Editor’s note: Starting in January 2019, the new series “Language education and global citizenship” on this blog will feature the research conducted in the “Teaching English in Laos” project, which started in 2015 and quickly grew to encompass and explore other subjects as well as the larger context of teaching globally.
Finding new research topics – or being found by them
In 2015 we were newcomers to the Southeast Asian world of education in general and Laos in particular. We did not know what to expect. Our group – consisting of Mr Johannes Zeck, Prof. Dr. Isabel Martin, and Team I – first needed to learn about our Lao partners’ cultural, linguistic, educational, socio-economic, religious, political, and historical background before we could begin to understand which teaching approaches, methods, and techniques might bear fruit in this part of the world at this point in time, or whether we would even be up to it. This also meant that we had to question, revise, and re-theorize our own western-European assumptions about education and teaching.
I had understood even before setting out that this process would take a considerable amount of time and demand considerable effort.
Our observations and ongoing learning experiences over the next three years were recorded in countless notes and files and complemented by the weekly reports of the volunteers (55 so far). We wrote minutes of team meetings and final reports, held final closing conferences and did pre-, while- and post-interviews with volunteers. Last, but not least, individual topics were investigated and researched, and then presented in posts on this blog (243 to date).
All project documentation is collected on a CMS (Content Management System), namely alfresco, for two reasons: First, so that the respective new team(s) do not have to start from scratch when they are passed the baton, and second, so that the project leaders can build a “library of Laos-learning” as a database for future research.
After around two years of finding our feet and walking a mile in our new shoes, we started researching the literature about related academic fields – there is not much literature on language education in Laos.
Two tenets had manifested themselves in realiter long before I started to read more postcolonial theory and (inadvertently) came into contact (this summer) with the writer who coined those tenets:1
1. Power is “cocooned” in language.
2. We need to “decolonize” our minds.
This widened my research interests. So, after my sabbatical in the winter term, the new “Global English(es)” seminar held in the same summer was to provide the frame for researching some of the implications of those two tenets in more detail. As always, in the first session, I asked the course participants about their particular interests and motivation for joining this class, only to find out that almost all of them needed the credit for a (=any) culture seminar at advanced level in their Bachelor degree and that there was no alternative course on offer. Obviously, this meant that I had to draw up a course syllabus without taking students’ interests into consideration, because apparently they had none.
I therefore posted an extra-large list of topics in the course wiki. The participants started identifying topics that raised their interest and formed “expert groups” to prepare short presentations as a basis for class discussions. At the end of what quickly developed into a highly animated summer semester, I asked the participants once more about their interests and motivation. This time, a dozen or so announced that they wished to join the Laos-project at some later date, and ten students signed up to present their research findings in our new series. The fact that no more credit points could be gained for any of this extra-work did not seem to be a matter of interest any longer.
Article preview for 2019
from the “Global English(es): Teaching English in Asia” seminar (2018)
“Re-entry shock: An underrated phenomenon” (Ms Lara Malchow)
“Global mobility and the role of native speakers in Asia” (Ms Julia Knecht)
“Comparing German and Lao English textbooks” (Mr Siegried Hadatsch)
“Thai English” (Ms Iris Birautiu)
“A culture-critical comparison of travel guides to South East Asia” (Ms Lena Koch)
“Multiculturalism in the EFL classroom” (Ms Rebekka Schnitzler)
“Hybrid identities in the EFL classroom” (Ms Marie Isabel Amorosi Mangas)
“International and intercultural awareness in Global Education with a focus on Asia and Europe I” (Mr Nico Eckhardt)
“International and intercultural awareness in Global Education with a focus on Asia and Europe II” (Ms Anna-Sophia ten Brink)
“Global Mobility programmes” (Ms Lejla Mujic)
from the volunteer programme (2017)
The first comprehensive term paper was submitted last year:
“Language games for the Lao classroom” (Ms Jana Brecht, Team II)
The first state exam thesis was also written last year:
“Teaching English to Lao Adult Beginners: Intercultural barriers to language learning in Western General English course books by the example of Straightforward Beginner“ (Ms Rebecca Dengler, Team IV & V)
from the volunteer programme (2018)
Six more returnees wrote their state exam thesis or Bachelor thesis on a Laos-project-related topic:
“Teaching English to young learners in Laos: An examination of effects and challenges” (Ms Jessica Porscha, Team V)
“Lao weaving as cultural heritage – a cross-curricular storytelling project for primary school” (Ms Ariane Kummetz, Team V)
“30 years of teaching English in East Asia: An Appraisal” (Ms Laura Jakob, Team IV)
“Types of exercises to introduce the cardinal aspect of numbers – theoretical foundation and exemplary comparative analysis” (Mr Fabian Stober, Team VI)
“Health and education: First steps in medical awareness concerning health issues in Lao schools” (Ms Shirin Ud-Din, Team VI)
“The benefits and challenges of study-related global mobility programmes in teacher education: A case study” (Ms Veronika Golla, Team IV & V)
from the university cooperation between the PH Karlsruhe and Savannakhet University (2018)
“The pilot-teaching project of the PH Karlsruhe and SKU Savannakhet: A quantitative and qualitative study” (Dr Sitha Kemmarath, Dr Isabel Martin & Mr David Schrep)
from the editor (2018)
A “frame” article on my editing and blogging experience:
“The functions and impact of the academic blog www.thelaosexperience.com” (Dr Isabel Martin)
from work-in-progress (2019)
The following cultural-linguistic topics are currently being researched:
Global Citizenship2 & global citizen education,
English as a “distant” language,
culture-clash into cross-cultural learning,
Intercultural Communicative Competence (ICC) & cultural frame-switching, and
TESOL (teaching English to speakers of other languages) in Asia & global justice.
Conferences in Applied Linguistics with a focus on language education, global justice & global citizenship in Germany
This spring saw the first International Conference on this field of study in Germany, which drew many international participants:
“Focus on Language. Challenging Language Learning and Language Teaching in Peace and Global Education: From Principles to Practices” was held at the University of Education Freiburg from 22 to 24 March 2018.
Next spring will see the next International Conference on “Educating the Global Citizen: International Perspectives on Foreign Language Teaching in the Digital Age” at the LMU Munich from 25 to 28 March 2019.
Happy New Year!
The Laos-team wishes all our readers – from over 200 countries – a happy and peaceful New Year!
We hope to “see you all again” in 2019 on our WordPress blog statistics tool – and we hope to engage in more direct communication with you as well in the not-too-distant future.
Meanwhile, if you have not done so already, you can subscribe to this blog on the start page so as to get an automatic notification by email when we post a new article. (Just enter your email address under the blue box, which always features the latest six articles.) If you are interested in catching up on earlier articles, look here.
“[Have a] good slide”, as the German saying goes in anticipation of New Year’s Eve – “guten Rutsch!”
Text by I. Martin
1 Visiting family in Heidelberg, Germany, one fine Sunday in June 2018, we decided to attend an afternoon lecture by one of my son’s professors on Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o (b. 1938), a prominent postcolonial contemporary. I was still marvelling at the entrance fee when Mr wa Thiong’o – a professor of literature, too – walked onto the stage himself. The lecture by the German professor opened and framed the Kenyan professor’s readings and deliberations on postcolonial literary theory. His talk focused on precisely those two tenets.
2 The “World Citizen flag” designed by Garry Davis:
The featured image (tag cloud) is from cognita.com (Ian Thorpe).