants teaching various Asian and European languages were interviewed with the subsequent interview and questionnaire data subjected to a cross-case analysis. Four participants were selected as focal cases for greater in-depth analysis. Participants’ perspectives on the ‘native speaker’ construct were also explored in relation to their non-native status. It was found that most participants were challenged in their attempts to maintain and improve their target language proficiency. Many teachers viewed their bilingual or multilingual identity as a strength, though this was sometimes in conflict with the views of stakeholders. Much of the previous research concerning language use, barriers faced by nonnative teachers, and reflections on the term ‘native speaker’ was confirmed by this study. In terms of the principal theme of L1-L2 use, this study further valorised teachers’ selective and strategic use of the L1, particularly in late-entry programs, while continuing to focus on maximising L2 use. Extensive individual and contextual factors also had an impact on participants’ language use though the use of L1-L2 boundaries or zones was a useful strategy. Findings have implications for the hiring, training, and professional development of language teachers. Although some of the experiences of non-native teachers of Asian languages were similar to those of their counterparts in other languages, these teachers faced some particularly unique challenges which present avenues for future research.

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