Classroom Interactions as Cross-Cultural Encounters: Native Speakers in EFL Lessons

Native Speakers in EFL Lessons
Jasmine C.M. Luk & Angel M.Y. Lin. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2007. Pp. xix + 241.

Reviewed by Handoyo Puji Widodo
Politeknik Negeri Jember, East Java, Indonesia

Zhiling Wu
Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Indiana, PA, U.S.A

Current ESL/EFL pedagogy is aimed at providing English learners with both linguistic and sociocultural competencies (Savignon & Sysoyev, 2002). Luk and Lin s Classroom interactions as cross-cultural encounters meets this expectation. As part of the EST & Applied Linguistics Professional Series aimed at to helping TESOL professionals and policy makers better understand dialogic intercultural communication theoretically and empirically, this 10 chapter volume addresses a range of issues.

Chapter 1 presents the authors socio-cultural and English learning backgrounds. Through personal anecdotes, the authors depict how cross-cultural encounters with English users from different socio-cultural backgrounds have shaped the authors perceptions and attitudes toward English learning and teaching. In addition, the authors inform readers that the empirical data that the book is based on are primarily from ethnographic approaches and case studies.

Chapter 2 highlights the background of the native English speaker teacher scheme (NETS) implemented in Hong Kong and a brief history of the Hong Kong government s initiative to hire native English teachers (NETs) to teach in local schools. Such issues allow readers to know how cross-cultural dialogs have taken place in Hong Kong and how the NETS is differently perceived by the policy makers, local English teachers (LETs), NETs, and students.

In chapter 3, Luk and Lin clearly define what native speakers are and then briefly address a debatable issue on the pedagogical effectiveness of the NETS along with its socio-political implications. The authors maintain that nativeness should be considered as sociohistorically constructed (Luk & Lin, p. 30). In short, they successfully examine how the notion of the NETS has been constructed, deconstructed, and problematized in the field of ELT.

In chapter 4, Luk and Lin comprehensively present the discourse analysis approach, the sociocultural approach, and the critical approach used in their classroom interaction study. Based upon these approaches, chapter 5 explores interesting issues such as activity theory, identities and interactive resources, asymmetrical power relations, and mediated dialogic interactions. The authors conclude that cross-cultural classroom interactions should be regarded as situated dialogic discourse practices.

In chapter 6, the authors describe the participants in context. They highlight core features of the education system at the time of the study, including the educational policies, teaching methodologies, and curriculum. The authors also illustrate the teachers professional and academic history, school contexts, and professional beliefs in ELT as well as the students attitudes toward English learning and their opinions about being taught by NETs and LETs.

From chapters 7-9, the authors go on to analyze the classroom interaction data collected in their study. Vivid excerpts are provided throughout these three major chapters. Chapter 7 presents specific different discourse practices between the teacher and students in sense-making, which includes both successful and unsuccessful sense-making practices. The authors conclude that meanings are linguistically and culturally negotiated.

In chapter 8, the authors eloquently examine the roles of language play through phonological and semantic manipulations of two languages–Cantonese and English. Particularly, they highlight how phonological play, social talk, teasing, and talking about taboos positively affect classroom interactions.

Chapter 9 focuses on how the teachers and students conduct their teachership or teacher identity and studentship, respectively, in an institutional setting through words, and how they further refashioned their institutional identities. This chapter also examines how tension and conflict occasionally take place owing to mismatching lesson agendas between the teachers and students as well as students resistance to authoritative discourses.
Drawing from the data, findings, and discussions in the previous chapters, the authors go on to close the book by discussing the role of native speaker communicative resources in intercultural contexts and the impact of the students diverse linguistic and cultural experiences in discourse practices. The authors argue that language teachers should explore pedagogies of local and global connectedness in intercultural communication instead of simply relying on NETs.

In general, the volume is theoretically and empirically grounded and can be useful resource and guide for TESOL professionals and policy makers who are interested in investigating an issue on dialogic intercultural communication between teachers and students and among students in the classrooms. Though the findings discussed in the book may not be generalizable to contexts outside Hong Kong and NET based classrooms, the focus of the study in this work can serve as a good model for further studies on intercultural classroom communication in EFL settings where native English speaking teachers are hired.

Savignon, S.J., & Sysoyev, P.V. (2002). Sociocultural strategies for a dialogue of cultures. The Modern Language Journal, 86, 508-524.